The Freda Laycock Memorial Web Site



Charles Blackburne (1910-1980) by his daughter Kathryn Ingham

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Charles Blackburne


About this site


My father was born in 1910 to Kate and John Blackburne. For most of the first 30 years of his life he lived with his parents and his brother Eric in Beulah Place, Knottingley, in West Yorkshire (this is now the site of Beulah Court in Womersley Road). He and his brother attended school in Knottingley where I understand they both shone on the sports field.

My father worked for most of his early life at Yorkshire Tar Distilleries whilst still pursuing vigorously his sporting life. He had trials with Leeds United, where he played for the second team, but did not ultimately make the grade. He also played for Aldershot and Doncaster Rovers. Locally he played for Pontefract Borough and Frickley Colliery and also played cricket for Knottingley and was an able athlete - we have trophies to confirm this!

This was all to change when one day Dad agreed to do an extra duty at work and there was an explosion, the result being my Dad was blinded at the age of 25. The family and friends rallied round, his mum taught him to type; he learnt Braille and friends escorted him on many long walks - notably his brother. Obviously Dad wondered what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He had heard of the one school in the world that trained blind physiotherapists and he decided to have a go. In later years he told me he wondered how he got into school as most of the people on interview had degrees, including one he spoke to with an Oxford degree. However, Dad was never short on personality and I am sure that really helped him. His brother Eric also tells me that when the titled lady who was the principal of the college received his letter, she was so impressed she invited him for an interview. Subsequently he was offered a place and was informed he was the only candidate offered a place that had had just a council school education. His training in London took place in the war years; so many hairy taxi journeys took place dodging the bombs that fell during the Blitz, as he journeyed between the school of physiotherapy and his digs.

On completion of the course he was offered a job in South Africa, but all he wanted to do was come home. He got a part-time job at Castleford Hospital, but soon transferred to Pontefract Infirmary where he stayed the rest of his working life. He also set up a private practice in the small back room of his parents home.

Whilst working at the hospital he met Freda Laycock of Hensall. She had been a member of the Queen Alexandra Army Nursing Service in the war and had served in Sierra Leone, France and Germany. Whilst serving in Germany she was in a car crash, as a result of this she needed physiotherapy, hence she met my Dad and they married in 1950. They then had two children, myself Kathryn and my sister Patricia. Once married they moved into a house in Womersley Road and from here Dad continued his private practice. In the 60s and 70s his fame seemed to spread, people like John and Sheila Sherwood, famous Olympic athletes came for treatment, not forgetting some of our own very local sporting heroes, Gary Cooper, Don Fox, Malcolm Reilly, Mick Major, Keith Hepworth, Roger Millward and Alan Hardisty - who in his book says that it was Dad that inspired him to set up his own treatment centre. He also became the greatest friend of Terry Cooper, the Leeds United and England left back. Terry would visit our home three or four times a week for treatment and Dad would treat him and fill him with confidence before he went on his next big match. As a family we have many happy memories of all these great sporting people. One event that stands out in our memories was when our family, plus Eric his brother, went to Wembley to the FA Cup Final where we saw Leeds United play Chelsea. As well as all these people, Dad treated many Knottingley folk and so he became very well known and respected in the local area.


Charles enjoys a game of bowls with brother Eric looking on.

He kept totally up with the world of sport and major events, through listening to the news and being read the newspaper. He could discourse on anything and at times patients came for the camaraderie that existed within the clinic as well as for the treatment.

Dad was not content to let work rule his life, he regularly attended worship at Ropewalk Methodist Church, and his faith had a great influence on his life. He belonged to a choir and enjoyed taking part in their concerts. He continued with his walking, ably supported by either his ever-faithful brother or his family. One of his greatest enjoyments was playing bowls in Ferrybridge. His brother as a guide, he became very competent at this and he and Eric had many notable triumphs. Because of this he was interviewed on the radio and appeared on television. Life was never dull in the Blackburne household!

Sadly, aged 70, Dad died of a heart attack. He was a marvellous man as I am sure many will testify. He lives on in the memories of so many people. His subsequent grandchildren, four boys and one girl, were born after he died. However, some of Dad's sporting prowess lives on in them, as they are all able sports people, the boys being particularly good at football. 

The above article also appeared in Knottingley and Ferrybridge on-line web site and can be accessed by clicking here.

Kathryn Ingham 2002