Wakefield Trinity were saddened to learn of the passing of another of their 1960s heroes this week, Dennis Williamson, who passed away in his native Cumbria, aged 83.
Dennis was a relative new comer to the great Trinity pack of the early 1960s and in his short time at Trinity he found himself in the second row at Wembley in 1962 in his only season. He arrived from Whitehaven in October 1961 for a fee of £3,260 and within a year, was back in Cumberland. On his signing he was noted “as a 23-year-old, 6ft 1, 15½ stone front row forward, considered to be one of the most promising of the younger rugby league forwards”.
After an injury to prop, Jack Wilkinson he was put straight into the first team and debuted at prop, scoring, in a 31-10 home win over Leigh on 7th October 1961. He was then injured and only played once in the next ten games, missing the New Zealand tour game and the Yorkshire Cup Final, but with a pack of forwards that included Wilkinson, Kosanovic, Firth, Briggs, Vines and Turner he found it difficult to break back in.
It was not until the new year that he found a regular position in the forwards and played in twenty one of the twenty six games from January to May. These included the two massive games against Wigan when 27,614 attended for the league match and 28,000 for the cup game, both records at Belle Vue.
He formed a formidable ‘back three’ with Briggs and Turner in the 9-0, semi final win against Featherstone Rovers in front of 43,267 at Odsal and scored two tries at Headingley in a 21-6 win over Leeds in front of 27,822. Dennis rose to the occasion in front of these big crowds and kept his place in the Wembley side as Trinity defeated Huddersfield, 12-6 to bring the Challenge Cup home.
An injury at Wembley caused him to miss the Championship Final a week later and then he was part of the Trinity squad that flew to South Africa in the summer of 1962. Whilst in South Africa, Dennis became ill and spent the early months of the season in an Edinburgh hospital. The Trinity programme stated he had picked up an infection in South Africa, but in a 2013 interview, he stated he had torn stomach muscles. He was sent home to Cumberland to recuperate, but never returned. Initially he retired but then was placed on the transfer list and he re-signed for Whitehaven for £500 in August 1963, after missing a full season. Wembley was his last game in a Trinity shirt having played twenty three games.
Pre-Trinity, Dennis had played for England at junior amateur level before signing for Whitehaven in 1957. He spent four years in and out of the side and noted later in his life that he became disillusioned after being left out of the Whitehaven cup side that took on Trinity in the 1960 quarter final, in front of a record 18,500 crowd. A year later he was in Yorkshire, signing with Trinity and he also noted that the players and fitness levels were a different level and ‘felt fitter walking about’. Back at Whitehaven he was part of the famous side that defeated the 1965 New Zealand tourists, 12-7 at the Recreation Grounds and he captained the side on occasions.
He remained a fit and active gentleman in his retirement and will be sadly missed after his sudden passing this week. Trinity send their thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of one of our “1960s heroes”