When long-standing Ramsbottom United official Jack Wolfenden received a letter last December from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, he was somewhat taken aback.
It was an invite for him to attend a Royal Garden party at Buckingham Palace in May.
In the letter it stated that Jack had been invited “In view of your outstanding services to sport in Ramsbottom.”
As well as being an avid cricket fan, Jack turned up at Ramsbottom United’s ground over 20 years ago, asking if there was anything he could do to help around the club.
Now in his 81st year, he can still be seen down at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium most days, doing whatever is necessary to keep the ground spic and span.
“When I asked the question,” smiled Jack, “I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for!”
Jack has been at the side of Chairman Harry Williams as the club has made the rise up the pyramid from the Bolton Combination, through the Manchester League, the North West Counties League and the Evo-Stik North, into its highest ever position, the Evo-Stik Premier.
Jack has done just about every job on the ground, and was featured last season on BBC Television dubbed as “The oldest ballboy in the country”, as one of his many tasks is to retrieve balls that land in the adjacent river!
Jack ventured down to Buckingham Palace with his brother-in-law. “I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the capital, and was delighted to have been within a matter of feet of the Queen,” said Jack after the visit, “but I have no idea who recommended me for this honour.”
Everyone at Ramsbottom United was delighted that Jack received such an honour, as his attitude typifies that of many unsung heroes throughout the non-league game.