The Seagull has landed

James Dunlop has literally taken a trip down memory lane half a century after he starred for the Blackpool Seagulls ice hockey team.

Fond memories of the resort brought the Scotsman back on holiday to seek out team-mates from the 1950s, when the now-defunct Seagulls were the best amateur outfit in the land.

James can reel off the line-up which made the Seagulls British Amateur League champions in his two years at the Ice Drome, where the team played to packed 1,500 crowds in an era when sport was booming in Blackpool – the Seasiders won the FA Cup in '53, the town's cricket club the Northern League championship in '54 and '55.

The title-winning Seagulls side, which lost just one game in '55 and '56, bristled with local talent and even Canadian goalkeeper Mark Crobeil made his home here after marrying a Blackpool woman.

James knows that Bob Eaves and Ken Atkinson have died but he wonders what became of Eric Holland, Eric Sutcliffe, Jim Croston, Joe Bolton, Jim Thomas, John Knott and Bill Bentley.

Canadian player-coach Bud Regnier snapped James up while he was doing national service with the RAF at Weeton.

Now living near Campbeltown in the Mull of Kintyre, James remembers: "The sports officer would give me complimentary tickets to watch the Seagulls because he knew I'd been a professional with Edinburgh Royals. I had played against Bud in Scotland and he signed me straightaway.

"I signed up with the RAF for five years and left the Seagulls because I was due to be posted overseas, but that never came about. A friend in Scotland fixed me up with Glasgow Flyers and we played a game in Blackpool four years later."

Left winger James wore the no.13 shirt because he was born on January 13, 73 years ago.

He recalls: "The Pleasure Beach owner Doris Thompson and her hus-

band Leonard were big Seagulls supporters and they would put on a lavish dinner over the road in the casino after games on Saturday nights."

A move from Weeton to Tern Hill, near Shrewsbury, didn't deter him from turning out for the Seagulls – much to the relief of Stanley Matthews' understudy at Bloomfield Road, Sandy Harris.

Harris, who played 21 times for Pool between '52 and '57, was posted at the neighbouring camp deep in the Shropshire countryside.

James explains: "I had a Triumph Thunderbird 650cc motorbike and would take Sandy on the back so he could play for Blackpool reserves. It took us about three hours and we did the journey in all sorts of weather."

Competitive ice hockey ended in Blackpool after 45 years in 1993 because the Ice Drome was too small. The Seagulls carried on for a while at Blackburn.

n James would love to hear from old pals and can be contacted on 01586 810280 or 07799 687090.