Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Frank "Garth" Birkin

This huge and extremely volatile man was a one time legendary hard man of Bradford, who was able to put fear up many people.  Birkin was born around 1925, though details of his early life are somewhat difficult to come across, and he acquired the nickname Garth due to his size and physique like the Daily Mirror cartoon strip character.  He began a career around 1947/8 playing rugby league for Bramley.  His size made a perfect choice for such a hard game and he proved it many times, resembling a bull charging at you.  He transferred to Salford, then Castleford and finished his career at Halifax.  It has been claimed that he tried his hand at boxing but I have not been able to find any proof of this.  He then became a pub landlord, and this is where his reputation took off.

    He ran The Blue Lion near the town centre, and his fighting abilities were soon on show.  Three West Indians went in and one dropped an empty cigarette packet on the floor.  He refused to put it in a bin or on a table, and they were ready for a fight.  They were soon dispatched.  One local tough guy called Billy Turner tried his hand but Birkin leaned across the bar and smashed him in the face, ending the arguement.  Another tough nut called Charlie Hutson tried Birkin a number of times but lost each one.  But his volatile temper started landing him in court when he had a dispute with a friend, who ran a pub in the outer suburb of Wyke, named Harry Pass.  He was punched a number of times by Birkin, resulting in Pass receiving nearly a dozen stitches.  Then he was jailed for beating a man.  He claimed he shoved him out through the doors but a witness said she saw him holding the helpless man and repeatedly punching him.  But his most infamous moment was when he attacked one of his own barmen.   In 1957/8 21 years old Brian Scully had taken Birkins` sister out.  Lynne Birkin was aged between 30 & 35, but obviously the age gap was not a problem.  At the end of the night, Brian gave Lynne a kiss goodnight, but suddenly an enraged  Birkin appeared and battered Brian, putting him in hospital.  Birkin claimed he never left his pub but this was not believed.

    Some years later, he ran a betting shop in Yeadon and he died around the mid to late seventies, apparently from a heart attack.  Birkin did use his considerable strength to bully people.  One day, he tried to come on to another man`s wife and the husband, who was on the tough side, was told that to take on Birkin, he would have to go at him with all guns blazing and must not stop.  Things did blow over, however.  Their has been speculation about who could have handled Birkin.  One man, Ken Jubb was a former Bradford Northern player, a pub landlord himself who had a big reputation.  Then there was clown prince wrestler Les Kellett, famed for his comic way of wrestling, but not well known was the fact that Les was one of the hardest men in Bradford, if not the hardest.  Then there was Big John Amelia, a very hard punching doorman, who went to Blackpool and became minder for a popular tenor of the 40`s & 50`s called Josef Locke.  A name I came across was Dennis Hutchinson, a tough nut that was around in the 50`s, the era of Amelia, Birkin, Jubb, and of course Les Kellett.   It is hard to find out anything about this man as most have not heard of him.