THE final bell has sounded for a former prominent Skipton boxer and much revered community figure, Melvyn Hawkins, writes Roger Ingham.

Aged 85, Melvyn grew up in the town’s Commercial Street location and attended the neighbouring Water Street School before progressing just beyond the other side of the street at Ermysted’s Grammar school.

While still at primary school he had already achieved notable acclaim when he won a public speaking competition which was promoted in front of huge crowds on stage outside the town hall.

The event featured as part of the peace celebrations to commemorate the end of the Second World War.

Melvyn’s life-long close pal was Mickey Bell who also lived nearby at the royal oak hotel, and both embraced the sporting ethos from an early age. Hence, When the former Skipton professional boxer George Pendle, founded the Skipton Boxing and PE Club in the 1940s the incentive being to give the youth of the district some character uplift and purposeful direction in life, Melvyn and Micky then as young grammar school lads where two of his first arrivals and, both boxed on the embryonic club’s first show at Skipton Drill Hall in 1948.

Although both also figured prominently for Ermysted’s rugby teams, their prime sporting interests were elsewhere. And having also excelled in athletics Micky soon switched his sporting priorities therein, However Melvyn maintained his passion for boxing and for the next five years since his first contest he competed on virtually every Skipton promotion, besides elsewhere against some of the finest “age for age” opponents in the north.

The Skipton events being predominantly staged at the Drill hall, Skipton Town Hall and at Skipton gala where boxing was forever hugely popular.

At 18 Melvyn then answered his call for national service and served in the Royal Artillery where he continued to make most of any opportunities for boxing, also with considerable success.

Indeed, it was during his service days that Melvyn achieved a career highlight when he won through the forces national finals at London’s Royal Albert Hall,

Contesting the welterweight final, he found himself in opposition, no less than against the 1956 Melbourne Olympics silver medallist Freddie Tiedt, from Dublin.

The Irishman - most pundits opinionated at the time – should realistically have been awarded gold, for he had been at the wrong end of one of the most controversial points no decisions against Romania’s Nicolae Licna, Olympics boxing history.

This, against an opponent of such undoubted class, the Skipton man was faced with an awesome task, but he put up a terrific challenge, albeit in defeat - stopped on eye injury – and certainly left the ring with head held high.

After national service, Melvyn worked on the railway for a while before joining the police force, where he served with distinction for the next thirty years, - firstly with former West Riding Constabulary and then – after local government re- organisation in 1974 – with the West Yorkshire force until retirement.

By this time the re-formed Keighley amateur boxing club was flourishing profoundly. and his involvement with the now disbanded Skipton club together with three fellow trainees from the old gym, namely Ronnie Tyson, Geoff Hanson, and the former world class professional, Kit Pompy. prompted the Keighley organisers to invite this distinguished Skipton quartet as top table guests at all their promotions.

Included in amongst the foursome sitting upside and enjoying plenty of rapport throughout the evening at one show with the British boxing legend, Henry Cooper.

During retirement Melvyn who was survived by four sons, a daughter also grandchildren and great-grandchildren returned plenty of voluntary contribution to both community and sporting events as he capably fulfilled essential chores such as marshalling and administrative roles wherever needed.

Melvyn in turn loved and supported the town and its community and Skipton in turn has much to thank him for.