The ball guys

Ashbourne News Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Gareth But­ter­field gareth.but­ter­[email protected]­bourne­new­stele­graph.co.uk

The two men with the hon­our of turn­ing up the ball at Shrove­tide 2019 have been named. Meet them in­side...

SHROVE Tues­day’s turnerup is a busi­ness­man whose fam­ily makes reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances in the Shrove­tide roll of hon­our.

Paul Har­ri­son will fol­low in his fa­ther’s foot­steps to turn up a goal in 2019 – two years af­ter his son, Kurt Smith, goaled a ball at Sturston.

His late fa­ther, Fred Har­ri­son, who died in July, turned up the ball in 2004 and his grand­fa­ther Arthur Birch goaled a ball at Clifton in 1928 - the same year HRH Prince Ed­ward turned a ball up.

But although Paul has al­ways been a keen player and fol­lower of the game, he is best known for his busi­ness in­ter­ests, and chief among these is the firm his fa­ther started, FW Har­ri­son Com­mer­cials, in May­field Road.

The com­pany, which deals in the sales and ex­port of com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles, be­came a huge suc­cess for Fred, who built it up from one lorry - but farm­ing was his pas­sion and he was well known in farm­ing cir­cles.

And the farm­ing has been car­ried on by Paul and his fam­ily, along­side the other com­pa­nies, and Paul’s land in­cludes the fields that back onto the goal at Clifton, which are of­ten swamped with peo­ple when the Shrove­tide hug makes its way to the mill. Paul, 55, was driv­ing lor­ries on his fa­ther’s lap from the age of three, and started work­ing part time on the farm and the lor­ries from the age of 10.

But agri­cul­ture was al­ways at the heart of Paul’s en­deav­ours and farm­ing is still very much part of the busi­ness.

De­spite its hum­ble be­gin­nings 60 years ago, FW Har­ri­son Com­mer­cials now stocks up to 300 ve­hi­cles and is one of the big­gest of its kind in the Mid­lands.

Fa­ther-of-two Paul has sev­eral other en­ter­prises, in­clud­ing prop­erty de­vel­op­ment, haulage and truck hire, so his life is busy, but he never misses out on fol­low­ing the fam­ily pas­sion, Shrove­tide, and he and his wife, Wendy, book an en­tire ta­ble ev­ery Ash Wednes­day at the pre-game lun­cheon.

Although Paul never scored a goal de­spite years of play­ing along­side the Down’ards he in­sists the ball that will now be im­mac­u­lately dec­o­rated for him ahead of Shrove Tues­day should end up in the hands of a player, rather than come back to him if it fails to reach a goal.

He said: “To be hon­est, I’d be hap­pier if it was goaled. I’d love to have a ball, but I think, for the game, I’d get much more en­joy­ment out of it if it was scored. Even if it goes to the op­po­si­tion.”

Paul says the hon­our of own­ing his own ball will be noth­ing com­pared to the hon­our of be­ing asked to turn it up in the first place – which he likens to a lot­tery win.

He de­scribed the shock he felt when com­mit­tee chair­man Nigel Brown, a lo­cal butcher, came to see him to give him the of­fi­cial in­vi­ta­tion – which he has had to keep a com­plete se­cret un­til the big re­veal.

He said: “Nigel came into my of­fice and shut the door be­hind him, which I thought was odd – I nor­mally keep it open.

“And he said ‘you know why I’m here, don’t you’? And I thought, well it’s not to buy cows this time, is it?

“And then it started to dawn on me. But you don’t be­lieve it, it doesn’t sink in.

“I would equal it to win­ning the lot­tery. If you see your num­bers come up on a lot­tery ticket, you won’t be­lieve they’ve come up. It’s com­plete dis­be­lief.

“Slowly, as it sunk in, and I thought it was real, I thought how proud my fa­ther would be. I can’t be­gin to say what an hon­our it is and I’m so grate­ful to the com­mit­tee for choos­ing me.

“But it’s been so hard keep­ing it quiet from ev­ery­body, es­pe­cially Kurt.”

As with any Shrove­tide sup­porter, Paul be­lieves the fo­cus of the modern game, with its huge crowds and in­creas­ing pres­sures from bu­reau­cracy and red tape, must be kept on pre­serv­ing it for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

He said: “The most im­por­tant thing to me though, is sup­port­ing Shrove­tide. I’m very keen to keep the game go­ing.

“To me it’s so im­por­tant that peo­ple re­spect the game, un­der­stand the risks and play fairly.

“Shrove­tide is so im­por­tant to the peo­ple of Ash­bourne and peo­ple are so ded­i­cated to it, we need to do ev­ery­thing we can to make sure it lasts.” WEDNES­DAY’S turner-up is a man who ad­mits to get­ting a buzz out of help­ing peo­ple in their hour of need.

Fire­man, busi­ness­man and pas­sion­ate Shrove­tider Paul Holmes will start pro­ceed­ings on Ash Wednes­day 2019, by toss­ing his leather into the hug at Shaw Croft.

The 56-year-old was pre­sented with an award ac­knowl­edg­ing his 20 years lead­er­ship of Ash­bourne’s re­tained crew of fire­fight­ers this year, but he says the Shrove­tide hon­our is the ul­ti­mate award for him.

The for­mer rugby player still joins the Up’ards each year in the hug and still loves fol­low­ing the Shrove­tide ac­tion, de­spite never hav­ing a chance at a goal – although next year there will def­i­nitely be a ball with his name on it.

But as many true Shrove­tiders who have been given the same hon­our have said in the past, if there’s a chance his ball could be goaled - he would be just as happy to hand it back to a de­serv­ing player.

“I’m very much a hug player”, said Paul.

“And when they started run­ning, I thought to my­self, there’s no way this ball’s get­ting out of this hug be­cause I’m not hav­ing them run­ning off with it – I want to play this ball all day long, in the hug.

“But at the same time I’m a great be­liever that ev­ery ball should be goaled.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, if my ball’s not goaled this year and it comes back to me, ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic; I’d be over­joyed.

“But I do think each and ev­ery ball should be goaled. And prefer­ably at Sturston.”

Af­ter leav­ing school, Paul trained as a me­chanic and his work­ing life be­gan at the for­mer Sturston Road Garage.

But he later set up his own garage and started out in self-em­ploy­ment with a small en­ter­prise on the Air­field In­dus­trial Es­tate.

His ca­reer took a turn when he was of­fered a role at a neigh­bour­ing com­pany he had got to know well,

Watkiss Ther­mal­break, of which he would later be­come a share­holder and then manag­ing di­rec­tor.

The firm, which makes ther­mal in­su­la­tion prod­ucts for door and win­dow frames, em­ploys 15 – in­clud­ing his wife, Jane.

Although his busi­ness takes up plenty of his time, he’s still al­ways ready to down tools and jump into a fire en­gine when duty calls.

He first joined the fire ser­vice as a 19-year-old, while work­ing in Sturston Road, and rose through the ranks to be­come the of­fi­cer in charge of the sta­tion, a role he has served in since 1998, lead­ing a crew of 14 re­tained fire­fight­ers.

He said: “I was work­ing

at the garage and saw this fire en­gine go­ing past all the time, and I thought ‘I’d like that, I’d like to be one of those he­roes’. I thought it could be an ex­cit­ing add-on ca­reer.

“I re­ally en­joy it. I get an im­mense buzz from it. I get ex­cite­ment from the shouts we go on.

“To be hon­est, it’s a bit corny re­ally, but you get a mas­sive sense of sat­is­fac­tion when you help some­one.

“It doesn’t al­ways work out, and it’s a bit harsh some­times, but the ma­jor­ity of the time it’s very, very re­ward­ing to go out, help some­body and get them out of a mess.”

The fa­ther-of-two, who lives in Wind­mill Lane, started play­ing Shrove­tide as soon as he was old enough but ad­mits he doesn’t play as much as he did.

“I still go down, and I think to my­self I won’t take part this time,” he said.

“But of course I get closer, then the ball comes to­wards you and be­fore you know it you’re in the hug again.

“Shrove­tide is the pin­na­cle of the year though, when you think about it. Ev­ery­thing in Ash­bourne cen­tres around Shrove­tide.

“The town is soaked in it. And I think it’s ev­ery young man’s dream to goal a ball. And I think as you get older, it’s ev­ery older man’s dream to turn up a ball.

“And this hon­our they’ve be­stowed upon me now, is ab­so­lutely sur­real.

“You feel like you’re some­one from the out­side look­ing in re­ally, think­ing ‘that chap turn­ing up the ball is me’.

“How fan­tas­tic is that? It’s mar­vel­lous.

“And the thought that you’re ob­vi­ously deemed wor­thy enough to turn up the ball and the fact you’re go­ing to be given this hon­our to do it.

“It’s just mag­i­cal.”

‘What an hon­our... it’s just un­real’

IL­LUS­TRA­TION: GARETH BUT­TER­FIELD/IAN HODGKINSON

Paul Har­ri­son will fol­low in the foot­steps of his dad, Fred, left, who turned up the ball in 2005

Paul Holmes is a fire­man, busi­ness­man and pas­sion­ate Shrove­tider

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