Ex mayor rubbed shoulders with political and sporting legends

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Former mayor of Wakefield Norman Hazell has a novel filing system for his pictures with the great and the good.

Mr Hazell, 85, doesn’t use a formal photo album as such for his pictures of high-ranking politicians like Edward Heath, famous cricketers like Geoff Boycott and football legend John Charles. These luminaries are all lovingly pasted inside the front covers of their individual biographies.

Mr Hazell met plenty of stars during his long career in local politics. He was a city councillor for 35 years was and was the city’s mayor just after the millennium.

He also contested general and by-elections for the Conservative Party four times. He once campaigned against mining union boss Arthur Scargill in Hemsworth.

Mr Hazell also stood twice for the Wakefield seat in the 1980s and was called down to a reception in Hertfordshire with then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He said: “Part of it was to have a picture taken with Mrs Thatcher. When it was my turn, I went down on one knee, kissed her hand and said ‘Oh Prime Minister!’.

Mrs Thatcher said, ‘Get off your knees, you clown’.”

“I met her four or five times. Every time I met her I went down on one knee and kissed her hand. Mrs Thatcher said: “Norman Hazell, from Wakefield, I’ve told you to stop kissing my hand. She really had a good sense of humour.”

Politics is just one theme of Mr Hazell’s life, another is his life-long love of cricket.

Perusing his personal archive you see pictures of great cricketers from yesteryear like Wilfred Rhodes, Bill Bowes and Geoff Boycott. Some where taken at Test matches and others on less formal occasions like Mr Bowes’ front garden in Menston. Young Norman bagged the Ashes player’s autograph while cycling past Mr Bowes’ house in 1949.

Mr Hazell comes from a long line of cricketers and played for 39 seasons himself. But the end of his playing days didn’t spell the end of Mr Hazell’s long association with the game.

He said: “When I retired from cricket, they asked, “Would you umpire the odd game?’I’ve been at it ever since and have done it for 32 seasons.”

His passion for the game is even known in Australia. When he goes to visit his daughter Sarah, officials from local leagues find out and rope him in to officiate. He said: “I love cricket and I can’t say, ‘no’. I retired from umpiring at 80 but I’m still not out.”

Mr Hazell also officiated in a game in England involving former West Indian Test player Collis King. The all rounder had a stint at Calder Grove CC in 1978. The first class cricketer signed an action photo of them out on the pitch, saying Mr Hazell was “great at square leg”.

Perhaps the nicest pictures in Mr Hazell’s collection is an album of photographs from his year as Mayor of Wakefield from 2000 to 2001.

The images range from official visits with his wife Kathleen, a trip to the mining museum with five of his grandchildren, to advertising World Book Day by posing in his mayoral garb while reading Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge.

A personal favourite of his was assembling Wakefield Trinity’s 1960 Challenge Cup winning side for a 40th anniversary reunion picture on the steps of the town hall.

He said: “I was mayor for the millennium, the 40th anniversary of Trinity winning the Rugby League Challenge Cup. I wrote to each player personally.”

And at the centre of it all is Mr Hazell with his chains of office and a match ball.