|Plato Harrison by Alex Service with additional information from Mike Latham|
In those far off days just before the First World War, the Saints’ Committee was in the process of trying to build up a team capable of competing for major honours. In early February 1911, the St. Helens Reporter announced the arrival of a new face at Knowsley Road:
Saints New Player
An Interesting Record
With an increasing ‘injured’ list, and in face of many calls from supporters for a strengthening of the team, the committee of the St. Helens Rugby Football Club found it incumbent to seek new blood, and the result so far has been the transfer from Kendal and the signing on of the well-known Cumberland county threequarter, Plato H Harrison.
The ‘capture’ is an important one, as although Harrison’s playing experience of the rugby code dates only from last season, he has by his brilliant qualities made for himself an enviable reputation.
Calling upon him the other day, a ‘Reporter’ representative gleaned some interesting facts about his career. He is a native of Barrow-in-Furness, and is 25 years of age. At the age of 15 he saw service in South Africa with the Border regiment as bugler. He had his baptism of fire and before he was 17 years old he was the possessor of a medal with five clasps. He is a corporal of the Westmoreland and Cumberland Yeomanry, and takes a keen interest in Territorial Army affairs. Always of an athletic turn, he began his football career with Kirkby Lonsdale, and in one season as centre forward for that team he scored fifty goals. From that team he went to Kendal Swifts, where again he proved a prolific scorer. Had he not turned ambitious eyes to the rugby game he might have gone much higher in the ‘Soccer’ code, as just before he converted he was given a trial by Nelson in the Lancashire Combination. In November, season 1909-10, he joined the Kendal RFC and here again his scoring proclivities were seen, and in the season there stood to his credit no less than 16 tries. On three occasions in his first season he played for his county against Lancashire, Yorkshire and Durham, and this season he played in five matches in the county team, scoring six tries and one goal.
Harrison’s qualifications were brought before the notice of the St. Helens committee, and after enquiries as to his abilities had been made it was decided that a deputation visit Otley last Saturday to witness his display in the Cumberland team against Yorkshire. The result was eminently satisfactory and negotiations for his transfer were at once entered into, with the result that next Saturday it is hoped that he will play centre to the Rev. C.M. Chavasse.
Harrison is a well-knit, smartly-built young fellow, with a fine turn of speed. He is 5ft 10ins in height and weighs 12 stones. There is no doubt that his debut will prove a pleasing eye-opener for those well-wishers of the club who, unfortunately, cannot always see or appreciate the efforts of the committee.
We cannot fault the Saints’ Committee for taking a gamble on one so new to the rugby code. Yet he had a somewhat meteoric rise to prominence and in theory, he could well have had the same sort of impact another former soccer player, Alf Ellaby, was to have just over a decade later.
Plato made his debut at home to Coventry in a 26-15 success and kicked a goal. He was right centre to Jimmy Flanagan, who scored two tries himself. On the other flank was the Reverend Christopher Chavasse, who also helped himself to a three-pointer. Plato played a few more matches on the left wing towards the end of the season.
Alas, his spell as a Saint did not last for too long. Plato made a total of seven appearances for the First Team and his last match was at Oldham on 30th December 1911. The team suffered a 5-35 reversal and Plato was in the right centre that day, with Jimmy Flanagan outside him. He replaced the normal incumbent of that position, Jimmy Greenwood. Plato apparently preferred to be called by his middle name, Denny and had the misfortune to suffer a shoulder injury which hampered his progress at Knowsley Road.
Plato was on his way shortly after. After a short spell out of the game, he was signed by Barrow and stayed with them until the outbreak of WW1, making 34 appearances, scoring 13 tries and kicking two goals for good measure. It was a shame that his signing didn’t quite come off. It was a bold move by the Committee to offer such a big fee for a player.
It is interesting to note that Plato was also a superb cricketer too. He served in the Military Police Corps during the First World War and saw service in the Middle East. In 1939 he was living in Bective Road, Carnforth where his occupations were list as a Court Baliff and Taxi Proprietor. He died in Carlisle on 16 September 1966 aged 83.
|Season (Official Matches)||Tries||Goals||DGoals||Matches|
|Season (Other Matches)||Tries||Goals||DGoals||Matches|
|4th Feb 1911||W||3||Coventry||L||1910~11||H||26||15||1||VIEW|
|18th Feb 1911||W||3||Bramley||CC1||1910~11||H||26||7||VIEW|
|11th Mar 1911||L||2||Hull K.R.||L||1910~11||A||10||42||VIEW|
|14th Apr 1911||L||5||Wigan||L||1910~11||A||8||25||VIEW|
|15th Apr 1911||L||5||Swinton||L||1910~11||A||9||23||VIEW|
|22nd Apr 1911||L||5||Rochdale Hornets||L||1910~11||A||2||17||VIEW|
|30th Dec 1911||L||3||Oldham||L||1911~12||A||5||35||VIEW|
|*Unofficial Match. **Non Playing Sub.|