John Warlow From Stradey To St Helens

16506-Douglas John Warlow

My Dad never talked much about his playing days, which were shrouded in mystery, he was Born in Burry Port and spent his early life in New Street.

His appearances at Stradey Park were not well documented, and the only bit of information the rest of the family could provide me with, was the fact that he got sent off, which was quite some feat in West Wales in the “sixties”

These were the days when the only way could only tell that a prop was running was by the expression on his face.

My Dad did speak fondly and in awe of his fellow prop in the Llanelli schoolboy’s side, one John Warlow.

John was different, and his name was mentioned with a whisper, in a hushed voice, in our house, as if in reverence to a deity.

John Warlow was born in Dafen, near Llanelli on 13 Feb 1939

He played for local side Felinfoel before joining Llanelli in the 1957-58 season, just as he was establishing himself in the Scarlets team, his rugby career was interrupted by two years national service with Welch regiment.

He returned to Stradey Park, in 1960 where he established himself as a top class prop, 6ft 1ins tall and weighing in at 15 stones.

He was selected by Wales for the game against Ireland in Dublin Nov 1962, a 5 Nations match held over from the previous season due a smallpox outbreak in the Rhondda.

The match ended in a 3-3 draw.

This proved to be his one and only cap, as he signed professional terms for St Helens Ruby League side on 23 October 1963.

He was signed in a pub by the then secretary Basil Lowe and Saints Chairman Harry Cook, the directors of Workington Town were also present attempting to sign `Big John`

Also in attendance to witness, and later celebrate, the signing of a Saint, were John`s team-mates from Llanelli.

On 30 November 1963 he made his St Helens debut against Liverpool City.

Away from his beloved homeland he lodged with a landlady called Minnie Cotton.

Minnie received national attention when she single-handedly invaded the pitch,  in the 1966 Championship Final against Halifax, and set about a couple of Halifax forwards with her umbrella as retribution for some rough play against her lodger.

Warlow played in the successful Saints teams of the sixties and early seventies, and was a stalwart of the “pack of aces” playing alongside great forwards like Cliff Watson, John Mantle, Kel Coslett, John Tembey, Mervyn Hicks, Ray French and Doug Laughton.

Warlow was a tough nut with the ball in his hands and a powerful tackler, and his unstinting efforts and consistent performances should have been rewarded with more international caps.

He had two spells with the Saints, leaving the Club after the end of the 1968/69 season for a stint with local rivals Widnes, who he captained for three seasons, and returned to Knowsley Road in November 1973 to complete his dazzling career with the Saints.

His last match for the Saints was against Leeds in the 1975 Premiership Final against Leeds when Saints dipped surprisingly after winning the Championship at a canter.

In 245 games for St Helens, he scored a total of 27 tries.

He played six times for Great Britain rugby league side between 1964 and 1971 also touring Australia and New Zealand with the team for the 1968 Rugby League World Cup.

John also played three times for the Wales rugby league team 1968-1970.

After thirteen years in the North, his playing career was over and John returned to South Wales, becoming the steward of the Burry Port British Legion.

There is not much written in the annals of rugby about this great warrior, but he achieved greatness in both codes.

John Warlow is a member of the St Helens hall of fame, and when you look at the elite members of this exclusive “band of brothers” you realise how much he is still held in awe by those in Lancashire who saw him play, …maybe you were right all along Dad !


One thought on “John Warlow From Stradey To St Helens

  1. I met John Warlow at that British Legion Club in 1982 before covering the Wales v Australia (Kangaroos) rugby league match in Cardiff, I covered the tour for the Brisbane Telegraph newspaper. As a schoolboy, I saw the 1968 British side play in Australia. John was a great host, taking me to a pub in Llanelli, where there was singing ‘after hours’. It was a privilege to be there.
    Steve Ricketts. Retired Chief Rugby League writer, News Ltd. Brisbane, Australia.


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