The Purcells return to Silsden
Wed 11th April 2018 | Silsden | By Ian Templeman
Silsden AFC recently welcomed a party of visitors from various parts of the UK and Ireland, who are descendents of the club's founder.
Club President Barry Thomas, had spent several months working on an invitation to members of the Purcell family to visit the club, and the visit came to fruition on Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th March when six family members arrived.
Club Press Officer Jim Rosser takes up the story.
"Silsden AFC was formed in 1904 by Dr. John Purcell, a doctor and physician, who had moved from Ireland to Silsden to join a Silsden practice.
Dr Purcell sought to encourage the community to improve their health by being actively involved in sports and he started a handball club, and then a rugby club, in the late 1890’s.
He then set up the Football Club, originally called Silsden Clarence Association Football Club in 1904 and the club was to play in a local league.
He arranged a 21 year lease agreement with the landlords, "The Skipton Castle Estate."
An application was made to the landlords in 1921to purchase the area as a sporting and recreation facility for the people of Silsden and the surrounding area.
His wish was granted and the club worked tirelessly to raise the £500 needed by the end of the then current lease. This was achieved and Silsden Playing Fields was born.
In those early days, the ground was used for football, cricket, bowls and tennis.
Over the years the tennis club moved away and eventually folded. However the other three set up clubs under their own identity and each club ran as its own separate entity although the whole sporting area is overseen by a board of trustees and held in trust for the community of Silsden.
In September 2009 the Sports Minister and Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe officially opened our new sports club. The old brick building and aged wooden changing rooms were replaced with £1.1 million new sports club.
Dr. Purcell would have been extremely proud of his community if he could have seen the fruits of his time invested today.
Silsden AFC President Barry Thomas, who along with many other jobs, is the Club’s Archivist, and has been in contact with the Purcell family for several months, inviting them to visit the club.
On Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th March his efforts were rewarded when six members of the Purcell family visited Silsden. Some of the family members didn’t even know each other existed.
The party comprised Dr. John`s great nephew Denis, nicknamed Dun, his son, also Denis and his grandson, Matthew aged 15. Dun is 95 and it was his first time ever out of Ireland. The Purcells were so enthralled with their history, he felt he just had to make the long journey.
Also visiting were brother and sister, Sarah and Clive (Purcell), the great granddaughters of Doctor John, who travelled up from Southampton and London respectively.
Making up the sextet was Jacci (Purcell) from Fleetwood, the Granddaughter of another of Silsden`s Purcell doctors, Dr. Mattie, who was the nephew of Dr. John, who practised from his home/annex on Clifford Street until the late 60s.
Barry met the Purcells at the Sports Club. They chatted for an hour or so as Barry is a mine of information on the family. They were thrilled to see the club's fantastic facilities. Even the rain stopped and the sun came out.
Barry then took the visitors to see the places of particular interest in Silsden, including Flesher cottage, on the beck side, Dr. Purcell`s first practice he joined.
They visited the Catholic Church, where he worshipped, two houses on Wesley Place where he lived, St. James Church, where he and his wife and one of his daughters are buried, and Purcell Drive, off Skipton Road, the road named in his honour.
The family left the club a little money to donate to Silsden. Barry has given some to the church, and the family also sponsored one of the Cobbydalers' Hallmark Security League matches.
The small sum left will be donated to the Friends of Silsden`s Green Places, another of Barry`s interests at which he is Vice Chairman.
The beck side gardens are maintained by the group who can only survive on donations and grants. The back drop to the gardens is Flesher Cottage, the old doctor`s premises".
Members of the Purcell family are pictured at Flesher Cottage with Barry.
Left to right: Dennis, Jacci, Dun(Dennis senior), Matthew and Silsden AFC President Barry Thomas.