Shaymen, speedway and ice skating: 100 years of sport at The Shay
The transformation of what was then a corporation rubbish tip into a football ground was a success story all of its own.
But in the years that followed, the history of The Shay has been as chequered and eventful as that of Halifax Town, and to a lesser degree, the fledgling FC Halifax Town which began its life in 2008.
As local anniversaries go, the commemoration of the first-ever football match played at The Shay one hundred years ago is pretty significant, given that the ground has continued to stage professional sport to this day.
It was on 3 September 1921 that Halifax Town played hosts to Darlington in what was their first home match in the Football League, rounding off a historic afternoon by winning 5-1 in front of a crowd of over ten thousand, thus avenging a 2-0 defeat by the same opposition seven days earlier.
The Shay estate was first mooted as a possible home for the newly formed Halifax Town in 1911 when it was being used as a rubbish tip, a shadow of its former glories, where once a grand mansion stood. The conversion of the grounds into a football stadium at least gave the site some respectability, and today it would be inconceivable to imagine The Shay as anything other than acting as a provision for sport.
In its earliest existence, the area which became known as ‘The Shay’ would have been no more than open fields, adjoining those at Well Head and the first recording of a living dwelling there was recorded in the Halifax Manor Court Rolls of 1462, when on 6 July it stated that the wealthy William Brodley ‘surrendered the reversion, after his death, of two closes, with buildings thereon, lying on the west of Saghe Loyne, in Halifax, to the use of John, son of the said William Brodley and his heirs, and Margaret , his wife, daughter of Thomas Fournes.’
When Brodley died, The Shay Estate descended to his daughter Grace Hely in 1580 and in turn to her husband, John Booth, with the precise transaction recorded as 6 October 1587 when Booth became owner of ‘Shaw and Nether Shaw’.
The following year John Booth arranged for a small dam to be constructed within the Shay Estate so as to provide enough water for his needs. This supply was later diverted away from the Shaw Syke in 1602 and within two years Booth had surrendered ownership of ‘Over and Nether Shaw’ to Simon Bynnes of Broadbottom, of whom little is known other than that he, too, was a wealthy man.
Subsequently, The Shay Estate passed into the Stead family in the seventeenth century, then the Caygills.
Martha Stead had married John Caygill in 1705 and in the will of her father dated 9 September 1735 she was left Upper Shaw and Lower Shaw Syke, while the remainder of the estate was left to her son John Caygill jnr., and it was he who commissioned John Carr to the building of The Shay mansion around 1770.
Caygill Jnr went on to marry Jane Selwin of Down Hall, Essex and they had one child, a daughter also named Jane, but commonly referred to as Jenny. Caygill became one of the wealthiest men in Halifax, the owner of numerous houses in the town, as well as a house, warehouse, barn, garden and shops at The Shay Estate. He also contributed to Halifax’s lasting heritage having contributed for the erection of two landmark buildings, The Square, constructed around 1758, and the Piece Hall, built as a trading centre for wool and woollen products and opened on New Year’s Day 1779.
Jenny Caygill became sole heiress to her father’s estates, including The Shay, and upon her marriage to Sir James Ibbetson, Baronet of Leeds and Denton on 8 February 1768, the ownership of The Shay thus passed into the Ibbetson family. They advertised The Shay grounds for letting and in the Halifax Journal dated 18 April 1807, the mansion was described as thus: ‘The elegant mansion house...beautifully situated on the south side of the town of Halifax, with a convenient terrace on the south and east fronts; reclining grass banks, shrubbery, serpentine, and other walks to a considerable extent, adorned with plantations and a pleasure garden; well stocked with wall and standard fruit trees; a hothouse and greenhouse with vines, exotic and other plants, etc; besides two kitchen gardens in excellent condition; the whole bounded by a rich meadow forms a lawn of nine acres or thereabouts.’ The advertisement also gave details of the mansion itself. On the ground floor was a dining hall 29ft by 23ft and 13ft high, breakfast room, parlour, housekeeper’s room, butler’s pantry, servants’ hall, a large kitchen and gallery ‘fitted with every modern improvement for cooking on the steam principle’, a spacious passage 12ft 6in wide and 44ft long, an elegant staircase with a double flight of stone steps. There was a landing 13ft wide and a spacious gallery on the second floor, while the drawing room and the five lodging rooms, with dressing rooms adjoining, were on the same scale as the rooms below. The doors were of solid mahogany and it was evidently well fitted for its purposes.’ Jeremiah Rawson took over the tenancy of The Shay, and on 31 March 1835 was awarded £250 damages following a mob demonstration during the local elections the previous December when windows and furniture were broken.
Subsequently, Census returns have proved useful in determining who else resided at The Shay:
• 1841 - William Haigh, magistrate and landed proprietor
• 1861 - Henry McCrea, textile manufacturer, and Mayor in 1869.
• 1871 - Joseph Wood, worsted spinner
• 1891 - William Dyer who took up residency in 1886
• 1901 - William Boocock
Up until 1890 any traffic heading in the direction of Huddersfield travelled from the town centre along the bottom of The Shay, up Shaw Hill to Huddersfield Road.
In the 1890s, the plan was to develop the pleasant Caygill’s Walk, which ran along the top of The Shay, into what is now the busy Skircoat Road, a scheme which at the time came under heavy criticism from local people. A little beck ran down from Well Head Field to Shaw Syke and this was covered in when this part of the estate was filled up with countless loads of earth in order to make the present road level. Some of the buildings on The Shay Estate were demolished, though The Shay mansion, bought by the Halifax Corporation on 8 August 1889, remained intact.
This dramatic period in The Shay’s history continued when, on 29 August 1891, Skircoat Road was opened for traffic for the first time, and by 1903, with The Shay mansion no longer being used for residential purposes,
Halifax Corporation saw fit to demolish it the following year and what was left of The Shay Estate became the object of many schemes. On 9 November 1898 a proposal had been put forward to build a goods depot there and on 31 May 1902 an agreement was signed by the Midland Railway Company for the purchase of The Shay Estate, having sought powers to construct a loop line at Low Moor, Bradford, and to run part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire line to Halifax. However, shortly after this, due to lack of funding, the proposals were shelved, though work had actually commenced on a tunnel which ran under the newly constructed Skircoat Road, and this is still in evidence today. The only purpose for which it was used, however, was as an air-raid shelter during the Second World War.
Between 1908 and 1910 there were proposals to build a slaughterhouse on The Shay, but these plans, having come under fire from locals, were eventually scrapped.
There was talk then of converting the estate into playing fields, though nothing came of this idea and the land ended up a Corporation rubbish tip, though part of the estate was used by the local Territorial Army for trench digging and shooting practice during the First World War. Over the years, a little known story came to light, first mentioned in original editions of T.W. Hanson’s
The Story of Old Halifax (but omitted from subsequent reproductions) that told the tale of ‘The Shay Curse’, allegedly of Romany travellers who set up camp on the site for a short time around this period. Unfortunately, a stray bullet killed one of the traveller’s horses and before departing, the horse’s owner, an elderly lady called Vadoma, put a one-hundred-year curse on the land with the intention of bringing bad luck to anyone who ‘owned or occupied this land’. Just how true this tale may be is uncertain, but nevertheless The Shay was exorcised by Father John Gott in 1983 when, in an act of desperation, Halifax Town manager Mickey Bullock and the directors attempted to rid the club of the bad luck which they felt had dogged the club.
The first steps towards the conversion of The Shay into a football ground began when Dr. Howie Muir, Halifax Town chairman, addressed a public meeting on 9 July 1920, revealing, ‘Speaking from inside information, I know that if, in February 1921, we can produce a ground that will meet League requirements and if we can show financial backing that is worthy of a town of this size, our position as members of the English League is absolutely secure.’ The directors later met with the Halifax Corporation’s Improvements Committee with a view to taking up a lease on The Shay Estate, and on 4 August 1920 this recommendation was put to the committee: ‘That the council be recommended to let for a period of seven years a portion of The Shay Estate to the Halifax Town AFC Ltd, subject to a formal lease to be prepared by the town clerk on the following terms and conditions: That a rental of £10 to be paid for the first year, £75 for the second year and £100 for each successive year.’ The recommendation was passed and the Halifax Courier set up a fund to help with the preparation of the ground, and though it fell well short of the targeted £2,000 - only £391 15s 3d was raised - work began on 16 October 1920 following the delivery of timber. An appeal was made in the evening’s Courier for volunteers and they, along with players and directors, laboured to get the ground ready, and on 7 December 1920 the first grass sods were laid on the playing pitch.
On 30 July 1921, the Courier reported that, ‘Banking round the sides holds twenty thousand and tipping of late has been used to form a road from the top entrance near the Arcadian Pavilion [on the site of the former Shay mansion] where the ground dropped steeply. This has now been flattened for a more gradual slope. A hut for the use of the directors, secretary and home and away changing rooms is rapidly nearing completion.’ What became the club offices and changing rooms was a disused army hut and was situated in a corner of the ground on the Skircoat Road side towards what was then known as the tram-garage end of the ground, and used by the club until the mid-fifties.
Following Halifax Town’s election to the newly created Third Division (Northern Section), the first game at The Shay saw the heavy defeat of Darlington, despite the ground being far from finished. There was then no covered accommodation for the spectators, though the erection of the grandstand, 120 feet in length on the Skircoat Road side of the ground, would not take long. This was completed, with a cover, held up by iron supports acquired from Hyde Road, the then home of Manchester City, at a cost of £1,000, and twenty-two rows of seats – these were, in fact, wooden benches which still existed until the eighties – in readiness for the match with Hartlepools United on 5 November 1921.
It was in July 1927 that an extension to this stand was added. Stretching 140 feet towards the Hunger Hill side of the ground, this stand was constructed using forty tonnes of steel and there was a refreshment buffet running across the back of it. This new ‘Skircoat Stand’ funded by money raised from the club’s Social Section, was used for the first time when Town played their first home match of the new season against Barrow on 29 August 1927.
On 3 October 1931 a new members’ entrance at the top of Hunger Hill was used for first time for game with Darlington, an addition to the existing members’ entrance on Skircoat Road, and used primarily for those who had trouble using steps. The following month, the club opened up a new section of the covered stand for schilling spectators, though there was at this point no terracing. This was constructed three years later and completed by 20 November 1934, with accommodation for seven thousand. Over the years, this stand would be labelled the ‘Skircoat Shed’ and would remain standing-only until August 2000 when seats were installed.
Further developments to The Shay over the years saw the creation, using thousands of tons of earth, of banking at the back of the goal of the north stand of the ground, later termed by the locals as the Trinity Garage End.
During the 1936 close season, trainer Maurice Wellock was one of several workers who helped construct the terracing at this end. In 1949 changes were made to the pitch to make way for the new speedway track, and some of the embankment at the Hunger Hill end of the ground was sacrificed. Work began to improve this area and but it wasn’t until September 1950 that the centre section was concreted, the first stage of what was then an improvement scheme.
The FA Cup run of 1952-53 and the visit of First Division sides Cardiff City, Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur, saw further changes, with the erection of crash barriers for safety reasons, and in July 1953 work began on the construction of a small stand on the Shaw Hill side, initially 100 feet long, giving cover to between 1,000 and 1,500 spectators and built by members of the Social Section. Two years later, work began on new dressing rooms and club offices which were built onto this structure, later named the Patrons’ Stand with the addition of seating. A section of this stand was used for the directors. Coinciding with these developments was the club’s decision to erect a 3ft 6in concrete fencing for the surround of the pitch to replace the old wooden one which had been put up in 1949 for speedway. At a cost of £1,000 the dressing rooms (which included a Turkish bath), club offices and new fencing were all in place for the start of the new season and on 8 August 1956 the public was allowed into The Shay to view the improvements, with the Mayor, Alderman Frank Swire, JP officially declaring the new Shay open prior to Halifax Town’s first match of the season with Hull City on 18 August 1956. The Shay would remain pretty much in this state for many years, the major changes being made to the pitch when the speedway track was laid for a second time in 1965, making Halifax Town’s pitch one of the smallest in the Football League, and construction of social amenities. Initially, the four corners of the pitch were made up of removable pallets until the track was redesigned in February 1971 and the pitch made smaller still. At the same time the Patrons’ Stand was extended.
Having failed to purchase The Shay from the Corporation in September 1950, Halifax Town tried once more unsuccessfully fifteen years later, though twelve months on, they did manage to extend the terms of the lease, due to expire in 1972, to 1993. In July 1978, Halifax Town attempted yet again to buy the ground, but Calderdale Council refused once more, fearing Halifax Town might sell the ground for redevelopment should they fail to be re-elected in the future. In 1982, Sam Rorke managed to negotiate a 99-year lease for The Shay with Calderdale Council which put the ailing club in a stronger position than perhaps it should have been when it found itself on the brink of bankruptcy in December 1986. The Council, under the leadership of David Helliwell, rescued the club with a package that included buying back The Shay’s lease on 8 April 1987, and whilst different schemes had been put forward to build Halifax Town a new stadium, in the end they remained at The Shay and paid rent to the Council for use of the ground on matchdays only.
Whilst Rorke was chairman, he had vowed to make The Shay harder to get in – or out for that matter – than Alcatraz following disturbances during a pre-season friendly with Huddersfield in August 1981 by erecting a nine feet concrete wall around the perimeter of the estate. He had also tarmacced the large car park which for so long had looked very uninviting. Now under Council control, further improvements were made to the ground, with new seats being obtained for the Skircoat Stand from the Old Show Ground, former home of Scunthorpe United (who had recently moved to their new Glanford Park home) and installed prior to the 1989-90 season.
A new five-side court was built at the Shaw Hill side of the ground to help bring in extra revenue, whilst a slight modification to the ground’s name saw it rechristened ‘The Shay: Calderdale Sports Stadium’ at the bequest of Councillor Graeme Fish.
On 15 June 1991, Calderdale Council sold its shares in the club to a consortium headed by local businessman Jim Brown, who became club chairman, but their rejection of his plans to develop The Shay to meet Football League criteria when the club had found itself in the GM Vauxhall Conference led to Brown’s resignation in February 1995. However, success on the field during 1997-98 made it look likely Halifax Town would clinch the Conference title, but they would only regain their League status should the ground capacity be raised.
On 5 January 1998 Blakedell Construction began work on the north terrace (Trinity Bus Garage End), transforming what was then a bank of overgrown weeds into concreted terracing and this was given its blessing by Football League officials on 2 April 1998. The north terrace, which could hold 1,020 spectators, was initially used by home fans, but since 2003 with the completion of the south terrace and its bar facilities, they have been housed at that end. The south terrace is capable of holding 3,211.
In February 1999, the management of The Shay was given to the Halifax Stadium Development Company, and following the completion of Halifax Town’s last match of the season with Macclesfield Town on 6 May 2000, the bulldozers moved in to demolish the Patrons’ Stand in readiness for the construction of the new East Stand, initially funded by a £1.8m grant to the football club from the Football Foundation. ER Construction Ltd began the work, but by April 2001, both Halifax Town and Halifax Blue Sox, who had moved to The Shay in April 1998, were needing to find £180,000 between them to release a further £400,000 of funds.
When a new grant was agreed the following September work re-commenced, only to come to a standstill once more in December 2001 with then Town director Ray Crabtree admitting the project was ‘out of funds’.
With no money materialising from the sale of the rugby club’s Thrum Hall ground, which was taken over by supermarket giants Asda, the East Stand remained in its unfinished state, and with only changing rooms in use, and the half-built stand would remain an eyesore for over eight years.
There were further complications when the Halifax Stadium Development Company went into liquidation, and a new not-for-profit body called Shay Stadium Trust took over the running of The Shay on 28 August 2003, with
Roger Simpson appointed as its first chairman, with the Trust acquiring a ten-year lease the following February. But within seven years, that organisation, too, was forced to be wound up, a victim of the non-progress of the East Stand it had been set up to oversee, and in July 2008 The Shay fell back into the hands of Calderdale Council.
With the East Stand becoming something akin to a white elephant, Calderdale Council elected to sell The Shay in December 2005, having already seen interest from potential investor Philip Pride a year earlier. But such was the outcry from both football and rugby fans, who marched to the Town Hall on 10 January 2006 in protest, that the councillors made a swift u-turn. But it wasn’t until Owen Williams was made the Council’s chief executive in January 2008 that things started to happen. He proclaimed that, ‘I will be judged on what happens at The Shay, Broad Street and the Piece Hall,’ and, with Duncan Farr already having been put in charge of The Shay project the previous August, work began once more on the East Stand, though in essence it was almost like starting anew, with fresh plans drawn up. Work thus began transforming the East Stand in October 2008, a scheme set to cost the Council £4.5million.
The roof was ripped off to allow crane access, and the stand was then refitted along with 3,500 seats and hospitality boxes. New changing room, toilets, a control room, offices and shops were also created beneath the stand, as were a banqueting suite capable of holding around 250, six hospitality boxes and press rooms. The work was undertaken by Hall Construction Services Ltd, a firm already involved in five major sports stadium developments including the Leigh Village Stadium in Lancashire and a new stadium for Shrewsbury Town FC.
However, one corner of the south side of the new stand was never completed and remains dormant.
With EMC having successfully tendered the first catering contract, FC Halifax Town made full use of new 3,500-seater East Stand and facilities for the first time on 23 March 2010, though the occasion proved to be something of a damp squib as heavy rain prior to kick-off with Radcliffe Borough meant the game had to be postponed.
In the event, the club used the new facilities for the first time when they entertained Chorley on 2 April.
On 23 March 2011 it was announced that since the opening of the East Stand, The Shay had lost over £100,000 in its first year of operation. Nevertheless, despite an audacious attempt by businessman and Halifax RLFC director Tony Abbott to purchase The Shay in September 2013, the ground still remains under control of Calderdale Council.
The figure of 10,143 that witnessed the first match at The Shay against Darlington on 3 September 1921 was broken two weeks later when 10,547 watched the match with Rochdale. Before official figures were made available, an estimated 18,000 saw the visit of Nelson on Christmas Day 1922, but the League record was broken twice when 18,866 watched the match with Bradford on 23 October 1926, and 19,935 turned out for Town’s game with Bradford City on 10 September 1927. The ground capacity was by then around 30,000, with the record being the 22,023 that saw the FA Cup second round replay with Manchester City on 6 February 1924.
That figure was broken when 29,235 were present for the fifth round FA Cup meeting of Luton Town nine years later. However, 35,621 crammed into The Shay for the FA Cup fourth round match with Stoke City on 31 January 1953, only for that figure to be bettered, and a club record set, when 36,885 watched the fifth round match with Tottenham Hotspur two weeks later. This is the highest gate for any professional sport in Halifax. The Shay’s capacity, which had been raised to 38,000 for the visit of Stoke City, was reduced to 23,000 by 1977 on Home Office instructions, and by 1979 had fallen as low as 15,000. After safety work was carried out, the capacity was raised once more to 16,500 for the visit of Manchester City for a FA Cup third round tie in 1980.
However, the Popplewell Report into ground safety which was published in January 1986 following the fire at Bradford City’s Valley Parade the previous in May meant that for a short time from the start of the 1985-86 season all standing areas at The Shay were closed and it became a seating-only stadium, with the capacity reduced to just 1,777. Once safety work was carried out, it was raised to 3,600, and increased further to 4,021 for the visit of Nottingham Forest for a third round FA Cup tie on 9 January 1988. By 1991, following more work to the ground, the capacity was increased to 8,049.
Strict Health and Safety rules have meant that capacity of The Shay has since been reduced, even allowing for the opening of the north and south terraces in 1998.
Though it was raised to nine thousand, by 2002 the limit was set at 6,561. With the opening of the East Stand, the old Skircoat Stand was made largely redundant and used only for high-profile games, but in August 2021 the capacity was 14,061.
On 16 October 1961, work began on the erection of four floodlight pylons at The Shay to bring Halifax Town in line with many other clubs. First mooted in May 1961 and the dream of chairman Harry Taylor and Supporters’ Club chairman Keith Holloway, the directors had given up hope of them being installed due to a shortage of guarantors and the bank’s reluctance to lend them the money, until at the eleventh hour an anonymous benefactor - an ‘angel’ the club referred to him as - stepped forward to pay for them at a cost of £17,000. The four 100 feet pylons were installed by the General Electricity Company and each consisted of 36 lights. Real Madrid were invited to play at the official switch-on, but after Halifax Town couldn’t guarantee meeting their demands, Yugoslav side OFK Belgrade provided the opposition on 16 November 1961, though the lights had actually been switched on the previous Saturday during the second half of Town’s home game with Peterborough United.
In the 1981 close season, chairman Sam Rorke replaced the floodlights at a cost of £50,000 and these were switched on in a pre-season friendly with Cliftonville on 10 August 1981. The floodlight pylons themselves were later replaced in August 2000 as part of re-development work which included the construction of the East Stand - later aborted - seats being installed in the Skircoat Stand and the re-laying of the pitch.
The Halifax Corporation gave the go ahead for Halifax Town to build a social club alongside the Patrons’ Stand in February 1966 and The Shay Social Club thus opened on 18 April 1967.
At the suggestion of chairman Sam Rorke, the Social Club was demolished in 1981 to make way for a restaurant, initially called Chimes. But the restaurant floundered and reopened the following year as a members’ bar with catering facilities and renamed the Halifax Sporting Club. Stewards included Mick Jowett, former Town player Kenny Young, Malcolm Kielty and Derek Tudball. Later, following the Council takeover in 1987, it reopened as The Mill House Bistro, before changing to the New Halifax Sporting Club, and finally the Weavers. Available for private functions, it was used on matchdays by Halifax Town for both pre and post-match hospitality. The Weavers was demolished in 2010 to make way for the new East Stand.
Since 1998, Halifax Town have shared The Shay with Halifax RLFC, who moved from Thrum Hall under the guise of Halifax Blue Sox following the advent of Super League, playing their first match of Super League’s third season on 10 April 1998 and defeating Huddersfield 30-6. But the rugby club previously used The Shay to stage a home game with Widnes on 22 January 1986 after high winds had damaged the floodlights at Thrum Hall, and though 6,368 saw Halifax lose 15-8, they still went on to win the Championship that season. On 10 November 2013 Tonga defeated Italy 16-0 in a group match during the Rugby League World Cup.
But football and rugby league aren’t the only sports to have been held at The Shay; speedway, too, was staged there on two separate occasions. Prior to using The Shay, the Halifax Dukes used a track at Thrum Hall but on 8 February 1949 construction began on the track around Halifax Town’s pitch. It had been hoped to complete it within the month but thirteen days were lost due to bad weather. The total length of the track was 402 yards and nearly 3,000 cubic yards of earth was moved to accommodate it and the football pitch was narrowed and both sets of goalposts moved three yards into the playing area.
Halifax Town profited by taking ten per cent of speedway gate receipts and the first meeting was held on 6 April 1949 with Yarmouth Bloaters providing the opposition after the track had officially been opened by Major R.E. Adams, CO of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment at Halifax.
But the speedway venture wasn’t a roaring success and amid low gates promoter Bruce Booth announced on 31 March 1952 the end of speedway ‘while rates and taxation remains at the present levels’. Booth had tried to boost the coffers by staging a one-off meeting of midget car racing on 10 November 1951, a venture watched by 15,000 spectators, three times higher than the average speedway gate.
Approaches were made to Halifax Town by Middlesbrough promoter Reg Fearman in November 1962 for the use of the ground to revive the sport. Negotiations lasted two years but at the beginning of 1965 work began on constructing the speedway track and the sport returned on 17 April 1965 when, in front of an enormous five-figure crowd, The Dukes hosted Long Eaton Archers, who spoilt the party by winning 41-36. To accommodate the track this time, however, the four corners of the playing pitch had to be cut, and the four portable sections were fitted in place for matchdays. This caused occasional problems when a corner would dislodge itself during games, and when the Football League instructed Halifax Town to make them permanent in October 1970, work began re-designing the speedway track.
Second time around proved more successful for speedway and riders such as Eric Boocock and Kenny Carter became household names. Attendances regularly bettered those of the football club in the eighties and The Shay played host to international meetings. But in 1986, after rows over money with Halifax Town, speedway waved goodbye to The Shay and switched to Odsal, Bradford.
Baseball, too, was staged at The Shay for two years prior to the Second World War. The team was set up by John Rigby and over four thousand witnessed their first victory over Leeds in 1938. In that first season, the Halifax team excelled and in a victory over Bolton at The Shay, Sam Hanna, who would later turn out for Halifax Town, set an English baseball record by hitting a hat-trick of home runs. Halifax went on to become Major League champions and on 16 July 1938 a combined Halifax/Leeds side drew 5-5 with a United States side at The Shay in front of 3,000 spectators.
In 1939 Halifax won the Yorkshire Challenge Cup, the Rigby Trophy, the Rigby Challenge Cup and tied with Hull for the Major League Championship. On 5 August 1939 they reached the pinnacle of success, beating Rochdale Greys 9-5 at The Shay in the final of the National Baseball Association Challenge Cup.
On 13 July 1931 The Shay played host to boxing and wrestling, with the bill featuring a wrestling contest in which Halifax RLFC forward Shirley Crabtree beat the accomplished ‘Bash’ Oakley from Chesterfield. The chief attraction, however, was the heavyweight boxing contest between Halifax’s Arthur Evans and Bill Hudson (Wakefield), won on points by Evans.
A golf driving range at the Trinity Garage end was a short-lived venture at The Shay, having been opened on 29 December 1966 by Leeds United and England centre-half Jack Charlton, in the presence of his Leeds manager Don Revie and England Test cricketer Johnny Wardle. The range was available at lunch times, afternoons and evenings when there was a demand, and though it was initially supervised by Town player Eric McMillan, professional instruction was provided by Michael Booth following his appointment in April 1967. Target golf, of the lines of archery, where targets were laid out on the pitch, was held at The Shay on 14 June 1967 and the competition was won by Walter Lees from Shipley. It was hoped the driving range would bring in £100 a week, and though it paid its way, it was felt not enough to keep it going and with around 200 balls being lost each week, the driving range closed down in December 1967.
Future Olympic silver medallist Peter Elliott was amongst the competitors when Halifax Town staged two boys’ races before and at half-time of Halifax Town’s League match with Doncaster Rovers on 21 August 1979.
Leeds City’s Andy Rogers won the pre-match 3,000m, whilst Elliott (Rotherham) won the half-time 800m race in 1:53, four seconds ahead of Halifax Harriers’ Mark Godfrey.
But the most innovative use of The Shay was that of ice skating, the brainchild of Halifax Town secretary Norman Howe during the Big Freeze of 1963. He felt the scheme would bring in much needed revenue for the cash-strapped club and with the pitch completely frozen over, the club opened its gates to the public on 2 March 1963 and hundreds of people turned up with skates, adults paying 2s 6d and children 1s 6d. £64 was taken on the first day and skating was carried over to the following day, and all in all, almost £100 was raised.