TRIBUTE has been paid to a former Keighley rugby league player and director ­– and well-known publican in the town – who has died aged 86.

Jack Holmes played for his hometown club for three years, making 45 appearances and scoring nine tries.

He’d begun his career with Halifax, after signing from the Silsden amateur ranks.

Mr Holmes spent four seasons with the Thrum Hall club, and was part of its 1954 Challenge Cup final team.

After a spell on loan with Featherstone Rovers, he joined Keighley in 1958, and remained with the Lawkholme outfit until his retirement in 1961.

He starred alongside a string of outstanding players, including Terry Hollindrake, Jimmy Bardgett, Roy Sabine and Derek Hallas.

“Jack played mainly as a centre but often doubled-up as a second-row forward where he displayed himself as a straight-running player making the ‘hard yards’,” said long-time friend, David Ingham.

“Considering he wasn’t a big man he played above his weight – on a par with a middleweight boxer taking on the heavyweights! He was also a very sound tackler.”

During his time with the club Mr Holmes made history when he became the first player to take the rugby league authorities to court over a ban and fine imposed following a sending-off. He won his case.

“Jack had an exemplary disciplinary and playing record and was completely exonerated,” said Mr Ingham.

“His case was even supported by the opposition coach, who verified that Jack was not the guilty party.”

Mr Holmes became a director of the club in 1969, a role he held for two years, during which period he encouraged the signing of local players predominantly from the town’s amateur clubs, Worth Village and Keighley Albion.

In addition to his rugby involvement, he became a popular and respected pub licensee for Timothy Taylor brewery.

He had a spell at the Shoulder of Mutton, Thwaites, in the early 1960s, was mine host at the Royal Hotel in Damside for nearly a decade ­– until the mid 70s – and then at the Boltmakers Arms.

“The Royal was arguably the busiest public house for miles around ­– you had to queue to get in at weekends such was its popularity!” said Mr Ingham.

He added that Mr Holmes, known as ‘Gentleman’ Jack Holmes, would be missed hugely.

“He was simply a great guy – amiable, charming, always immaculately dressed and highly respected by one and all,” said Mr Ingham.

Mr Holmes leaves his wife, Kay, children Lee, Susan and Debra, and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Following a private cremation, a service to celebrate his life will take place at Keighley Shared Church on Monday (July 15), at 1.45pm.