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17 Mar 2019 : Search family's pride at tribute to Gentleman Jack

One of the most famous sights in Runcorn's football history was poignantly recreated as a new roadway in recognition of the Linnets' greatest ever player was officially opened.

Either side of World War Two, the Number 9 jersey was synonymous with legendary centre forward Jack Search, star of Runcorn FC's 1939 FA Cup team.

On Saturday, Jack's daughter Jeannie De Rycke sported his legendary number and name on a Runcorn shirt - the yellow and green shirt of modern-day Runcorn Linnets - for the unveiling of the lasting memorial.

Colours in her dad's day had been blue and white quarters.

Jack, known as "Gentleman Jack", died on March 13th 1988, the road named in his honour being opened three days after the 31st aniversary of his death.

He was said to have put Runcorn "on the map" through his exploits as a Runcorn FC player for 15 years (Jack was later its chairman for two seasons).

But the Liverpudlian also earned a place in the town's affections for his wartime bravery.

While in Italy with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) in 1943, Jack carried out an action "of great heroism".

In Syracuse, Sicily, he cleared stocks of ammunition from the path of a raging petrol fire.

His bravery prevented a major explosion, thereby averting huge damage and casualties.

Rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Jack had volunteered for army service in 1939, was awarded the George Medal by The King at Buckingham Palace.

Jack was always self-effacing but his achievements on the football field were plentiful. He spearheaded the run of Runcorn's Cheshire County League title-winning side to the FA Cup third round for the for the only time - holders Preston NE being made to fight for a 4-2 victory.

He rejected a move to Arsenal and interest from Chelsea and Burnley to remain amateur and loyal to Runcorn.

In later life, Jack became a director at Everton.

Jeannie De Rycke said: "My father, Jack Search, had a lifelong affection for Runcorn Football Club - long after his playing career ended and he finished his time as chairman.

"He would always check Runcorn's results and watched their progress with great interest. He was a modest man, never looking for fame or honours, but this event would have touched him deeply.

"He would have been so proud of the huge honour paid to him by the club and the town - he'd have been walking on air!"

Jack Search Way is the address of the new retail park, bordering the Millbank Linnets Stadium in Stockham Lane.

The road opening was attended by many of Jack's family and friends plus officials of Runcorn Linnets, whose Trust secretary Dave Bettley chronicled Jack's career and spoke of the affection and esteem he enjoyed in the town.

Club president Alan Jones showed the Search family the matchball from the Preston game, now belonging to Runcorn Linnets and bearing the signatures of both teams.

Planned to coincide with the visit of Kendal Town - Jeannie and her husband David live a short drive from the Lake District town - the event went ahead, despite the postponement of the game due to heavy rain.

Also present was Councillor Ron Hignett, cabinet member at Halton Borough Council, who said: "It is fitting that the new road into the Retail Park is named Jack Search Way.

"A big thank you to the Linnets and our local historian Councillor Dave Thompson for organising this event.

"We can now be sure that Runcorn can not forget one of its heroes."

Mrs De Rycke added: "The whole Search family were amazed that he was remembered so fondly after so many years - they have asked me to express their enormous gratitude both for the honour given to Jack and for the great friendship and hospitality they received from Runcorn Linnets on the day.

"The family were so chuffed by the naming of Jack Search Way that as many as could possibly make it came to see the ceremony on the day - some from a great distance. We even had one nephew there, Harold Smith, who was old enough to have seen Jack play!

"I would also like to thank Halton Borough Council for their part in both the preparations and the ceremony itself - we understand that Councillor Thompson did a lot beforehand and Councillor Ron Hignett not only gave a terrific speech but stayed around to chat at length - it was greatly appreciated.

"I can safely say that all Search family members who attended will from now on consider themselves "friends of Runcorn and the Linnets".

"I personally will remember this day forever."

Pictured: Jack Search's daughter, Jeannie De Rycke with Councillor Ron Hignett, Halton Borough Council cabinet member.

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