Jim's verdict on Wembley choir role: singspirational!

A LIFELONG Batley Bulldogs fan has spoken of his pride after representing the club at Wembley last weekend. 

84-year-old Jim McVeigh appeared on the pitch prior to Saturday’s Challenge Cup final between Hull FC and Warrington, as part of a specially-formed choir which sang the traditional cup final hymn, Abide With Me.

The choir featured representatives from 32 clubs, ranging from amateurs all the way up to Super League.

The BBC’s Songs of Praise programme launched the choir after  hundreds of rugby league fans entered the competition to get the chance to step out onto the grass at the national stadium and sing alongside Aled Jones.

Jim has supported Batley all his life and still volunteers with car parking on matchdays, wearing his hi-vis coat with ‘gaffer’ emblazoned on the back.

Describing his pride at representing the club at Wembley he said: “I felt it was a great honour and felt very privileged to represent Batley Bulldogs and the town of Batley.”

Joining Jim on the pitch was lifelong Dewsbury Rams fan Mandy Fenthem, who makes the 60-mile trip from her home town of Matlock to Owl Lane to watch every home game.

Jim, of Chaster Street, travelled to London on Friday for rehearsals with the rest of the choir at the iconic stadium.

After staying over in the capital on Friday night, the group had the chance to experience what it would be like singing on the pitch on Saturday.

Before that the group had to get through some early morning media duties. “We were on BBC Radio 5 Live at 7am,” said Jim.

“So we were stood in the hotel car park singing on the radio at seven o’clock in the morning, which was very odd.

“When we got to Wembley and stepped out onto the pitch, it was amazing just to see the size of it, but it was a challenge to get used to singing with the band live.”

Jim admitted he found it very emotional when the time came to perform in front of 75,000 people as well as millions more watching on TV.

He said: “We were told to just keep our focus when we went onto the pitch but the first thing I did when I went out there was choke up due to the occasion.

“I started going to Wembley in 1958 and never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would get to stand out on the pitch and sing to everyone.

“The BBC were absolutley fantastic on the day but what really made it worthwhile was having all my family round me after the game.”

Jim was hospitalised for 10 days in 2014 after suffering from a bout of pneumonia and as a thank you to the staff at Dewsbury Hospital, he set up a singing group for patients of the respiratory clinic called “Singspiration”.

Also on the choir was Bradford Bulls fan and the Mayor of Wyke, Terry Lees, who has invited the group to perform at his charity ball at Fleetwood Marine Hall in November.

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