THE rugby league community – and beyond – was mourning one of its best-loved characters this week with the death of David Roebuck at the age of 60.
The former Dewsbury Celtic hooker wasn’t expected to survive catastrophic injuries suffered when making his debut for the Heavy Woollen district team in October, 1982. At the time, he was 24 and married to Janet, with a seven-month-old daughter, Claire.
Dave dislocated his spine when a scrum collapsed in the game against York. Doctors at Pinderfields Hospital’s renowned spinal injuries unit battled successfully to keep him alive but he was left quadriplegic. It was in Pinderfields that he passed away peacefully late last Thursday night, following a brief illness.
At the time of his injury and with the district team having no insurance, the rugby league community across the country played its part in providing desperately needed support for the family.
Over the 36 years since then, Dave’s rugby friends in the Dewsbury and Batley area, especially from his beloved Dewsbury Celtic club, have staged regular fundraisers to help him out, from black tie dinners at the town hall to charity cricket matches and discos.
The Rugby League’s Benevolent Fund also stepped into the breach in more recent years, not just helping Dave out with equipment for his specially adapted ground floor flat in Thornhill Lees, but making sure he got to follow the game he never fell out of love with, as a guest at big games like the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley.
Born and raised in Chickenley, Dave was one of eight children of Lewis and Sheila Roebuck and attended the local infant and junior schools before going to Earlsheaton Secondary Modern.
He got an apprenticeship as a sheet metal worker at Hotworks in neighbouring Earlsheaton, which is where he and wife Janet lived when they married in 1981.
After his injury, they moved to the flat in Centenary Square, Thornhill Lees, where Dave lived until his death.
Press publisher Danny Lockwood, who was his teammate at Celtic and in the fateful game at Heworth rugby club’s ground in York, said: “This has come as a shock to everyone. Just recently David had been really well and in great spirits.
"I saw him a few weeks ago and he was on the dancefloor at Dewsbury Irish Nash, rocking and rolling in his wheelchair.
“He had a phenomenal spirit which kept him going through some really dark and difficult times.
“He never fell out of love with rugby, despite what it cost him. Whatever his own troubles, Dave always had a smile and a cheery word for anyone who stepped through his door, or who he bumped into when friends took him out and about.”
In a series of articles in The Press to mark the 20th anniversary of his injury, Dave spoke candidly about his life and how the pressure of years of being his full time carer took a toll on his wife Janet’s health. They eventually separated.
More recently, Claire gave up work to help take care of her dad, who for years has received fantastic care from the health and local authority services, with friends and neighbours helping to keep him as independent as possible.
The nature of David’s sudden passing in hospital meant that a post-mortem was required, delaying the announcement of details of his funeral, which is expected to be at Dewsbury Minster.
He leaves Claire, grandson Daiyaan and granddaughters Amelia and Aisha.
The Press will post details on our website and social media as soon as funeral details are known.
Arrangements are being handled by George Brooke funeral directors.
Below are The Press's articles from 2002: