|Charles Pitman by Alex Service |
Charles Pitman was signed from Wigan Highfield, in a deal which also included Cumbrian centre William Ashburner going to Highfield. Before coming to Rugby League, Pitman was a free-scoring winger with Pontypridd in Wales. At 26 years of age, Charles could do 100 yards in just over ten seconds and weighed in at just over twelve stones. In one match against the Saints, playing for Highfield, he had bottled up his opposite number Tom Flynn in a manner that no-one else had done at the time.
He had a splendid record with Pontypridd before he went North. Charles scored 43 tries in his first season; 32 in his second and 22 in half a season before turning professional. Against Featherstone Rovers, at Featherstone, he scored two fantastic length-of-the-field tries for Highfield and was clearly a talented player. Charles scored with his first touch for the Saints in the opening league match of the 1923-24 season at Widnes and was to follow this with a remarkable effort against Warrington at Knowsley Road that had the great correspondent Tom Reynolds, alias Premier, in raptures: “Defeat apart, the game will live long in my memory if only for the glorious elation over Pitman’s superb try. I would rather have defeat, with the glorious achievement of that try to redeem it than have inglorious success achieved by brute force and ignorance. When did we see a try the like of it? At Knowsley Road or elsewhere? It was a try that will be talked about as long as rugby football is played in St.Helens. Warrington were attacking hotly and one of the aggressors tried to find a weak link in the Saints armour by putting in a short driving kick along the ground towards the St.Helens left-wing corner flag, where Blackburn, the speedy Warrington winger, might hope to race in and touch down for a try. The move was sound, but the sequel was sensationally surprising. Snatching up the ball, Pitman cut into the gap between Tranter and Blackburn and in a flash was away at top speed with both men after him. He bore out towards the left touch line. But when Wheatley the full-back came across to meet him – to cut him off or force him into touch – Pitman swerved in to meet Wheatley and glanced inside to look apparently for support. This manoeuvre, executed like lightening, caused Wheatley to slacken his pace for a fraction of a second and away went Pitman again on the line he was travelling at first, but this time faster than before. Wheatley was baffled. Ere he could regain his pace, Pitman had rounded him on the touchline side and was racing for the line with nearly half the length of the field still to be covered. A crescendo of cheering marked his progress culminating in the wildest outbreak of delight I have ever heard at Knowsley Road as Pitman dumped the ball on the right side of the line, the panting hero of a glorious football triumph. If Pitman never does anything again – absurd supposition – he will be talked of at Knowsley Road until the place ceases to exist as a football ground. A try like that occasionally and Pitman is a tourist next season.”
Unfortunately, the flying winger, after such a marvellous start, did not last the season at Knowsley Road for reasons unknown. His last match for the club was on January 19th 1924, an inglorious 25-0 defeat at Leigh. Walter Wright and George Cotton occupied the wing berths for the next few years in the First Team, until the coming of Alf Ellaby.
The rise and subsequent fall of Charles Pitman is certainly intriguing and if anyone can give us any further information of his post-Knowsley Road career, we would be delighted to receive it. He lived in the Pemberton district of Wigan and the Saints kept his registration until January 1926. We know that Charlie was a coal miner and packer below ground. In 1939 he had moved back to Pontypridd and was living in Ael Y Bryn in that town. Charlie died in Pontypridd in March 1962 aged 68.