Two days after they committed Gordon Banks to safe keeping, Henry Nicholson – another goalkeeper, pretty good himself – was laid to rest.

At St John’s church in Shildon they filled every pew and then every chair, ran out of orders of service, then out of red hymn books and finally out of blue ones.

They carried Henry in to the Match of the Day theme, out again – again at his own request – to the music from Channel 4’s cricket coverage. In the middle we sang Jerusalem.

We’d been friends since Shildon infancy, perpetually argued over who was the better goalie but knew, of course, that it was Henry. Apart from anything else, he could see the ball.

He played in the Northern League for Bishop Auckland and for Willington, both played and helped run football and cricket at Shildon BR, managed at Brandon United and elsewhere and remained a passionate Sunderland fan.

Few would have failed to notice that they’d reached Wembley the previous day.

For 15 years he’d also been chairman of the North-East branch of the Communication Workers’ Union, had been mayor of Shildon and a Durham County councillor.

Canon David Tomlinson, in a quite superb eulogy, recalled that Henry’s socialism had been honed as a youngster down West Auckland colliery. “The foreman promised them a bonus if they reached a certain productivity target. They reached it but the bonus was never paid.”

Victim of a terrible lung disease, he’d lie in bed just days before his death still attending to council emails and – said the vicar – “ranting at a Tory politician on television.”

One of the mourners, mutual friend from many years back, also recalled the endless debate about the better goalkeeper. “Sadly there’s no longer any argument,” she added. “You are.”

Still homeward, Tony Taylor forwards from Harry Pearson’s Facebook page this wonderful image of a Shildon lass in subtle search of romance.

“I saw it on the railway station,” Harry insists. “It looks like a seaside postcard but I hadn’t realised Shildon was a holiday resort.”

Born in Great Ayton, Boro fan – the Twitter tag camsell59 might offer a clue – he’s twice in recent times won the Cricket Book of the Year award but is best remembered hereabouts for The Far Corner, a wonderfully and wryly observed account of a season in North-East football, chiefly Northern League.

That was almost 25 years ago, the great good news that a sequel’s on the way to mark the anniversary.

Save that there’ll be even less of the pro game – “I’ve lost all interest in the Premier League, I just can’t be bothered with it,” says Harry – it’ll be pretty much more of the same.

“A couple of weeks ago I gave myself a birthday treat, Esh Winning v Easington Colliery, Scarlet Band bus from Durham to Waterhouses – absolutely lovely,” he enthuses.

It’s due early next year. In the meantime he has a new book about the passion for cycle racing in Flanders – wheels within wheels, more of that one shortly.

A note from Maureen, his widow, records that it will be 20 years on Monday since the sudden death of Ken Stephenson, one of Co Durham’s most familiar club cricket professionals.

Former DLI, delightful man, Ken became sergeant-at-mace to Durham’s mayors and later mace bearer and mayor’s attendant at Darlington. He was 61.

Their home in Darlington overlooked the Feethams cricket ground where he’d played many times and round which, conveniently, he could stroll to the football. Maureen’s now back in Durham.

Apropos of little, Martin Birtle recalls Stan Scrimshaw, a Hartlepools United player in the 1930s – the name, he says, also to carvings on whales’ teeth or the tusks or shells of other nautical creatures.

The Oxford confirms it, suspects that the surname may etymologically have fathered both verb and noun.

Though Stan died in 1988, the phone book still lists a couple of Scrimshaws in the Pool – whether they spend their spare time carving their initials into ivory is impossible to say.

They’ve been doing out the Black Bull in Trimdon Village, a photograph of Old Trimdon St Mary’s FC taken in 1920 among those new to the wall.

Dennis Grimley reckons to have identified all but one of them – one’s his father, Charles, at least two others Elliotts. Trimdon’s had an awful lot of Elliotts in its time, one the world champion raffle ticket seller (but that was after he’d moved to Shildon.)

Dennis also has two of his dad’s medals from 1918-19, the Ferryhill Charity Cup and the Ferryhill Medals Competition and wonders about their history. Exactly a century later, can anyone help?

….and finally, several readers knew that the curious incident which delayed the start of the 1974 World Cup final – last week’s column – was that referee Jack Taylor noticed the ground staff had forgotten to put in the corner flags.

Closer to home, something similar once happened to Spennymoor ref George Courtney at Carlisle United – the difference, as George ruefully recollects, that the game was eight minutes old.

Since we’re talking officialdom, readers are today invited to name the first North-East ref to take charge of an FA Cup final.

Piggy in the middle, the column returns next week.