Some time ago, I showed you a picture of the England football team all making their Nazi salute at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on May 14th 1938:
They were not the only foreigners to greet the Führer with a cheery “Sieg Heil”. Here, just a year later, is the Republic of Ireland football team engaged in pretty much the same behaviour:
Let’s just leave that for a short while, and move westwards to the English Midlands. To South Derbyshire, and more precisely, the little village where my Dad, Fred, grew up.
During those long sunny summers and cold snowy winters after the Great War, Fred’s home was at Number 39, Hartshorne Lane, Woodville. The house was called “Holmgarth”, and it was the very last house in the little village of Woodville as you went down the hill towards the neighbouring village.
After Fred’s house, the only dwellings were just a couple of very large detached houses set well back from the road, either side of a small, shared, lake. This was just a few yards beyond the massive blue brick railway bridge, which carried the old passenger railway line from Woodville Station towards the neighbouring town. Here it is, being demolished in the early 1980s:
Hartshorne Lane in the 1930s was made of gravel, and there was so little traffic that it was perfectly possible for boys to play football or cricket all day long without any interruption whatsoever. Boys, including Fred, regularly knocked their cricket stumps into the soft surface of the road:
Indeed, the whole area was still so countrified, that one day in 1929, a seven year old Fred saw a stray cow walking around in the front garden of the house, and rushed to tell his mother. She was busy with her housework, and just told him that he was being silly and telling lies. Eventually, though, she looked out of the kitchen window and she too noticed the cow which had by now made its way around the house to the kitchen garden. She was very startled and cried out in fear. Fred though, thought that this was a good example of somebody getting their just deserts.
Fred’s father, Will, used to work at either Wraggs or Knowles clayworks, a couple of miles away. He would finish his working week at lunchtime on Saturday, and then return home immediately to make sure that he did not miss the football match at Derby, which started at three o’clock:
First of all, though, he would always strip to the waist and wash off all his grime in the kitchen sink.
When Fred was too young to accompany him, Will would walk to the match at the rather strangely named Baseball Ground in Derby. His knowledge of shortcuts, and his willingness to walk over the fields, meant that he could reduce the usual distance by road of twelve or thirteen miles to a walk of only some ten miles or so.
This all came to an abrupt end, though, when Will began to take his young son Fred to the match:
Everything had to change. They would both stroll the short distance down Hartshorne Road until they reached the so-called Lovers’ Walk, a path, complete with romantic tinkling brook, which ran as a well-known short cut, up to the end of Station Street. From here father and son would take the train together from Woodville Station to the Baseball Ground at Derby, hiding away in the middle of a thousand terraced houses.
Sometimes, though, they preferred to catch the ordinary bus in Hartshorne Lane. There was, in actual fact, great competition between the train and bus companies, with occasional, but regular, price wars. The usual fare was one shilling and a halfpenny, but first one, and then the other, company would knock the halfpenny off in a bid to steal a march over their rivals.
Whatever method of transport they used, Fred and Will always left for the match around one o’clock or half past one.
In the early 1930s, Derby County’s goalkeeper was a man called Jack Kirby. He came from Newhall, a mining village just the other side of Swadlincote from Woodville. Kirby had joined Derby County, a professional soccer team in the top division, from a little amateur team, Newhall United, in April 1929. He made his debut for Derby at the top level in the 1929-30 season:
In those days, footballers did not assemble for a pre-match meal at some prestigious hotel. Indeed, Jack used to travel to every Derby home game on his bicycle from his terraced house in Newhall. This was a distance of some thirteen or fourteen miles.
On alternate Saturdays, therefore, Kirby would come slowly past Fred’s house on his bicycle at around one o’clock. He still had, perhaps, an hour and a half to travel the twelve or so miles to Derby. Fred and his father Will would watch out for him, have a quick chat, and invariably joke that Jack was going to miss the start of the game. Kirby never hurried, though, keeping always to what Fred and Will both considered to be a worryingly snail like pace.
There was more to Jack, though, than just banter about the speed of his cycling. Jack really was the good man who refused to stand by and do nothing, so that evil might prosper. For now though, here is Jack in action against Newcastle United:
The English First Division could be a really rough place in 1934:
Jack was a handsome devil, and like all proper goalkeepers, his doting old mum always knitted him a nice warm pullover:
He was very good at latching on to the heavy, invariably wet football of the era, with hands as big as buckets:
The secret was practice, practice, practice. Even if people in the house next to the ground keep spying on you as you train:
Soon, we will all hear the story of how Jack proved to the whole world that he really was the good man who refused to stand by and do nothing. Jack was not prepared to let evil prosper.
17 responses to “A good man doesn’t stand by (1)”
A great story, with delightful memories; and you keep us on the edge of our seats, John.
Thanks, Derrick. And more to come!
I can tell this man went on to do a lot more! Great story, John. I’ll be looking forward to the rest!
Glad you’re enjoying it!
Great story John. I can’t wait until the next installment!
It’s just appeared!
They really had to make an effort to get there didn’t they? Looking forward to next installment.
Already on your electronic hall ,carpet!
Well written article John. Looking forward to the next segment.
Thanks very much. You should have had it appear just a few moments ago.
That is what I call a goalkeeper jersey! I was a Filbert Street boy myself but in the 1990s I grew to like the Baseball Ground because all of my family supported the Rams.
My dad used to take me to matches at Leicester, he always made me walk, he refused to waste money on bus fares, we would get there two hours before kick off just so that I could get a place on the wall behind the goal at the kop end. Happy days, thanks for the memory nudge!
We, too, all got there by 1 o’clock. Unless we did that at Derby, my 9 year old brother would not have been able to lean against the concrete wall at the front and he would not have been able to see. On one occasion, I went on my own, got there early as usual and I was the first person onto the terracing that would hold thousands half an hour or so later. I never realised at time just how much I would reminisce about those days. I didn’t realise that ordinary things like that can become very special to you.
What I appreciate now is the fact that my dad took me to the match two hours before kick off just so that I could get a place on the wall. Even though there was often a local marching band to watch it must have been a very long two hours for him!
These old photos are marvellous really showing what it was like in football all those years ago. A real change to the images of today, they create a real sense of community!
Except for one or two teams like Burnley or maybe Stoke, I don’t think that there is any community in it any more. I think you find community at Lincoln City or Holbeach United or Wisbech Town. I just read an article which said that when a young but promising Peterborough goalkeeper was called up into the England squad round about 2008 and he found that Gerrard earned in three days what he earned in a year. That’s why we can’t identify with present day footballers!
I can believe that. The money they earn today is obscene and has become the focus of the players. Completely wrong!