Renegade Football at the High School (3)

High School Football had provided three captains of England and the highest scorer in the FA Cup. In 1897, Fred Chapman, who would go on to win an Olympic gold medal when he scored the opening goal in the final of the Olympic Football Tournament in 1908, was just a little boy at the right hand end of the back row. At least two or three of the others would appear in the pop group “Madness” :

In summer, he was the wicketkeeper in the School cricket team. You can just about see the ridges on his pads. Can you see any boys who are in both photographs?:

Just eighteen years later, the School had stopped playing football completely, even if hundreds of young English and German soldiers suddenly developed a desire to play the game during the truce of Christmas 1914:

The High School stopped playing football therefore and changed to rugby union. The decision to change sports at Christmas 1914 was made by the School’s General Committee by a two to one majority and both the Old Boys and the parents were in favour. The boys, however, by a substantial majority, would have opted for football. Here are a Year Seven class in 1901, eager to get their chance in the team. That goalie could do with losing a bit of weight, though:

Why did football disappear in the High School when the sport was just beginning to conquer the world? I have already spoken of a long list of “things better to do than football” last time. Films such as “Cabiria” turned our lads’ heads:

But deep down, it may well have been the boys themselves. It was as if football became less and less popular as the years went by. This is shown by a number of reports in the “Nottinghamian” of boys who seemed completely apathetic. Basically, they just didn’t want to play:

“One cannot be legally compelled to play football, but it ought to be a point of honour with each boy to turn out when called upon. Such excuses as “ doing extra work with Mr.——,” “ didn’t know it was footer today,” or “ my things are at the laundry,” are too often merely excuses to cover a desire to skive, and they strike an altogether unworthy note.”

And a second one:

“The interest of the School in its own football, and in that of its representative teams is much less than it was four or five years ago. The feeble attendance at School matches, the falling numbers of spectators during the “Eight-a-side” competitions, the widespread objections when House matches fall on a Wednesday-half day holiday, the complete disappearance of cheering of victorious teams on their arrival in the Hall for Prayers—all these facts prove a lack of interest and “esprit de corps” that is nothing less than lamentable.”

My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that the boys, far from any sinister motives imputed to them, were merely beginning to expand their expectations, as regards what might be available for their two half days of leisure per week, Wednesday and Saturday. In the last post, I looked at the possibilities of the new technology which gave them a whole range of new pleasures outside school. Personally, I have always thought that the falling numbers of boys at football practices is connected to the invention of the “What the Butler Saw” machine, even if you have fallen asleep by the time she’s got her cardigan off:

“The Nottinghamian” had already complained in December, 1915 of how boys were “frequenting picture-palaces, or doing something equally futile.”

Even inside School, the possibilities were seemingly endless, with various editions of the School magazine reporting the activities of the Officer Training Corps, with lengthy accounts of their camps and their Field Days, School Musketry, the Debating Society, the Literary Society, the Voluntary Gymnastic Club and the N.H.S. Boy Scouts.

Here are those High School Boy Scouts, still working for their “Car-jacking Badge”:

Here’s the Officer Training Corps in 1907. To the left of the stairs is the present day Language Centre. The rooms to the right were demolished in 1938 in a vast cloud of dust, to be replaced by a new three storey science block. The latter was to be erected gradually over the course of the next five years. The Officer Training Corps was very popular among the boys, especially with a World War on the horizon:

“We’ll show those damned Boers and those damned Germans and those damned Turks and those damned Austro-Hanoverians and those damned Japanese……”:

Between 1910 and the beginning of the First World War, many older clubs such as the Literary and the Debating Societies seem to have been extremely popular, and numerous other activities were expanded, especially the military ones such as the Boy Scouts or the O.T.C. The latter pursuits were presumably in response to the increasing militarism of the era.

One other factor about which we know very little is the academic side of School life. It may well be that as other schools in the area, such as High Pavement, for example, were increasingly successful, and raised their academic standards, then the High School was forced to respond, and boys found themselves quite simply with more work to do:

“The Nottinghamian” complained at one point that the excuse “doing extra work with Mr.——,” was one used far too frequently to get out of football practices, but the fact remains that the excuse may well have been true.

Who could resist the lure of Cambridge, and the promise of fish, chips and mushy peas in such wonderful academic surroundings?






Filed under Football, History, Nottingham, The High School

11 responses to “Renegade Football at the High School (3)

  1. RT2014

    Seeing Gabriele D’Annunzio’s name and his influences on II Duce in Italy and beyond made me wonder if anyone from school later joined the international brigade in Spain in the 1930’s?

    • That is a very interesting question indeed. I have the names of everybody at NHS during the period, but I have no idea I’m afraid, of where to find the membership of the International Brigade. I have certainly never heard of any Old Nottinghamian fighting in Spain.

      Ten minutes after I wrote that, and I found the database of the International Brigade. A work in progress, but it is at:

      Once you get there, click on “The volunteers” on the black background.

  2. Did boys prefer contact sports?

    • That’s an interesting question, which you are the first ever to ask as far as I am aware. My own answer would be that the football of the day was not at all short of physical contact, although admittedly, it did not have the same levels as rugby would have had,
      Good levels of physical strength was needed even for what the School Magazine called ” the heavy greasy ball”, and its reviews of players’ performances often mentions words like “bustle”, and criticisms such as “does not bustle nearly enough”. I think that the review of WN Hoyte sums up the type of game football was then “Not a polished player, but can use his weight to some purpose”.

  3. Very interesting indeed John and a great set of photos too. I guess the forthcoming war had a big impact on these young lads who were only too willing to go out and be a hero. Until they got there that is.

    • Absolutely. The High School was of the social class which in WW1 supplied mainly the Lieutenants and Second Lieutenants, ranks, of course, who suffered the heaviest casualties among the officers. At this time, the School did not reach 500 pupils at any point, yet the number of Old Boys and masters serving was around 1,500 with 231 casualties.

  4. I was very impressed by the quality of these photographs, John. Another story of history told and I thank you. As I was reading I thought about how the game of baseball here, has faded in its glory. Where once the stands were packed, now only a few seats are filled. With time things that were once popular seem to change. Some things, not all. Thank you for another well researched and documented article.

    • Thank you very much, Amy. I suppose it’s the old story of whatever people have, it’s not enough. Over here, the traditional cricket has died a death, although shortened, more dramatic versions of the sport, which depend on strength and aggression rather than skill and subtlety, is still very popular.

  5. John, here is the link to the Liquid Fence (whoa!).

    This will help with your gardens. The only con about this product is the sprayer does not work right sometimes so I use a quart size spray bottle, pouring the contends from the larger original bottle into the smaller one. It’s a hassle, I know, but this stuff I swear by. It also can stain some flowers so IF you get this, take care that you don’t actually spray the flowers but the foliage if you can.

  6. That is a very kind thought, Amy, but the cost of the product over here is prohibitive. Three quarters of a gallon for £78, which is $95. Still, delivery is free!!

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