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The 9-week Everton trip

By Mike Owen :  12/05/2009 :  Comments (18) :

THE next two months are the centenary of one of the most remarkable journeys a football club has ever embarked upon.

Football was a fledgling game in Argentina in 1909 when the country?s football association invited Everton and Tottenham Hotspur to play a series of exhibition matches to increase interest in the sport.

Players from the two clubs went together on a three-week voyage to South America, then spent three weeks in and around Buenos Aries and the Uruguyan capital Montevideo where, in between lavish hospitality, they played a series of games. Then a three-week voyage back, stopping again at great cities such as Rio and Lisbon. It must have been a wondrous nine-week journey for the young men involved.

Thanks to Dr David France for this photo

One of the consequences of the trip was the formation of a football club in Chile that established itself as one of the leading clubs in that country, bearing the name Everton.

Like many great Evertonian trips, the story begins at Lime Street station. A party of just 13 players, one trainer and two directors boarded a steam train to London Euston on Thursday 13 May, 1909. I'd guess the players would have been leaning out of the carriage windows, waving to friends and family on the platform before the train snaked into the tunnels and Everton's finest then turned and slumped in their seats, picking up the morning papers and asking about a cup of tea.

They were staying one night in the Imperial Hotel, Russell Square. Presumably, they walked the few hundred yards from Euston, possibly looking for a watering hole to visit that evening.

The Everton party had to meet up with the Spurs party at London Waterloo the next morning in time to catch the 9.28am boat train to Southampton. The tour must have seemed of considerable importance to the English FA as its secretary, F.J. Wall, and other officials turned up to wave the teams off.

But as the Everton players made last-minute purchases at the station and began to board the train, the FA officials became increasingly anxious for there was no sign of the Tottenham party. The 9:28 left without them. Not only that, the boat left without the Spurs.

The Tottenham party, who had been delayed by an accident, caught a later train from Waterloo but by the time they got to Southampton the Royal Mail steamer Araguaya had started its voyage. Not for the last time, however, Tottenham came from behind. A tug was commandeered and, with its cargo of footballers, chugged after the liner which slowed to allow the Spurs players to board ? presumably amid much mickey-taking from the Everton party.

The two sets of players were to become well-acquainted during the voyage, which included stops at Lisbon, Madeira and Rio de Janeiro. It was only that summer that the first airplane flight was made across the English Channel ? by French inventor Louis Bleriot.

Everton had just finished runners-up in the league, with 36 goals coming from our England centre forward Bert Freeman, finishing behind Newcastle. The FA Cup had just been won for the first time by Manchester United. Tottenham had just completed their first season in the Football League and it had been a successful one, winning promotion as Division Two runners-up.

Spurs used the tour to try out 21-year-old Walter Tull, said to be the grandson of a slave, who had been earning rave reviews for Clapton. He impressed so much that on return to England, he was signed up on the maximum wage of £4 per week. He was only the second black man to play professional football in Britain.

After 23 days at sea, the footballers finally docked at Buenos Aires and within hours the two teams were running out for their first game. At half-time the players lined up to be introduced to the Argentine President and members of his government who watched a 2-2 draw.

Playing a game so soon after the voyage was of no concern to Everton director E Bainbridge who wrote: ?A most pleasant feature was the fact of our landing as fit as the proverbial fiddle and ready and willing to show the Argentine people how first-class football should be played.?

The games were played amid lavish hospitality from the Argentine hosts and the British expatriate community. The players were treated to sightseeing tours, trips to the theatre, a day at the races and lavish meals. Bainbridge, in a report of the tour for the Liverpool Echo, added: ?Our twenty days? sojurn in South America was one continuous round of pleasure.?

Commenting on a below-par performance by Everton in beating a Uruguayan League XI 2-1 in Montevideo, Bainbridge wrote: ?Our team did full justice to a substantial lunch prior to the match being started. It told its tale.?

Everton also beat the Argentine club Alumni 2-0 and an Argentine League XI 4-0 before the two English clubs ended the tour with another game against each other. Everton won 4-0 with a hat-trick from Freeman.

On June 25 the two clubs boarded the Royal Mail steamer Asturias for another three-week voyage; this time homeward bound. The visit had made waves beyond Argentina. On June 24 in the Chilean port of Valparaiso ? a frequent stopover point for British ships and a home to British engineers working on the Chilean railways ? eight teenagers formed a football club and decided to call it Everton.

Two of them ? Frank Boundy, born in Cornwall, and Scots-born Malcolm Frazer ? returned to Britain after the outbreak of the First World War to join the British Army. They lost their lives on the Somme in July 1916. Tull was there too but survived. He later became the first ever black officer in the British Army. Two years later on the Western Front, 2nd Lieutenant Tull also lost his life, leading his men in an attack at Favreuil.

The Everton club that Boundy and Frazer had co-founded gradually established itself as one of Chile?s leading clubs. After relocating three miles to the resort of Viña el Mar in 1943, Everton won the Chilean championship in 1950, 1952, 1976 and 2008.

In the 1962 World Cup finals in Chile, Everton's stadium in Viña del Mar hosted group games, a quarter-final and a semi-final, just as Everton's Goodison Park in Liverpool hosted group games, a quarter-final and a semi-final in the 1966 World Cup finals.

In recent years, links have been established between supporters of the two Evertons, through a group called the Ruleteros Society. One of the hardest-working members was Steve Bickerton who among, other things, was the society's webmaster. The growing links between supporters resulted in directors of the Chilean club visiting Goodison Park in March 2009. A group of Evertonians are heading from Goodison Park to Chile in June for the centenary celebrations.

It's sad that in the days running up to the centenary of the momentous voyage, Steve should pass away in hospital at the age of 56 after a long period of illness. His funeral service is to take place at Springwood Crematorium, Liverpool, at 1pm on Wednesday 20th May. Perhaps it's appropiate that this will be followed by drinks in a naval club. Like Boundy and Frazer, and many other Evertonians, Steve made his mark among those around him in a very positive way ? and will be fondly remembered. Viva Everton!

Reader Comments

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Alan Kirwin
1   Posted 12/05/2009 at 18:37:07

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Mike, what a terrific story & brilliant read. Where did you dig it all up?

Sounds like it would make a great film in the right hands (Ken Loache, Jimmy McGovern etc).
Paul Gladwell
2   Posted 12/05/2009 at 19:14:25

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Good shout Alan, by the way does anyone have any updates on the Dixie film?
Nick Entwistle
3   Posted 12/05/2009 at 19:43:20

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Great read... imagine all those weeks at sea!
The tug-boat was the best bit! If we started to call Spurs fans the Tug-Boaters, that would be cool... alright, everyone who reads this post now do that. Anyone who then reads any mention of the ’tug-boaters’ on ToffeeWeb is going to have a hell of a time understanding why!
Patrick Einsmann
4   Posted 12/05/2009 at 20:48:37

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Thanks for the article, Mike, really enjoyed it!
Dennis Stevens
5   Posted 12/05/2009 at 21:20:15

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An interesting read, particularly the bit about tug-boat Tottenham ? I hadn?t heard that before.
Steve Hogan
6   Posted 12/05/2009 at 21:38:56

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Mike, what a wonderful story. I guess for many of the Everton players, the furthest they had travelled previously was probably on the ferry to Birkenhead, never mind steamer to South America!!

The sights and sounds of Latin America must have been surreal for many of them, particularly as they were treated like royalty by their hosts.

I had a wry smile when they were asked to play a competitive match when stepping off the ship after three weeks at sea, imagine asking the pampered prima donnas of today to do the same? You would probably get Gordon Taylor of the PFA citing abuse of human rights!!

I bet they were all two stone heavier on their return, what a tale they must have had to tell to relatives and friends back home in Liverpool.

Great story, where did you do your research?
James Bowman
7   Posted 13/05/2009 at 00:12:11

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Great article Mike!! What an insight to how things were... maximum wages of £4... 23 days on the boat... tug-boat Tottenham, class!!

The history of our great club is second to none IMO and great articles like this show that the Everton spirit has always been there!! Long live EFC!! COYB!!

Chris Bailey
8   Posted 13/05/2009 at 04:47:03

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As an interesting aside, Tottenham were presented with a parrot by the captain of the ship on their return journey. Legend has it that it subsequently died upon hearing of Arsenal?s bizarre promotion from the second division in 1915... giving rise to the phrase "sick as a parrot". Check out the book, Mad for It, by Andy Mitten ? a good read on football rivalries.
Mike Gaynes
9   Posted 13/05/2009 at 07:08:17

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Wonderful storytelling, Michael. I too would like to know how you researched all this remarkable information. Tull?s story is particularly poignant.

I would just like to point with pride to the fact that my grandmother was born the day that ship departed Southampton. She?s never heard of Everton and has seen only one soccer game in her life ? one that I was playing in ? but we are celebrating her centenary together.
EJ Ruane
10   Posted 13/05/2009 at 11:47:39

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There was a drama documentary about Walter Tull shown a few months ago ? really interesting it was. Centered more on his attempts to become an officer than on the football side of things (BBC 4 I?m guessing).
Ajay Gopal
11   Posted 13/05/2009 at 12:16:21

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Fascinating story, Mike Owen. Thank you so much. Used to hate history at school, but related to things around what I love (eg, EFC), it is not bad at all, is it?
Mike Owen
12   Posted 13/05/2009 at 13:29:56

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Thanks for the kind remarks. Glad it’s given you all a few minutes of sea air.

I must give the credit though to the great football explorer, John Shearon, the driving force behind the Ruleteros Society. I’m just his telegram boy. He even has me carrying the Ruleteros banner to Wembley.

John went to the library, found Bainbridge’s report for the Liverpool Echo and got photocopies. I just had to get a magnifying glass to read it, extract some bits from it, then add 2 tablespoons of titbits from record/stats books. A quick internet search for Spurs stuff on this trip only threw up Tull. He has been well documented in recent years so I placed faith in what I found on him on internet.

Why didn’t John write the article? He’s engrossed in writing, or masterminding, an English language history of the Everton in Chile, with the help of Evertonianos over there. To this end, he has made several trips to South America over the years. The purpose of his last trip was purely to visit dusty libraries. He looks like Indiana Jones as well.

Yes, history can be fascinating. Over the last year in the Shareholders Association, Paul Wharton has been working hard on reviving interest in, and celebrating, the likes of Will Cuff and George Mahon, who were big figures in the early years of the club. And George Orr has done loads of historical stuff in his BlueBlood fanzine over the years.

As for this 1909 trip making a good film, I’ve thought the same. You can just imagine the Everton players leaning over, taking the mick out of the Spurs players getting off that tug. Plus all their japes around Buenos Aries etc. We’ll have to see what Kate Winslet’s got on ... an Edwardian toffeegirl dress?

Finally, let’s hope Moyes and the boys can make some history of their own on May 30th.

Phill Sidney
13   Posted 13/05/2009 at 13:53:48

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Splendid story MIke. Thanks for bringing it to us. And there was me thinking I knew my history.
John Shearon
14   Posted 13/05/2009 at 16:46:11

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Great read, Mike, but you are far too modest. I?ve been researching this for a number of years, as you mentioned, but there were still a few surprises ? and nobody can spin a yarn as well as you. Let?s hope that as well as success on the 30th May we also get a chance to entertain our namesakes from Chile in a Goodison pre-season opener.

By the way, the 1909 tour not only inspired the kids in Chile but also the foundation of Evertons in Rosario, Cordoba, La Plata and Buenos Aires in Argentina and in Rosario in Uruguay (and probably many more). Although there are clubs named after other Europrean teams in South America (Rangers, Corinthians, Arsenal) and some European cities (Barcelona and Liverpool) these are generally one-off instances. The number of teams named after our small, unfashionable and unsuccessful Club, however, is unprecedented. Viva Everton!, indeed.

It is such a shame that Steve Bickerton, who worked tirelessly to establish the links with our counterparts in Chile, will not be around to help celebrate the forthcoming Centenary. A fitting tribute would be the long awaited game between the two Clubs...

Dave WIlson
15   Posted 13/05/2009 at 20:16:01

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Super Article, Mike.

TW?s an absolute pleasure tonight.
David Clark
16   Posted 13/05/2009 at 23:30:35

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Thanks for a fascinating read. We certainly have a great heritage - let’s hope we add to the story in a couple of weeks time.
Paul Walsh
17   Posted 14/05/2009 at 03:46:21

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Mike that was an absolutely fantastic read. Great way to end my day. Thank you.
Fabian Godoy
18   Posted 14/05/2009 at 04:21:58

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Great story, Mike, but a great story needs a great finish and that is that so much awaited game between the two Evertons... what a great ending. Just like my wallpaper in my computer:

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