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Laying the Foundations of Friendship

By Paul Traill :  24/11/2009 :  Comments (5) :
On Monday 23 November 2009 I received an invite from Paul Wharton of the Everton Shareholders Association to attend a forum, first and foremost to educate to those for whom it was needed of the life and importance of six fine men whom have been crucial to the creation, development and well-being of two of the world's greatest football institutions – Everton and Liverpool. The forum was at the Alex Young suite at Goodison Park.

The representation of hierarchy present at the forum from Everton signaled quite how important they felt the event was. Life President Sir Philip Carter and Chief Executive Robert Elstone both sat on the front row alongside Graham Sharpe. Dave Hickson, despite a recent operation tried his best to attend but was unfortunately unable to do so…”These 80-year-olds eh!” exclaimed Paul Wharton as he explained the great mans none-attendance.

Liverpool FC weren’t short of representation either. Liverpool FC Managing Director Christian Purslow couldn’t make it as he had to be with the team in Hungary as Anne Asquith, Chair of the Everton Shareholders Association, eloquently explained, reading a nice email from Christian:

“Thank you so much for your kind invitation. I feel passionately about the importance of re-establishing the friendly derby having family on both sides of the divide. I have discussed it with some of our players who agree and we have some ideas of how to progress this which we will reveal in due course.”

He did send ex-Liverpool midfielder and current Liverpool FC PR officer Brian Hall along and also present were members of the Hillsborough families, the chaplains of both football clubs and a foot in both camps in the shape of Tony McNamara whom played for both teams.

The evening began with a short introduction from Paul Wharton regarding how the evening was to take shape before he handed the mike over to Peter Lupson, a lifelong Norwich City fan whom moved to the city of Liverpool 40 years ago and has written a couple of very well-received books, namely Thank God for Football, which looks into the connotations between churches and football clubs; and also Across the Park which explores the routes of the two great clubs Liverpool and Everton. I haven’t read either of them but if Peter writes half as enthusiastically as he talks I’m in for quite a treat when I do get round to doing so.

Peter explained the life and times of the first of six men whom are now recognized as the Founding Fathers of Merseyside Football, all of whom have been oil-painted beautifully by artist Wassen Suttikatem. The six paintings were all present at the event, with the first of which unveiled by relatives of the great Reverend Ben Swift Chambers – a beautiful touch I thought.

Now I’m not going to tell you everything about these men as I couldn’t possibly do so in as much detail, grace and (more to the point) as knowledgeably as Peter Lupson, Paul Wharton or Dr David France could, but what I will tell you is that St Domingo’s Church would not have started playing football without this man. Chambers had a passion for helping young people whilst his church was very keen on the use of sport to develop character amongst the young.

They enjoyed cricket – football just wasn’t quite the sport in 1877 / 1878. It was only in the winter when conditions were far too unsuitable for cricket that they began to play football. Thereafter, football continued and with this Everton developed. It doesn’t seem apparent that it was even Chambers intention to bring football to St Domingo’s Church, but what we are sure of is that without him it wouldn’t have happened. The Everton and the Liverpool football clubs we know and love would not have the history we warm to.

Peter actually went to find his gravestone near Leeds and was “horrified” by its condition. Its since been improved and I believe Peter said an information booth has now been erected nearby to satisfy the many tourists whom now travel up the M62 from Merseyside to visit this gravestone. Good work Peter!

Shortly afterwards Steve Flanagan stepped up to explain the life of George Mahon. Steve, like George I guess, is a man who likes stats, a man who’s very interested in facts and figures and he seemed the most apt man to talk about George Mahon whom was an accountant born in Liverpool though also the organist at St Domingo’s Church which is where he built an accord with Reverend Ben Swift Chambers.

George was a strong Liberal. The city of Liverpool had been governed by Conservative rule for over 30 years until they were overturned by the Liberals – Mahon had a lot to do with that. He was very much an anti-drinking man, probably adding fuel to the fire for his clashes with John Houlding (John Houlding was a very influential figure in the brewery trade).

George Mahon wasn’t even a big football fan until he saw Everton toil but agonizingly fail against a strong Preston NE side in 1886, eventually going down 1-2. Something stuck with George from that day forth and he became an Everton member.

Peter Lupson got up again to explain the important role that John Houlding played in ‘the split’. I have to cross paths a little here as it was of course the clash between Mahon and Houlding that eventually resulted in the split, ensuring Everton remained as Everton, and Liverpool were created as Liverpool. At the time they shared the ingenious idea of setting Everton up as a Limited Company though how the shares were to be divided led to just that – a great divide which ultimately led to the split.

Often painted as the bad one throughout Everton history – the one that increased the rent, the one that turfed Everton out, Lupson derides that Houlding helped Everton out, only charging a certain amount of rent to Everton “or whatever they could afford” for some time prior to Everton’s move from Anfield. Whilst a fiercely determined man John Houlding was, he was also a good man, once ensuring 500 elderly people were able to attain a Christmas dinner on Christmas Day.

Upon formation of Liverpool Football Club he tried to bring them into the top league but was told this wasn’t acceptable. He therefore joined the Lancashire League I think in which Liverpool excelled. The first time they played Everton a year or two later they won too… typical!

When John Houlding passed away, such was the high regard he was held in by both Everton and Liverpool representatives, his coffin was carried by three players from both teams – a tribute to the man which is often overlooked. I’m sorry I can’t tell his story as accurately or as well enough to do him justice. You’d need Peter to tell it for me… you could listen to him all day (Peter Lupson is actually holding a free talk about this on Monday 7 December 2009, 2pm at Liverpool Central Library).

Going back to George Mahon, and after his years of work in determined development of bringing Everton forward into the 20th Century, his passing was also marked by a great tribute in the form of the erection on the George Mahon Cup — a cup still contested at amateur level throughout Merseyside today and which teams such as Marine still detail on their honors list.

Sandwiched between these talks was a discussion by the Catholic Bishop of Liverpool, Tom Williams on how Dr James Clement Baxter relentlessly served the massive Irish population in North Liverpool during this period, serving on the board at Everton FC for a number of years. He had a big say in the construction of Goodison Park and the then ground-breaking development of the Gwladys Street had everything to do with him. It's humbling to think all these years on I’ll be taking my seat there this coming Sunday. That was another nice talk. Following this and prior to Peter’s second we took a short break to garnish refreshments. I got chatting to Steve Flanagan during the interval who informed me he was asked to limit his talk to around 15 minutes… difficult if you take into account how much there is to squeeze in. He said also that what Paul didn’t tell him was that Graham Sharpe, Robert Elstone and Sir Philip Carter were to be sat on the front row! The Lord Mayor of Liverpool Councilor Mike Storey also arrived at half time.

After the break, in which some fantastic old photos of Dave Hickson sporting both Everton and Liverpool kits were up for grabs in a raffle, we were treated to a bit of live music by Gerry Murphy, whom sung The Ballad of Dixie Dean and A Scottish Miner (could be wrong with the name) in tribute to Bill Shankly. Paul Cookson expertly read a nice poem after this before Paul Wharton (there’s too many Paul’s here!) handed over to Peter for his outstanding talk on the history of one John Houlding.

Alan Wilson, a sports journalist recommended for the forum by Peter Lupson, stepped up to explain about the fifth of the six men — John McKenna. He oversaw a series of administrative duties with Liverpool FC for years and years after the split. He died a fortnight after slipping on a train platform in Manchester whilst in seriously ill health — something for which he never recovered. As Alan said “he left behind no family, but football was his family”. Football was his life and he seemingly has as much to do with the development of Liverpool FC ultimately as John Houlding did during and prior to his time at the club.

As Paul Wharton said from the very start of the forum, he’s very much a ‘Cuff’ man and so it was apt that with all the tremendous work he’s done to organize this event and get as many people involved as he has done, that Paul should end the forum with a lovely talk about the sixth man.

Will Cuff was an extremely respectable man as highlighted by Paul with some photos of Will Cuff accompanying the Queen of England to a football game. He was that highly thought of. Throughout four decades of work for Everton he acted as secretary, as director and as chairman.

What can’t go unnoticed was his willingness to spread the good word of Everton football club. Whilst he got Everton touring in Czechoslovakia and Hungary around the turn of the 20th Century, he also set sail much, much further away taking Everton on tour to South America. The tour to Argentina was such a rousing success that not one, not two, but three Everton teams now exist in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay all of varying levels of success.

Paul spoke glowingly of his trip out there and the heroes welcome Everton’s representation was afforded over in South America. The bottom line is this all goes back to Will Cuff, and prior to that to the other great men now recognized as the Founding Fathers of Merseyside Football. Paul mentioning trying to organize a game between Everton FC and our Chilean cousins. If it happens it’ll be down to Paul amongst others…you can be sure of that. Robert Elstone nodded his head when he said this. I really hope this happens.

Personally, I’m now just beginning to understand more and more the history of us, the history of Liverpool and what great efforts and sacrifices these six men, and others, have made to make me be able to sit in the Lower Gwladys, to jump up and hug the stranger next to me when Cahill bangs in his hat-trick this Sunday (I can dream!) and its great that Everton and Liverpool still churn out such great supporting representatives to ensure this history isn’t forgotten.

Paul Wharton and Anne Asquith both spoke about what we can do to try to build bridges between Everton and Liverpool, with Paul worried somebody could get seriously hurt soon if relations are to continue to be severed the way they are being / have been.

I sympathized with Paul at the end of the forum. He concluded his talk about Will Cuff and completed the raffle for the Dave Hickson photo’s (I didn’t win… George Orr did!). He asked if anyone had any ideas or thoughts on what we can do to improve relations yet the room sat quiet. No, I didn’t have any thoughts off the top of my head but I thought somebody would have had something.

Having though about this since, I’m guessing you have to go back to the route – Heysel. Maybe some of the players and managers involved from that period should be encouraged to speak more about the issues… about the good old days. I mean trouble-causers at games all seem capable of reciting Everton’s 1984-85 song and the players involved in it. Maybe these legends could help make things better again now.

It’s just a thought of mine, though I’m sure you’ve many more. Let’s not forget what was achieved. Let’s make relations better.

Thank you, Paul, for your relentless work in organising such an interesting event. I’m sorry if any of the above is not completely, factually correct… I just can’t match the wisdom, care and attention to detail of yourself, Peter, Steve and Co.

Reader Comments

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Paul Wharton
1   Posted 25/11/2009 at 09:35:48

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Paul, you have captured the evening really well in this article and we realise that so much was going on it would be impossible to cover, it was nice that we could get the reds over and they said how much they enjoyed it, maybe we are a pebble in the water that will rise to a wave. Its the club officals that need to get on board with this and to be fair it looks like the goodwill is there. Well done Paul it was a pleasure to meet you again.
Paul Wharton Everton FC Shareholders Association.
Gareth Humphreys
2   Posted 25/11/2009 at 09:23:32

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Good piece Paul and I urge you to read Across the Park as soon as you can. A great book and very enlightening even for an Everton bore like me.

When you do read it, you will ask the question, "Where did it all go wrong?" — and another great piece to read on this would be Greg Murphy’s piece in WSAG about Bitter blues — it remains the best piece I have ever read about Everton — thanks Greg. (I do have a soft spot for Greg after his other Excellent piece on Neville Southall being the greatest ever Everton player.)

Anyway, Greg tries to answer the question of where things started turning sour and does so superbly. The question you are asking is how do we get back to where we were.

I think the problem is that not everyone wants to get back to where we were because they can’t even remember that it existed.

My own feelings are that I detest Liverpool as an institution and its captain who I know from personal experience is an absolute prick of the highest order. Others such as Carragher, who I think always has been horribly over rated, seems a decent enough lad. Torres is an absolutely exceptional player. However, I hate them and always will. Just watching Gerrard's face on Sky last night as he waited for the Fiorentina – Lyon game to finish was superb.

That hatred has to be taken into context though as some of my closest friends are reds. My 2 sisters are reds. My nieces and nephews are reds. Do I hate these people? — of course not. Do I hope they all have a horrible Sunday? Absolutely.

Songs about murderers and the like don't sit comfortably with me so let's get our own house in order first of all and let them shower worry about their behaviour.

I think it is only when you mature that you realise that, like it or not, it is only a game.
Paul Wharton
3   Posted 25/11/2009 at 10:37:30

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LFC TV Friday night 9-10pm they will show how the evening went.
Dennis Stevens
4   Posted 25/11/2009 at 22:17:03

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I do think that Heysel (apparently it’s not even called that anymore, since being rebuilt!) casts a long dark shadow over inter-club relations & probably will do so at least ubtil Everton achieve some consistent success. Whilst the club remains a comparative failure some supporters will always harken back to Heysel as the root cause, despite the fact that other clubs emerged from the ban stronger rather than weaker or the fact that the intervening couple of decades are ample time for the club to have recovered from that set-back. However, I suspect that this shadow will fade out when the club once again has a period of consistent success to compare with the heady days of the mid-80’s.
My view of the Kopites is that, for many, there has been some comfort in being able to gloat & patrronise us "bitter blues" but that the further they get from their club’s own glory days the greater the bitterness they show towards the "small club" ’Across the Park’ (a book well worth reading, btw).
Many suggest the clubs shuld share a new stadium, but I do wonder whether that would ease or exacerbate the tensions between us.
Anyway, the City of Liverpool can be proud of it’s record as the only English city able to boast top flight football right from the inception of the Football League - I suspect the collective trophy haul for the city must be at or near the top of the pile for England as well!
Karl Masters
5   Posted 25/11/2009 at 23:13:47

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Fascinating stuff. I love reading about our history from what seems like another world in many ways.

1985 semms almost like another world now, but who knows, with the Kirkby move shot down maybe some real common sense and goodwill will prevail and both clubs can share a super-stadium in Stanley Park, which would be a natural evolution in many ways

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