My laptop is playing up during this strange period of Coronavirus induced limbo. I plugged it in again last night and, whaddya know, it worked! Predictably within moments I was on Findmypast.com browsing Victorian newspaper archives for mentions of Fergus Suter and Jimmy Love, stars of the excellent Netflix series ‘The English Game’, which I binge-watched earlier in the week.
I found a few bits and bobs about Suter, Love, Arthur Kinnaird, Darwen FC, and co. I knew the TV drama, brought to us by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, had played with certain facts and figures here and there for dramatic effect, and wanted to see what I could find out as was actually reported at the time.
I might cobble something together from my findings in future, but – as per – my eye was caught in search results by the letters E V E R T O N and down the Royal Blue rabbit hole I fell for the umpteenth time. I’m not sure how I stumbled in the direction of the following tale of late-1920s/early-1930s Toffees’ inside-right and Scottish international ‘Wembley Wizard’ Jimmy Dunn, but I’m glad I did. I thought it might make interesting reading for fellow Blues, stuck at home.
It’s also a nice follow-up to my good friend Rob Sawyer’s outstanding piece on Jimmy and his footballing sons as published on ToffeeWeb last summer.
The People Sunday 11 June 1950
Biggest Hoax In Soccer History
By Maurice Smith
Soccer’s most audacious hoaxer since the game began – a genial rascal who, while posing as a famous Scottish international, has been leading football celebrities “up the garden” for years – will have to find a new racket.
Investigations I have just completed reveal him as the most ingenious trickster who ever got into the front seats of any sport on the strength of another man’s glory.
The man he claims to be is Jimmy Dunn, the old Hibernian and Scotland inside-right, and father of Jimmy Dunn, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ inside-forward.
The real Jimmy Dunn lives in Liverpool, and for more than two years he has been puzzled by stories of how he was supposed to have been present at this match or that in the South – when all the time he was working on the Merseyside docks.
The false Jimmy Dunn gives an address in West Middlesex and claims he has a house in Liverpool, too.
And in the role of THE Jimmy Dunn – the hop-o’-my-thumb international who played alongside Alex Jackson, Hughie Gallacher, Alex James, Alan Morton and the rest of them in that “Wembley Wizards” team of 1928 – these are among his exploits:
Got a job
He has been invited into many League grounds as an honoured guest.
Everywhere the big names of Soccer have welcomed him and entertained him hospitably.
Managers and directors have listened respectfully as he recommended young players he had “discovered”.
He was offered a “paid-on-results” job as a talent-spotter.
He even got himself engaged as a coach – “and quite a good job he made of it” the club told me.
I admit frankly that for a long time he deceived me, too – for his knowledge of play and players, and even of behind-the-scenes happenings in which I had played a part, was exact and detailed.
It was a single remark which aroused my suspicions and led to enquiries which have now blown his world of make-believe to shreds.
Just this: “I’m going to a Masonic meeting tomorrow,” he said.
I happened to know that the real Jimmy Dunn was always a devout Roman Catholic… and a Catholic is not a freemason.
With Mr. Theo Kelly, the Everton secretary, I called on the real Jimmy Dunn.
“This is the Jimmy Dunn who played for us and for Scotland,” Mr. Kelly substantiated. And Jimmy brought out his international caps – including an English one he “swapped” with Dixie Dean – to prove it.
“I can’t understand it,” he said. “The first thing that made me suspicious was when Alex James said: “Why didn’t you come to see me when you were at the match last week?” I told him I’d never been there, and he said: “If this chap isn’t you it must be your double.”
“From that time on this imposter has called me all sorts of worry by making statements in my name that are completely untrue. I’m told he apparently knows a lot about the game, and to give an appearance of truth to his stories he seems to have some idea of my private family affairs – and he’s obviously made a study of my playing career.
“I’ve no idea who he can be – and I’m coming down to London on my next holidays to try to meet him.”
I told Jimmy how the rascal had said young Jimmy, the Wolves player, would have to give up the game through injury.
“There’s not a word of truth in any of it,” replied Jimmy. “Young Jimmy is completely fit again and will certainly be playing next season.”
Even men who have played against the international himself have failed to detect the imposter – and have spent hours in his company talking over matches in which they were “opposed.”
“I was completely taken in by him,” admits Joe Hulme. “He seemed to have all the answers.”
Imposter Didn’t Turn Up
On my return from Liverpool I again saw the other Jimmy Dunn. I told him I had interviewed the real Jimmy at his home there – and that, in view of all the evidence, anyone else purporting to be Jimmy Dunn, of Everton F.C., must be an imposter.
“How can Everton say I am a fraud,” he said. “I will go up there at any time to clear the position up.”
I arranged another appointment with him at my office yesterday – to fix just such a trip. He did not turn up.
There you are then, you Soccer people. You’ve been warned. Take anything the so-called Jimmy Dunn, of Isleworth, London, says with a pinch of salty when he talks about his football career.
Further investigation offered up a small article, death notice and family acknowledgement posted in the Liverpool Echo for Jimmy, who passed away in August 1962 at Fazakerley Hospital, having made Merseyside his home once his career was over – he was 28 when he joined Everton and 35 when he left. Just over a week after Jimmy’s passing, Leslie Edwards mentions him and details the handful of footballing alumni who showed face at his funeral service; an event which he appears to paint as somewhat low-key in light of the fame and success the likes of Jimmy Dunn and his teammates achieved in their day.
I live just around the corner from Kirkdale Cemetery, so used up today’s permitted exercise with a stroll through the graveyard in the sunshine. There I found Jimmy’s final resting place and a beautiful stone, the inscription of which I was pleased to see is transcribed below, with accompanying images.
Liverpool Echo Tuesday 20 August 1963
JIMMY DUNN DIES
Famous Everton International
Jimmy Dunn, Everton F.C. veteran and former international Soccer forward, has died at his home at 391 Hawthorne Road, Bootle.
Jimmy, who was 62, was one of the original Wembley Wizards, the Scotland side which beat England 5-1. He was in the Everton team which topped the Second and First Divisions and then won the F.A. Cup – all in three seasons.
He joined Everton in 1928 from Hibernian. An inside right, he played for Scotland six times.
Best-known of his three footballing sons is Jimmy who played for Wolverhampton Wanderers and Derby County. Young Jimmy won a cup medal in 1949, and they were only the third father and son combination to achieve this feat.
Mr. Dunn joined Everton from Hibernian in 1928 and remained at Goodison Park until 1935, when he was transferred to Exeter City. Subsequently he played for Runcorn in the Cheshire County League.
Liverpool Echo Wednesday 21 August 1963
DUNN – August 20 in hospital, aged 62 years. JAMES the dearly beloved husband of Sarah and dear father of all his family. RIP. Requiem Mass at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament on Saturday next at 9 o’ clock. Internment following at Kirkdale Cemetery (Flowers and enquiries to Thompson’s Ltd., 135 County Road, Liverpool 4) – 64 Connaught Road, Kensington.
DUNN – Died in hospital aged 62 years. JAMES DUNN beloved husband of Sarah and dear father of Sons and Daughters – 391 Hawthorne Road, Bootle, Liverpool 20.
Liverpool Echo Tuesday 27 August 1963
DUNN – Mrs J Dunn and Family wish to thank the staff and employees of the English Electric, Netherton, also Everton and Liverpool Football Clubs, and friends and neighbours, for floral tributes and cards in their sad bereavement, also sisters, nurses and staff of Fazakerley Hospital. (God bless you all.) – 391 Hawthorne Road, Bootle, Liverpool 20.
Liverpool Echo Wednesday 28 August 1963
LOOKING AT SPORT with Leslie Edwards
Football fame is often ephemeral. Take the case of Jimmy Dunn, the old Everton forward and one-time Scottish blue devil (he played in that most famous Wembley win against England).
At his funeral on Saturday only a few old timers remembered – Dixie Dean, Ted Sagar and Billy Cook, of his old club, and Alf Hanson, Tom Scott and Cyril Done, of the enemy camp at Anfield.
Yet in Everton’s hey-day Jimmy was as much an idol as any of the men who grace the club’s present attack.
Grave inscription and reference details:
In loving memory of a dear husband and father; JAMES DUNN; late Everton F.C. and Scottish International; died 20th August 1963 aged 62 years; Also Sarah beloved wife of the above; died 27th February 1980 aged 78 years; Sadly missed.
(Kirkdale Cemetery RC3/92, pretty much in a straight line from the lodge entrance on Longmoor Lane, second row back from rear fence in the corner.)
Reader Comments (7)
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1 Posted 02/04/2020 at 09:53:27
By the way Rob Saywers article on Jimmys career last year was absolutely brilliant and showed the massive contrast to footballers of yesteryear and todays spoiled brats.
2 Posted 02/04/2020 at 18:30:16
3 Posted 03/04/2020 at 01:41:25
4 Posted 03/04/2020 at 07:43:32
Dean, Stein, Dunn.
5 Posted 03/04/2020 at 08:46:18
As Dave says, the contrast in lifestyle of yesteryear's footy players compared to today's millionaires is immense. The current apartheid in the way some clubs are treating their non-playing staff compared to star players is scandalous. I'm sure that the excesses will somewhat diminish as the dust settles after this crisis is finally over.
Meanwhile these articles are welcome reminders of the ordinary folk who we used to play this great game.
6 Posted 03/04/2020 at 11:18:37
Susan, I'm absolutely thrilled that Rob was able to pass the story on to you and that it jogged your father's mind. For me personally, and I've mentioned him on here before, but I've always connected your grandad and my own great grandfather in my mind, a pair of diminutive, but full of beans 'Weegie' characters who went on to lead remarkable lives.
My great grandad was also a James. He was born in Maryhill in Glasgow in 1897, where by pure coincidence I ended up living across the road from his birthplace for a period between 2007-2010, having been born and raised 3rd generation south of the border. Jimmy Baird stood 4ft 11ins tall fully grown, even more of a pocket dynamo than Jimmy Dunn. Family folklore states that he played football for Dumbarton at some stage, although I've never found any proof in writing. He was a winger and nicknamed 'The Tricky Ant'.
In 1914 Jimmy and his twin brother George signed up (underage) as WWI soldiers. George sadly died in the final weeks of the conflict. His WWI diary survives to this day with a cousin of my Nanna's up in Glasgow and makes for harrowing, poignant reading.
A bit more of a jack-the-lad than his more reserved twin, Jimmy returned to Glasgow to be castigated by his family for leading his late brother off to war. Devastated he turned his back on his home town and pretty much ran away with the circus, well, the music halls, performing up and down the UK, including at the Liverpool Empire in the 1920s. He married the grandaughter of a millionaire former Mayor of Brighton who he met at a Manchester boarding house. Her father had unfortunately blown the family fortune and she ended up taking a millinery apprenticeship having been raised as a bonafide lady.
My great grandparents married in 1926 and had their three children, including my Nanna (whose 90th birthday it would have been yesterday), in Moss Side, before relocating to the East End of London. There they were bombed out 8 times in WW2. The Germans had it in for my great grandad... an odd quirk of fate though was that his wife's mother was German born of Polish descent, her family had arrived in England in the 1870s.
After the war Jimmy worked as a professional snooker referee, he knew the likes of Joe Davies and co. personally and officiated at the inaugral News of the World World Championship in 1950 at the Thurston Hall, Leicester Square, where he disqualified South African Peter Mans, father of Perrie Mans, in the latter stages, in quite controversial circumstances.
He always maintained his showbiz connections and my Nanna remembered bumping into the likes of Tessie O'Shea at places like Charing Cross station and her dad being made a big fuss of. My mum always remembers him tap dancing in the kitchen. I was only a few months old when he died in 1980, but I know he was delighted to have learned that I shared his name.
I like to think that the two wee Jimmys, Dunn and Baird, would have got along well and had a few good stories to exchange. I used to imagine bumping into my great grandad on a wander through Glasgow city centre when I lived and worked there.
7 Posted 03/04/2020 at 12:27:44
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