William Orr – The Boy from Gwladys Street

Born on Aughton Street but raised on the famous thoroughfare behind Goodison Park's most famous stand, "Willie" became the first Liverpool-born player to score on his Football League debut

Tony Onslow 18/07/2020 6comments  |  Jump to last

At the time William Marr Orr made his only Football League appearance for Everton he had just moved to live in a new row of terraced houses that had been constructed by the Walton Local Board. George Goodison, their Civil Engineer, had decided to name the thoroughfare, Gwladys Street.

The parents of William, John, and Jean had married in the Ayrshire town of Kilbirnie where their first child Jessie was born. The head of the family then worked on the railway as a fireman but had been promoted to the rank of engine driver when they took up residence at 80 Aughton Street in Liverpool. Here their third child, William, was born in December 1869.

The 1881 census finds the family have now moved to 46 Walton Road but the head of the household had “passed away” at the time of their move to 10 Gwladys Street somewhere around 1888. William, now working as a clerk in the Corn Exchange, began his career with Stanley Football Club whose home enclosure stood within a “stone’s throw” of his home. Formed in 1882 by the Argyllshire-born McCallum brothers, the Stanley club was a magnet for exiled Scotsmen who had decided to make their home in Liverpool.

Willie Orr first comes to notice on 8th of September, 1889 when he turned out for Stanley in a pre-season game against Everton at Anfield. The home side, reinforced by recent signings from Scotland, won the game 8-0. Nevertheless, Willie caught the eye of the Anfield executive who offered him a one-year contract and he first appeared in the Everton second X1 as they beat Tranmere Rovers 2-1 at Borough Road. On the 5th of October, he replaced the injured Fred Geary at the centre of the Everton forward line in the away game against Derby County.

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The Midlands club played their matches at the home of Derbyshire Cricket Club that lay within the confines of the local racecourse. The location could be quickly adapted to accommodate the association game and the 1886 FA Cup final replay, the first to be played outside of London, had taken place here.

Marking Willie Orr was Archie Goodall with who he had played during the time they spent together with Stanley and he was accompanied by his elder brother John who led the Derby County forward line. The home side, watched by a crowd of around 3,000 people, started the game strongly and had built up a 2-0 lead when play reached the hour mark. William Orr then became the first Liverpool-born player to score on his Football League debut when he pulled a goal back for Everton before Edgar Chadwick equalised to make the final score 2-2. He then returned to the second X1 where he played until his contract expired. Next season Willie Orr signed for the newly formed, Liverpool Caledonians.

The club had been formed by Airdrie born Robert Kirkland who owned a Bakery on Hardman Street in Liverpool. The wealthy Scotsman purchased a large house and grounds, called Woodcroft, on Smithdown Road and supervised the building of a football ground that was described as… all enclosed and a grandstand has been erected capable of seating 700 people. The pitch has been thoroughly drained, and everything is in “apple pie” order. (Liverpool Mercury.) The location, which was called Woodcroft Park, became the social centre for the Scottish community of Liverpool.

Willie Orr was in the Caledonian side when the new ground opened on 28th of September, 1891 with a game against the Everton Combination X1 and around 4,000 people watched the visitors win the game 1-0. Later in the season George Farmer and Charlie Parry joined Caledonians from Everton and helped them to lift the Liverpool Junior Cup by beating Southport Central in the final. Next season however, Liverpool Caledonians struggled for support and, following an FA Cup defeat by Northwich Victoria, went out of existence. Orr ended his football career back at Stanley and became a playing member of Clubmoor Cricket Club.

Formed in 1877 they first played on Townsend Lane before the land became scheduled for building. They then leased a piece of land, at the rear of the Clubmoor cinema, that could be accessed from an entrance on Maiden Lane. (The Everton footballers would play an annual cricket match here until the location was given over to housing.)

The 1901 census finds Willie still living in Gwladys Street which is now dominated by an Everton Football Ground and which is constantly undergoing improvements to increase its capacity. Around the turn of the century he is joined at the Clubmoor club by a young Harry Makepeace who had recently arrived in Liverpool from his previous home in Darlington. Now living at Woodville Terrace, he signed for Everton on the 10th of September, 1901 having previously played for Bootle Amateurs. In 1906 Makepeace selected to play County cricket for Lancashire and later represented England at both sports.

According to the 1911 census Orr, still unmarried, is now lodging at Hatherley Street in Toxteth and continues to work in the Corn Exchange. He now appears to have developed an interest in the oval-shaped ball game for records reveal that, in 1936, he became the President of Sefton Rugby Union Football Club whose home was near West Derby Village. He was living at 140 Princess Road when admitted to Sefton General Hospital and died there on the 12th of July 1946 leaving all worldly goods to his widowed sister Barbara Stevenson of Glasgow. William Marr Orr, then 76 years old, was buried in the non–conformist section of Anfield Cemetery.

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Reader Comments (6)

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Paul Birmingham
1 Posted 19/07/2020 at 14:03:20
Thanks, Tony, great insight to bygone times.
Bill Watson
2 Posted 19/07/2020 at 14:12:46
Thanks, Tony. It seems there was quite a Scottish influence in those days.

The name Orr seems to ring another Everton connection bell, too, but I can't think what.

Chris Williams
3 Posted 19/07/2020 at 14:16:49

George Orr?

Bill Watson
4 Posted 19/07/2020 at 14:35:32
Chris; that's it! Thanks.

It's not a very common surname so I wonder if they're related?

Chris Williams
5 Posted 19/07/2020 at 14:47:39
You never know, Bill. A Gwladys Street lad, and someone who could usually be found on Goodison Road ready to talk to all and sundry. Bought all sorts from him over the years.

Unusual name for sure.

John Dean
6 Posted 19/07/2020 at 22:13:47
An Orr was also the pilot in Catch 22 who kept crashing his plane until he was so good at it, he crashed it far enough away from his base to make it to Sweden and leave the war behind. The link to Everton escapes me.

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