Every once in a while, I post photos on Twitter from my painstakingly-curated Everton archive. As one of life’s observers, I particularly love black-and-white pictures; they’re intriguing and I examine them closely.
Online and suitably hash-tagged, these monochrome mementos awaken memories from similarly nostalgic/thwarted Evertonians. They join the thread with their recollections of that match, their heroes and their recurring disappointments.
There’s Roy Vernon in the tunnel at West Ham, wearing the white away kit, focussed and holding the match ball. Gordon West stands behind his right shoulder: we’ve heard so many stories about these old war horses, we feel as if we know them.
Vernon, the Everton captain was built like a whippet, the legendary taker of penalties (never, not even in training) and smoker of cigarettes (always, even in the shower) stands alongside a young lad with a beaming smile. I wonder what became of those youngsters, so fortunate to have been captured on film. How old would he be now? How did his life pan out? What does he remember about the day he got to walk onto the pitch alongside his heroes?
Some of the boys look overwhelmed and some are painfully shy but this one looked like it was the job he was born to do.
This is the story of Everton’s first ‘boy mascot’, John Murray.
Now based in Bristol, the only thing that’s changed is the colour of his hair.
He still has a smile as wide as the Mersey and follows the Blues with as much passion as he did in 1963.
From a Royal Blue dynasty, 10-year-old John was in the Boys’ Pen most home games. Occasionally, he would clamber over the top and crowd surf down the Gwladys Street End to join his Dad and uncles and watch the game from there. Some weeks there would be 65 000 people shoe-horned into Goodison Park.
After the Big Freeze of 1963 when all matches were postponed due to unplayable pitches, Liverpool FC returned with their ‘boy mascot’. There was a Toffee Lady at Everton, but no boy in a replica kit. The Murray Brothers decided they would change that and hatched their plan.
A trip from their Norris Green home to Jack Sharp’s amazing football emporium in town was scheduled and the following home game, John was resplendent in his full kit complete with Roy Vernon’s number 10, hand-sewn onto the back.
Ten minutes before kick-off, he was passed down above the heads of the crowd and deposited over the hoardings and onto the pitch.
“My Dad had told me to make my way to the tunnel, which I did. I didn’t feel shy or nervous, I just did what I was told. When I got there, the policeman asked if I was the mascot, I said yes and he told me to go downstairs to the dressing room and wait for the team. I was so excited, I was going to see my heroes close up. When Roy Vernon came out and saw me, he said, ‘Alright Lad,’ and off we went.
“I ran out first on to the pitch and stood there as the referee tossed the coin. I collected all of those pennies and saved them in an envelope.
“We went to every game, home and away. It was a way of life. My Dad, his brothers and their mates went on the ale at the away games and the kids just sat around listening to them talking. If it was a London game we would leave really early on the Sunshine Coach from the East Lancs Road and if it was midweek, I’d miss a day at school because I was present and correct at all of the matches, proudly wearing my kit with number 10 on the back.
“Boy mascots were a brand new concept and not all the clubs had caught on, so I’d often be the only one on the pitch. It felt amazing to be part of it, especially as Everton were superb and on their way to winning the league.
Harry Catterick had a masterplan to take the title and he was busy piecing together his team. Backed by the financial might of John Moores, he headed back to Hillsborough where he enticed his blue-eyed boy, Tony Kay and lured Alex Scott from Rangers to join the Mersey Millionaires. They both arrived at Christmas time only to learn that the frozen pitches meant there would be a backlog of matches for months.
When the season resumed, Everton went the remainder of it, unbeaten and were within striking distance of winning the League; it was all down to a home game against Fulham.
“The result that afternoon would decide whether we won the League. The buzz around the ground was incredible. It was mid-May and a lovely day; bright and sunny. Roy Vernon told me that if they won, I was to make my way to the bottom of the steps and wait for him, he would come and get me and take me up to where the medals were handed out. He scored a hat trick that day.
“I never doubted him for a minute. When the game was finished, Roy ran over to me and lifted me high into the air. I still have the picture in a frame.
There’s another famous photo of the lap of honour; over-coated policemen line the perimeter of the pitch, poised to wrestle any would-be pitch invaders to the ground. Roy Vernon and an incredibly-youthful Derek Temple are in front of the St End goal. Albert Dunlop is catching up with Alex Young who’s applauding the crowd. Top prize for ‘pure euphoria’ goes to Alex Parker: socks rolled down and a hand on his chest as he laughs out loud in sheer jubilation, while Brian Labone, Alex Scott and Tony Kay bask in the love from the crowd. Look again and in front of Brian Labone, you’ll see young John Murray leading the Champions of England around Goodison Park.
You’ll easily recognise him because he has a smile as wide as the Mersey.
Reader Comments (59)
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1 Posted 28/04/2021 at 07:56:35
2 Posted 28/04/2021 at 08:52:01
3 Posted 28/04/2021 at 09:36:26
Generation after generation of younger brothers and sons were tied by a scarf to the ledge Brian. The ritual of entering the ground very early to get my speck, but only after tying my brother up to then take my place just behind. Visiting him at half time with a sausage roll and drink, then picking him up at the end. My paper round money seemed to go a long way back then!
I do hope our long suffering fans get to watch us win a title again. Cups are great and I savour those memories, but winning the title and witnessing first hand really is the pinnacle, as obvious a statement as that sounds.
4 Posted 28/04/2021 at 09:38:34
5 Posted 28/04/2021 at 15:17:05
My face is in that crowd somewhere! What a day that was. I only hope some of our younger fans get to experience that wonderful winning feeling before too many more seasons pass. Next season would be nice Mr Carlo!
8 Posted 28/04/2021 at 17:14:45
Great surprise for Brian M too.
I was there that red letter day, with my mate Steve, in the Street End, and those photos bring back the memories. Im glad they confirm how beautiful the weather was that day. It always was in my minds eye, but it was bound to be, just like most great memories! As for Royston!
I reckon thats what every supporter really wants. Great memories. Lets all hope for a few more in the near future, to take with us to our new ground, and to help cement the Goodison legend firmly in the minds of new generations.
9 Posted 28/04/2021 at 18:08:50
Dad and his brothers, me in the Pen.
When they opened the gates Id run round to the different sections of the ground-to try them out.
Meeting up with Dad and the Uncles under the clock at the jewellers shop-I think it was.
Then walking up to Brewster St to watch final score at Grans house.
Away games in the Sixties and them all arguing the best route to the game,
Absolutely brilliant, thank you Becky.
10 Posted 28/04/2021 at 18:57:18
Look at his little face, and that photo at the end...class.
11 Posted 28/04/2021 at 20:15:26
I was just 16 and in my final weeks of school. A few weeks earlier my friend Kenny, and I, had sagged off school to go to an afternoon game at Birmingham. For some reason, probably something to do with the huge car plants, Birmingham City always played the day after a Bank Holiday.
It was four games from the end of the season and we won 0-1. I remember Tony Kay taking the ball to the corner and sitting on it to waste time.
Walking back to the coach an open top Bentley pulled alongside and the guy asked if we wanted a lift home.
Kenny replied that we were OK thanks as we were on the Crown (coach). It was, of course, John Moores and so went a golden opportunity of tapping him up for a job when I left school!
NB. We also had to face the music, in school, the next day. A teacher had passed us, as he thought on the way to school, and waited at the school gate to get us into the late book. We never turned up. lol
12 Posted 28/04/2021 at 21:38:25
Is it yellow with black shorts?
I remember the all white kit fine, but that early on Im not sure about yellow.
13 Posted 28/04/2021 at 22:09:55
Made up for you to read that Brian, and if John, is the best blue by a very short head, which one hates Liverpool the most mate?
I only know Tony, but Id be very surprised if his fringe doesnt get him over the line first, haha!
14 Posted 29/04/2021 at 07:05:02
15 Posted 29/04/2021 at 08:47:52
I was there at that game too, and we did wear white. I didnt recall the black shorts, or collar though.
Early introduction to Italian defensive mastery that night.
16 Posted 29/04/2021 at 09:27:18
What a smile.
17 Posted 29/04/2021 at 11:37:56
18 Posted 29/04/2021 at 11:41:37
He made his debut in the away game I think. Quite a baptism for an 18 year old. I think he may even have been MOTM
19 Posted 29/04/2021 at 11:55:37
20 Posted 29/04/2021 at 12:18:37
21 Posted 29/04/2021 at 12:24:00
22 Posted 29/04/2021 at 12:49:10
23 Posted 29/04/2021 at 14:50:01
24 Posted 29/04/2021 at 18:55:04
That kit Royston is wearing in that first photo. Do you recall that? It looks like an away match, but I dont remember anything like that. White shirt, V neck dark trim and Black shorts.
If you dont remember, Dave, were all buggered!
25 Posted 29/04/2021 at 19:20:46
26 Posted 29/04/2021 at 19:35:56
Im sure I didnt see it at Goodison, but I couldnt swear. Maybe we were talking about different photos
27 Posted 29/04/2021 at 19:43:52
Can't help further than that but the style of the kit, with the old "V" neck, suggests early '60s rather than '63 onwards when we had a round neck shirt at all games.
Perhaps John is a little confused?
28 Posted 29/04/2021 at 20:00:41
The problem is that Evertons first mascot was 62/63 and that was John. So a conundrum.
God, Vernon was a great and my all time all time Everton great.
Cue Dave A coming on about Bobby Collins now. Another great, but not Roy Vernon!
29 Posted 29/04/2021 at 20:10:54
30 Posted 29/04/2021 at 20:47:29
31 Posted 29/04/2021 at 20:49:45
Id love to hear his views though.
32 Posted 30/04/2021 at 07:45:47
Could the photo have been taken at Ewood Park?
33 Posted 30/04/2021 at 08:06:39
We travelled on a double-decker bus. My over-riding memory is of a disgruntled lad singing “Blackburn Rovers are under the arm, hallelujah” most of the way home on the top deck. His disillusionment may confirm the match in question, as we were 2-1 up with 10 minutes to go only for Fred Pickering to equalise for Rovers before they won with a last minute penalty by Bryan Douglas.
Great article and comments.
34 Posted 30/04/2021 at 08:27:20
Have you tried teh Blue Correspondent website? It's an archive for Everton articles, from the Echo, Post and Evening Express amongst others. It's arranged by season, by month. So you may find a comment there about the kit.
Brilliant resource for Evertonians, but not very user friendly
35 Posted 30/04/2021 at 09:12:20
36 Posted 30/04/2021 at 09:26:27
The rebirth that started with Tommy Ring and continued with Roy and all the others, happened when I was 12 and I was totally captured by it. It had an aura, and Ive always thought of it like that bit in the Wizard of Oz when it went from monochrome to colour.
So thats part of it, but two great players who enhanced our lives.
37 Posted 30/04/2021 at 09:32:14
38 Posted 30/04/2021 at 11:27:09
39 Posted 30/04/2021 at 11:46:22
Captain had a weekly column too, so all good stuff.
Horace Yates as well!
40 Posted 30/04/2021 at 12:14:17
41 Posted 30/04/2021 at 12:30:15
When I get to read your comments, it really thrills me to bits, thanks 😊
About the V-neck shirt, I remember sitting with Alex Young while he signed about 500 copies of a photo of himself scoring his first goal for Everton at Blackburn wearing that same kit. dunno if that helps narrow it down.
Keep shining, fellas and thanks for your lovely feedback. It warms my heart.
Up the Toffees 💙🙌🏼
42 Posted 30/04/2021 at 12:53:11
Its an absolute pleasure to read your articles, and to get a bit involved with other Blues of a certain age. It was made all the better by Brians personal family connection.
43 Posted 30/04/2021 at 12:56:38
44 Posted 30/04/2021 at 13:00:06
45 Posted 30/04/2021 at 13:28:54
46 Posted 30/04/2021 at 13:31:11
Im sure we will. Something special is building here, and there are encouraging outbreaks of progress all over the Everton landscape.
Everton fans live in the past and the future. Living in the present and enjoying it would be a lovely change, too long delayed.
47 Posted 30/04/2021 at 13:44:34
Horace Yates, never met him but I bet he could more than hold his own in an argument, the year we came fourth and briefly got into Europe, Horace wrote an article in the Daily Post saying Everton would get into the top four, I wrote him a letter, basically saying youre having a laugh with that and offering to bet him, giving him 100/1 odds on the bet, explaining I was out of work so it would have be a 5p. bet, he took me up on it.
At the end of the season I sent him £5 postal order to pay him his winnings, I never received an acknowledgement from him, he had the last laugh but I never knew if he received the postal order.
48 Posted 30/04/2021 at 13:59:05
Thats a bit churlish of him, not to acknowledge it. Maybe he didnt get it.
I used to like most of the local writers back then, proper journalists Ive spent some time reading again on that website we mentioned. The standards were much higher, and the local and inside knowledge much more trustworthy than the shabby nonsense that passes for journalism currently.
If you get a chance, have a read about when Tommy Ring was about to sign, and the reports on his debut..
49 Posted 30/04/2021 at 14:39:43
I think you are correct about the older journalists and the standards they kept to, maybe they were allowed to work at a more leisurely pace, one of them, David Charters, mainly writing in The Daily Post, was an absolute gentleman, I had many a phone conversation with him and shared a couple of coffee mornings with him in Echo offices in Old Hall St, he had a great wit in his column of days gone by,mostly of Birkenhead and the characters he knew, he passed away last year. I said to him, onetime, “ Do you cop for free tickets to watch the Blues” he was a good Evertonian, he said No Ive never asked to be honest” I said “ Well, David, ask Ken Rogers or Dave Prentice, they can only say no, they cant hit you” He just laughed, as I said he was a thorough gentleman, would have been too embarrassed to ask, I think his son, Cameron works at The Echo now.
50 Posted 30/04/2021 at 14:43:28
You could get a few nice pints with a £5 note back then!
51 Posted 30/04/2021 at 14:58:52
The Great Alex's first goal for us was at the end of March in 1961at Blackburn. I have the black and white signed print on my wall, perhaps one that he signed in your company, Becky? He is indeed wearing the gold and black with the "V" neck although the stockings look more like blue with a white top.
The game (#33) to which my mate, Peter Mills, alluded when we were 2-1 up with 10 minutes to go and lost 3-2 was in November 1963, a game I also attended. Was that the snow game?
Chris, (#34), like Pete, I am going to check out the "Blue Correspondent" website. Any mention of Bobby Collins, Tommy Ring, and all the signings from the late '50s into the early '60s culminating in the title win in '63 is sure to get my attention.
52 Posted 30/04/2021 at 15:12:16
Its all in there, and goes back a very long way too. Its the extras I especially enjoy. The reserves reports, the youth cup reports, the Monday reviews of previous weekends match. Comment pieces on topical matters, like crowd control after that Burnley game after Christmas 1960, refereeing, lousy pitches.
I wonder what they might have made of var?
53 Posted 30/04/2021 at 17:14:37
54 Posted 30/04/2021 at 19:04:36
That Forest match is one of the seminal matches at Goodison for me. One of a few in the late 50s and 60s. The reports are excellent as you say.
I was toying with the idea of writing up some of those matches.
55 Posted 30/04/2021 at 19:53:40
56 Posted 30/04/2021 at 20:12:45
57 Posted 30/04/2021 at 20:41:20
58 Posted 30/04/2021 at 09:38:04
59 Posted 01/05/2021 at 11:04:34
Re Blue correspondent, I mentioned elsewhere about Billy Bingham writing an article about the need for professional referees. That article was prompted by the dreadful refereeing in the Blackburn game weve been discussing.
The fact that it was also a couple of weeks after the Dunfermline games in the Fairs Cup, also was a factor.
That first game, we won 1-0 and it was the filthiest game I ever saw, worse than the Leeds game a couple of years later! Talk about forget about the ball and get on with the game.
What really sticks in my mind about that match was it coincided that night, with the Cuban Missile Crisis and Ive never seen a Goodison crowd so subdued.
You can get a grainy black and white video of the second leg on YouTube, quite a long one, when we got beaten 2-0, and were dreadful. Vernon was dropped by Catterick after his performance. His column is interesting that week. He singles out Gabriel as the star that night, and you can see that in the video.
60 Posted 01/05/2021 at 12:31:30
Leslie Edwards reporting on the game said the crowd were ecstatic in roaring the team off the field at half time, then later in the second half got on their backs for not scoring more, and Mr, Edwards agreed with the crowd, accusing Everton of complacency, furthermore,Roy Vernon in his mid week article said the crowd were right to have a go at the team for their second half performance, a big difference from those times to today.
Earlier there was reports of Everton signing Jimmy Gabriel and interest in Dennis Law and Joe Baker, with Horace Yates saying Everton were becoming the team to watch with their claims that they were saying to crowds “ Come and see the stars of tomorrow today,!”
And none of us could get there fast enough for every game home and away.
61 Posted 01/05/2021 at 13:32:10
I remember that game. Looking at the scorers it probably would have been the same season.
Another game that season was the Good Friday game against Blackpool and we won 4-0, with Vernon getting 2, one of which was one of the best I ever saw.
I had to plead with my Mum to let me go that day. Good Friday at 3pm is a bit significant in Catholic families
We were totally spoiled then Dave, and we must be sympathetic with the couple of generations whove seen very little for more than 30 years.
I remember the talk about Law and Baker too. Wasnt joe a scouser by birth?
I saw a Night game against City which we won, and Law was brilliant that night, nearly scoring from half way when Dunlop for some reason came charging out and Law beat him to the ball. I think Dunlop needed resuscitation after that! Roy scored a screamer from about 30 yards that night and the ball lodged behind the stanchion in the top corner.
I think I said earlier that Evertonians live in the past and the future. It would be great if we could start enjoying the present now, like we enjoyed it then.
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