Remembering 'Chick' Meagan

The death, at 88, of Mick Meagan this week reduces the illustrious cadre of players who contributed to Everton’s first post-war League Championship title to just five. Rob Sawyer and David France pay tribute to 'Chick'

Rob Sawyer 30/11/2022 22comments  |  Jump to last

Michael Kevin Meagan: 29 May 1934 – 27 November 2022

I was so fortunate with Everton. It’s a family club, with friendly staff and a proud soccer tradition – and Liverpool is such a marvelous city, a real soccer capital.’ – Mick Meagan, 1992


The death, at 88, of Mick Meagan on 27 November, reduces the illustrious cadre of players who contributed to Everton’s first post-war League Championship title to just five (John Morrissey, Derek Temple, Tony Kay and Ray Veall and Frank Wignall).

Raised in the Churchtown area of Dublin, ‘Chick’ – as he was commonly known – was a hugely likeable character whose playing career spanned three decades. Spotted by an Everton scout in the spring of 1952, in a match against a Liverpool County side, he was invited over on amateur forms. He turned pro in September of the same year.

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He recalled the coaching team in that would work with him in the five-year ascent to the first team: ‘When I arrived there , there was Harry Cooke, Charlie Leyland, Gordon Watson, Stan Bentham and then Bill Borthwick. They were a lovely bunch of men who used to look forward to getting out to play the five-a-side matches. It was great to have them around the club.’ 

A young Mick Meagan (middle, with the ball) in the 1940s

The senior pros all had encouraged the teenager to be patient and to remain confident that one day he would become an Everton regular and Ireland international. The fact that Everton had such a strong contingent from the Emerald Isle (Jimmy O’Neill, Don Donovan, Tommy Clinton, Peter Farrell, Tommy Eglington, John Sutherland and George Cummins) helped him enormously in his early years on Merseyside, as he explained in this Toffeeweb interview in 2013: ‘It was a great help when I first arrived having all the Irish lads there, but the Liverpool people were great too. From Dublin to Liverpool was like from home to home. The people made me feel so welcome.’

A lack of pace saw him converted from an inside-forward to a wing-half – a position ideally suited to his football intelligence and excellent technical ability. Gordon Watson, the one-time Everton player who was an Everton coach in the 1950s, recalled: ‘In many ways, I likened him to myself – both of us were left-halves in First Division championship-winning sides whose careers were impacted by others. Mine by Adolph Hitler, Mick’s by Mr. Moores and his appetite for expensive recruits. Although he was an Ireland international, I spent hours working on his passing technique. Unlike some teenagers, who thought they knew better, he took on board what I said to him. Others may disagree but I preferred him at left-half – where he had the space to use his football nous and passing skills.’

Mick finally made his first team bow, under Ian Buchan, on the opening day of the 1957/58 season, a 1-0 defeat of Wolves. Birkenhead-born Brian Harris recalled how he would compete with Mick for selection at left-half over the seasons that followed: ‘Chick and I fought over a place in the first-team line-up, not once but twice. I won the battle for No. 6 shirt because I had been a left-winger with above average pace – of course, nothing like that of Jimmy Harris. Though we competed for the same jobs, Chick was always friendly, helpful and laughed at my jokes.’ Harris explained that Mick did have one trick in his locker: Also Gordon had taught him how to take throw-ins. They would spend hours throwing footballs – and also medicine balls – towards each other.’

Out of favour at the tail-end of Johnny Carey’s reign – as John Moores pumped money into squad additions – Mick didn’t moan, giving his all for the reserves. He was rewarded for his application – and ability – when the incoming Harry Catterick converted him into a full-back in the spring of 1962. He made 32 League appearance in the title-winning season of 1962/63, the majority in the number three shirt, keeping out specialist left-back George Thomson. These were the best of times, culminating in the euphoria of clinching the title with a 4-1 defeat of Fulham: ‘The greatest thrill in all the years I have been with the club came on the final day of the season. We knew that if we beat Fulham, the title was ours-no matter what Spurs did. And we made no mistake. THAT was the day, all right.’

Everton's 1962/63 title-winning team

How did Mick’s title-winning teammates view him? David takes up the story:

I’ve always been fascinated by the dynamics between teammates and through my friendships with players from that era, I was able to gather notes on their thoughts about one another. I would like to share their memories of Mick Meagan. First up is goalkeeper Gordon West, a Yorkshireman blessed with the knack of calling a spade a spade:

‘I liked Chick. It was easy to like his Irish ways and gift of the gab. He was a solid and tidy footballer who would play anywhere for Everton – even in the reserves. Like others who come through the ranks, his contributions were not fully appreciated by the fans compared to those of the big money signings. Something that remains the same today (2006). Originally a left-half, he lost his place to Hookie (Harris) who in turn lost his place to Tony Kay but that’s another story. Chick was converted into a left-back and was a big improvement on James Bond (George Thomson). Neither were fleet of foot, but the Scotsman was no Flying Scotsman and really struggled with the speed of the English game. Whereas Mick was a solid defender except when faced by speed merchants like Birmingham City’s Mike Hellawell.’

The gallery of Mick's career at the FAI head office

The gallery of Mick's career at the FAI head office

Next is the distinguished maestro of the sliding tackle, Alex Parker:

‘While he didn’t possess the acceleration and bite of a top-drawer left-half, he was a very good left-back. Brave, solid and clean – that was Mick. I think it was Harry Catterick who converted him into a full-back because I remember the boss telling him that his job was to defend and not to wander beyond the half-way line like that Scottish nomad Parker. Of course, I was capped Scotland as a right-back but fancied myself as a goal-scoring inside-right. Mick, Hookie, Nat (Temple) and Labby were home-grown players who were not out of place in an expensively assembled team of all stars.’

On to my then neighbour in Washington State, Jimmy Gabriel:

‘Mick was a different type of half–back to me. He was a gentleman whereas I was warrior. Every good team has a warrior. During my time at Everton, we had a few of them – Bobby Collins, Dennis Stevens, John Morrissey, Roy Vernon and Tony Kay. I‘ve always considered the football pitch to be a battlefield, whereas Labby, Tom (Jones) and Chick were more sporting. I can pay not bigger tribute to Mick Meagan than to say that it took someone like Ray Wilson, one of the best left–backs in the world, to replace him.’

Now to my dear friend Brian Labone:

‘Before the arrival of Alex Parker and Bobby Collins, I think that Mick was the only full international on the club’s books. He was a good footballer and loyal friend. We had come through the junior ranks together. No doubt others will claim that he was a tidy passer and good reader of the action who was steady but slow. While possibly true, I think that he also lacked the unwavering self–belief that top players ooze and that Mick’s skills deserved. There again, we all can’t be Alan Ball. In many ways, he reminded me of that other Blackpool illumination – Jimmy Armfield.’

Everton's triumphant players in 1963

Centre–half Tom Jones, better known as TE Jones, played for six seasons alongside the Irishman:

‘Chick was a calm footballer; someone who rarely panicked under pressure and never lost his temper when kicked. He didn’t possess the fiery temperament associated with his countrymen. Everybody liked him. He rarely complained and possessed a biting sense of humour. Chick loved to laugh. At the first Hall of Fame dinner, I recall Jimmy Harris expressing his disappointment at not being inducted. The centre–forward declared ‘Tom, if you are in the Hall of Fame, how come I’m not? What am I going to tell my grandchildren?’ Our table went quiet, until Chick said, ‘Why not tell them you weren’t good enough?’

Perhaps no–one knew Mick Meagan as well as his nemesis Brian Harris:

‘With the arrival of Tony Kay, I was displaced and required to challenge for the No 3 shirt – which Chick won because he was much calmer and a more accurate passer of the ball, especially long clearances. He had received guidance from Gordon Watson, who was second only to Cliff Britton in that regards.’

Another dear friend from Scotland, Alex Young:

‘George Thomson had been part of a very, very good Hearts side but was ill–prepared for First Division football in England. George was good at thwarting tricky Scottish wingers but was exposed by their turbo–charged English counterparts. To a lesser degree, Mick suffered from the same lack of pace but compensated with his ability to jockey wingers before making a tackle or block. It was an unappreciated skill back then, because defenders were expected to kick lumps off wingers like they did at Bolton. In the dressing room, I found Mick to be a modest man – perhaps a little overawed by some of the egos around him. Given his friendly manner, it was easy to like him. His humour helped lift our spirits during the Catterick era when the dressing room was divided by those who disliked the manager and those that didn’t.’

Mick Meagan

After a further season with the Toffees, Mick was offered in part–exchange to Huddersfield Town, as the Blues secured the services of the best left–back in the land: Ray Wilson. The Dubliner had made 177 appearances for the Blues, but his contribution was far greater – a great club man, he gave support and wise counsel to young players coming through like Colin Harvey. Horace Yates, of the Daily Post, paid warm tribute to the departing club stalwart: ‘Meagan is a model of everything the ideal player should be – uncomplaining, efficient in a quiet way, never a ha'porth of trouble on or off the field. Many will be sorry to see him go.’

Mick upped sticks from his home in Huyton and made new friends on the other side of the Pennines. He rounded off his days in English football at Halifax Town, under Alan Ball senior. He continued his playing career with Drogheda United, combining this with the challenging task of being the first true manager of the Irish national team (1969–71) – he had also won 17 caps in the green shirt. By his own admission, he was ill–suited to management, preferring to put his boots on and play football. This he continued to do at Bray Wanderers and, finally, in to his 40s as player–boss of Shamrock Rovers.

In 1976 he started working as a recreation officer at Central Mental Hospital, in Dundrum. It is of no surprise that his warmth and enthusiasm was a hit with the patients. In the early 1990s he was still kicking a ball as the hospital had entered a football team in a local league. He was quoted as saying: "A lot of our young patients are very keen on soccer so this season we decided to get them involved and join a league. For every old player in the side, we have a youngster who does the running and it works quite well. We train during the lunch and tea intervals – and I must say I enjoy it. It's like stepping back in time for me. We don't have sweepers and midfield men. Instead, we use the old terminology. I am the centre–half and my teammates are inside–forwards and wing–halves.’

Mick and the bather's club at the Forty Foot near Dublin in 2018

Mick busied himself in retirement with regular rounds of golf, swimming in the sea at the Forty Foot and games of head tennis with fellow veterans. He kept in close touch with his good friends Derek Temple and Dennis Stevens – having the latter over to stay. The Gwladys Street Hall of Fame nights drew Mick back to Merseyside. The instigator, David, recalls: ‘Like many players from his era, Mick was a genuine gentleman and proud Blue. At one Adelphi function, I divulged that I had grown up with him, in that he had featured in the first match I attended at Goodison. It was in September 1957 and Mick replaced the ageing Peter Farrell at left–half in the dramatic 3–3 draw with the reigning champions Manchester United. It was the third of his 177 senior appearances for the club and I detected that, some 45 years on, he remained in awe of Duncan Edwards, his counterpart in the visitors’ line–up.’

A great talker, his sharp (and affectionate) recall of his Everton days was a boon to football historians seeking a better understanding of the Toffees in the Britton, Buchan, Carey and Catterick eras. He is celebrated in his home city with a display of his memorabilia in the FAI head office – Mick and his family were invited for the unveiling of the gallery in 2010. He last got over to L4 in 2013, when he joined surviving former Everton teammates from the triumphant 1962/63 team on the pitch at half–time.

Mick Meagan with his 1963 colleagues at Goodison Park in 2013

Mick with his 1963 colleagues at Goodison Park in 2013

Mick died peacefully in the great care of the staff at the Orwell Private nursing home. In a final philanthropic act, he decided not to have a funeral – instead having his body donated to medical science at University College Dublin.

Our condolences go to Mick’s loving partner (Derville), his children (Mark and Carol), surviving siblings (Jim, Anna and Peg) and the rest of the family.

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Chris Williams
1 Posted 30/11/2022 at 08:19:28
Aah well. Another one gone.

I remember Mick more for being a full-back than a wing-half, and a decent one at that. I remember him as having skill on the ball, and he could beat a man, and pass, never panicking. Like many of that generation, he seems a truly nice man, humble and down to earth. With quite a sharp tongue it seems!

I can't recall a specific instance of him being embarrassed by lack of pace, but I do recall a match at Old Trafford, at the end of the 1959-60 season I think, and we got hammered 5-0. I seem to recall he had a stinker, but not alone there, on the day. I'm probably doing Mick a terrible injustice. That was the season we'd bought Ring, Lill, Vernon, Gabriel etc in and it brought us down to earth sharpish.

Another lovely piece, thanks, Rob.

Chris Williams
2 Posted 30/11/2022 at 08:30:17
Just checked the team for that day, and Mick didn't even play! Memory eh? Bloody Hell.

So apologies to Mick for that. I was sadly right about the result though!

Alan McMillan
3 Posted 30/11/2022 at 12:52:24
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Rest in Peace Chick

Trevor Powell
4 Posted 01/12/2022 at 13:14:07
Very sad to hear of Mick Meagan's passing.

I first became aware of Mr. Meagan as a close neighbour in Wallace Drive, Huyton. He lived in an Everton-owned semi-detached partnered by Tommy E Jones next door. I was very friendly with Tommy's boys, Barry, Brian and Colin.

We all held Mr Meagan in awe and were very sorry to see him move off to Huddersfield Town. My Dad always told me that Mr Meagan was a true gentleman!

Peter Hodgson
5 Posted 01/12/2022 at 14:11:07
Sorry to see him go, as is the case with all of that era who I was brought up watching as part of my football education. It was a good education too.

I'm glad that I started watching Everton then as I don't think I would be as pleased if I was starting again these days. Football has changed tremendously since then due to all the money slopping about in the game today. It is all about profit and loss now whereas then there was still a lot of love for the game and the characters, eg, Johnny (Alehouse) Morrissey.

Speaking of Morrissey, my football education started a bit earlier, in the days of Peter Farrell, who was also a little rotund around the middle, facets which would not be allowed these sports science days.

Maybe if Calvert-Lewin had been around then we wouldn't have seen him injured as much! Happy days though. We all have to move on at some stage though. Thanks, Mick, and rest in peace.

John Raftery
6 Posted 01/12/2022 at 22:10:17
A fine tribute and great photos, a couple of which I had not seen before. I saw Mick play in the two seasons before he departed in 1964. Catterick replaced him with arguably the world’s best left back at the time, Ramon Wilson. That was the level to which we aspired in those days.

It is interesting to note the number of seasons players like Mick were given to develop into realistic first team candidates back in the fifties. The transfer market was not seen then as the automatic route to team building. Even through the sixties when we could outspend our rivals we always maintained a core of players, Rankin, Wright, Labone, Harris, Temple, Harvey, Hurst, Husband, Royle and Kenyon who had come through the ranks to become first team regulars.

Rick Tarleton
7 Posted 02/12/2022 at 11:11:33
I remember him fondly. He emerged as a wing-half as we searched for a replacement for Farrell and Lello, (Rea? King? anyone) but later became the replacement of the enigmatic George Thomson at left back. In modern terms he'd have been described as a valuable squad player, but in those days there were no substitutes and we basically knew our team as it would ideally line up.
He was a no frills type, he did a job, rarely grabbed the headlines and very rarely let Everton down. A decade later Tommy Jackson performed the same job as understudy for any of the Holy Trinity.
He was part of the generation that bridged the area between the abolition of the maximum wage and the beginning of high wages for individuals. Mick Meagan would never have been one of Everton's highest earners, but equally he was a very valuable player to have around.
That 1962-3 Everton team (I was sixteen then, an impressionable age, "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven.")were my ideal team, I can rhapsodise about so many of them, but I took Mick Meagan for granted and yet that was his strength, he did his job and it was a good, solid and reliable job and that's quite an epiphet.
R.I.P.
Chris Williams
8 Posted 02/12/2022 at 11:26:32
Rick,

When I was about 15, I was with my dad on County Road, walking up to Lind Street where he worked. He saw Cyril and stopped him to shake his hand, and to introduce me to him. I think he was a bit embarrassed.

I thought Johnny King was a smashing little player for a while. Kenny Rea too.

Share your thoughts (and Wordsworth’s) about that 62-63 team too

Dave Abrahams
9 Posted 02/12/2022 at 12:27:06
Rick (7) and Chris (8), I worked on a shut down at Fords as a sparks mate, Cyril Lello was also a sparks mate with another firm, I felt privileged to share some dinner breaks with Cyril and reminisce with him over the Everton games he played in, like Mick Meagan he was very unassuming and down to earth, he was also a very good player who played for the team, more than himself, I think a long term injury spoiled his career with the Blues, he lived in a house right by the ground where Park End car park is now.

Imagine any of todays players, after finishing their careers, ending up being a sparks mate working in a factory, and a lot of them were’nt in the same class as Cyril or Mick.

Danny O’Neill
10 Posted 02/12/2022 at 12:45:52
I don't know how accurate this is, so I'm opening myself up. Quite a few of my family members worked at Ford's (now Jaguar).

I believe that if it had closed, the unemployment rate in the Speke-Garston-Halewood area would have been around 40%.

Chris Williams
11 Posted 02/12/2022 at 13:09:09
Was that Goodison Close, Dave?

I remember the road well, just not the name.

Les Callan
12 Posted 02/12/2022 at 13:11:20
Dave@9. I think Mick went to live in Wallace Drive in Huyton. I think the club had several houses there.
Dave Abrahams
13 Posted 02/12/2022 at 14:23:15
Chris (11), I wouldn’t know the name of the street either Chris but Goodison Close sounds about right seeing as how it was just off Goodison Road.

Danny (10), yes a big part of the population of Speke and Halewood worked in Fords so if it had closed down plenty would have been out of a job, I worked there for a London firm dismantling machinery and putting new ones in along with all new cables, having worked in Vauxhalls car factory for four very long weeks that was enough for me, don’t know how I lasted that long to be honest, I wasn’t cut out for factory work, stuck on a line for eight hours at a time!!

Les (12), yes I think Danny O’Neill mentioned that address where Mick Meagan lived.

Chris Williams
14 Posted 02/12/2022 at 15:09:41
On reflection, Dave, it might have been Goodison Place.

The bloody things you get focused on!

Chris Williams
15 Posted 02/12/2022 at 15:52:33
Finally!

It was Goodison Avenue. Demolished in 1965.

I’ll sleep better knowing that ffs!

Rick Tarleton
16 Posted 02/12/2022 at 18:07:37
Chris (8),

I share your memory of Cyril Lello walking to the match from his club house. You've brought that memory back to me.

Dave Abrahams
17 Posted 02/12/2022 at 18:16:00
Chris (15), just to keep you awake, are you sure it was Goodison Avenue, Avenue suggests a big wide road and where Cyril lived it was just a cul de sack!!
Dave Abrahams
18 Posted 02/12/2022 at 18:22:10
Chris (15), forget my post @ 17, get your pillow and hot water bottle it was Goodison Avenue.
Chris Williams
19 Posted 02/12/2022 at 18:45:07
We used to live 5 minutes away!

Rick, I must have seen Cyril play, but have no recollection... see previous posts for other examples of this! My Dad was a great fan though.

Rick Tarleton
20 Posted 02/12/2022 at 20:13:26
I saw Everton quite often as a boy of 9 or 10, but Dave Hickson, Wally Fielding, Tommy Jones and Jimmy O'Neill were the ones I remember. Lello, a quietly efficient player I believe, made little impression on my young mind.
Trevor Powell
21 Posted 06/12/2022 at 18:15:03
#Les at 12. It was Wallace Drive in huyton, L36 1TL. Please see #4
Howard Don
22 Posted 06/12/2022 at 20:23:11
Nice tribute to a nice guy. My first time at Goodison 27th Feb 1960, Everton 4 Preston NE 0. Mick Meagan was in the team, goals scored by Jimmy Harris, Mickey Lill and two from Roy Vernon. Start of a lifelong passion for me and I saw Mick play quite a few games after that but only remember him as a cool steady fullback. RIP Sir.

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