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Liverpool Football Club and my (great-grandfather’s) part in its victory

July 23, 2020

If I was a British politician, I would probably be claiming some connection with Liverpool Football Club, who were crowned champions of the English Premier League last night.

I have such a connection, though thankfully I’m not a politician. In order to gain a bit of cred with my business partner, who is a lifelong Liverpool supporter, I did a bit of poking around to define that connection a little more accurately.

I’ve long known that my great-grandfather, the Reverend William Clark Hudson (below), was the vicar of a parish in the district of Everton.

My mother was born at the vicarage, which she claimed was a stone’s throw from Liverpool’s stadium, known to the world as Anfield.

In little more than an hour I discovered that she was right. The modern address of the stadium is 69-71 Anfield Road.

The good Reverend’s address was 69 Anfield Road. The same address! I know this because of a death notice for his son Cuthbert, my great uncle, who was killed in 1917 in the First World War, which listed his address. Since the parish of which he was vicar was St Cuthbert’s, I presume this was why he named his son after one of England’s most revered saints.

So then I looked at a street map from 1910, and found several large houses directly opposite the ground. One of them was most likely the vicarage.

While I was digging around, I also happened upon a register of baptisms at St Cuthberts from the time when the Reverend Hudson was the vicar. That was an interesting bit of social history in itself.

The register lists occupations of the fathers, which would have been typical of a working-class area in a big city like Liverpool: shipwright, cooper, barman, railwayman, harness-maker, grocer’s assistant, dock labourer, bleacher, deck hand, time keeper, warehouseman, boot maker, meter fitter and waiter. I doubt if there are many boot makers and meter fitters in Liverpool today. But the list reflects a vibrant port city yet to suffer the decline that later afflicted it

The vicar’s baptisms included one that caught the eye. Margaret Bowyer was the daughter of Samuel Bowyer, who was listed as a professional footballer.

Baptism: 9 Jul 1911 St Cuthbert, Everton, Lancashire, England
Margaret Bowyer – Child of Samuel Bowyer & Alice
    Born: 18 Jun 1911
    Abode: 14 Bagnall Street
    Occupation: Professional Footballer
    Baptised by: W. Clark Hudson M. A. Vicar
    Register: Baptisms 1899 – 1924, Page 273, Entry 2

So I did a search on Sam Bowyer, to see if he played for Liverpool. It turns out that there’s a Wikipedia entry for him, which shows that he did indeed play ninety times for for the Reds.

Unlike the current club stars, who live in posh mansions outside the city, Sam lived locally. In those days footballers were paid peanuts, so he probably lived in a small terraced house within the local community. Close enough to walk to work, so no need for a Bentley or a Range Rover, even if he could afford one.

I also took a look at the history of Anfield football ground. It turns out that it started life as the home of Everton Football Club, Liverpool’s great rivals. They then moved a few miles down the road, and the ground was taken over by the newly formed Liverpool F.C.

So most likely my great-grandfather ministered to the faithful of both clubs, and probably saw both Everton and Liverpool in action at Anfield as their home ground.

I have nothing to gain from these little nuggets of family history, except the satisfaction of knowing that one of my ancestors played a tiny part in the history of a great institution.

And how much more fun was the discovery than my usual morning trek through our diseased and turgid present!

  1. There’s a huge amount of pleasure to be had in digging up history, and the internet makes it possible, as your example shows. In a moment of idleness a few years ago I went searching for the remotest place on the planet, which turned out to be a tiny atoll called Nake Island, part of the Kiribati Group, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A tiny jewel of a green-fringed turquise lagoon in the vastness of the deep blue ocean.

    Island-hopping from there I came across Malden Island and delved into the photos that Google Earth had pinned to it. A photograph of a tombstone inscribed to Abraham McCullough, who managed the island for 23 years, spiked my curiosity. What inspired him to stay?

    Further investigation revealed another tombstone, and thereby, after much research, I discovered a tragic story, which I shared on Facebook 5 years ago. Here it is…..

    Malden Island, NW of my original destination, must be one of the most desolate places you could ever find, yet it had a Polynesian population who left ruins of settlement from hundreds of years ago. The Aussies took control of it to mine Guano in the mid 1800’s, building a light rail line from the pits along the shoreline to a pier.

    Islanders were employed to dig up the guano, and sail-powered boxcars were used to transport them on a flimsy track down to the pier. The men had to haul the empty cars back, against the prevailing wind. Mining was abandoned during the first world war, then struggled along for a period after, until increasing costs and declining prices forced it to close.

    To my steadily lessening surprise, the British used the abandoned island for air-burst testing of three atomic bombs in the 1950’s and it has remained uninhabited since. Feral cats ensure that populations of seabirds don’t replenish the guano stocks as quickly as they might.

    At the tip of the island is the grave of Abraham McCullough, who managed the island for 23 years. He must have liked it to begin with, even naming his son after the island, only to lose him to the ‘Wild Waves” of the ocean, aged just 1 year 12 days in 1876. What loneliness and heartbreak Abraham and Mary McCullough must have experienced to stay on at the island for another 21 years after such an experience, watching the hoppers creak and sway as the trade winds drove their sails across the desolate fiats.

    Mary finally buried her husband (lost his life, aged 59″) beside her son and made the lonely voyage back to Australia and obscurity in 1897. The ruins of their stone cottage lie, shattered, to this day.

    Not all islands are equal.

  2. Andrew Robinson permalink

    To bring things up to date Steve. Our son lives on Goodison Road, “new” soon to be “old” home of Everton FC, just over Stanley Park…

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