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Echo Memories: Pub side that hit the big league

Echo Memories discovers that the origins of today's Darlington Football Club lie with a 1918 team of forge workers.

IN storybook style, a pub football team was catapulted up the leagues by a fluke of fate and inflicted upon mighty Newcastle United their first defeat of the season at St James' Park.

It happened just after the First World War. Pre-war, Darlington FC had been a force in the North Eastern League but, with old debts crowding in on them, they had quietly faded away from their creditors during the course of the conflict.

In peacetime, a meeting at the Grand Hotel in Sunderland on December 6, 1918, decided to restart a football competition. Representatives of Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, South Shields, Scotswood and Durham City agreed to form a Northern "Victory" League. They invited Hartlepools United and Darlington to partake.

Hartlepools were soon on-board, but no one could be found to take up the cudgels in Darlington.

At the last moment, JB Haw came forward. He had been a turner at Darlington Forge and was now landlord of the Forge Tavern on Albert Hill, where the forge's works team met and drank.

On January 3, 1919 - a week before the big kick-off - the seven members of the Victory league unanimously elected Darlington Forge Albion as their final opponents, much to the disappointment of Bishop Auckland who, sensing the crisis in the Quakers' camp, had put their name forward.

Suddenly, Forge Albion had only seven days to find a team fit to play Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

For the first game away at South Shields, Mr Haw and his trainer, Wille Mafham, rustled up a team of pre-war Quakers favourites - Hubbard and Lawson - and some old professionals: Peel, Stage and S Smith (Middlesbrough), Hillhouse and Huston (Queen's Park), Benton (Derby County), Anderson (Kilmarnock), Spriggs (Birmingham) and Curtis (Spurs).

But they were old. Of the star forward, The Northern Echo said: "Curtis is not the player he was. He lacks speed and his control of the ball is not so masterly as of old."

South Shields won 3-1, and poor Hubbard, who had been a prolific pre-war goalscorer, was hospitalised for a week.

Next up were Durham City at Feethams.

"Forge officials have been laying out money to get the ground into condition and renovate the stands, pavilion etc," reported the Echo in the match build-up, "and the pitch is now in a good playing state."

"Dogged struggle at Feethams" was the Echo's Monday morning headline reporting the 0-0 draw.

Changes were made for the next game against high-flying Hartlepools United. Harrow, "formerly with Darlington St Augustine's who has just been discharged from the Army", was drafted in, but the Albion were thrashed 7-1.

For the following Saturday's trip to Scotswood more old pros were given a run-out - Wilson, Laverty, Seed, Docherty and Burton were all new names on the teamsheet, but the Forge crashed 5-0, despite "Darlington goalkeeper's clever display" which had kept the score down.

Next Saturday, Darlington were at Sunderland.

"The Forge Albion have once again reconstructed their team," noted the Echo.

Two "well-known Sheffield United players" Cook and Jack English were among the new signings.

"Roker fortunate" read the Echo's headline the following Monday above its report of Sunderland's 1-0 victory, the winner an own goal glancing off English's boot.

The Albion were bottom with one point from five games.

"It is a great consolation, however, to know that the Forge have after several attempts got together a team which should be a credit in the future," noted the Echo.

Indeed, the corner had been turned. Darlington won five of their remaining nine matches, including a 2-0 victory at St James' Park, and finished above Durham and Hartlepools.

Only goalkeeper Andy Greig played in every match, and regular readers will recognise his name: he was the deaf player who featured in this column last August. Formerly with Aberdeen, he was the Quakers' first choice keeper until 1924.

Feethams had also been transformed. Mr Haw had completed the East Stand which, for the first time, included dressing rooms.

Most importantly, Darlington FC was saved.

For the 1919-20 season, Mr Haw reverted to calling his club Darlington FC.

They finished second that season in the re-formed North Eastern League and won the title the following year.

In 1921-22, Jack English became manager as the Quakers moved into Division Three (North).

They finished second in their first season and within four years had been promoted for the only time into Division Two.

Mr Haw was regarded as a saviour in the town until his death in 1960. For the last 27 years of his life he was landlord of the Golden Cock in Tubwell Row.

THE trainer of Darlington Forge Albion was William Mafham, whose daughter, Eileen Tunstall, still lives in the town.

Willie lived in Potters Yard, off Bondgate, and was a machinist at Darlington Forge.

Rather than kick a football, he was more involved in the fitness side of the game. He had a gym in a yard off High Row where he trained athletes and boxers.

"He put lead in the runners' shoes before a race to make it look like they couldn't run, but then on the day of the race he took it out," remembers Eileen.

In those days, it was fairly common for pubs to put on boxing bouts.

At the back of The George, in Bondgate, there are the remains of ring. Willie boxed under the name Kid Donovan.

He travelled as far as Hartlepool for a fight, but as he was only 5ft 6in and ten stone he must have been a lightweight.

After the season in the Victory league, Willie and Forge Albion went back to the comparative anonymity of the Darlington and District League. He died in 1950, aged 57.

Schooldays of discipline and deportment

ARTHUR Pease School in Trinity Road yields many happy memories for Darlingtonians.

It closed as a school in 1965 and now it has outlived its usefulness. It will be demolished within 18 months.

A development of 43 flats and 18 town houses, called Scholars Park, will be built on its uncommonly large playing fields. It is those fields, including a mulberry tree, that are most commonly remembered.

Jean Coley was at Arthur Pease from 1932 to 1938. There were 50 children in her class and they are now scattered around the globe.

Jean, of Darlington, recalls Miss Mortimer's deportment and manners and dance lessons.

"The main hall had a wooden floor so we often left with spells as the dancing was done in bare feet," she recalls.

"I don't think I appreciated the dancing, but the deportment (walking with a book on my head) still makes me think 'head up and shoulders back' after all the years that have passed."

Sylvia Gargett attended Arthur Pease from 1936 to 1942 and her headmistress was Miss Tickell.

" I would describe her as refined, softly spoken, kind but strict - and very wise.

"Another of Miss Tickell's ideas was that the pupils should run their own disciplinary committee where rule-breakers would be sent once a week to be ticked off. Just to be sent for by the committee was usually enough punishment. Sometimes a very naughty child would be put in charge of the committee. This gave the child a big responsibility and a great sense of pride - good psychology.

"Not only was it a happy school, but it was such a pleasant little building with its verandah running alongside three classrooms and overlooking the beautiful lawn, which stretched from Trinity Road to Abbey Road, and about a quarter of which had colourful flowerbeds. In the summer we sometimes had lessons on that verandah."

Nina Sowerby (ne Kay) is another former pupil. When her family arrived in Darlington from Cambridgeshire, her mother was told Arthur Pease was a good school, so Nina, aged five, started in Mrs Robinson's infant class in 1959. The headteacher was Mr Ashley, who was strict.

"My sister had the special duty of ringing the school bell one dinnertime," she recalls, "but she ended up face down as she was knocked over by all the children running round the corner. She was in a poor state, face bloody with grit!"

Nina also remembers the plays (she once missed her walk-on role as a Roman soldier) and the sports (Mr Walker trained her after school for the high jump). And the greenery. "We loved to play in the large grass field and our views from the classroom often distracted me," she says.

BARRATTS, the house builders, say the mulberry tree on the Arthur Pease site is safe. Several people have written to Echo Memories about it, including Mrs C Monks, of Cockerton, who heard that it was the school's trainee teachers who wrote the rhyme: "Here we go round the mulberry bush."

If only it were true. This rhyme appears to be rooted in the middle of the exercise yard at Wakefield Prison where, in the late 18th Century, there was a mulberry tree.

All the women prisoners could do was walk their children around the mulberry bush.

Mulberry trees, which originally came from Iraq, are rare this far north and it may be that Arthur Pease's is the only one in Darlington.

There was a specimen in North Lodge Park until 100 years ago, and there are rumours of one once in Blackwell.

Mulberries are often found in well-established gardens because King James I (1603-1625) decided that Britain should become a silk-producing nation.

Silkworms love mulberry leaves, so James gave anyone who had room a packet of mulberry seeds.

But he had not done his research properly. Silkworms love white mulberry leaves, but all of James' seeds were black mulberries.

And the clock ticks on

THE Arthur Pease School clock is still alive and ticking - in Barnard Castle.

Victor Pollard was a music lecturer at the Darlington College of Education (now the Arts Centre) which was linked to Arthur Pease. When the school closed in 1965 he was allowed to take the clock as a memento (someone else is thought to have taken the school bell).

The clock presumably dates from 1889 when the school opened, and was made by the Northern Schools Furnishing Company - or "the school furney" as it is still fondly known.

In 1969, the Pollards moved to Barnard Castle.

"It went up on the kitchen wall over the Aga and it kept excellent time until my father died in 1994," says Victor's daughter, Josie. "Then the clock in the Methodist Church in Galgate went wrong and my mother, Pat, gave it the clock."

Josie, the church organist, says: "It is still going in the school room. It has to be wound once a week and if you don't put it in exactly the right position on the wall it doesn't go."



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