Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Bill Kirby - Dulwich Hamlet's Most Senior Supporter

Photo: Orlando Gili / Huffington Post

Next month marks another centenary. Bill Kirby, Dulwich Hamlet’s oldest supporter will celebrate his ONE HUNDREDTH BIRTHDAY.

Since he was a boy of twelve Bill has faithfully followed the Hamlet through thick and thin. He is one of the few remaining people who witnessed the silky skills of the legendary Edgar Kail, the Hamlet’s most famous son.

In his youth Dulwich Hamlet was regarded as the finest amateur football club in the country. The glory days of the 1930s saw the Hamlet win the FA Amateur Cup three times in six years. Bill once told me the very first time he ever got drunk was as an underage youth – he was not yet eighteen – drinking shandy from the Amateur Cup after the 1937 victory over Leyton. It sounds like everyone associated with the Hamlet, players, officers and supporters managed to handle the famous trophy that evening in the Crown & Greyhound in Dulwich Village. That same trophy was brought to the pre-season match between Marine and Dulwich this summer (2019), but two men from the Football Association wearing white cotton gloves saw to it that no-one (except overzealous club president Jack Payne) got their greasy hands on it.

Along with a tremendous group of players there was also a stadium to match. Champion Hill boasted better facilities than many Football League grounds. Had the war not intervened there is no telling what greater things Dulwich Hamlet may have achieved.

During the Blitz when enemy planes were intent on reducing the capital to rubble, Gunner Bill Kirby operated an anti-aircraft gun on Hampstead Heath and Clapham Common.

Although Dulwich Hamlet was relatively successful in the late 1940s and 50s, by the mid-60s a decline had well and truly set in. On two occasions the club had to seek re-election to remain in the Isthmian League! However, things did improve. For the next four decades Bill saw his beloved team enjoy some great highs. But there were also some very lows including a handful of relegations. Bill continued to attend games both home and away, and could always be found in the boardroom collating, folding and stapling the matchday programmes with a small group of volunteers.

I remember some years ago I attended the Remembrance Day service at the Dulwich Hamlet War Memorial at Champion Hill. On that day Bill gave a very moving speech, calling to mind the great pre-war pairing of Reg Anderson and Bill Parr who lost their lives in the war. Bill, holding back the tears, pointed out that so many of his fellow Hamlet supporters and friends also paid the ultimate sacrifice in the war against Germany, and many others were killed in the Blitz, whilst he has lived to a good old age.

We do hope Bill, that along with your telegram from the Queen you may also see Dulwich progress beyond the first round of the FA Cup.

Jack McInroy  

Dulwich Hamlet: A Hundred Years in the FA Cup

A Hundred Years in the FA Cup

This month marks the centenary of Dulwich Hamlet’s very first appearance in the FA Cup, the world’s oldest and most illustrious football challenge cup competition. It coincides with the most important cup tie of the last twenty years when Dulwich entertain Carlisle United of the English Football League for a place in the second round.

At present both clubs are struggling in their respective divisions. Dulwich in fifteenth position in the National League South have played 15 and gained 17 points. Carlisle have played 17 games and gained 18 points and sit nineteenth in League Two. The game could go either way.

The 1919/20 season is rightly regarded as the greatest in the club’s history. For ever afterwards it has been known as the ‘Victory Season.’ That campaign saw Dulwich Hamlet triumph in the Isthmian League, the Surrey Senior Cup and the FA Amateur Cup, making them the top amateur side in the country. The London Charity Bowl was also won. In the other competitions Dulwich entered – the London Challenge Cup and the London Senior Cup – they were knocked out by Arsenal and Leytonstone respectively. The latter was at the semi-final stage.

In the FA Cup Dulwich Hamlet entered at the fourth qualifying round stage. Their opponents were local rivals Nunhead, also of the Isthmian League. Situated only a mile apart the two clubs had enjoyed a healthy rivalry for the previous two decades.

The tie was played at a fast pace at Champion Hill on Saturday 22 November 1919. The ground was then located on the site of the all-weather pitch adjacent to Dulwich Hamlet’s present stadium. It is hoped, planning permission granted, that the club move back there in the not too distant future.

Bill Davis and Sid Nicol

Inside left Sid Nicol scored the only goal of the game to take the club through to the next round. The match proved to be a dress rehearsal for the upcoming London Charity Cup Final which Dulwich won by the same score, Bill Davis on target in the final. On the four occasions the two clubs met that season Dulwich won three and drew one.

For the fifth qualifying round of the FA Cup Dulwich received Thorneycrofts, a shipbuilding works team from Southampton. The home side were expected to win comfortably but the cup often throws up some strange results. The match, played on Saturday 6 December 1919, was the Hamlet’s seventh home fixture in succession! The previous game saw Dulwich put eight past the Casuals in an Isthmian League match and perhaps they had become a little bit too complacent.

Thirty minutes into the tie the visitors went one nil up after bombarding the home box, then went further ahead in the second half. Shipway (fittingly) reduced the arrears but a late penalty saw Thorneycrofts progress to the sixth qualifying round. They eventually lost to Burnley at Turf Moor in a first round replay following their draw at The Dell. 

No other side scored three goals past Dulwich that season. By contrast in ten of their matches Dulwich registered five goals or more. Redhill were overcome 8-2 in the Surrey Cup and Wimbledon crushed 9-2 in the Amateur Cup.

The FA Cup has seen countless memorable cup ties. One of the most dramatic took place at Champion Hill in November 1922 when Saint Albans City lost 8-7 in a replay. The Hamlet front three were in fine form, the legendary Edgar Kail and Bill Davis recorded hat-tricks and Sid Nicol a brace. One must feel for Wilfred Minter the Saints’ centre forward who chalked up all seven of his team’s goals. His record for scoring the most goals in a match and still finishing on the losing side remains intact almost a century later.

I doubt the game on Friday 8 November 2019 will be as extraordinary as that match. All I’m hoping for is a win.  I’ll take a scrappy game and a Carlisle United own goal any day if it means Dulwich Hamlet progress to the furthest they have ever been in the this greatest of competitions. All the very best to the boys in Pink and Blue. Come on the Hamlet, let’s make history.

Jack McInroy

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Dulwich Hamlet Will Be Televised

Dulwich Hamlet are through to the first round of the FA Cup for the fourteenth time in the club’s history. Quite some achievement for a non-league side. Yet the previous two occasions the Hamlet reached this stage of the competition was 21 years ago (v Southport) and 71 years ago (v Northampton Town).

Between the two world wars, the Hamlet were one of the most successful amateur clubs in the country, and therefore often exempt until the final qualifying rounds or the first round proper. First round opponents were Southend United (twice), Ilford, Merthyr Town, Plymouth Argyle, Newport County (twice), Swindon (twice), Torquay United (twice) and Aldershot.  

This season Dulwich will have the opportunity to progress to the second round when they take on Carlisle United currently sitting four places from the foot of League Two. The cup-tie to be played at Champion Hill has an added bit of spice by being televised live on BBC2 on Friday 8 November.

It will not be the first time that television cameras have broadcast live from Champion Hill On Saturday 22 October 1949, Dulwich Hamlet played out a remarkable 4-4 draw with Isthmian League rivals Leytonstone in front of a 12,000 crowd and several BBC cameras. It was the early days of television – there was no commercial television for a few more years – and only one channel in Britain transmitting to less than 350,000 homes. In those days the screen was as small as an iPad but with a much inferior resolution.

The game was also notable for being the first time Dulwich Hamlet wore numbers on their backs. Pat Connett, wearing the number 10 shirt, complained to his teammates that it was unfair that he had to carry a bit more weight than the rest of them!

December 1950 saw the cameras return to see Dulwich Hamlet beat Wimbledon 3-1. And then five seasons later in January 1955 Hendon were visitors to Champion Hill for a London Senior Cup tie. Hendon won 4-2 after extra time, which must have messed up the Saturday afternoon television schedule somewhat. The BBC commentator that day was Kenneth Wolstenholme, who gained greater fame in the sixties through Match of the Day and the 1966 World Cup Final.
Dulwich Hamlet received £100 from the BBC for allowing the cameras in against Hendon. Compare that with the forthcoming FA Cup tie with Carlisle United where the club will receive £75,000. An enormous amount that will hopefully be put to good use as the club seeks to climb English football’s pyramid.

Jack McInroy
24 October 2019

Monday, 7 October 2019

Hussein Hegazi Illustrated Talk

On this day fifty eight years ago (8 October 1961) the great Egyptian footballer Hussein Hegazi passed away in Cairo.

Hussein Hegazi 1912.

Hegazi - one of the first Africans to play in English football - was the star of the Dulwich Hamlet team from 1911 to 1914. On returning to his native land on the eve of the First World War he continued his astonishing career to become one of the most important figures in the Egyptian game.

As part of this month's Walworth History Festival I will be giving an illustrated talk about Hussein Hegazi.

And if you are wondering what the link is between Walworth and Hegazi. ...well, Walworth is that part of South London where I reside and Hegazi is the subject of my recent book: Hussein Hegazi, Dulwich Hamlet's Egyptian King.

This event takes place on Wednesday 16th October 2019 at 7:00pm at the Art Academy Newington, 155 Walworth Road, SE17 1RS (Formerly Newington Library).

All are welcome to come along to the talk and pick up a signed copy of the book, priced at £8.00.

Jack McInroy