Monday, 2 August 2010

Charlie Tyson - A Job Well Done.

If you did any of your schooling at Alleyn's School and happened to be in Tyson House then you may be in for a surprise. Jack McInroy delves into the past to find out a bit more about one of the great Hamlet heroes, C.F. Tyson.

In this generation, no matter how a footballer behaves - on or off the pitch - as long as he's "good enough out there" he'll do. It is his ability alone that counts, some say, and what a player does in his own time should have no bearing on his (semi) professional life. But it wasn't always the case.

For many years, particularly in the early days of the Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, the type of player the club was pleased to attract was one with purely amateur ideals and an exemplary conduct. Several names spring to mind - Kail, Morrish, Smith, Knight, Hegazi, Shipway, Clegg, Thompson and Tyson, to name but a few.

Looking back, from our money orientated perspective, these men characterised much of what was good about a bygone age. And one of the finest gentlemen to grace the pink and blue was the last named among that small list of greats - C.F. Tyson. He only played for Dulwich for four seasons but in that time he achieved great success. It was a shame that Dulwich Hamlet were unable to get a couple of more years service out of him, but an affected lung put an end to his football career. His retirement from the game allowed him to continue wholeheartedly in his 'proper job' - a teaching position at Alleyn's School in Dulwich.

From Liverpool to London
Charles Francis Tyson was born in Liverpool in the spring of 1885. A fellow Lancastrian with Pa Wilson, one can well imagine how this would have endeared the older man to the youngster. 'Tyke', as he was known to his friends, was over six feet in height, but a gentle giant. He had a genuine smile on his face and always found time to speak to those who approached him. His north country accent, we are told, was spoken with clarity and beautiful diction.

Coupled with this, he possessed a fine singing voice that he put to good use at many pre-war (School) Smoking Concerts. These performances usually took place at the end of year, or season, or some other anniversary. I suppose the Edwardian equivalent to the end of season disco fashionable with today's non-league clubs. In those days, however, it was generally the rule that several club members or their wives did 'turns' at such events - the recital of a poem, a piano piece, a comic song or such like. Here, Tyson the popular baritone obliged. I don't know if it is recorded that he ever performed in this way at the Dulwich Hamlet annual Smoker, but he clearly did elsewhere.

Cup Success With Dulwich Hamlet
Two months into the 1908-09 season Charlie Tyson joined Dulwich Hamlet from the Crystal Palace reserves. The tall centre half had a baptism of fire, making his Hamlet debut against professionals West Ham United on bonfire night November the 5th. It was the replay of a London Challenge Cup tie, and Dulwich, down to ten men for half of the game, were soundly beaten 6-0. Two days later in another high scoring match (5-0) Tyson claimed his first goal for the club against Woodford, and the Champion Hill faithful had a new hero. Within a few months, and still only in his early twenties, Tyson tasted his first success with Dulwich. He went on to enjoy a spell at the club which took him to five Cup Finals plus two replays. Tyson was invaluable to his fellow clubmates, and it was once said that "His personality is such as to inspire confidence in the team."

In his first season at Dulwich, Charlie Tyson appeared in the victorious 1909 Surrey Senior Cup Final versus Metrogas, at The Track - Herne Hill, before an 8,000 crowd. The holders again featured in the following year's drawn Final versus Woking. This time Tyson not only played, but was reported as "The best man on the field." In the replay he picked up another winner's medal as Dulwich won the match 2-1.

His next final was the 1911 London Charity Cup Final against Nunhead, that ended in a 1-1 draw. It was Tyson's 'assist' that produced the Dulwich goal. In the replay he went one better and scored himself, in a match that was also drawn. The two clubs became joint holders for the next twelve months.

I am yet to discover whether Tyson took part in the Hamlet's disappointment in the 1912 Surrey Senior Cup Final versus Summerstown, but we do know he wore the 'Captain's armband' in the semi-final with Redhill (Arthur Knight being absent), scoring the goal fifteen minutes from time, that booked Dulwich's place in the final.

The team also appeared in that year's London Charity Cup Final against Nunhead. Tyson scored the Hamlet's second goal in the 3-2 defeat.

1909 Surrey Senior Cup Winner's Medal

1910 Surrey Senior Cup Winner's Medal

1911 London Charity Cup Finalist's Medal (Trophy jointly held)

1912 Surrey Senior Cup Runner's-up Medal

1912 London Charity Cup Runner's-up Medal

Other Honours

A reserve for the England v Belgium international match at Crystal Palace on the 4th March 1911, Tyson must have impressed in training, as he was again picked for the squad that travelled to Paris for the international with France three weeks later. This time he managed to find a place in the team. In so doing Charlie Tyson gained his one and only England cap, and had the great honour of being Dulwich Hamlet's first ever amateur international player.

Around this time Tyson commanded the utmost respect, and was sought after by various representative bodies. He toured Russia (three matches were played in Moscow) and Scandinavia with the English Wanderers, in the company of R.G. Brebner, Herbert Smith, Scothern, Olley, Rev. Hunt, V.J. Woodward, Stapley, Steer, etc.

His county caps included:- Surrey County F.A. 1910 v Paris, v London; 1911 v London, v Hampshire, v Dorset, v Berks.& Bucks., v Household Brigade, v Middlesex. (3 games for a Badge, 5 games for a Cap.)

London F.A. 1910 v Essex, v Spurs, v South Germany. 1912 v Essex, v Birmingham. (Cap & Badge 1911, Cap 1912.)

Saint Tyson
It is recorded that Charles Tyson dropped out of the Dulwich Hamlet team because of scholastic reasons. The impression is given that the big centre half sacrificed his football career with his local amateur eleven for a teaching position. Well, this may be true in part, but it is not the whole truth. Our historians who compiled the 75 Year Book in the 1960s are slightly out. What actually happened at the beginning of the 1912-13 season is that Tyson embarked on a short career with Southampton Football Club!

In fact, he had been on Southampton's books since May 1911, but did not make his debut until the 28th September 1912, against Portsmouth at the Dell. Playing in 14 Southern League games and 2 FA Cup ties in the 1912-13 season, he was described as being "more robust than the average amateur, and was trusted to keep a tight grip on opposing forwards." During his spell with The Saints he still remained a registered player with the Hamlet. [And maybe this is where the confusion lies.]

Incidentally, Charles Tyson's brother Tom, had a slightly more distinguished career, playing for Bolton Wanderers, Chester and Exeter City.

Boldness In War
Tyson was posted in France during the First World War as Quartermaster and Captain with the 105th Field Ambulance Corp. Just after the war finished, on the 13th December 1918, Captain Tyson received a Croix de Guerre - a French gallantry award equivalent to a military cross or medal. It is highly likely that as a stretcher bearer he showed great bravery, putting his life at risk rescuing wounded Ally soldiers. He was Mentioned in Dispatches.

Croix de Guerre

Alleyn's School
Whilst on the continent Tyson was able to polish up his French, which was the subject he went on to teach so well at school. It comes as no surprise to also learn that he was in charge of football at Alleyn's for many years.

He joined Alleyn's School in 1911, and was one of two Housemasters that served in the war. In 1921, and in honour of the school's two war heroes, two more Houses were added (to the existing six) to the School's House system. Thus Tyson House came into being.

A real gentleman and a true patriot, Tyson always wanted the best for those under his care and he was ready to serve his country in the best way possible. He established a Cadet Corp. at the beginning of the First World War, before he went to France. He also helped the war effort during the period of the Second World War when he set up the South London Emergency Secondary School (SLESS) based within Alleyn's building. He eventually became the Head, a post he held until the end of the war. Looking back on his time at SLESS he wrote of it as "A job well done." He retired from teaching in 1947.

Tyson's Death
Charles Francis Tyson died a few months before his 80th birthday at Harestone Nursing Home, Caterham, Surrey on the 31st October 1964. (Three days after Champion Hill's first floodlit match against Chelsea.) His address at the time of death was 16 Palace Road, SW2, less than two miles from Champion Hill. He left £7,419 in his will.

His death occurred in the same football season as the passing of Bill Smart one of his old team-mates, Jack Hugo, Gil Goodliffe and Leslie Bowker - all former Hamlet stalwarts - yet sadly, his demise seems to have gone unnoticed by the club. (I may be wrong, only there is no mention in the 75 Year Book, whereas the other four gentlemen are. This suggests that links between C.F. Tyson and the Hamlet were severed many years earlier.) Well, if it's not too late for a quick obituary to Mr Tyson regarding his association with Dulwich Hamlet F.C. then I'd like to use his own words, and say, "It was a job well done."

Alleyn's School, Dulwich.

In piecing together this short article I am indebted to Mr Arthur Chandler, honourary archivist of Alleyn's School, Mr John Blackmore, historian of amateur international footballers and Mr Duncan Holley, official historian to Southampton F.C.

Original article from HH2 Summer 1998. Copyright: Jack McInroy ©

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