Thursday, 3 September 2020

Evening News …in Finnish

Iltasanomat is the second biggest selling newspaper in Finland.  Translated as ‘Evening News’ the paper has a daily circulation of more than 100,000. The online version of the newspaper is read by 2.5 million.  

This week the paper published its annual magazine supplement previewing the English Premier League and the EFL. Also included in the magazine is an article written by respected sports journalist Juha Kanerva, about legendary multi-sportsman Niilo Tammisalo.

The two page spread is based on our recent Hamlet Historian production Niilo Tammisalo: HamletStroller to Hall of Famer. Tammisalo joined Dulwich Hamlet in the latter part of the 1921/22 season. The twenty seven year old goalkeeper was unusual in that he wore spectacles when he played. Although he did not make it into the Hamlet’s first team – appearing for the Strollers before being promoted to the Reserves – he did go on to become arguably the most influential person in Finnish sporting history.

A handful of copies of the booklet were recently sent to Finland and will no doubt be regarded as collectors’ items.

The 24 page booklet, co-written with Harri Laine and illustrated with some rare photographs, is still available and can be purchased for £3 including postage.  Please contact me via the email link on this page.

Jack McInroy

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

James Hoather - Another Casualty of World War Two

Flt. Sgt. James Alfred Hoather 1174105 RAFVR, DFM

James Alfred Hoather was born on 26 September 1921 in Camberwell and was the son of Frederick Hoather, an Assistant Engineer for the London County Council and Rose Elizabeth Hoather. Jimmy was the second eldest of four siblings – two boys and two girls, who at this time lived at 8 Lomond Grove, Camberwell.

By the time that Jimmy was old enough to go to school, the family had moved to 147 Eswyn Road, Tooting and Jimmy attended the nearby Ensham Central Middle School in Franciscan Road, where he was a prolific sportsman, playing cricket and football for his school. He was a good enough footballer to be selected for Dulwich Hamlet’s Junior team and played alongside Richard Boyd, Arthur Anderson and Ronnie Dicks, although we are uncertain at present whether he featured in the team that won the London Minor Cup in the 1939/1940 Season. 

When the 1939 Register was taken, Jimmy had left school and entered the world of work and was employed as a Clerk at an LCC Hospital, although we do not know which hospital this would have been.

At some point in 1940, Jimmy joined the many Dulwich Hamlet playing staff, both senior and junior, in volunteering to serve with the Royal Air Force as aircrew and after completing his flying training, qualified as a Sergeant Pilot. He was posted to serve with 58 Squadron, Coastal Command which was engaged on the vital work of defending Britain’s supply convoy lifeline across the North Atlantic, at that point flying the obsolescent Whitley aircraft. After initially being based at Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides, his squadron was re-equipped with the more modern Handley Page Halifax bombers and moved south to RAF St Eval in Cornwall on 15 March 1943. Incidentally, this is the same airfield at which Dulwich Hamlet’s Bill Parr was serving when he was killed in a flying accident almost exactly a year previously.

Jimmy was promoted to Flight Sergeant and as would be expected in such a vital role, his squadron was frequently in the thick of the action. On 10 April 1943, Jimmy was recommended for a Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) after a sortie to locate a German blockade runner in the Bay of Biscay, guarded by four destroyers and a strong air escort of Ju-88 aircraft. The enemy convoy was located and a striking force successfully homed in despite strong opposition from the Ju-88s. Although his aircraft was attacked and initially forced away from the enemy convoy, Jimmy flew back to the convoy and despite being attacked and driven off for a second time he persisted and remained in contact, successfully homing in British forces to attack the convoy. During the action, Jimmy’s crew possibly shot down one Ju-88 and damaged another.

His DFM was confirmed and gazetted on 9 May 1943, which sadly was also the day that Jimmy and his crew were posted as missing from a subsequent mission, also in the Bay of Biscay. On this occasion, Jimmy and his crew were on an anti-submarine patrol, flying Halifax aircraft HR743, serial BY-N.
Although the cause of the crew’s loss was initially unknown, it was eventually discovered after the war (based on the records of the enemy) that Hoather’s aircraft had attacked U-666 at 10:28 that morning. The submarine was a Type VIIC U-Boat commanded by Kapitanleutnant Herbert Engel and was proceeding on the surface from its base in L’Orient, France to take up a patrol position in the North Atlantic. This manoeuvre was fraught with danger for the U-Boat crews and many were lost in this way due to the Allies overwhelming air superiority by this stage of the war.

Jimmy’s plan had undoubtedly been to drop depth charges on the surfaced submarine but the U-Boat’s anti-aircraft defences prevented an attack on the first run and the aircraft circled to make another attempt. On the second approach, the Halifax was hit on one of the port engines, causing the aircraft to crash into the sea about 500 metres from the submarine, with the loss of all on board. The U-Boat continued on patrol but did not sink any merchant shipping at this time. On 10 February 1944, by this time under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Ernst Wilburg, she was sunk in the North Atlantic, off the west coast of Ireland by depth charges dropped by a Swordfish aircraft of 842 NAS embarked in the escort carrier HMS Fencer. There were no survivors from the ships’ complement of 51.

Jimmy and his crew were on their twelfth mission when they were posted missing and he is today commemorated on Runnymede Memorial, Panel 137.

This article was written by Stephen Hunnisett

Our grateful thanks to Brian Martin.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

New Hamlet Historian Publication

We are pleased to announce that the Hamlet Historian has produced a 24 page illustrated booklet about a little known goalkeeper who was at Dulwich Hamlet Football Club in the early 1920s.

Written with former footballer Harri Laine, Niilo Tammisalo: Hamlet Stroller to Hall of Famer, tells the fascinating story of the Finnish custodian who played 27 times for his country and is one of the most important multi-sports figures Finland has ever produced.

For details of how to obtain a copy of this limited edition, contact Jack McInroy via the usual email address (see link on this page) or on Facebook Messenger through the Hamlet Historian group page.

Under normal circumstances copies could have been purchased at Champion Hill on matchdays for £2. However, because of the uncertain times due to the coronavirus, we have to send them through the post at a cost of £3, which includes shipping. It also means payment will be by ‘bank transfer’, so we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

Monday, 15 June 2020

Willie Lillington Rest in Peace

Dulwich Hamlet legend Willie Lillington has died at the age of 55.

It was something of a shock when I was contacted last week by Willie’s twin sister Elizabeth, saying Willie was on his deathbed with terminal cancer and not expected to last the night. For many years people have often asked whatever happened to Willie Lillington? And neither supporters nor former players seemed to have a clue. Yet Willie was forever in their hearts.

A second shockwave came less than forty eight hours later when Willie passed from this life. But not until many tributes were being posted on social media and were read out to him in his dying hours. He would have heard how much he was loved by Dulwich Hamlet supporters of a certain vintage and his former teammates.  Willie always said that the time he spent at Dulwich was the best times of his career with the finest group of players.

Born in Glasgow on 23 October 1964, his family moved when he was six years old and settled in the south. He attended Eastfield High School in Mitcham and made it into the Wimbledon Youth team. During his formative years Dario Gradi was the Dons manager and he was an advocate of youth development. In fact, Gradi would drive to the Lillington home in his Rolls Royce and give the youngster a lift to the training ground. Willie later said that Gradi was the single biggest influence on his football career.

Willie later joined Molesey and was a key part of Martin Eede’s team that rose up from the Isthmian League Division Two South to the Premier Division, providing many magical moments at the Surrey club. He was invited to Dulwich Hamlet in 1991 by former Crystal Palace player and fellow scot Jim Cannon, and played 47 games, making his debut in the opening match against Abingdon on 17 August. Instantly becoming fans’ favourite he finished the season top scorer with 14 goals, and assisted in dozens more. Cries of, “Willie Willie Lillington! Willie Willie Lillington!” began to echo round the fields of Sandy Lane. (His arrival at Dulwich coincided with the Hamlet groundsharing at Tooting and Mitcham United, while the present Champion Hill stadium was being constructed.))

Dulwich were in the Isthmian First Division at the time and Willie’s goals helped secure promotion to the Premier. In a remarkable climax, Dulwich won the final seven games of the season to clinch the second promotion spot. This tied in with the new ground and the club’s centenary season. Only …the ground wasn’t ready for use and the Hamlet’s first few home games were played at different venues, including one ‘home’ game at Bognor Regis on the south coast!

Unfortunately Willie picked up an injury after just fifteen games and was side-lined for the rest of the season. He also played no part in the following season, but returned when another fellow Scot, the Hamlet’s brilliant player manager Frank Murphy, who replaced Cannon, cajoled him into staying at the club. Murphy’s signing of the young Paul Whitmarsh in October 1994 was a stroke of genius and paired two terrific strikers at the top of their game. Then along came Joe. Joseph Odegbami was the icing on the cake. A wizard of a player that did things with a ball that were unimaginable.

Hamlet fan Christian Burt remembers those days of Willie, Whits and Joe well: “Despite having both knees permanently taped up Willie had more leap than anyone I’ve seen. He could hang in the air longer than Les Ferdinand and had neck muscles like Mike Tyson. He could play too. Whilst not being Zico he was entirely comfortable with both feet and had a lovely touch too. It was a genuine thrill to watch that team.” Willie, he says, stood out above all others. “One of my greatest footballing legends. Handsome man and truly brilliant centre forward. Off the field he smiled, would have a cheeky cigarette and wore a gold ring in his ear. Willie looked the part with film star looks, the hint of Rebel Without A Cause.”  

It was Christian who, returning to Dulwich Hamlet in 2011 after more than a decade following Liverpool, rewrote the ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ song for The Rabble behind the goal to sing. We owe him a big favour. It became so popular it is still sung at every game.

“Oh the fields of Champion Hill where once they watched the King Edgar play.
And could he play!
Ossie Bayram on the wing, Willie Lllington banging ‘em in.
Oh the glory ‘round the fields of Champion Hill.”

The 1995/96 season saw Willie named the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Player of the Year. His 18 goals was ten less than Paul Whitmarsh scored, but the fans loved Willie just that little bit more.  One particular match stands out in the memory. It was against his former club Molesey. Willie received the ball on the halfway line, took on the defender, rounded the goalkeeper and curled into the empty net from a tight angle. In the second half he picked up a nasty head injury, but instead of being subbed he wanted to stay on. Physio Caroline Brouwer’s magic sponge was applied, a bandage wrapped round his forehead and Willie carried on as if nothing had happened, throwing himself into every challenge and continuing to meet every header.

His final season at Champion Hill saw a famous victory away to Southern League high fliers Cheltenham Town in the FA Trophy. Under the cosh for much of the game, it was Willie and Whits who scored the vital goals that got Dulwich through the tie. The dream duo lasted until March 1997 when Wilie controversially left Dulwich Hamlet for Hayes in the Conference, a step closer to the Football League. His 8 goals in 31 games took his full tally to 60 goals in 186 appearances.

It wasn’t clear why he left the club. Frank Murphy had quit, and following a brief stint as caretaker boss Alan Roughan was replaced by co-managers John Ryan and Micky Browne who decided to release Willie. Ryan stated in the press that the club could not turn down the Hayes offer, citing Willie’s age, he was 32, a back problem he had, and the fact that he wanted to reduce the club’s wage bill. Willie lasted six weeks at Hayes and then seems to have slipped of the radar. But he has never been forgotten at Champion Hill and never will, put in the same category as the legendary Edgar Kail and Ossie Bayram.

Of the many tributes paid, strike partner Paul Whitmarsh said: “So sad hearing this. I came to DHFC having gone through a downward spiral in football terms. He really looked after me as soon as I got to the club. Some of my happiest memories playing football were playing up front with Willie. I learned more in those years playing alongside him than during any other period of time playing the game. Tough as nails on the pitch, yet still had a lovely touch and feel for the game. Also should be said he was great fun off the pitch too.”

Teammate Gary Hewitt: “Such sadness. Willie was a fantastic player. Had some great times at Dulwich with him. My thoughts go out to his family.”

Captain Lee Akers:” One of my truly great friends.  Cannot tell you how gutted to hear this sad news, still hard to take it in. A great player and a fantastic fella. Loved by teammates and supporters. What a special bond that group of players had. Great times and great people.”

The Hamlet fans also have fond memories of Willie. Andy Tucker: “Willie is an absolute legend and part of my favourite Hamlet XI in 35 years of watching.”

Ian Caldecourt: “I’ve been going the best part of 50 years. Willie remains a favourite at the club.”

Shaun Dooley: “One of my heroes. And there aren’t many. He gave us such memories which no one can take away.”

Death has taken quite a toll at Dulwich over the last eight months or so. Among others we have lost Ralph Hopkins, Ralph Morris, Farouk Menia, Ben Miller, Mishi Morath and 100 year old Bill Kirby. All of them so very important in their own unique way. And now we sadly add to that list Willie Lillington. May he rest in Peace.

Jack McInroy, 15 June 2020