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Chapter 24. The Old Warhorse

Chapter 24.  The Old Warhorse

It was a busy close season so needs a chapter of its own.  

A meeting had been arranged to form a cycling club for the town.  The Cowper Arms in Cheapside was the venue.

Interesting figures were given from the Accident Insurance Company from last year in respect of claims for sports and pastimes.  The total number of claims was 246 including 42 for cycling and tricycling, 33 for cricket, 21 for football and 20 for tennis.  During the last 21 years 3,212 casualties arising out of sports and pastimes had been settled for.  

These figures again negate the newspapers claim about how dangerous football was.  The newspaper bias towards cricket and against football and the Town club was on the wane but there was another tiresome article in the Evening Standard in May which the Luton Reporter justifiably attacked. 

“The Evening Standard has been talking in a very hysterical way about the manner in which football is played nowadays, and were it it not that the question is too grave to admit of its being treated with levity some of the remarks would be intensely amusing.   Starting with the assertion that the “record of the claim” during last season “is startling in its length,” this article makes the astounding statement that “the death-knell probably exceeds that of all the other sports put together, though there seems special dangers about hunting, shooting, steeple-chasing, beating and other pastimes.”  It would be interesting to discover the origin of the statistics on which such an obviously fallacious speculation is based.  “the two rival games, Rugby and Association, have both adherents who will defend their own,” the article proceeds, “but though they may argue angrily that football is not dangerous, the list of killed and wounded remains.”  I should imagine that nobody would have the hardihood to deny that there is an element of danger in the game – as in most other British forms of recreation, but that the accidents show such a preponderance as stated I do not for a moment believe.  The rough play which is indulged in some clubs at the present day is responsible for the a great deal of the condemnation which the pastime receives, and all who are truly interested in its advancement will coincide with the leader when it suggests that “Rules against the rougher incidents of the game are certainly needed” – though it is somewhat difficult to determine how they are to be applied.”

“In the course of the article referred to the following remarks: “there are good reasons why football should be popular, especially, perhaps, with the masses.  It is a bold, vigorous game; it requires no outfit; except on very rare occasions, a match is over in a day; whereas a cricket match lasts three, and hotel expenses have to be incurred as well as loss of time to a man who has other duties to perform.  Football is, moreover, a busy game.  The cricketer waits to go to the wicket; often he does not stand an over; and if the rest of the side have more luck or skill, the defeated batsman, who is supposed to be playing a game has nothing to do for hours.”

This article clearly shows that turning of the tide from cricket being the national game to football taking over.  Despite all the bias against football it’s appeal amongst the masses could not be denied.  No pads or bats were needed, just a stone.  

29th June 1891 committee meeting  – Club property , It was resolved on the proposition of Mr Evans, seconded by Mr Pakes that in future all club property be in the hands of hon sec and that he or any committee may not let or lend the same on any pretence whatsoever”.  

“The opening of a banking account was then discussed by Committee after which it was thought to be the easiest and safest method that could be adopted.  It was therefore resolved that a banking account be opened forthwith with Messrs Sharples, Tuke, Lucas and Seebohm”.  The bank stood at 28 George Street and was taken over by Barclays Bank who remain on the site today.  

The committee also discussed how to elect the committee for the coming season. It will be remembered that J.C. Lomax had to leave before the end of the last Annual Meeting.  It was decided to advertise and those wishing to stand for election to the committee should be proposed and seconded.  The Hon Sec was to write to J.C. asking him to chair the meeting and asking him to chose a date.  The committee recommended that the subscription remain the same although the expenses will have to be met and that an extra charge would have to be made for certain matches.  

28th July 1891 – Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held at Corn Exchange July 28th, G. Ordish in the chair.  

“Hon sec gave his report for the past season showing that the club had certainly made advance in the number and strength of the teams met.  The report of the games being as follows, games played 31, won 16, lost 9, drawn 6, goals for 107, against 61.  

The total receipts for the year amounted £203 9s 5d while the expenditure reached £164 10s 9d leaving a balance in hand of £38 18s 8d which was thought to be very satisfactory.  here the Hon Sec read the balance sheet and the auditors reported upon the same.  It was resolved that the accounts be passed.  

It was then proposed by Mr Pitkin, seconded by Mr Hughes that the subscription should be 2/6 as usual and that matches to be charged extra for should be left to the discretion of new committee.  

It was resolved that the terms of West Bromwich for Wednesday after Xmas be accepted.  

The meeting then proceeded to appoint the officers for the season 91 and 92.  

President J.C. Lomax Esq

Vice C. Flower Esq M.P.

Treasurer J.G. Hunt Esq

Secretary Mr I Smith

Assistant Mr W.G. Wheeler

Committee Mr F. Pitkin 122

Mr J.N. Hughes 117

Mr F. Evans 113

Mr F. Scott 108

Mr A. Jacquest 105

Mr J. Bennett 101

Mr H. Wilkins 94

Mr W. Smith 87

Mr I Webdale 84

Mr S. Pakes 72

Mr G. Woodbridge 64

Mr J. Long 64

Mr G. Hinson 59

The unsuccessful nominees were Messrs A. Steabben 58, H. Wilkinson 57, H. Shane 56, F. Hill 55, W. Samwells 52 and G. Horn 38.  

Mr Scott rose and said that we have been talking about paying players but he thought that there had been one that had been overlooked.  He referred to the Hon Sec (Mr Isaac Smith) who had laboured unceasingly on behalf of the club.  He thought the might (seeing the balance to be such a good one) vote something in order that he might spend a week at the seaside, as a slight appreciation of the services rendered to football in general.  He therefore proposed that the sum of £5 be handed to Mr Smith from the funds of the club.  This was seconded by Mr Pitkin supported by Mr Hughes and other members and carried unanimously”.  

That was a huge surplus for the club and cannot have failed to be noticed by the players.  The scent of paid football lay heavily in the air above the town.  

The Annual General Meeting was covered by the Luton Reporter. 

“The annual meeting in connection with this club took place in the Corn Exchange on Tuesday night when Mr G. Ordish presided, and there was a very large attendance of members.  The Secretary, Mr I. Smith, when the formal business had been disposed of, read his annual report.  This stated that everyone connected with the club might fairly claim that a distinct advance had been made both in the standing of the clubs met and also in the form shown by their own men, though to obtain some of their victories, they were glad to receive the valuable services of friends from St. George’s-school, Harpenden.  But, proceeded Mr Smith, towards the end of the season the committee, while deeply sensible of the assistance so freely given, decided to make a fresh move and play only our own men, whom we could rely upon, and to make some of them semi-professionals.  Whether the result proved this policy to be right we must leave, but the committee are distinctly of opinion that it was the proper thing to do, and no doubt the committee and officers you appoint to-night will profit by the experience gained.  I have mentioned that payment of players, and most likely as we have a fair balance this question will come up at the first meeting of the new officers, or you may have a word to say about it at this meeting.  My own opinion is that we had better register the whole team, so that at least we can remunerate those who wish it for time lost.  Of course, if this is done, a proper scheme must be drawn up, with a proviso to ensure punctuality at home matches, as most of our games have a good deal to be desired in this respect, so that any player delaying the kick-off shall forfeit part of his remuneration.  Of necessity if this is done one of two things must follow: either members’ subscriptions must be raised, or members must pay admission to some of the better matches.  Of the two I should certainly advise the second course.  Mr Smith here read a letter from the West Bromwich Albion authorities offering to play a match at Luton if £20 were paid to them for expenses, and after sketching the the results of the cup matches he said they had during the season played 31 games, of which 16 were won, nine lost and six drawn.  The number of goals scored for the club was 107, and against them 61 were registered.  the Secretary next touched upon the cash account, which he regarded as being in a very satisfactory state, and observed that the number of members was nearly 400, with 40 patrons.  Turning to the future, he said: 

Considering that we have a stiffish programme arranged, we expect that all old players will be available and that we shall get not only all last season’s members but also a considerable batch of new friends.  We trust that they will assist all the officers in making the coming season still more successful, and that the motto of one and all will be “Good Football.”  In conclusion, I must say that we have entered the Luton Charity Cup Competition , I hope the wish of the Vice-President of this competition, expressed at the presentation of the cup and Medals last springs, viz. :- that the same teams “will appear in next year’s final” may not be fulfilled, as it is the wish, I believe, of most in this room that the Luton Town should be represented at the next distribution. -The reading of the report was received with frequent bursts of applause. – The Secretary next presented the year’s balance-sheet, which showed that the total receipts were £203 9s 5d., the principal source of revenue being:- Takings at gate, £122 19s 3d.; patrons’ tickets, £23 18s 6d.; members’ tickets, £46 5s.  On the expenditure side the chief items were :- Hire of ground, £25; ground expenses, £15 7s 7d.; printing etc, £21 13s 7d.; footballs, repairs etc., £6 19s.; payment of players, £6 16s.; travelling expenses, £71 6s 11d.  After payment of these amounts there remained a balance of £38 18s 8d., against £2 13s 8d last year.  It was added that property of the club not included in the above account was estimated at £20.  

The CHAIRMAN commented upon the satisfactory nature of the report, and spoke in hopeful terms of the prospects of a successful season. _ Mr F. Scott proposed the adoption of the report and balance-sheet.  – Mr. E. Browning seconded, and the motion was carried. – The offer of West Bromwich Albion was next discussed, and the Secretary stated that the date proposed was the Wednesday after Boxing Day next.  On an assurance being given that the first eleven would be engaged it was decided to close with the offer, and a suggestion by Mr. Smith that the ordinary players should represent Luton was generally applauded . – It having been decided, on the motion of Mr. T.N. Hughes, seconded by Mr. F. Pitkin, that the subscription should remain at 2s 6d.; subject to a discretionary power being given to the committee to charge members admission to the best matches, office-bearers were elected as follows:- President, Mr J.C. Lomax; vice-president, Mr Flower, M.P. ; assistant-secretary, Mr W.G. Wheeler; committee, Messrs. J. Bennett, F. Evans, G. Hinson, T.N. Hughes, A. Jacquest, J. Long, S. Pakes, F. Pitkin, F. Scott, W. Smith, T. Webdale, H. Wilkins, and G. Woodbridge. _ A pleasing part of the proceedings was the presentation to the Secretary of £5 as an acknowledgement of the excellence of the work which he has done for the club.  The gift was made on the motion of Mr. F. Scott, seconded by Mr F. Pitkin, and Mr Smith suitably responded.  – The proceedings, which had been of a very harmonious nature, shortly afterwards concluded cwith a vote of thanks to the Chairman.”  

The Luton Reporter of 1st August 1891 included a letter from “Onlooker”. 

“The meeting of the members of the Football Club on Tuesday night was remarkable for the enthusiastic manner in which the recommendations of the Secretary in a forward direction were received, while there was an entire absence of the grumbling which one generally hears on such occasions.  The position of the club has vastly improved, both financially and otherwise, and I congratulate the authorities on the possession of so large a a balance as £38.  They are entitled to praise themselves upon this fact, for it is extremely rarely that a local club is able to boast of a balance on the right side.  The grant to the Secretary will meet general approval, for all who know him admit the indefatigable way in which he has worked in the club’s behalf.”  

Any player paid for his services had to be registered with the Football Association.  Isaac Smith took the sensible precaution of registering all of them so that they could be paid if they wanted it.  

4th Aug 1891 committee meeting –

“resolved that 4000 members tickets and 40 Patrons be obtained”  conditions be obtained for insuring the team.  Curiously there is a sentence “that Hon sec lay a scheme before committee in connection with players”.  We are told no more.  If it did concern professionalism then they could not have put the issue in more capable hands.  We can also note that the number of members tickets and patrons tickets has doubled from last season.  

10th August 1891 committee meeting – at the Midland Hotel.  

“The committee had met to consider what arrangements could be proposed to the players (with respect to paying them) on meeting them at 8 o’clock.  Hon Sec explained that 2/6 per week would bring the total upwards of £50 being this he thought we were not in a position to offer more.  Proposed by Mr Woodbridge and seconded by Mr Bennett that on meeting the players 2/6 be offered them.  

At 8PM the players were invited into the meeting and the payment of the same fully discussed.  The chairman explained the nature of the business showing the amount wanted to pay above (viz. 2/6) also the position in which the club stood.  After a few questions had been explained the players retired to consider among themselves as to what they ought to do.  On reentering the following resolution was submitted to the meeting at which the whole committee with the exception of Messrs Long and Evans were present with the following players.  Messrs Saunders, Wright, Hoy, Deacon, Burley, Cheshire with the brothers F., H. and A. Whitby.  

Proposed by Mr W. Smith as a committee man and seconded by Mr Wright as a player that the players be allowed 2/6 per week for matches played at home.  6d extra for out matches while time lost before 12AM to be made up to them on reasonable terms”.  There is an addition in the margin which reads “any player delaying the kick off 15 minutes be fined one fifth of his remuneration or 30 mins two fifths”.  

“This was carried unanimously and the committee having thanked the players for their attendance they retired.  

Mr Pitkin proposed that the rules for the guidance of the committee be the same as before with the exception of clause two which should read 3 meetings instead of 4.  The rules to read thus

I.  That in all ordinary matches 3 committee men be appointed, 2 for the gate and 1 for the Pavilion

II.  Any man absenting himself from 3 consecutive Committee meetings without reasonable excuse forfeit his seat and another man be appointed to fill his place.  

III.  That every committee man take his gate or find a substitute”.

24th August 1891 committee meeting-

“All forms were brought in signed with the exception of Mr A. Whitby’s he having obtained work out of the town.  This leaving a vacancy in our forwards.  It was left in Hon Sec’s hand to see Mr Oclee with a view to filling his place”. 

This approach to Oclee was probably due to him being a Bedford man and his former team breaking up following his and Nicholson’s departure.  

The Town team against the first eleven was chosen, a practice match.  Mr Long was to be written too as he has missed the last three committee meetings.

The Luton Times of 28th August 1891 announced under the title “Football fixture – The West Herts. (Watford Rovers) Club have arranged a match with Luton Town at Luton on November 28.  The return match is at Watford on January 30.  The Marlow club will play against the Town club here on January 9.”   

31st August 1891 committee meeting –

“resolved that Messrs McFie and Oclee be asked to play on Saturday September 5th”.  “Resolved that season tickets be issued to boys up to 15 years of age at 1/6 each”. Mr Long had failed to attend or reply so he will be warned as to the power of the committee to act.  

McFie played for London Scottish.  

With Bat, Ball and Bicycle of the Luton Reporter of 5th September 1891 announced that

“the approach of the football season is heralded by the announcement that a preliminary game between the Town Club 1st eleven and 14 reserves is to be played that day.  I hear that the Club has entered for the English, Kettering, and Luton cups, and that some good play may be anticipated during the months when the game is able to be played.”  

It continued

“The programme has already been issued.  It contains no less than 57 fixtures, with blanks for others to be subsequently arranged, and the astuteness of the Secretary (Mr. Smith) may be gauged from the fact that so far as the inter-club matches are concerned 33 are set down for decision at home against only 13 on other grounds.  The list is the best the Club has yet issued, for not only does it include an encounter with the far-fames West Bromwich Albion, but amongst the other organisations to be met are the West Herts (late Watford Rovers), Millwall Athletic, St. Mark’s College, Guy’s Hospital, Marlow, Old St. Mark’s, Casuals and 1st Scots Guards, which are infinitely superior in calibre to the teams with which the local representatives have done battle in former years.  I trust that their enterprise will be rewarded by a successful season”.  

Finally the column announces that

“the Town Club are again lucky in obtaining choice of grounds in the English Association Cup competition, the first part of the qualifying rounds in which is to be played on October 3.  Luton has been drawn against Swindon Town, and has been advanced to the eighth division, amongst other clubs in this group being Reading, 93rd Highlanders, and Windsor Phoenix, both the last names having byes.  In the ninth division, the Watford Rovers are set down to play Maidenhead, Marlow have to meet Norwich, Wolverton have to contend with the Swifts, and the clubs included in the division also comprise the Old Etonians, the Old Wykehamists, the Old Westminsters, the Old Carthusians and the London Caledonians.”   

The Luton first team met the reserves on 5th September in a pre-season match.  The Luton Times announced that the first qualifying round of the Challenge Cup qualifying will be against Swindon at home.  

7th Sept 1891 committee meeting –

gate money for Sept 5th £3 0s 1d. 

“Resolved that Mr A.H. Taylor be captain for the season”.  

Arthur Holey Taylor, the Old Warhorse, was appointed the first permanent captain of the club.  Victorian etiquette saw the captaincy transfer between players and was considered an honorary rather than a leadership position.  J.C. Lomax, the club talisman, leader and star player was regarded as club captain by all the players.  However, marriage problems meant that his appearances had dried up as he struggled to control the outrageous spending by his wife.  The dependable Arthur Taylor was therefore recognised by the club.  Read his Hall of Fame entry here

The Luton Reporter of the 12th September reported on the trial match the week before. 

“A trial match was played on Saturday last between the first eleven and 14 reserves of the Town Club, and after a good struggle resulted in a win for the cup team by three goals to two.  The teams were as follows:- Reserves: Goal, Tearle; backs, Goodyear and Day; half-backs, Osford, King and Wood; forwards, Dimmock and Burnett (left), Spratley and Allen (centre), Hercom and Watkins (right).  First eleven: Goal, J. Burley; backs, A. Hoy and A. Sanders; half-backs, A.H. Taylor, G. Barford and J. Wright; forwards, H. Whitby and W. Cheshire (left), H.W. Oclee (centre); G. Deacon and F.K. Whitby (right).”  

With Bat Ball and Bicycle commented that the game was a “productive gather of amusing passages than of good play.”  Oclee was praised as centre forward as he “passed to his fellow forwards in an admirably unselfish manner.”  It was noted that Oclee apart, the rest seemed out of condition.    

The Luton Charity Cup draw was given;

“A meeting, under the auspices of the Charity Cup Association, took place at the committee room on Monday night, when the draw for the first round of the season’s competition was made.  Those entrusted with the draw were Messrs. F. Pitkin (Luton Town F.C.) and G.H. Small (Town C.C.) while the Stanley and Montrose clubs ere also represented at the meeting.  The result of the draw was as follows:-

1st Division: Newport Pagnell v Banbury Harriers, Wolverton L. and N.W. v Wolverton Town, Wellingborough v Rushden, Kettering Town v Finedon.

2nd Division: Biggleswade v Hitchin, Old St. Stephen’s v 1st Scots Guards, Tottenham Hotspur v 2nd Coldstream Guards, Edmonton Albion v Upton Park.

3rd Division: Luton Nondescripts v Montrose, Norton College v Luton Terriers, Luton Stanley v St. Matthews’s, Luton Town v Luton Bury Park.

4th Division: Leighton v Bedford, Millwall Athletic v City Ramblers, Windsor Phoenix v 2nd Scots Guards, Uxbridge v Chesham.  

The first-mentioned clubs have choice of ground.  The first round has been to be concluded on or before 7 November.  It is understood that a month after the registration of members has been completed clubs will be at liberty to play.  The hon. secretary (Mr. G. Worboys) intimates that those clubs which have not yet registered their players should do so as soon as possible.  It should be added that in the case of the Montrose tie in the Charity Cup authorities attach the condition that it is subject to the removal of the suspension which has been inflicted by the central Association.”  

Montrose had been suspended for playing a game during the close season.  C.W. Alcock, the Secretary of the Football Association asked that any mitigation would be put before the committee at its next meeting on 28th September.  

The Kettering Charity Cup draw had also been made:

1st Division; Banbury v Luton Bury Park, Luton Town v Bedford, Luton Montrose and Hitchin (byes).

2nd Division; Cambridge Granta v Huntingdon, Cambridge Rovers v Finedon, Wisbeach and Rushden (byes)

3rd Division; Wellingborough v Leicester Fosse, Kettering Anchor v Northampton, Shepshed and Kettering (byes)

4th Division; Gresley v Grantham Town, Derby County Reserves v Newark, Boston and Grantham Rovers (byes).  The first-named clubs have choice of ground.  The dates for the various rounds have been fixed as follows:- first, November 21; second, December 12; third, January 23; semifinals, February 20 and March 5: final, March 26.”  

With bat, ball and bicycle observed that it was a pity for football in the county that Bedford seemed to be breaking up.  Nicholson, who was given credit for their rise, had left to play for West Bromwich Albion.  With Oclee coming to Luton it was doubtful if the game would be played at Bedford.  It also noted that the Luton cup had 32 prominent teams whereas Kettering had 24 lesser teams.  The prediction was that Luton should have little difficulty progressing a long way in the Luton cup.  

The Luton Times also printed a pre-season round-up. 

“The Luton Town Football club have entered for the Luton Charity, Kettering and the English cups, from which some half-a-dozen good matches will probably result.  Besides these, there are fixtures with many well-known clubs, and consequently luton people will have an excellent opportunity of witnessing good football, especially as 35 of their 59 fixtures are to be played at home.  In the first division of the Kettering Charity cup, Luton Town meet Bedford.  The “Evening News and Post” says “The Luton and District Charity Cup competition, which was so successful last year, the first of its establishment, is to be renewed this season.  The cup is a fine work of art of the full value of 60 guineas, and the competition is open to all clubs within a radius of 50 miles of Luton.  It will be seen therefore that London clubs are eligible, as Luton is only 30 miles pleasant ride from St. Pancras.  The Wolverton L. and N.W. and the Chesham clubs are among the entries for the Luton Charity Cup.” 

The Luton Times carried an advert for evening classes at York House School in Grove Road including book keeping and shorthand courses.