Born in late 1852 in Luton to Isaac and Phoebe. Isaac junior was baptised at St. Mary’s Church, Luton on Boxing Day that year. They lived in Back Street, a slum area of High Town.
Isaac married Clara Robinson in October 1880 and by 1881 they had a daughter Gertrude. Another daughter, May, followed. Isaac was a Straw Hat warehouseman and Clara a dressmaker.
Frank Pitkin had been elected the club’s first Secretary at the 11th April 1885 meeting. However, Frank suffered from ill health and Ernest Lomax soon had to step in. Isaac was elected onto the committee in October 1885 when it was realised that more numbers were required to run the club. He was to step up to serve his club when the hour came – at the 1886 Annual General Meeting –
“It was stated that the secretary, Mr F. Pitkin, declined to accept that offer for another year; he wanted some rest. Mr H. Boxford suggested that the gentleman who was doing the duties pro tem, Mr I. Smith, was one who would work well with the committee (applause). This was seconded by Mr Deacon. Mr Smith was at first disposed to decline the honour, but after some persuasion by Mr Long, Mr Bennett and the Chairman, he consented to act, and Mr Cotchin thought that in Mr Smith they had got the right man.”
He fulfilled the role as no one else could have done and played an enormous role in the rise of the club. He attended almost every committee meeting, took the notes and acted upon the committee’s decisions. This involved hundreds of letters and telegrams each season. Isaac Smith would say later that it was the equivalent of one day’s work per week. In order to get through the work he would write his letters when he got home from the meeting at about 9.30pm. Correspondence to other clubs arranging games was only part of the job. Luton first and second team players had to be told where and when to turn up. Smith was ably assisted by his deputy, William Green Wheeler. Many clubs folded after a year or two because of the lack of a dedicated Secretary. Luton Town F.C. were extremely fortunate to have Isaac Smith.
It is said in his obituary (1935) that he played for the club in the early days but I cannot corroborate this. He did act as umpire/linesman and referee but early reports often lacked team details.
As Secretary, he had to give his report at the club AGM. These show him to be a highly articulate non nonsense speaker. Telling it how it was with no frills. He was persuasive, combative and knew football inside out, both on and off the pitch.
From the Luton News of 7th March 1892.
“Mr Smith has a record which does him infinite credit, because whatever the committee may have done, not one of them would dispute that the brunt of the work has fallen on the secretary. Taking the matter of correspondence alone, that involves every season the writing of about 500 letters and postcards, to say nothing of the many telegrams that have to be dispatched. Then there are the committee meetings to be attended, a watchful eye to be kept over affairs generally, and the usual statements attaching to such office. The honorary secretaryship to a club like that of Luton, indeed, is not one that many persons would care to undertake, and if a man could be found rash enough to take the position, he would probably very soon come to the conclusion that the honour was not sufficient to compensate for the labour. Therefore I say, “Long live Mr Isaac Smith” and may another five years find him still holding the reigns of office over a club which shall then be second to none in the South of England.”
Isaac tried to resign from the job as Secretary at the 1892 Annual General meeting but he was ignored as reported –
“MR SMITH, who was enthusiastically cheered, said he thought it was time he had a change (“NO” and “Stick to it.”) It was bad enough to have the work without the blackguardism. He wanted somebody to take the office. He had done the work to the best of his ability, and last year he got more kicks than ha’pance. The speaker afterwards said there was too much work for the money (laughter). It occupied about one day a week all the time the football season was on, and he had had enough.
The resolution was put and carried with applause.
MR SMITH said that in spite of the vote he would not do the work at the price; there was nothing more certain than that.”
Ike resigned as secretary 1900 replaced by Harry Smart for one season then Charles Green. He continued to support the club in any way he could including having shares in the club and being voted onto the board of directors.
In 1935, Ike was involved in an car accident but apparently escaped unhurt. However, like many old people the fall triggered something and Ike died on the 7th October 1935. The Luton News editorial below gave an outline of his life.
The Luton Town Reserves v Reading Reserves programme of the 12th October 1935 gave a tribute, below.
The news travelled widely such as the Birmingham Gazette of the 9th October 1935 which demonstrates the high regard Ike was held in.
There was an inquest into Ike’s death. Below from the Luton News of the 10th October 1935
“The Inquest was conducted by the District Coroner Mr. G.J.M. Whyley. Mr F. Dumpleton, of Messrs Lathom and Co appeared for the driver of the car, Mr Reginald Sidney Randall, 48 Montrose-avenue, Luton and Mr R.G. Tearle appeared for the relatives of Mr Smith, Mr J. Unwin was foreman of the jury.
Miss May Smith, 13 Brook-street, said her father was a retired plait merchant. He left home about 8.30 p.m. on September 18 to post a postcard in the pillar-box in New Bedford-road opposite Brook-street. He would have to cross New Bedford-road to reach it.
He was wonderfully active for his years. His sight was good and he was only very slightly deaf in one ear. He never used a walking stick. He frequently went out at night to post letters.
Mr Randall, a hat manufacturer carrying on business in Guildford-street, Luton, said said he was driving along New Bedford- road away from the town at 25 miles an hour.
When he was three or four yards from the corner of Brook-street he noticed Mr Smith step out. He hooted and Mr Smith at once started to run across the road.
He swerved to his offside to avoid Mr Smith. He had no knowledge of anything happening but simply swerved and pulled the car up in a car’s length from the corner.
When he and his passenger got out of the car they saw Mr Smith lying in the middle of the road. When they picked him up he told them there was nothing the matter with him, but as they helped him to his house he felt pain in his hip, and later in his shoulder.
No sign on car
The car was dirty, but there was no sign of a smudge on it, or any damage to it.
The Coroner: Do you think he saw the car at all? – He said he did not.
In reply to the foreman, Mr Randall said thee was no traffic coming in the opposite direction, and it was fortunate that there was not, or he would have been smashed up, because he finished within a yard of the offside.
Eric Frederick Sanders, hat manufacturer, 40, Lansdowne-road, Luton, Mr Randall’s passenger, said he was sitting in the nearside front seat.
When he first saw Mr Smith he was about to step off the pavement. Mr Randall sounded his electric hooter, and Mr Smith immediately broke into a run across the road. Mr Randall swerved to the right and pulled up within a car’s length the other side of the pillar-box.
Complaints of lighting
Instinctively witness turned his head to see what happened to Mr Smith as he was running towards the car, and he had not touched the car when that part in which he (Mr Sanders) was sitting – which was about half-way back – passed him.
His impression was that the car did not touch Mr Smith at all because they did not feel anything, and Mr Smith was a yard or a yard and a half from the car when the front had passed him.
Questioned about the street lighting, Mr Sanders said the coloured fairy lights were still on, and there was an overhead street light fairly high up, and rather hidden by the trees.
The Coroner: But the road – was it fairly well illuminated just at that point? I am not asking you as an expert – Well we are always complaining about the lighting of that road.
Could be better
Was it bad? I do not think it was as good as it ought to be. With these fairy lights and these other lights there were about at the time, I should say that anybody looking up the road might possibly be confused.
But to get across the Brook-street to the pillar-box, would there have been any difficulty with the lighting as it was at that particular time? Would it have been difficult to notice oncoming traffic? – I should not have thought so, and the car’s lights in any case were low down on the road.
We will leave the car out of the question altogether. Supposing somebody coming out of Brook-street wanted to post a letter at that pillar-box. Would that person have had any difficulty noticing whether any traffic was coming along New Bedford-road at all? I am only asking you because you happened to be there at the time? – I do not know that it would be any more difficult than anywhere else, particularly at that time of night.
Mr Sanders said that where the pillar-box stood was well lighted.
In reply to Mr Dumpleton, Mr Sanders said the car had one headlight on.
Minister and Lighting
The Revered Norman H. Snaith was in court, and the Coroner sad to him “I understand you wish to give evidence with regard to this case.”
Mr Snaith: With regard to the state of the road.
Mr Snaith said he lived at 11 Brook-street, and knew Mr Smith quite well. The lighting was bad. A large tree threw a shadow which made it almost impossible to see the entrance to Brook-street when coming along New Bedford-road from the town.
A person standing on the corner of Brook-street would be able to see vehicles coming along New Bedford-road, but the drivers of the vehicles would not be able to see him.
Asked to explain what he meant by the lighting being bad, Mr Snaith said people bringing him home by car late at night had the greatest difficulty in finding Brook-street. The tendency was to turn to the left into the backyard of a veterinary surgeon’s house about ten or fifteen yards from the corner.
The Coroner: That does not affect anybody coming out of Brook-street? – No
The Coroner: I am afraid those arguments do not really apply to this case.
Mr Snaith said he wished to bring before the Coroner the difficulty of the lighting at the corner.
Said car struck him
Dr. J.A. Hennessy said Mr Smith’s right clavicle was fractured, and he strongly suspected a fracture of the right femur. Dr Elrington gave a second opinion, and agreed that this was the case.
The only external mark was a slight abrasion on the right elbow. Mr Smith dies on Monday from heart failure from the shock of the injuries.
The Coroner: Do you think those injuries might have been caused by simply falling down in the road? – It happens quite frequently in elderly people. A slight slip, and it is commonest to fracture the thigh where his was fractured. It is possible to take place through a slight stumble, even a trip on a carpet.
Dr Hennessy added that there were no injuries to show that Mr Smith had been struck by a vehicle, although Mr Smith told him he had been struck by a car.
The Coroner: But you could not find anything to corroborate that? – No. I argued quietly with him and said “Are you quite sure you did not turn suddenly and stumble?” and he said “No.” he was quite sure a car knocked him.
No evidence of blow
Summing up, the Coroner said that if Mr Smith had been struck by the car from his own experience of these cases he would expect to find some injury to Mr Smith which would show he had actually been struck. I this case there was nothing of the kind. The slight abrasion on the elbow could easily have been caused by falling down.
After a short retirement the jury found that Mr Smith died from shock brought on by a fall on the road in endeavouring to avoid a car.
The Coroner asked if the jury wished the words “in endeavouring to avoid a motor-car” inserted, saying he did not think it would be quite fair to the driver.
The foreman agreed that the words should not be used.
The Coroner: You are satisfied in your own minds that the car did not touch him? – Yes.
Coroner and jury expressed sympathy with the relatives and Mr Dumpleton, on behalf of Mr Randall, associated himself with this expression.
The Coroner: It is quite clear that there is no suggestion that Mr Randall’s car had anything to do with it?
Mr Dumpleton: I appreciate that.
A Football veteran
By Mr Smith’s death the Luton Town Football club has lost one of its keenest supporters, and a former player, secretary and director.
Mr Smith played for Luton Town F.C. in 1885, the year of its formation, and a year later became secretary. This office he held until 1900, and he later became a director for a time.
Liberal Club Founder
Mr Smith had been a member of the Luton Liberal Club from its inception, and in 1926 he was elected a life member. As a young nam he was a well-known sprinter, and acted as gymnasium instructor to the Young Men’s Christian Association. At one time he was also connected with the Church-street Adult School, where he acted as librarian.
Mr Smith went to Chapel-street Wesleyan day school and all his life he had been a regular attendant at the Chapel-street Methodist Church.
The internment took place at Luton General Cemetery this afternoon following a service at the house.”
Isaac left £3,191 14s 1d to Frederick Goodwin and to May Smith, his eldest daughter.