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Israel “William” Prime

Israel “William” Prime


Born on the 12th November 1868 in Slip End, Israel was known as William for most of his life.  His father, Richard was a shoe maker and they remained in Slip End at the time of the 1881 census.  William was caught scrumping in 1880 and brought before the beak.  As the clip below from the Luton Times of the 12th November 1880 shows, scrumping acorns was a popular hobby.


By 1891 the family were living at 4 Milton Road, Luton.  William was an assistant Insurance agent. He married Lydia Webb in the spring of 1895.

athletic-news-13th-december-1887Perhaps running away from scrumping trips trained him for later life as William became a superb athlete.  The first mention of his exploits were reported, left, in the Athletic News of 13th December 1887.  The next major achievement I have found is William winning the Bedfordshire Championship half mile race in 1893.  The following Summer he established himself as one of the Premier athletes in Bedfordshire winning both the mile and half mile race.  He also won many other events.



The clip left is from the Leighton Buzzard Observer of the 24th July 1894 reporting on the athletics at the Liberal Party picnic.  We do not know if William took part in the comic race as well.  He also won the gold medal for the Mile race at the Athletic and Cycle Club meeting in August 1894 held at Dallow Lane





The two clips above are from the Bedfordshire Mercury of the 11th August 1894 reporting on the Bedfordshire Championships held at Bedford Grammar School.  The clip on the left shows that William retained his half mile Bedfordshire title.  He was very close to winning the Championship in the mile, right, but lost to his rival, Ward.  His prizes were medals shown below which were worn as watch fobs.


Some races had medals as prizes but many had household items instead such as the Musical box William won for winning the 880 yards at the Liberal Party Picnic event.  He also won a pair of vases shown below which are still in the family.


His success was noticed by the Straw Plaiters who were just about to play in the inaugural season of the Southern League.  He was taken on as “Trainer” and he is photographed with the 1894/95 team, below.


There are two mentions of William in the club minute book, the first is for the 17th September 1894 which says he should accompany the team to London.  The Luton News of 28th February 1933 also mentions that he accompanied the team to Swindon in 1895.  The second entry in the minute book is for the 14th May 1895 – “the expenses met by Mr Prime during the season be made up to him viz £6 6s 0d.”   

It is clear that he played a big role in team affairs.  He was thanked for his services at the Luton Town Annual General meeting reported below in the Luton Times of the 31st May 1895.


William stayed with the Straw Plaiters for at least four seasons as he is in the 1898 team photo.  He had stopped racing and had become an official with the Athletics Club acting as judge and any other task that was required at meetings.

By 1899 William had become an Assistant Superintendent for the Prudential Assurance Company.  By this time, he and Lydia had three children, Winifred born in 1896, Grace Victoria born in 1897 and John in 1899.  The family moved to Fenny Stratford around 1902 where Clara and William were born.  William stayed in touch with Slip End and came back in 1903 for a Good Friday service at the Primitive Chapel who were raising funds for restoration.  The family returned to Luton to live at 32 Ash Road where their final child Edna was born in 1908.  The 1911 census shows the whole family at 32 Ash Road, in the shadow of the Ivy Road enclosure – the name of the Straw Plaiters ground as Kenilworth Road was incomplete at this time.

William died on the 16th February 1933 when still at Ash Road.  He left £174 6s 2d to Lydia.

Thanks to:

Jenny Carter and Christine Mackay supplied photos of the Vases and Medals.

Colin Gudgin, the custodian of the Prime Family Album, for the two photos of William and other information.