Two Visits to Wembley

Duration: minutes
Accession No: TWCMS : 2009.452
This story has been viewed 10472 times

John describes travelling to Wembley to watch Bishop Auckland play.

By John Phelan

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Video transcript

This story is about my first two visits to Wembley which were in 1954 and 1959. The reason I’m giving this story is because when I came to Beamish I saw the railway station and it reminded me of the railway station at Howden-le-Wear where I lived. I only lived 100 yards away from the railway station and there is a photograph of Howden-le-Wear railway station.

Now in 1954 Crook Town got to Wembley and they played Bishop Auckland in the 1954 Amateur FA Cup final. I was 4 years old. I can’t remember too much about it, I do remember though being on the train, getting down to London and being absolutely shattered because I’d been wide awake all the evening, I hadn’t slept on the train going down. I remember being very tired. The other thing that I remember is the escalators in the railway stations at Kings Cross or wherever we were. I was fascinated by them because I had never seen them before, they didn’t have escalators in Howden-le-Wear of Crook. I was fascinated, I remember right at the end when it goes back down I would make a little jump so that my feet and my toes didn’t get caught at the end. The thing I remember about the game was that the trainer was on the pitch a lot of times. That’s all I can remember about the match, but as I say I was only 4 years old. Here is a photograph of my family and next door neighbours pictured outside Wembley Stadium. In the back row is my dad, next to him is my mam, and then my cousin Neil. In the middle row is Lawrence Martin who lived next door, his mother Aggie Martin, and his father Bill Martin. They were our next door neighbours. And right at the front is little Johnny Phelan at 4 years old.

This is a photograph of the Crook Town team. I can name the team. Jarrie, Riley Stewart, Jeffs, Davidson, Taylor, Appelby, Thomson, Harrison, Williamson, Macmillan. It was one of the best teams that Crook ever had. And there is the programme, the programme for the game, Bishop Auckland v Crook. 10th April I think it was, yes, 10th April 1954. One of my favourite shots of the game, my favourite photographs of the game is that one there and its Fred Jarrie making a save with Crook right back Tommy Riley looking on and Bishop Auckland’s star forward Seamus O’Connell looking. And when we come to the 1959 Cup final for Crook you will find that Seamus O’Connell is actually playing for Crook but he was playing for Bishop in that game. It was a great final, 2-2 at Wembley. There was a replay in front of 100,000 people. There was a replay at Newcastle, 60,000 people turned up. Again, it was 2-2 after Crook had been 2-0 up after about 2 minutes but Bishops came back. So we had the second replay at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough, where there was a crowd of nearly 40,000 and Crook eventually won 1-0. If you add the aggregate crowds together it came to roughly 200,000 people which is a record for a cup final in Britain. That is a newspaper report of the final. It’s the Evening Gazette and it shows you Kenny Williamson who was injured at Wembley limping along the railway station when he came home. There were thousands and thousands at the Crook ground to see the team return and it was one of the most exciting times that Crooks ever seen.

We move on now to 1959 and now I am 9 years old and I’m getting a bit more experience in watching Crook in the amateur football. 1959 was a very happy but also a little bit of a sad occasion for myself because Crook battled all the way to the semi-final of the FA Amateur Cup but on the way my dad was very, very ill and he nearly copped it. We didn’t know what was the matter with him, he had some kind of virus. For my dad to miss the FA Amateur Cup semi-final then he had to be ill and he was ill and he’d been in hospital for a while. So, to go to the semi-final, this is the programme from the game, Crook played Laytonstone at Roker Park. I was pushed on a train at Howden-le-Wear which was chock a block with Crook Town supporters. I was told to look out for a friend of my dads, Tommy Dickson, who would be on the station at Shildon. I had to look out for him and he would come and sit with me and take me to the game. You can imagine that when the train pulled in to Shildon, Shildon railway station was bock a block but I caught the eye of Tommy Dickson and waved and he found me and he took me to the game. Now dad didn’t get any netter between the semi-final and the final but he said that myself and my mam had to go to the game. My mam didn’t really want to go to London by herself with me but fortunately Bill Gibson, and my mother was quite friendly with Mrs Gibson. Bill Gibson had a shop in the village and also a joinery business and was the undertaker actually in Howden-le-Wear. He agreed to take myself and my mam to Wembley that year. I can’t remember if his son Chris went or his son Mark, who was a friend of mine. I do remember going up to Crook town station. I don’t know whether that year the train was stopping at Howden. I know we went up to Crook to get on the train and I know it was half past 5 on Saturday morning on April 18th. That is a photograph of Crook town station, obviously that is not the train that we went to London on. The one think I remember about 1959 is that we got on the train at Crook and the train pulled away. Now, a lot of lads had been drinking all night and as soon as the train pulled out of Crook town station somebody was sick and it went right across my window and I thought ‘Well, that’s a good start’. So there we were and off we went to Wembley. We had a look around London before the game and then we took out seats. That is the programme from the game, April 18th 1959. Crook had a very, very good team that year. Again, like the 1954 team. Two of the best teams that have ever been seen at Crook. This is Bert Stewart leading the Crook town team out at Wembley. The team was Snowball, Gardener, Stewart, Carr, Bainbridge, Wilkie, Coates, O’Connell, Keating, Tracey and Macmillan. The unlucky players were Bill Jeffs who had played most of the season but was injured before the final. Even unluckier was a person called George Masters who had played in the semi-final at Roker Park but was passed over in favour of Derek Carr who had played very few games for Crook but was just selected for the final.

I remember Crook taking the lead very early on and great excitement as we went 1-0 up. But then Barnet had a centre forward called Bobby Brown who equalised so it was 1-1. Crook went 2-1 up, it Brian Keating I think who scored with a header to make it 2-1. The Mike Tracey who had scored the first goal scored another goal to make it 3-1 to Crook. We held the 3-1 advantage right until the last minute when their centre forward again, Bobby Brown, broke away and slammed the ball past our goalkeeper Ray Snowball to make it 3-2. That was right in the last minute so there was just about time for the game to kick off and then the whistle blew and Crook went up to receive the trophy. That is a newspaper report, I think it’s the Sunday Pictorial. Of course Seamus O’Connell took the headlines because he actually had a hand in all three goals, especially the last one when he chased the loose ball which everyone thought was going out of play. It didn’t and he kept it in, stroked it across to Mike Tracey who put it into the back of the net.

The great story for me about this cup final was that on the Sunday we had heard that on the way back home Crook were stopping at Howden-le-Wear and getting onto a bus and going from Howden-le-Wear railway station up to the ground in the afternoon by bus. So we had, myself, mark Gibson, Derek Jackson and a few others, we decked Howden-le-Wear station out in black and amber streamers, black and amber everything ready for the players.

In our house, dad was upstairs because he was ill, he wasn’t allowed up at any time. Anyway, what transpires is that when the bus came along from Howden-le-Wear railway station past our house, our next door neighbour, Mrs Marden, ran out and ran out to Bert Stewart who was right at the front of the bus holding the amateur cup to show everybody. She ran out and asked Bert to hold the cup up to my dad’s bedroom window. By this time we had lifted my dad out of bed and propped him in a chair and put him by the window. I can see my dad now, giving a nice little wave, like the Pope’s wave, to Bert and Bert showed the cup to my dad and my dad smiled. This story has a happy ending because when my dad saw Bert with the amateur cup he somehow recovered and got better. For all the pills and potions had done nothing, just seeing Bert with the amateur cup got my dad well again we always thought. That is a photograph there of Bert Stewart at Howden-le-Wear station showing the amateur cup to the people of Howden. On the photograph is two friends of mine. Right at the bottom is a very young Derek Jackson and being held up right next to Bert Stewart is Maurice Quarmby when both would only be about 8 or 9 years old. So 1959, a little bit of a sad time, but it also ended happily.

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