Friday, 4 December 2015

Memories of ‘The Hamlet’

By Richard Mann

Looking back over 60 years the memories often appear in black and white, but memories of my winter Saturdays were often pink and blue.

A short walk from the bus stop opposite Ruskin Park took us along Champion Hill to the old ground. Dad bought the folded single sheet pink programme before we rattled through the turnstile and crunched our way along the cinder terraces to join the school caps, flat caps, school blazers, belted raincoats and de-mob overcoats to our favourite spot.

Leaning on rail, halfway up the terrace just short of the halfway line, opposite the players’ tunnel, we waited to be joined by George and Fred, two of mum’s brothers. The stylus on the club record player hissed and clicked its way into the same familiar light orchestral pieces which were only interrupted to announce the team changes. Cheers or groans met the inclusion or omission of a crowd favourite while I scribbled the details in our programme.

The teams in their collared shirts, high waisted shorts, dubbined ankle length boots and thick shin-padded socks entered to cheers from the home supporters, and from the usually small band of away supporters who stood behind the goal at the Champion Hill end. The opposing teams included those who have since joined the Football League like Wimbledon, Barnet and Wycombe Wanderers.
Other than a 6-6 draw with Kingstonian it’s difficult to remember details of particular games, but memories of certain players remain with me, and how the way they played revealed something of their character or personal hinterland.

Photo: From the collection of former DHFC player Ron Eastland 

Memories are not history but recollections fed through the imagination. I think of Dave Darvill, the goalkeeper as Dulwich’s own Bert Trautmann; fair-haired, groomed, meticulous and un-showy, tugging the net, marking out the centre of the goalmouth and tossing his cap into the corner of the goal, to be used when the sun began to sink. At right-back, No.2, the programme announced The Rev. Cowley; athletic, enthusiastic and committed, doing his absolute best to ‘fight the good fight’ in footballing terms. Tom Jover, former Olympic sprinter featured on the left-wing and whose speed could see him arriving ahead of the pass that was intended for him.  John ‘Jack’ Everitt on the right-wing;  square jawed, direct and brave, could have been an infantry man, while Ron Crisp at wing-half or inside-forward was the quiet, reserved calculating timer of the run that saw him arrive just in time to steer a perfect header past the goalkeeper. Captain Ernie Skipper at centre-half brought the same authority and leadership to the role which served him as a school headmaster but Les Brown with that Bobby Charlton quality of, a scorer of great goals rather than a great scorer of goals, was my favourite. Playing with great energy and a smile, an attempt at the outrageous was never far from his mind as he placed the ball for a free-kick 40 yards out. 

Amongst the teams I saw were a German representative side which included Helmut Rahn who scored Germany’s winner in their 3-2 victory over the favourites Hungary in the 1954 World Cup Final. An African team played in bare feet, and with National Service still in force I saw Eddie Clamp of Wolves and Albert Quixall of Sheffield Wednesday, both England internationals, represent the British Army.

Cricket shared the sporting calendar with football and those talented in both games found time to play both. Doug Insole played cricket for Essex and on the wing for Corinthian Casuals and Dulwich often featured Arthur Phebey who also played cricket for Kent. It was Arthur Phebey who brought out my uncle Fred’s full range of coaching skills as he stood, like a batsman taking in the position of the fielders, with his foot on the ball while deciding where his next pass should go. “Get rid of it!” was uncle Fred’s advice.

Fred died last November; he was the youngest of mum’s eight brothers. I went to his funeral and he wore his Dulwich Hamlet tie for his journey to the next world. He was 91.

Original article from HH28 Autumn 2015
Copyright © Richard Mann

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