We have just learned of the recent death of John Stephens aged 88. Mr Stephens was one of Dulwich Hamlet's most senior supporters and saw the great Hamlet side in the 1930s heyday.
Our deepest condolences to his son Cliff and the rest of the family and loved ones.
An obituary by our friend Mishi Morath can be found here at the official DHFC site. Below we reproduce Cliff's article about his dad from the Issue 28 of the Hamlet Historian magazine from 2015.
Cliff and John Stephens
Memories of a
by Cliff Stephens
My father John Stephens was born in 1929, the year that Hamlet legend Edgar Kail won his three full England international caps.
His first match at Champion Hill was in 1935 at the age of six, although he can no longer remember who the Hamlet’s opponents were. Dad and his father Edward would walk from their flat above a shop opposite the cinema in Camberwell up Denmark Hill and sometimes dad’s older brother, also Edward, would accompany them. They would usually stand at the top of the main terrace near the edge of the penalty area at the Champion Hill end of the ground. Later dad would also meet up with some of his school friends.
In dad’s younger days crowds in excess of 10,000 were sometimes achieved, and even reserve games could attract over 2,000.
Some of the players dad remembers seeing are Dennis Anderson; Reg Anderson, an amateur international, who sadly was killed in World War 2; Herbert Benka, who also played cricket for Middlesex; Ron Crisp; Jack Everitt; Alec Freeman, who after retiring from the club in 1951 moved to Rhodesia [Zimbabwe]; Jack Hugo; Reg Merritt; Leslie Morrish, who was born in New Zealand; Cecil Murray; Arthur Phebey who played cricket for Kent; Horace Robbins; Jim Skipper; Fred Setters; and Ernie Toser. Dad particularly remembers the great Tommy Jover who was his favourite player, and Pat Connett, a school friend of his brother Edward with whom they would play football in the streets of Camberwell.
He also recalls that his father, who was employed as a coach trimmer, would sometimes work on the upholstery of the player’s cars.
Dad remembers seeing the touring Nigerian side in 1949 which attracted a crowd of over 18,000, a ground record for a friendly. He also saw a few amateur international matches involving Dulwich players at Champion Hill and Korea v Mexico in the 1948 Olympic Games, which Korea won 5-3.
Although he rarely went to away games, as he and his father also went to Millwall there were a few exceptions.
He went to West Ham in 1937 to see the Hamlet’s last FA Amateur Cup triumph, 2-0 against Leyton both goals coming from Leslie Morrish. Leyton missed a penalty as did Horace Robbins for the Hamlet.
There were also two London Senior Cup wins at Millwall. In 1939, 3-0 against Erith & Belvedere, and in 1943, 5-4 against Tooting & Mitcham United after which the main stand burned down.
During the 1950’s there were a couple of visits the Kennington Oval to see the Hamlet take on the Corinthian Casuals, and in 1956 he went to the FA Amateur Cup semi-final at Chelsea in which Dennis Anderson scored the Hamlet’s goal in a 1-3 defeat to Corinthian Casuals, the closest the Hamlet have come to Wembley (I have a programme from this game but not the one dad bought as he never kept them).
During the 1960’s dad went to very few games as he worked Saturday’s but he was at Champion Hill for the opening of the floodlights in 1964 against Chelsea, who were then at the top of Division One, which attracted a crowd of 4,000.
After moving to Andover in 1967 dad didn’t visit Champion Hill again until the 1990’s when he started attending the occasional match with me including the first game at the new Champion Hill in 1992 when goals from Gary Hewitt and Lionel Best gave the Hamlet a 2-1 victory over Hendon. Dad was rather taken aback as to how much smaller the new ground is compared to the old one. He also came to the Fa Cup 1st round tie against Conference side Southport in 1998 which the visitors won 0-1. The last time dad had seen Dulwich in the 1st round proper was the 1-2 home defeat to Aldershot of the 3rd Division (South) in 1937.
Also during this period he went to a few away games. In 1990 he saw the Hamlet win 6-0 in a pre-season friendly at the now defunct Andover FC. He also saw the Hamlet a few times at Basingstoke Town’s Camrose Ground the only win coming in 1993 when Francis Vines scored the only goal of the game.
Since returning to Andover in 2010 after 9 years in Cornwall he has made it to a few games including the record 3,000 attendance against Maidstone United last season, and the `Pa’ Wilson Memorial Trophy match against our friends Altona 93 earlier this season.
Although now aged 86, and somewhat frail, he still enjoys football and will continue to attend the occasional game for as long as he is able.