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The History of Little Plimpton FC between the Wars
MASON Arkwright climbed to the top of the hill and looked down into the valley below. The air smelled of the same mixture of chemicals and pureness but there was a difference about the scene that he somehow could not comprehend.
Mason was a changed man. Changed by the blot of years that stood out in his mind as plain 1914 to 1918, that would become known as The First World War and which had provided him with every waking and breathing moment. Years of fear, years of never knowing whether he would ever see Plimpton again. Years of death and depravity, years so far away from the everyday life in Plimpton that it made him gulp the sullied air just to think of them.
Mason had grown up in this town, he had become a man in this town and he expected to get married, have children of his own and die in this town. This is where Mason worked on the railway, where Mason drank in the clubs come Saturday night, where Mason chatted up the local girls and above all where Mason exercised his first love - the great game of football.
Plimpton never was and never will be a well known landmark in England. Even today in the 1990s it is a little known town in shall we say the North of England. New technology means that it probably is on many maps of the North but you wouldn’t describe it as the kind of place you would like to visit on holiday.
The main road has even managed to bypass Plimpton and so the only people seen there nowadays are Plimptonians themselves and a few stragglers who believe that because the sign a few miles down the road states “Welcome to the North of England” and includes a large white rose, all the nearby towns and villages must be picturesque.
Imagine their chagrin when they find that the most notable landmark is the local branch of Barclay’s Bank - notable because it holds the distinction of being the only building for almost a mile that has not had its windows smashed at least twice in the past year.
The building has subsequently become famous among Plimptonians and an icon into the way things should and could be. It seems to have been accepted as foolish in the extreme to even think of pitching a brick through those round portals. Would-be Plimptonian brick throwers seem to feel that bad luck would hound them if they ever broke those windows.
“It’s okay to chuck bricks through any of the other businesses, but leave the bank. One through there and it’ll be seven years bad luck,” seems to be the word that goes around. Of course it’s all a great marketing plea by the bank’s manager Geoffrey Glossop from Glamorgan. A Garrulous Welshman who, realising the amount of vandalism around in the town noted that Barclays had not suffered more from luck than judgement. It was well known that Young Hughie McBride an equally garrulous Scotsman had on a number of times tried to hurl a projectile through the windows only to find that 10 pints of beer failed to aid either balance or aim. Twice Young Hughie, who incidentally was now in his 40s but the sobriquet had always stuck and still gave him the thought that he could “Put the ale away like a young-un.,” had missed Barclays and hit the supermarket next door.
And that was all part of the legend. Barclays was untouchable. Geoffrey Glossop was a smart man - far too smart for Plimpton. He came out of the valleys and had joined Barclays as a raw trainee back in 1900 and goodness knows when. Geoffrey had soon found that he had a knack for sharp phrases and a good line in patter.
Early on in his career in finance he was used to writing adverts to promote the bank in Glamorgan. Phrases such as "Think Wales, Think Barclays" went down well and brought his name to prominence among the banking fraternity and also brought him to the notice of The manager at Emlyn Walththrussell took him under his wing not so much because young Geoffrey had ability in banking as much as for the fact that he was one of the few members of staff who didn’t joke about Walththrussell’s name. It had to be admitted that Emlyn was rather funny!
So Geoffrey rose in the ranks from chief tea maker to assistant assistant teller to counter operative, junior manager and then to under manager at the company’s branch. There he was second in command to Ellis Tinsellbrain. And of course Geoffrey got on well because all the others poked fun at poor Mr Tinsellbrain and Geoffrey didn’t because he had vision and ability and wasn’t going to kill the chicken who could lay the golden egg.
So Geoffrey harboured thoughts of a manager’s post in a major branch perhaps in the Midlands, perhaps even London and at the worst perhaps around the Cardiff area of his native Wales. So when one day he was called to Ellis Tinselbrain’s office “on an important matter regarding your future development” it came as no surprise to him to be informed that: “Geoffrey it gives me great pleasure to inform you that it is the company’s intention to reward your many years of excellent service by promoting you to the post of manager of one of our important branches.”
Geoffrey naturally asked where but Ellis Tinselbrain wouldn’t be drawn.“Is it the Midlands Ellis, or perhaps London or maybe Manchester?” “I’m sorry Geoffrey you’ll have to wait for the official letter from head office, was Ellis’ non-committal reply.
Geoffrey went home that night to his bachelor pad anticipating the letter which would change his life. Meanwhile back at the bank Ellis Tinselbrain called in his secretary who ironically was the only other person in the bank with a really silly name. Amongst all the Jones’ and Smiths and Lewis’ Emilia Spikenboomer stood out like a sore thumb. Apart from her name, however, Emilia had to contend with the fact that she stood well over 6ft tall, was pencil thin and had the misfortune to have a moustache that seemed to survive all chemicals and all attempts to physically pluck it out.
“Ah Emilia come in,” said Ellis. He liked her. She was the only woman in the bank who he felt did not undermined his authority. Indeed she was the only woman in the bank who he did not feel like grabbing in the most serious of places. Emilia posed no threat.
“Emilia, do you still have any of that Head Office blue and white paper. The stuff we usually give away to employees for their children to scribble on?”
“Yes I think so,” replied Emilia.
“Okay. You know I’ve had old Glossop moved. It’s been quite difficult really because he does have one or two sponsors in very high places if you know what I mean,” at this point he touched his nose and winked. Emilia felt herself going ever so slightly red.
“Right I managed to come to a compromise with J.B. He owes me one or two little favours from the past - all to do with that ridiculous toupee he wears. Anyway he’s agreed to have Glossop transferred to some rat-hole in Yorkshire. I can’t even remember the name of the place, but it’s one of those one-horse elbow through your draws sort of places where they all speak strange.
“Glossop thinks he’s being given some up market branch in Edgbaston or something like that. The pratt won’t even know where this place is. We’ve somehow got to dress it up a bit to sound important so the little shit can believe that he’s going to be a big cog in a big wheel. Actually the place has only got five staff and two of them are part-time. Never-the- less its a step up the ladder for him and most importantly it gets him away from here.
“Do you know Emilia I’ve suffered three years of that oaf toadying up to me.... Yes Mr Tinseltown, no Mr Tinseltown, three bags full Mr Tinseltown and then when he’s feeling extremely ingratiating he calls me by my first name and does one of those ridiculous little bows when he leaves the room. The man makes me want to vomit.
“And all these years he’s
never once made a joke about our names. Everybody else does. I mean
Tinselbrain and Spikenboomer. Good Lord where would we be if we couldn’t
take a joke about names like that? But not Glossop not once has anybody
caught him laughing at our names. It’s downright unnatural. So he’s
off to this place called er Plimpton. It’s just off the A1 apparently
although I’ve been unable to find it. Anyway Emilia let’s get that
letter sorted out.
* * *
The next day Glossop was at his door when the postman arrived. Patrick O’Leary looked upon himself as the ethnic minority in the town despite having been born six miles away. He was of genuine Irish descent, however, and had developed a first class Dublin accent which he only relaxed when around genuine friends who were not impressed by it. For many years Patrick O’Leary had suffered along with another of the town’s locals Sam Tidy.
Both cursed the day that children’s television had introduced Postman Pat and Fireman Sam into the lives of the nation’s youngsters. On this day Postman Pat had just one letter for Geoffrey Glossop and Geoffrey was in too much of a hurry to notice that the envelope bore a local postmark. Geoffrey simply saw the banks frank on the envelope and that was enough to know that it carried his own destiny. He quickly slit it open ignoring one of those nasty little cuts that tearing paper can give. Inside he read.
Dear Mr Glossop
It is with great pleasure that I write to you as head of personnel to inform you that you will be promoted from April 1st to the position of manager of the bank’s Plimpton branch.Plimpton has a thriving community of 15,000 people and is one of our most important expanding branches in the North of England. Your salary will be commensurate with this new senior position at Plimpton which is being offered to you on a three year contract.Please contact me on the usual number to officially notify me of your acceptance of this offer and to arrange for transfer to co-incide with your starting date of April 1st.
Jacob Blackwood (Personnel
Geoffrey Glossop stared into space. All at once he saw the Oxfordshire vistas disappearing in front of his eyes, saw idle days at Edgbaston Cricket Ground evaporating. All he could hear was a voice in his head saying Plimpton where the ----- is Plimpton.
He’d heard of Plumpton. Perhaps there was a spelling error, but that was unlikely as Blackwood had printed it twice and he was the most fastidious of men. So Plimpton it must be. Geoffrey was late into work that morning in an attempt to find out where Plimpton was. He had to stop at the public library but they had never heard of it. He finally found it completely by accident in the library’s sports section.
The Library was one of those imposing buildings where the antiquated nature of the outside was matched only by the antiquated nature of the books inside. “Pastoral Farming Care in the Welsh Valleys 1947 to 1952” and “The Layman’s Guide to worming dogs” were two of the more eye catching tomes. Many of the others were battered and bruised by age. Today they rarely deteriorated any further because people had long stopped borrowing them and they just gathered dust on the shelves.
Nobody ever visited the sports section. For a start it was so small that you would pass it without noticing particularly as the S had dropped off of the overhead wording so that it read “Port Section” rather suggesting it should have been in the Delia miff department with all the other ooking books.
Geoffrey visited the Port Section” by accident. Just as he was passing the letter from the bank which he had been carrying slipped out of his grasp onto his floor and slightly under the Port Section. Geoffrey had to get down on his hands and knees and as he did so he found a rather ragged and flimsy brochure next to his letter. He decided to play the Good Samaritan and place it back on the shelf and as he did so glanced at what remained of the title cover.
He could not believe his eyes. In bold letters emblazoned across the top were the words: “The History of Plimpton Football Club between the Wars” written by George Henry priced 4d.
Why was a history of Plimton Football Club in this library of all places and then George looked inside the front cover to the inscription inside and he wasn’t at all surprised by what he read.
“To Library in grateful thanks to my many thousands of hours of good reading from a grateful Nesta Franklin - 1956.” Nesta Franklin was a legend among library staff at .
Now long departed for the great library in the sky where they no doubt arranged books in alphabetical order and where the subject title areas didn’t lose letters, Nesta had bestowed her gift of hundreds of books over the years to the library. She was an avid traveller and each time she travelled she bought books about the local area and passed them on to the library, hoping it would allow them to build up a first class travel section. What it had done was to give them hundreds of unwanted books on totally vague subjects such as pastoral care in the Welsh Valleys and Layman’s Guide to Worming Dogs. It meant that in an attempt not to hurt the sensibilities of dear old Nesta that at times these mind- numbingly irrelevant volumes had shouldered out the likes of Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austin.
Indeed when Richard Thoroughgood enjoyed a short spell as librarian in the sixties he made the fatal error of replacing much of the historic literature with the volumes bought by Nesta. It later turned out that he was Nesta’s nephew which did not endear him to the powers that be at county hall and ensured that his reign as head librarian was one of the shortest on record.
Richard Thoroughgood was replaced, but his books were not and over the years a small legend grew up surrounding them. A legend that made it more and more difficult to throw them out. The library service was in dire straits so there was no problem of new books coming in any great numbers. So Nesta kept her place over the years as many of the more important parts of English literature had been given the cold shoulder.
Now in the 1990s nobody dared remove Nesta’s books. She was looked upon as the greatest benefactor in the history of the library and one of the small side reading rooms had even been named after her. The fact that most of her volumes had been bought at jumble sales seemed irrelevant. It was the thought that had counted.
Now a number of assumptions must be made. If Nesta Franklin had given Library a copy of The History of Plimpton FC between the wars, she must have visited Plimpton at some time. The second assumption is that Plimpton being Plimpton, there must have been a dearth of good books about the town. It is difficult to imagine glossy photographs of the maggot farm or the coal pit or the vandalised buildings. So somewhere among the second hand Len Deightons and Catherine Cookson Nesta had come across the only book about Plimpton she could find, bought it and donated it to her local library.
They would have smiled, given her a cup of coffee and treated her like the eccentric that she genuinely was. When she had gone they would have placed the book on the most appropriate shelf and there under the Port Section it had probably stayed until this very day just moving or being moved enough to drop from the shelf onto the floor where quite likely some person had kicked it under the shelf.
And that is what brought Geoffrey down on his hands and knees at the precise moment in time that you reader are reading this.
Geoffrey was in fact down on his hands and knees out of an in-born sense of tidyness. He always prided himself at the bank that his office was the tidyest and the best kept in the building. Perhaps it was really a reflection of the amount of work that he managed to get through. Most people with a tidy desk are masters of their own laziness. A busy man never has time to tidy his working environment. Geoffrey always had. But Geoffrey had an in- built arrogance that told the world that he was always busy come what may.
So Geoffrey was down on his hands and knees as soon as he saw the thin volume and he just couldn’t believe his eyes when he read the title. The history of Plimpton FC between the wars. Geoffrey opened the cover and began to read the introduction.
“This book is dedicated to the memory of all the great Plimpton players who gave their lives in the two wars. This is the story of how the once great local club was cut down but re-built to regain its glory days - and what heady days they turned out to be. Who can forget the way Plimpton fought back from behind to beat Grimethorpe 3-1 in the final of West Yorkshires most prestigious tournament the Starling Shield. Who can ever forget Big Jock Raymond’s 89th minute winner that gave us the league title in 1950-51 for the first time since before the first world war and who can ever forget the legendary Mason Arkwright who over the years re-built the team single handedly and who over the years was everything to the club from player to manager, groundsman to chairman. This book is dedicated to the memory of all the Plimpton players who gave so much joy to all and in memory of the club which time finally caught up with last year. But it is primarily a record of how the club was re-built between the two World Wars.
Geoffrey couldn’t help but be fascinated by what he was reading. He had already forgotten that the book had told him that Plimpton was somewhere in West Yorkshire. He no longer seemed interested in exactly where but wanted to know more about Mason Arkwright and the Plimpton Club - which of course nobody outside and probably nobody inside Yorkshire could remember.
It was now 1995 and the book had been written in 1971 which meant there had been no Plimpton FC since 1972. For some reason Geoffrey wanted to know what had happened. How many players had been killed in the Great War, who was Mason Arkwright and why did Plimpton go out of existence after becoming one of the top local teams. It all seemed at once so irrelevant but so interesting.
Geoffrey took the book out of the library. Indeed he was the first person to do so since May 16th, 1973. He was curious, he even wondered who had previously borrowed it and whether they had found it on the floor and whether that person had read the first page and been intrigued.
At the risk of being sued by some elder Plimptonians under the laws of copyright - the following is a reproduction of the relatively slim volume entitled “The History of Little Plimpton FC Between the Wars.”
The book opens with the following foreword. A Quick Note on the Club’s History
To Be Continued