Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

JJ Liston

The following documents were sent to me by Roy Hay. They reference a strange moment of ecumenical thinking in Australian football. They centre on the figure of JJ Liston, simultaneously president of the Victorian Football Association and Victorian Soccer Football Association, something unthinkable today. The first is his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry by David Dunstan. The remainder are from newspaper articles during the 1930s. The first is a breathtaking piece of brinkmanship in which Liston threatens to convert the VFA to another code. The others document his introduction to the soccer code.

Liston, John James (1872–1944)

John James Liston (1872-1944), civic leader and liquor trades spokesman, was born on 21 September 1872 at Granny, Roscommon, Ireland, son of John Haire Liston, constable, and his wife Mary Ann, née McNamany. The family migrated to Victoria about 1882 and settled at Williamstown where, after education at St Mary's Parish School, young Liston became a hairdresser. A member of the Catholic Young Men's Society, he was an outstanding debater and a keen sportsman; he played for Williamstown Football Club and in 1889 joined the Williamstown Racing Club. He was to head both organizations (the Football Club in 1923-33, the Racing Club in 1939-44) and become a prominent racehorse-owner. His barber's shop in Nelson Place was remembered as 'a sportsman's bureau'.

A big, ambitious man who studied to improve himself, Liston stood for Williamstown Council in 1897, revealing 'an astonishing grasp of municipal affairs' but losing the election by two votes. Next year he was returned unopposed. He was mayor in 1901-02 (the youngest in the State) and again in 1913-14. By 1906 he was licensee of the Customs House Hotel and that year was appointed secretary of the Liquor Trades' Defence Union, based in Melbourne. He sold his hairdressing business and, on 3 August 1910 at St Mary's Catholic Church, West Melbourne, married a milliner Eva Emily Roberts (d.1928).

Williamstown was a working-class suburb whose industries were in decline. As its representative on the Melbourne Harbor Trust in 1909-13, Liston sought public works for his area, expressed strong protectionist views and urged the trust to build its own ships at Williamstown. Even before his five successive mayoral terms in the 1920s it was said that Liston ran the town. Chairman of the finance and lighting committee, he persuaded the council to light the suburb with electricity in 1917 and take over supply. The financial success of the venture led to a new town hall and the purchase of a theatre and ferry steamer. Liston's plan to charge the cost of new streets to the benefiting property-owners was implemented after a long legal battle. In 1922-27 his supporters abandoned the rotation of the mayoralty so that he might carry out his programme of public works. But towards the end of the decade Liston and his 'progressive party' lost their grip. In August 1930 'grave irregularities' were alleged. A royal commission cleared Liston of wrongdoing but he resigned from the council and, after marrying May Ward on 15 December at St Patrick's Cathedral, moved to St Kilda. He claimed at this time to have lost all his Williamstown investments.

Liston had long ceased to be a purely local man. In 1918-30 he was Williamstown's representative on the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works; he was the northern and western suburbs representative on the Metropolitan Town Planning Commission in the 1920s; and in 1923-31 he was a Melbourne city councillor and for six years chairman of the traffic and building regulations committee. A supporter of a Greater Melbourne Council, in 1931 he was defeated by one vote for the position of lord mayor.

Liston worked with Montague Cohen to amalgamate Melbourne's breweries and strove to thwart the prohibitionists. He led 'the wets' to victory in the 1930 and 1938 'no licence' referenda; during the first campaign a Herald writer called him 'the busiest man in Melbourne'.

In his rise from humble origins and in the scope of his influence Liston may be compared with his co-religionist John Wren. He devoted an extraordinary amount of effort to public service, bestowing patronage on sporting and charitable associations and performing unpublicized acts of kindness during the Depression. A Williamstown high school, a regional hospital at Footscray and the Friendly Societies' Association were among his causes. He was a trustee of the Port Phillip Pilots' Association and of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and president of both the Victorian Soccer and Victorian Football associations.

Liston died of heart disease at Cliveden Mansions, East Melbourne, on 12 April 1944, survived by his wife and by two sons from his first marriage, one of whom was killed on active service next year. Archbishop Mannix attended his funeral and J. H. Scullin was a pallbearer. His estate was sworn for probate at £293,481. There is a bust in the Williamstown Town Hall and the Williamstown Historical Society holds a portrait. He is also remembered by the J. J. Liston medal for the best and fairest player in the Victorian Football Association and by the J. J. Liston Stakes at Sandown.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

100 Years Ago Today, 13 May 1921

Mercury (Hobart), Saturday 14 May 1921, page 5


Division I.-Corinthians v. South Hobart, at Show Ground.

Division II.-Hobart v. South Hobart, at South Hobart.

The result of the senior match at Elwick this afternoon will have an important bearing on the Cottrell-Dormer cup competition. In the event of South Hobart proving successful, all the teams will be bracketed together with an equal number of premiership points, but a win for Corinthians would give that team a very useful lead. In the second division, Hobart could only muster a weak team for their first match last Saturday, but they have got together a good side for to-day's game, and are confident of re-peating the success of the senior team.

Last season's State champions, South Hobart, sustained their first defeat in a league match since 1919. It was a thrilling contest, and undoubtedly one of the fastest exhibitions of the game seen in Tasmania. It is pleasing to learn that Cadbury's have started a team, end their first practice match will take place at Claremont this afternoon. A number of experienced players are at the works, and the new club should be further strengthened by further arrivals from the Old Country.

It is certainly time that the association properly organised the C grade competition. There are a great number of youngsters playing the game in Hobart, and representation has been made to the T.F.A. that the Honeysett cup should be again made available for competition. The association must bear in mind that the boy of today is the man of tomorrow.

Register (Adelaide), Friday 13 May 1921, page 4


Following are the soccer football fixtures for Saturday:
  • North Adelaide v. Prospect, Mackinnon parade; 
  • Sturt v. Glenelg, Wayville; 
  • South v. Ports, Hutt street; 
  • Cheltenham, a bye.

Advertiser (Fremantle), Friday 13 May 1921, page 7


The Fremantle Caledonians played their first "away" match against Perth City and had to admit defeat by 5 goals to nil. The score was not a true reflexion the play, as up till the last twenty minutes, although City showed the best football, the game was fairly even. The Caleys have not yet been able to put their full strength in the field, owing to one reason and another, and as a number of players have to be tried yet. It will be a few weeks before the team is properly settled down. The game on Saturday opened in a downpour of rain and the conditions were all against good football. It was Evident from the start that training would tell, and so it turned out. Caleys were obviously leg weary at the finish, whereas City looked as if they were only beginning. The backs deserve a special pat on the back for the way they stood up to what must be considered one of the best forward lines in the League. The next game is against College on the East Fremantle Oval on Saturday. The students are a lively lot and have been doing well this season, and as Caleys expect to have out their best team so far, a game worth watching is expected.

Advertiser (Fremantle), Saturday 14 May 1921, page 4


Fremantle Caledonians, 7. Claremont College, 1.

Melbourne results 7 May 1921

League I

  • Albert Park 0; St. Kilda, 0;
  • Melbourne Thistle, 3 (Robertson 2, J. Russell), Preston, 0.
  • Footscray Thistle, 6 (Issard 3, Cumming, Fletcher. Pearce); Spotswood, 1 (H. Watson).
  • N & D 1 Windsor 1

League II
  • Brunswick, 2; St. Kilda A, 0.
  • Windsor A, 5;.Yarra Falls, 2.
  • Welsh United, 4 (Watkins, Cann, Manger, Campbell) ; St. Davids, 0

Melbourne results 14 May 1921

League I
  • Melbourne Thistle 2 St Kilda 1
  • Windsor 3 goals; Spotswood 0
  • Footscray 1 goal; N. and D. 0

League II
  • Brunswick 10 goal, Preston A 0
  • Thistle A 2 goals St. Kilda A 0
  • Windsor A 4 goals, St Davids 1 goal.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

100 Years Ago Today 6 May 1921

 Herald (Melbourne), Friday 6 May 1921, page 4


"Soccer" enthusiasts have been busy during the past three weeks in preparation for competition games. which begin tomorrow. There is every indication of a successful season, for although Burns and Osborne House teams have dropped out, their places have been taken by the newly-formed Brunswick and Yarra Falls clubs. The Council, at its last meeting, decided upon two Leagues, the first division to consist of Albert Park. St. Kilda, Footscray Thistle, Melbourne Thistle, Preston, Windsor, Northumberland and Durham United, and Spotswood: while Brunswick, Yarra Falls, St. David's, Welsh United, Windsor "A." Preston "A." St. Kilda "A." and Melbourne Thistle "A" will constitute the second division. In addition to the League fixtures, arrangements have been made for the annual England v. Scotland match, to be played on the Fitzroy Cricket Ground on August 6. This fixture will he followed by the Dockerty Cup final on the same ground.

Age, Friday 6 May 1921, page 10


British Association.— This body will also open its league programme, when the following matches will be played: — 

league 1.: 

  • Albert Park v. St. Kilda, Cumming: 
  • Melbourne Thistle v. Preston, Morrison {?}: 
  • N. and D. United v. Windsor. Butler: 
  • Spotswood v. Footscray Thistle. McDonald. 

League II.: 

  • St. Kilda. A v. Brunswick, Dempster: 
  • Preston A v. Melbourne Thistle A, Barker: 
  • Windsor A v. Yarra Falls. Armstrong; 
  • Welsh United v. St. David's. McKenzie. 

Kick-off 3 pm.

Northern Territory Times and Gazette, Tuesday 10 May 1921, page 3

The town is quite lively with sailors from the Geranium, which arrived in port on Sunday morning. They are a splendid lot of young fellows-good-humored and courteous to civilians-and evidently out to make the best of their short stay in port.

Having no matting to cover the concrete wicket, a cricket match with the sailors was impossible, but it is understood that a football match is being arranged. The cricket materials will arrive in the Mataram and, if the Geranium is still in port, a match will he played.

Monday, 3 May 2021

George Macaulay

Paul Mavroudis thinks that I research soccer in order to discover my roots in a mining village in Durham, and this explains my Weston obsession. Maybe he's right. This thought occurred to me as I retraced my origins in Melbourne on the Number 1 tram on Saturday morning as I visited Val Finlayson at Albert Park, just two streets away from my first residence in Melbourne.

Val is the daughter of George Macaulay who played for Footscray Thistle for more than a decade between 1927 and the Second World War. Val had noticed that I put some photographs on the Lost Footscray Facebook site and contacted me letting me know that one of the people in the photographs was her father. I subsequently chatted with Val on the phone and arranged to meet her at brother Ed's place in Albert Park to talk about her father and to look at some of the artefacts and photographs he left.

Initially I surmised that Val must have been quite old, perhaps even in her 90s. It turns out that she was the first baby from a late marriage. Her parents married in November 1941 and her father George enrolled in the army a month later, training in Puckapunyul and Bonegilla for a year before serving in New Guinea. Val didn't meet her father until after the war in September1945 when she was 3 years old! Meeting Val and her brother Ed was a real privilege; both of them sprightly and active with a keen interest in learning about what I was researching and a real commitment to helping me understand their father's story.

Val and Ed generously provided me with the opportunity to learn about their father's origins and showed me a number of artefacts and photographs that I could copy. Ed was particularly helpful charging up and down the stairs to the scanner to produce high-quality scans of certain items.

Hughes Academy, George top row 3rd left
George Macaulay was born on 27 July 1907 in Aghadowey Northern Ireland. The youngest of five siblings growing up in a flax farming family, George was the only child to be educated beyond primary school. He attended the Hughes Academy where he learned to play football. Today, the academy, in Belfast, is a training college for young soccer players. After the untimely death of George’s father in the mid-1920s the family migrated to Australia. They arrived in Melbourne in 1926 and settled at 17 Napier Street in the suburb of Footscray. Despite having trained for the Civil Service George obtained a job as a foundry worker at Metters - a job he retained until the company closed in the 1960s. He then worked at Angliss Meatworks until retirement. Val mentions that he would proudly recount working there with the actor, John Wood.

George's 1930 Dockerty Cup medal
No name inscribed on the back.

In 1927 George, a Presbyterian, was playing with Footscray Thistle, one of Melbourne's champion Scottish-based teams. In sporting terms George must have felt that he had landed on his feet. Over the next five years he would obtain four championship medals (three Dockerty cups and one northern section championship). He also played a number of times for Victoria. Val laughed when she told me about the letter he received inviting him to play for Victoria. “It told him where he needed to be at a particular time on a particular day and to bring his own socks.”

It's clear that Macaulay was an excellent player. He is prominent in match reports throughout the decade. Though it should be said that Footscray Thistle was on something of a decline throughout the decade being relegated to the second tier in 1937.

George Macaulay enlisted in the Australian army in 1941 at the age of 34. He served in New Guinea, shattering his kneecap, contracting malaria, and returning to Australia in September 1945. It appears that George never played an organised game again. Val certainly remembers him kicking a ball in the backyard, showing her some tricks, but she has no memory that includes games of soccer. Perhaps it was the malaria; or the shattered kneecap; or his age, but his soccer career was over. But maybe also it was because he lost his team. A familiar story in Australian soccer is the death of clubs and the despondency and sometimes defection of those who follow them. Footscray Thistle seems to have been one of the war’s many casualties. Of all the teams that were deleted by the war, perhaps Footscray Thistle was the best of them. In any case, George seems to have lost interest in local soccer, preferring to follow the broadcast of English games on his scratchy radio in the back shed or local games of VFL.

Sadly, George’s wife, Valerie died when Val was 10 in 1953. The family moved to 79 Hyde Street Footscray until George's retirement when they moved to 16 Station Street in Blackburn. George Macaulay died in 1997 at the ripe old age of 90.

When it came to George's soccer records, photographs, and medals, Val didn't have a vast number of items. However, the quality of what she has is immense. These included a number of photographs of the Footscray Thistle team and the Victorian State team, some of which I had not seen before. One in particular took my attention because of the width of the
undated picture of the Footscray Thistle team
photograph. In the background we see detail normally excluded from team photos, that might well give us information about the locality of the game. The 1937 program for the English game against Australia excited me because I've never seen anything like it. My excitement was attenuated by realising a copy of it was already on Mark Boric’s Melbourne soccer site. I had seen photos of George’s Dockerty cup and Northern Section medals but to hold them in my hot little hand and be able to photograph the inscriptions on the reverse side was was a thrill. But the big ticket items were . . . little tickets: two tiny blue booklets from 1935 and 1936, called Footscray Thistle member 
1935 and 1936 Member's Tickets
tickets. These little booklets hold so much information as can be seen below: the committee, the season fixtures, the ground that they play on, even the little advertisements for local products contain information available nowhere else. I half-jokingly offered Val $200 for them on the spot. She seriously declined. One item I missed was the letter informing him that he was in the Victorian team, Val having misplaced it.

A wonderful amount of information about Footscray Thistle
 and Victorian soccer in such small bundles
Leaving Val and Ed, a familiar feeling came to me. Having visited many people for such interviews, I was aware of taking a little piece of their personal history. This produces a sense of responsibility and desire to treat the material with care — not in a physical sense in this case, because all I had was photographs and scans of originals and the notes — in an emotional sense. I need to respect the implied trust the siblings have placed in me. I will be pleased if this little piece fits that bill.

More is to be discovered about George Macaulay's personal history and Footscray Thistle’s rise and fall. This piece is my first contribution to the that project.