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's 1930 Dockerty Cup medal|
|No name inscribed on the back.|
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|
|1935 and 1936 Member's Tickets|
|A wonderful amount of information about Footscray Thistle|
and Victorian soccer in such small bundles
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.