This is the way it goes sometimes:
1. Up early to watch EPL.
2. Notice a text from Mav alerting me to a comment on facebook from Alan Pickersgill, to which he had attached this gorgeous photo of a Northumberland and Durham team in 1914. His grandfather Robert Walter Pickersgill is third from the right on the second back row.
3. Respond to Alan, who immediately proceeds to video call from his home in Gateshead, England. We have a long chat in which (after getting rid of the Mackem/Mag banter/formalities) he reveals the bones of a fantastic story.
4. Go to Footscray Market (past the car park that once was the site of the Bay View Hotel, which functioned as a dressing room for Northumberland and Durham and most likely in which Robert had prepared for games at Footscray Park), through the market, to take a photo of 13 Paisley St, the site of H.C. Lloyd's Alma Studio, the company that took the team shot.
|13 Paisley St, Footscray Presently aTobacco franchise, |
the recent tenancy history of this address is indicated
by the different signage upstairs and down.
Not a bad early morning's research. Reviewing my scribbled notes from my chat with Alan (who I expect will correct me where I'm wrong) I gathered the following.
Walter Robert Pickersgill was born 1 September 1888 and came to Australia on the Ascanius in 1911. He worked in his trade as a joiner in Footscray and played for Northumberland and Durham without seeming a central figure. (Though more to be discerned on that.) He didn't for example play in the final of the Dockerty Cup in 1914.
Robert returned to England in 1919 and promptly married Jane Potts-Mullen (which suggests a degree of premeditation) before returning to Footscray on 15 May 1920. Alan's dad, also Robert Walter Pickersgill, was born in Droop St. Jane was unhappy (Robert less so) and they returned to England after a short while.
Robert sr died in 1952 on the day following Alan's birth.
They seem the facts, but we need now to put meaning them. Robert snr struggled through the depression eking out work on the banks of the Tyne, which probably prevented any consideration of remigrating. Alan says that Robert jr always regretted not having been brought up in Australia and might have returned had the circumstances been right. Robert jr served in WW2 but Robert snr's service record is unclear. (Co-incidentally 2 Pickersgills are on the Merewether Advance Roll of Honour.)
Alan didn't have anything else from Robert snr's football career, such as possible Dockerty Cup medals, but will now approach his uncle Tom (19 years Robert's junior) to see if he has anything football related.
A closing point was that the family has kept the Northumberland and Durham team photo on its sideboard through the years. How many such artifacts are spread through the UK? Interesting family memorabilia and Australian soccer history gold.
This is bitty and scrappy so far but we'll get a good story out of it.