The Secret Diary of Congerford Redington-Smythe

“It is my intention to purchase a football in the course of the next week, and I shall expect a good many down the field next Saturday.” Edward Manners 1864.

My Great Great Great Grandfather Congerford Redington-Smythe was a noted diarist of his time. From generation to generation my family passed down his precious diary, with its beautifully crafted leather binding and huge brass clasp. A few weeks ago I had carefully scratched out all references to his name, and replaced them with ‘A.Hitler’ in anticipation of an Ebay bonanza. I think it’s what he would have wanted.

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The Edward Manners story sparked a vague recollection from the diary. Could it be that my family had a connection with the man who started Our Club? I raced round the house trying to find it, and finally discovered it wedged in my wife’s suit of armour. She had been using it store her pressed kitten collection. I rifled excitedly through the pages with Tiddles, Whiskers, Fluffy, and Sweetums flying in all directions. Yes!! I exclaimed, my heart beating ever faster as the story unfolded before me. It recounted the time between the first historic meeting and the Saturday, so eagerly anticipated by Mr Manners. Please remember to take breaths while reading these precious words, for your own safety.

Diary entry dated  Monday 14th August 1864:-

Mr Manners is indeed a fine chap. His plan to distract the common man from the baser pursuits, by providing a bladder full of air to chase on the wastelands of our fair County will most certainly prove conducive. After the meeting Mr Manners called me aside, and conveyed in a whisper his primary motive:“ I rather curtailed my speech old chap, I determined not to mention the part about the shooting of these unwashed hoards whilst confined in a fenced off area. Should be tremendous fun with a blunderbuss!.    “A splendid plan Sir,” I cheered, and agreed to muster some recruits before Saturday next.

Tuesday 15th August 1864:-

Ye Gads!!  This rousing of the common man is a mite more difficult than I had expected. My only sniff of a recruit is Master Mark Griffiths the turnip catcher’s son. He hails from a grindingly poor family whose initiative in the finding of gainful employment has limited their income for centuries. His father growled at me ‘ Me understanin o’ the rat catchers art is somut  ul ne’re grasp, me onny ope ist turnips comin more poplar’. The lad is an illiterate simpleton, but he has hands like shovels, and I have an uncanny feeling that, with careful breeding, the proud nation of Wales will benefit from this lowly line of stock, once bladder catching takes hold.

A rare picture of turnip-catching practise at Collier's Park in 1875. Note the traditional dress of the turnip-catcher or "brassica keeper". Under the FA-approved rules of the time, turnip-catchers were allowed to keep any turnips they caught as a bonus. However, traditionalists rejected this as a form of professionalism and invented rugby instead.

A rare picture of turnip-catching practise at Collier’s Park in 1875. Note the traditional dress of the turnip-catcher or “brassica keeper”. Under FA regulations of the time, turnip-catchers were allowed to keep any turnips they caught as a bonus. However, traditionalists rejected this as a form of professionalism and split from the game to invent rugby.

Wednesday 16th Aug 1864:-

Tis only Wednesday and I am harangued from all directions. The oaffish peasants in these parts are demanding more recruits, how impatient they are!! I have but limited resources and am a mere volunteer in this adventure. Any more of this insolence and I shall instruct Manners to sell the damned ball to Messrs Moss and Roberts the Butchers.

Diary entry dated  Thursday 17th August 1864:-

All appears lost. The dullard Griffiths has eaten too much coal and has taken to his bed. In desperation I have called on Bishop Andrew to play, but his fees are extortionate and he is demanding the security of a long term contract. If his recent sermons are anything to go by he may not prove popular with the rabble, so I am racked with doubt over whether to pay. A brief ray of hope was a letter from the Grand Order of Swamp Hoofers of Saltney, requesting they be considered as opponents this Saturday.  Methinks a future rivalry may be in the offing, but not yet. I declined the request owing to their having yet to evolve feet.

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Diary entry dated Friday 18th August 1864:-

Oh Happy day!, it has all come together at the final hour. With the final rays of sun fading on the smoky landscape of Wrexham, I saw coming along the lane a band of merry travellers hailing from Mercia (Now Greater Nuneaton). They were strong of limb, fleet of foot, and agile of mind. I saw in a trice that these were the men to form the core of our brave new sporting enterprise. The Bishop took a shine to the fine young men and signed without further ado. Huzzah I cried, we CAN expect a good many down the field THIS Saturday!

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