When Speke Hall became an artist’s retreat – Frederick Leyland, Rossetti, and James Whistler

The walls of Speke Hall can probably tell many a tale.  From hiding priests, family quarrels, scandals, and servant’s gossip.  What makes a house feel alive is the stories of people who resided there. 

Although Frederick Leyland was only a tenant at Speke Hall from 1867-1877 there are enough lively tales to tell during that period. 

Leyland’s background is a typical rag to riches story.  His mother managed to get Leyland a job as a clerk at the Bibby line. 

Frederick Leyland – by Gabriel Dante Rossetti

Being a bright boy, Leyland worked his way up and ended up taking over the Bibby line where he made his fortune and became a multi-millionaire. 

One of Leyland’s interests was art, and he became a patron for Dante Gabriel Rossetti and James Whistler.  Both of whom were well known and controversial characters in the world of art. 

Rossetti was part of the pre-Raphaelite movement that changed the art world. For them they sought a return to abundant details, intense colours, and realism in what was in front of the artist.  To Rossetti, Millais, and Hunt, art had become too mechanical and objected to the influence of Joshua Reynolds who they referred to as ‘Sir Sloshua.’ 

Speke Hall was seen as more of a country retreat for Leyland for when he was in Liverpool.  It was well away from the pollution and dirt of the city whilst also good for hunting. 

Nevertheless, Leyland took great interest in making changes to the Hall which you can still see from today.  The morning room where Leyland took breakfast (the great hall was too draughty), the library where William Morris wallpaper hangs (also another member of the pre-Raphaelite movement), and of course the billiard room where Leyland could relax and chat with friends. 

Being close friends with Rossetti and Whistler it was not unnatural for Leyland to ask them to stay over.  In 1868 Rossetti declared that Speke Hall ‘as a very glorious old house, full of interest in every way.’ 

During one of Rossetti’s visit he caused mayhem after no doubt being drunk or high on laudanum as he banged on bedroom doors looking for a wench.  The story goes that Frederick Leyland advised Rossetti that it might be best going home the following day. 

The pair still had a great relationship with Leyland still acting as his patron.  Overall, Leyland commissioned eighteen paintings from Rossetti, not counting unfulfilled commissions.  Possibly, one of the more famous paintings commissioned by Leyland is the Monna Rosa. 

Monna Rosa

This was the title of two paintings of Frances Leyland the wife of Frederick Leyland with one completed in 1862 (which is now missing) and the larger one in 1867.  Leyland displayed the larger painting in his drawing room with five other Rossetti paintings which Leyland called ‘stunners.’ 

Around the time that Rossetti was painting the second Monna Rosa, he introduced Leyland to James Whistler. 

Due to Leyland being a generous patron, Whistler was able to gain his patronage and was a frequent visitor to Speke Hall.  Here Whistler was commissioned to paint both Leyland and his wife Frances.  In response Whistler called Frederick Leyland ‘the Liverpool Medici.’ 

It seems that James Whistler became close to the Leyland family with his mother nursing Leyland’s children through bouts of scarlet fever. 

Reviewing the correspondence of James McNeill Whistler held in the University of Glasgow, Leyland appears to have been a generous patron. 

Dear Leyland –

I am going to ask you for more money! – This you see is the festive season at which a struggle with the ennemy [sic] becomes daily more difficult – I come to you for ammunition as mine is exhausted, and I am to do great decisive battle with strong forces on Thursday I fear! – Will you kindly send me the ballance [sic] left for your picture, which [p. 2] is steadily progressing – and depend upon me for it’s completion as soon as possible –

Believe me dear Leyland

Faithfully Yours.

J.A.M. Whistler

Leyland duly obliged and sent the ‘ammunition,’ as Whistler referred to so that he could keep the wolves at the door. 

There were frequent communications between Leyland and Whistler with the latter not adverse to getting his mother to write to Leyland asking for more money. 

Nevertheless, it all seemed amicable as this letter from Leyland to Whistler as he describes a full moon at Speke Hall. 

My dear Jemmy,

Your theory of a tub is all very well; but let me tell you that life in a tub is infinitely preferable to the society of the philistines. – No one likes society better than I do, but then it must be good. The last fortnight has been very pleasant (la respectable [p. 2] Smith[2] notwithstanding) and it is not much to one’s credit to be agreable [sic] under such circumstances; but how seldom it is one can have the chance.

On the whole I stick by my old opinion that the safest place for a man is to be content with his own company.

Mrs Caird[3] has gone back to Scotland today and little Fanny[4] has gone with her for a fortnight. Miss Caird[5] I think goes away next week and then [p. 3] we shall be as we were at Speke[6].

Talk of your moonlight[7] at Battersea bridge – You should have seen it at Speke for the last few nights. It was superb. –

We went down after dinner to the foot end of the avenue and spent an hour or more there looking at the moonlight on the river : – the tide was up, and the water quite phosphorescent; glittering and sparkling in the moonlight like a fairy scene; quite lovely and mysterious, mais pas bien pour les moeurs[8].

I don’t know when [p. 4] I shall go up to town – probably the end of next week or the week after – ; but I will call on you when I do if you are not at Speke earlier which I hope will be the case.

I had a letter today from Rossetti[9] – He says he has sold his 2000 gna picture[10] to a friend of Howells[11]!!!!!!!


“poverino[12]“!!!

Yours ever

Fred. R. Leyland

Interestingly, the person named Howells or otherwise known as Charles Augustus Howells also frequented Speke Hall and is alleged to have persuaded Rossetti to dig up the grave of his wife Elizabeth Siddal, to recover his poems that Rossetti had buried with his wife. 

Howells was a well-known art dealer and if the rumours were to believed a blackmailer that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story ‘The adventures of Charles Augustus Milverton.’

Whistler in his own words was a ‘never ending guest,’ at Speke Hall and worked on several etchings of the house and the nearby area.  Some of which was Garston shore, shipyard, and the little forge.  All of which were sketched in 1875. 

Whistler, James Abbott McNeill; Whistler and the Leyland Family in the Billiard Room, Speke Hall; Walker Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/whistler-and-the-leyland-family-in-the-billiard-room-speke-hall-98966

Elizabeth Pennell who wrote a biography on Whistler wrote that Speke Hall ‘always put him better for work.’

Although Leyland had a mistress as well as affairs, he didn’t take kindly to the rumours that Whistler was becoming rather attracted to his wife Frances.  It didn’t help that Rossetti had informed Leyland that Whistler was planning to elope with Frances. 

There is a story, although not substantiated that Leyland caught Whistler and Frances in a compromising position in the Oak bedroom of Speke Hall.  Frances had denied having an affair with Whistler but did state that had she been a widow she might well have married Whistler.

Whether this is true or not, the correspondence from Whistler to Frances in which he states he was unable to give her ‘the faintest notion of my real happiness and enjoyment as your guest.  Upon finding this out, Leyland responded to Whistler stating ‘it is clear that I cannot expect from you the ordinary conduct of a gentleman.  If I find you in her society again, I will publicly horsewhip you.’

It is this suspicion of Whistler having an affair with Frances that was the true cause of the Peacock scandal that erupted between Leyland and Whistler. 

The Peacock Scandal

The Peacock Room

As well as residing in Speke Hall, Leyland also had a house in London, and it was this property that Leyland hired Thomas Jeckyll, a prominent architect, to design a display space for Leyland’s blue and white Qing dynasty porcelain collection.

Due to Leyland purchasing Whistler’s portrait of Christina Spartali or more commonly known as ‘the Princess from the land of porcelain,’ Jeckyll consulted Whistler about the room’s colour scheme.

Unfortunately, Jeckyll had health problems, and had to stop overseeing the work with Whistler volunteering to finish the work off whilst Leyland was in Liverpool. 

Although Leyland had agreed a minor alteration, Whistler in his own words painted on

‘I went on – without design or sketch – it grew as I painted.  And toward the end I reached the point of perfection – putting in every touch with such freedom – that when I came round to the corner where I started, why, I had to paint part of it over again, as the difference would have been too marked.  And the harmony in blue and gold developing, you know, I forgot everything in my joy.’

On and on Whistler went as he covered the ceiling with imitation gold leaf, over which he painted a lush pattern of peacock feathers.  On the walnut shelving and the wooden shutters, Whistler painted four magnificently plumed peacocks.

Such was the joy in his work, that Whistler wrote to Leyland ‘that the dining room was alive with beauty -brilliant and gorgeous while at the same time delicate and refined to the last degree.’  As Whistler got more carried away, he urged Leyland to delay his return to London so that he could see the room in all its perfect glory. 

Whistler was so proud of his work that he used Leyland’s private space as an exhibition to show off his work to the press.  Not surprisingly, Leyland was not happy that Whistler was using his room to enhance Whistler’s reputation. 

Worse for Whistler was that when Leyland did view the work he was appalled and with Whistler’s cost going up was not impressed at the two thousand guineas bill.  Leyland was quoted as saying that ‘his dining-room was ruined and Whistler’s time wasted.’

A dispute over the costs broke out between Leyland and Whistler with the latter responding to his patron in a letter ‘It is positively sickening to think that I should have labored to build up that exquisite Peacock Room for such a man to live in!’ 

In response to Leyland threatening to have him horsewhipped, Whistler responded with the final lines ‘Your last incarnation with a horsewhip I leave you to work out – Whom the Gods wish to make ridiculous, they furnish with a frill.’  A dig at the frilly shirts that Leyland wore. 

Whilst the feud raged, Whistler returned back to the property and installed a mural depicting a pair of peacocks in gold aggressively confronting each other amongst a blue background with silver shillings at the feet of the bird.  To ensure Leyland got the point, Whistler painted ruffled feathers on one of the peacocks throat in yet another dig at Leyland’s shirt. 

Eventually, they agreed to half of the bill but in a further insult, Leyland wrote the cheque but in pounds rather than guineas.  It was always a unwritten agreement that professional artists would be paid in guineas with Whistler furious at the slight.  Not that it stopped him cashing the cheque. 

Due to the loss of a generous patron and other patrons being wary of letting Whistler into their homes, Whistler found it difficult to get money.  It also didn’t help that Whistler sued the eminent art critic John Ruskin after he reviewed Whistler’s Nocturne with the following ‘I have seen, and heard, much of Cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.’

Although Whistler won the case, he was only awarded a farthing which meant that he was bankrupt.  In a last dig at his former patron Leyland, the creditors when arriving at his former studio house found a painting called the ‘Gold Scab.’  It depicted Leyland as a hideous peacock at a piano with bags of cash at his feet.  Naturally, Leyland was depicted wearing a frilly shirt. 

The Gold Scab with a frilly shirt

Despite professing his dislike of the Peacock room, Leyland never changed it and following his death in 1892, the interior peacock work was bought by American industrialist Charles Lang Freer in 1904 which was reassembled in Detroit. 

The Peacock room work is in Washington D.C. where it is now in the Freer Gallery of Art.  However, there is a link between Leyland and Speke Hall, as it seems that Peacock scandal masked the real dispute of Leyland suspecting that Whistler was attempting to romance his wife Frances at Speke Hall. 

‘Teflon,’ Boris & why even the men in grey suits won’t budge him.

Let’s face it, Boris Johnson has had enough scandals that would have been enough to sink previous Prime Ministers. From the bare faced lies, the scandal over the care homes during the pandemic, the contracts leading to PPE, breaking his own laws, the affair with Jennifer Arcuri and questions raised over the £126,000 loan, then there are the parties where it got that ridiculous that at one point Boris Johnson claimed he got ambushed by a birthday cake.

Now it looks like it has got a tad serious for Boris Johnson after Chris Pincher’s resignation. Allegedly Boris was meant to have known about his previous discretions and chortled ‘Pincher by name, Pincher by nature.’

There have been a wrath of resignations most notably Sajid Javid the health secretary and the most damaging yet, Rishi Sunak the Chancellor resigning a few minutes after Javid.

If there is one thing the Conservative party are concerned with and that is retaining power. Two bad by-election defeats has made them twitchy even if Boris has survived a vote of no confidence. The grey suits are being summoned and although it was enough to remove Theresa May, it won’t be enough to budge Teflon Boris.

Putting it quite simply, Boris Johnson not only has no shame but it is the make up of his background and ilk where they are led to believe they are born to rule. Whereas rules exist for the plebs they are a minor inconvenience for the likes of Boris Johnson.

Right from when they can barely walk they are sent to boarding school and later onto the elite public schools such as Eton and Rugby. There they are led to believe that they are born to lead and rule.

For the likes of Boris Johnson they have no inclination of normal lives nor does he probably care. This is the man who is reported to have spoke down to a journalist when he first met Boris when he was being interviewed by Oxford, simply because he was not of the same class of Johnson.

The antics of the Bullingdon club in which Boris Johnson was a member led to him thrashing pubs, throwing a vase through a window leading to him being chased by Police and allegedly burning a £50 note in front of a homeless man. Something that Boris Johnson has denied.

For Boris Johnson, it is about getting to the position and staying there. It’s debatable on whether Boris Johnson really is a Brexiteer but thought it was his chance of seizing the Premiership. The means achieve the aims.

It’s not just Boris Johnson who has this mindsight but Jacob Rees-Mogg who wants to physically take Britain back to the Victorian era. By that sending kids down the mines and chimneys whilst bringing back polio.

Rees Mogg in November 2019 dropped his guard after saying ‘it would be common sense for the Grenfell residents to flee the burning building,’ after being advised by the London fire brigade to stay put.

Here we have the likes of Rees Mogg believing that they are more clever than the rest of us mere mortals. That he, Boris Johnson, David Cameron etc have better breeding and the know how to run the country. In short knowing your place. Something that Tory MP Andrew Bridgen alluded to by defending Rees Mogg that it was because ‘he was cleverer and that’s the people that we want running the country, don’t we?’

Don’t think it just refers to the right of the Conservative party but the so claimed centre of Rory Stewart. Like Boris Johnson he too went to Eton and like Boris Johnson had plans to become Prime Minister as he stood for leader after Theresa May’s resignation.

Stewart’s style is a calculated gamble that after the rough and tumble of Boris Johnson the party will turn to him someone like him to provide a steady hand. Commentators state how he speaks common sense and would unite the country, yet his voting record when he was an MP contradicts this. For example he voted against laws to promote equality and human rights, generally voted against measures to prevent climate change to name but a few.

As I write this, Michael Gove has now called on his ex-chum Boris Johnson to stand down so it would seem that the men in grey suits will be going around to speak to ‘Teflon,’ Boris about leaving.

Don’t be surprised if Teflon Boris comes through this unstuck again. It’s the narcist mindsight that it his divine right to be leader that has led him to believe he can always wriggle out of the farmers hands like a well greased piglet.

The dark side of 1980s & 1990s kids TV

‘Ah the 1980s and 1990s,’ as Steve Lamacq of 6 music might whimsically say ‘a great period of children’s television.’

This was the era of the Cosgrove cartoons such as Danger Mouse, Jamie and his magic torch, and Count Duckula to name but a few.  It was the decade of epic cartoon series such as Ulysses, Dogtanian and the three Muskehounds, around the world in 80 days with Willy Fog, and Dungeon & Dragons. 

Every weekend or the start of the summer holidays these cartoons would roll out to entertain the young masses who enjoyed the stories. 

However, there was dark morbid side to the kid’s shows with dark undertones that makes Stranger Things look a pale imitation.

Dungeons and Dragons

Everyone of a certain age remembers this 1980s classic.  Six children embark on an amusement park roller coaster only for it to suddenly stop and take them into a fantasy realm. 

Here they meet the Dungeon Master who gives each of the children a magical item to help them find their way home. 

The blonde haired Jock Hank is the Ranger with the magical energy bow, Eric the cavalier  who is the rich frat kid, Diana the athlete is the Acrobat who carries a Javelin staff, Presto the geek of the group whose power is a wizard although his spells sometimes produce items that seemingly don’t help, Sheila the quiet red haired kid who has a cloak of invisibility and then there is her younger brother Bobby ‘the barbarian with his thunder club and Unicorn called ‘Uni.’

Each week the gang try to find their way home by undergoing quests with Dungeon Master giving them cryptic clues.  Along the way they help people whilst fighting Venger (turns out to be Dungeon Master’s son) who wants the children’s magical weapons to gain control of the realm.  There is also Tiamet a five headed dragon who Venger fears and his sister Karena.

Hank is the leader whilst Eric is the coward who thinks about himself but at the last moment always protects the group. 

This was a series that seemed to run and run that I was surprised that it only ran for three seasons and not astonished that it never had an ending. 

For a kid’s programme there were a lot more moral dilemmas and dark tones than normally expected of kids cartoons of the era.  In one episode the kids openly think of killing Venger as a way of getting home. 

During the run you do wonder whether the Dungeon Master could return the children home but in a dark twisted move is using the children to keep hold of his power in the realm. 

Looking back that wasn’t far from the truth but the big revelation was that the final series would reveal that the kids had all died in a crash on the roller coaster and were now in hell (possibly purgatory).  Dungeon Master was to be revealed as the devil who was running the realm and tormenting the children of the hope of returning home when they couldn’t. 

Eric to Dungeon Master ‘You sick little bastard!’

Rugrats

Although it didn’t debut in the 1980s (it was August 1991) there is a very dark theory as to what the Rugrats was about. 

If you think it was about the adventures of Tommy, Angelica, Chuckie, Dil and the twins Phil and Lil then think again. 

Rather than it being a world from a baby’s point of view as they explore the world whilst getting into mishaps it seems that they are all figments of the bossy Angelica. 

The theory is that Angelica was so lonely that she made up her own friends.  Dil is the only baby that is real as he is the only one that can’t talk it leads to Angelica getting frustrated.

So far it doesn’t sound that dark, maybe just sad, but then the can of worms is open with the following revelations.

Tommy the star of the show is actually a stillborn who died at birth and explains why he never grows.  To emphasis the point his dad Stu Pickles is always spending his time in the basement making toys for a baby that died to deal with his grief. 

It gets darker as we discover that Phil and Lil never existed as the De Villes terminated the pregnancy.  As Angelica didn’t know what sex the baby would be, she created the twins. 

Chuckie’s mum died in a car accident which affects his dad, but it seems that Chuckie also died making his dad even more off kilter due to losing his wife and son. 

Think that Chas marrying Kira was an innocent romance?  Well think again as another theory is that she is a sex worker who lost custody of her daughter Kimi.  Angelica overhears her talking about missing Kimi and conjures up yet another imaginary friend.

As for Angelica it seems that she has had a bad start to life.  Her biological mother was a drug addict who died of an overdose.  This is the reason why Angelica carries around the tatty looking doll with blonde hair as it reminds her of her real mum.  Charlotte is her step mum who is too obsessed with her career to give Angelica any love or attention as likewise her dad. 

If you’re wondering about Suzy apparently, she is Angelica’s only real friend who is aware of Angelica’s background and humours her.

Thomas the tank engine

Good old Thomas the tank engine what a delightful kids programme one of innocence and friendship.  Ringo Starr’s dulcet tones was the narrator as he told the tales of Thomas and his friends in the fictional island somewhere in the Irish sea.

Yet underneath the happy smile of Thomas and James was a dark side where Sir Topham Hatt or more popular known as ‘the fat controller,’ was an evil dictator who ran this totalitarian world.  Anyone who ruthlessly steps out of line is brutally put down.

Take Henry who refuses to come out of the tunnel as he doesn’t want the rain to ruin his ‘lovely green paint and red stripes.’ 

When the engine driver, crew, and passengers can’t convince Henry to move they call out the top gun which is the fat controller.  Asserting control he orders the passengers to push Henry out.  Not that the fat controller is doing any pushing as he conveniently cites doctor’s orders.

After Thomas tries to push his pal out of the tunnel the fat controller loses patience at the loss of work and decides that Henry is to be locked up for life.  It then cuts into segments as the rails are removed and a brick wall is built with Henry’s face partially visible.

If you think the punishment was just temporary, then think again as over time the soot and dirt of the tunnel ruins Henry’s paintwork.  Not only that, but Henry has to suffer watching the other engines running around whistling hello or in one case another engine yells ‘serves you right.’  Poor Henry can’t even whistle back as he has no steam left.

Ringo ends the episode with ‘I think he deserved his punishment, don’t you?’ Cue the happy end credits which gives a rather sinister tone. 

That though wasn’t a one off as Smudger a show-off engine is punished by being turned into a generator, never to move again. 

In another episode a double decker bus named Bulgy comes to the station declaring revolution ‘free the roads from railway tyranny.’  The fat controller traps him under a bridge and turns him into a hen house. 

A reoccurring story are the troublesome trucks which is resolved after their leader S.C. Ruffey is pulled into two different directions until he breaks into pieces.  The other trucks are subdued into fearful obedience lest they suffer the same fate.

It seems that the fat controller rules his fiefdom with the ruthlessness of a mafia don who expects everybody to work and obey the rules without question. 

Rainbow

Perhaps Rainbow wasn’t as dark as the other three programmes, but the original Bungle bear must have given many a kid a nightmare when it was first aired. 

If the glassy dead eyed look of a huge sinister Teddy bear wasn’t enough to give you the creeps then Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s No 9 vibe of Rainbow will be enough to send a shudder down your spine. 

Quite why no one didn’t think the original Bungle looked a tad sinister for kids is remarkable but the whole false niceness of the place makes it feel like a village akin to the 1960s Prisoner. 

Another thought is why Bungle bear was happy to walk around naked but put pyjamas on when going to bed is another mystery to be never resolved.

Quantum Leap

A programme that was more suitable to teens than younger kids it was nevertheless a popular show. 

The premise was of Dr Sam Beckett in order to save his time travelling experiment leaping back into the past into the person of someone else within the second part of the twentieth century. 

Assisted by his friend Al in the form of a hologram and the projects computer Ziggy, Sam is given a timescale in which to right a wrong that was made in the past in order to leap or remain stuck in the person of who he has jumped into.  Each leap is hopefully the next leap home but always ends with him leaping into someone else in difficult circumstances leading to Sam to say, ‘oh boy.’ 

It covered a lot of themes such as the civil rights and women’s movement but looking back there was a religious motif in that Sam was carrying out God’s work.  Nevertheless, we get to see Sam as a wrestler, an aspiring American footballer, opera singer, a mother, baseball player and a frat student. 

The show ran for five series when it was cancelled.  This though was the dark premise in that rather Doctor Sam Beckett never did leap back home. All the credits sombrely show in black and white is ‘Dr Sam Becket never returned home,’ with the t mysteriously dropped from his name. 

The Untouchables – Part two

Winning any major trophy is a hard slog to get over the finishing line.  A league title is decided over a long nine months while overcoming Homer like Odyssey trials to get over the finishing line.  Once the trophy has been lifted the celebrations are quickly over and thoughts move onto the next season. 

Thoughts at the time would have centred on defending the title and whether Liverpool could match the likes of Preston North End, Aston Villa, and Sheffield Wednesday who were the last team to achieve this after winning back-to-back titles in 1902-03 and 1903-04.  

Perhaps Liverpool fans were thinking about winning the FA cup for the first time in their history.  The cup was a prestigious trophy which would elevate Liverpool to one of the greats in the game at the time.  However, such was their luck in the competition, it was said that the Liver Birds would fly away before Liverpool would ever lift the FA cup. 

What was certain that Liverpool had a difficult task in retaining the league.  Although some clubs spent big even in that era, it was very much a level playing field in that era. 

Pre-season saw Liverpool travel to Italy where they played Burnley and a Emilia Select XI followed with games against Liguria, Vercelli and Genoa. 

Tom Bromilow wrote in the Liverpool Echo of the differences in culture and weather as they struggled with the heat.  Buckets of water had been stationed around the perimeter of the pitch to stop dehydration. 

Nor was Bromilow impressed by the Italian spectators by saying ‘what an exitable people these Italians are!  Whenever a possible chance presented itself and the shooter failed, he was greeted by a combination of howls of derision or disappointment.’ 

Despite this, there must have been respect from the Italians as a Turin based team, possibly Juventus, made an approach to Walter Wadsworth to become their manager. 

Liverpool’s defence of their crown began at Anfield with Arsenal the visitors.  Excitement and pride would have been in the air that August day as Liverpool’s league championship flag fluttered proudly above the Spion Kop.  Incidentally, the Kop had yet to have a roof, so the Kopites back then truly suffered under the elements.  Whether it was a scorching sun or torrential rainfall. If the game was grim then the lack of shelter could really rub the salt into the wounds.

Arsenal was to be the sacrificial lambs as Liverpool thrashed the Gunners 5-2 to start the season with a flyer. 

Worried mutterings around Anfield must have ensured on whether Liverpool’s defence of the title was going to be a whimper after losing two consecutive away games to Sunderland and Arsenal.  Liverpool bounced back to win their next four games on the bounce.  By the end of September Liverpool were in the familiar position of top spot and although they were beaten by Burnley at home a week later, they were still top when they hosted Everton on 7th October 1922. 

As always, the derby was a passionate, fiery affair with the city honours at stake.  54,000 crammed into Anfield to watch Liverpool give Everton a footballing lesson by thrashing the Toffees 5-2 and leaving Everton feeling blue. 

Not that there were moments in the game when it became uncomfortable as McKinlay overhit a pass that was akin to a shot that forced a fine save from Scott.  Despite the wink to his keeper, Elisha Scott gave McKinley a foul-mouthed blasting that made a couple of dockers in the Kop blush. 

The result and the fact that Liverpool were now one point clear at the top whilst their neighbours Everton were now nineteenth would have put a grin from ear to ear for Kopites. 

A week later, Liverpool made the short trip across Stanley Park to beat Everton 1-0 in front of 52,000 supporters at Goodison Park making it a derby double for the reds. 

With the autumn leaves now starting to fall and turn brown, Liverpool kept going with machine like efficiency.  True, there had been minor setbacks such as the 3-0 away defeat to Cardiff and being beaten 2-0 at home to Newcastle but that period from when Liverpool beat Everton on 14th October and beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 at home, they had accumulated thirteen points (two points for win in that period) in nine games.  Consequently, it was no surprise that Liverpool was sat on top of the table with twenty-seven points one point ahead of challengers Sunderland. 

You can picture Liverpool supporters debating the up-and-coming fixtures especially the glut of games during the Christmas period where Liverpool would play four games in a week with back-to-back games on Christmas and Boxing Day. 

Rumours would have started to circulate that David Ashworth was going to resign and join his former club Oldham Athletic who were second from bottom in the table. 

When Bill Shankly resigned as Liverpool boss in the summer of 1974 and Kenny Dalglish in February 1991, it caused a meteorite shock as the resignations were a complete bolt out of the blue. 

This would have the same impact on the red half of the city as well as the footballing world when the Liverpool Echo broke the news on 22 December 1922 that David Ashworth had resigned from Liverpool to take charge of his former club Oldham Athletic. 

Like now, it was inconceivable as to why Ashworth would leave a club top of the table and looking to achieve back-to-back league championships.

No one had seen it coming.  Neither the board, the players, coaching staff, and supporters had a whiff that Ashworth would jump ship. 

Even now, no explanation has been given as to why David Ashworth made the decision to take charge of Oldham Athletic.  Theories swirled around that Ashworth had moved for money, but you don’t have to delve that deep to know that Oldham were in financial difficulties and certainly would not be able to match the wages that Ashworth was on at Liverpool.  The Anfield board were on a much stronger financial holding than a lot of clubs in that period. 

Another theory is that Ashworth wanted to return to Oldham to be with his wife and ill daughter.  While a further rumour was that Ashworth’s wife was disabled hence the reason for Ashworth leaving Liverpool.

Yet as Jeff Goulding and Kieran Smith state in their book ‘the untouchables,’ there is no evidence for this.  Ashworth only stayed at Oldham for one year, before moving to Manchester City which again only lasted twelve months. 

They also point out that the 1939 Census taken while he was a scout for Blackpool records him as a guest at a Blackpool hotel, whilst his wife is recorded living thirty-eight miles away in Rawtenstall with her sister Hannah Whittaker.

It seems that dating back from childhood, David Ashworth was used to living out of a suitcase and didn’t plant any roots to call home. 

The only person who could answer why David Ashworth left Liverpool, is the man himself.  Unfortunately, he has never gave a reason or a third party disclosing a private conversation.  What can be said, is that Ashworth was an eccentric character and there is noted surprise when he left Oldham and also Manchester City after a year. 

Maybe it was the case of seeking new challenges or feeling that he could achieve no more.  Whatever the case, we shall never know why Ashworth left the reds only that it left supporters, players, and the board in shock. 

Like the players under Kenny Dalglish in 1991 it must have been a shock and no doubt supporters debated why Ashworth left.  No doubt players’ minds would have been on who would be taking charge and whether a change of manager would derail the defence of their league title. 

There wasn’t much time for the players heads to get around what had happened as they had to play Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.  Liverpool did not appear affected by the news as they won 3-1 with a brace from Johnson and a goal from Forshaw. 

David Ashworth didn’t have to wait long to face his old club as two days on later on Christmas Day, Oldham faced Liverpool at home.  There was to be no Christmas present from his former club as Liverpool won 2-0 to move four points clear at the top of the table with Sunderland in second place. 

Twenty-four hours later, David Ashworth would have found himself in the away changing room at Anfield to face his former club on Boxing Day.  No punches were spared as Liverpool clinically dispatched Oldham 2-1 to keep the gap at the top. 

Liverpool were now half way through the season with just a caretaker manager which was possibly George Patterson with Connell, Wilson, and Hewitt still taking charge of the training.  No doubt the hardest bit was keeping the players focused especially as Liverpool were in the market for a new manager.

It didn’t affect their form as they won seven out of the nine games after the home game against Oldham.  The only points dropped in that period were draws away to Chelsea and home to Arsenal.  

The Liverpool board went to a former and well-respected player Matt McQueen which was announced on 13th February 1923.  McQueen was one of the first players to turn out for the Reds when the club was formed in 1892.  Hailing from Harthill, Scotland, McQueen was part of the ‘Team of Jocks,’ that helped Liverpool win promotion to the First Division. 

By all accounts it was a popular decision but whereas in the short-term McQueen just had to keep a steady hand on the tiller to get Liverpool over the line to retain their title, McQueen had to have any eye on the future as the majority of the team were hitting their thirties which meant a re-building job. 

Nevertheless, there was pressure on Liverpool as the press talked about Liverpool being the ‘Invincibles,’ in their pursuit of winning the league for two seasons a row.  Others talked about Liverpool being the ‘untouchables,’ as no team was able to keep with Liverpool’s form. 

McQueen’s first game as manager was at home against Blackburn where 25,000 attended to see Liverpool win 3-0.  It seemed that the omens were good and with Liverpool due to play Sheffield United in the third round of the FA cup at Anfield, talk was of the ‘Invincibles,’ winning the Double. 

That though wasn’t to be, as the Reds were beaten 2-1 despite Harry Chambers giving Liverpool the lead in front of 51,000 supporters at Anfield.  Feelings would have been of Liverpool breaking their hoodoo until the Blades equalised and then won the game in the second half. 

It was back to the league as Liverpool entertained Bolton at home.  There was to be drama on and off the pitch.  By all accounts it was a wet and miserable Saturday afternoon in early March with the heavy rain turning the pitch to mud. 

25,000 were in attendance with the Kopites getting completely drenched.  At one point much to the mirth of the Echo reporter following the match, a loose ball was hit into the Kop and hit a supporter’s trilby which knocked the water that had gathered in the ridge up into the air. 

The game was a bit of a mud bath as the Echo reported that ‘Wadsworth was a study in black.  His face was plastered in mud, and when he jazzed the ball by the use of his rear guard, the crowd was tickled to death.’

Chambers too, had to use unorthodox methods to get the ball out of the mud which sounded equivalent to a golfer getting the ball out of the rough. 

It seemed that the reporter was disappointed that the weather hampered the King’s Liverpool regiment who were playing to entertain the crowd prior to kick-off and halftime.  Liverpool had a bandstand situated to the right of the players tunnel entrance which remained in place until it was demolished in the early 1960s. 

At the start of the second half a fire broke out in the Anfield Road near the number board.  Despite the rain it started to get out of control with the smoke threatening to abandon the game as supporters were quickly moved from the Anfield Road into the main stand. 

Thankfully, nobody was hurt with the fire brigade arriving to get the fire under control and putting it out.  Liverpool fans joked that a rare Fred Hopkins goal in the 3-0 win had caused the blaze.

The two points was invaluable as Sunderland were beaten by Sheffield United which meant Liverpool had a four-point lead with twelve games to go.  However, Liverpool had a touch of the title jitters as they lost the next two games away to Blackburn and Manchester City.  Sunderland though could not capitalise as Liverpool got back to winning ways beating Manchester City and Sheffield United at home, whilst beating Birmingham City.

Liverpool won seven points from the remaining seven games but was enough to clinch the title. A nil-nil away to Huddersfield with four games remaining was enough for Liverpool retain the league championship and become only the fourth side to do so. 

Jubilant supporters and journalists swamped the Liverpool changing rooms as the Chairman T.V. Williams declared it ‘to be one of the happiest days of my life.’ 

A wag had shouted that if Liverpool won it for the third time on whether it became their personal property.  Club captain Donald McKinlay talked about the achievement being special as the opposition had raised their games against the Champions.

Liverpool had played through the rain, muddy pitches, suffered a major setback when David Ashworth had resigned as manager to win the toughest prize of all.  The First Division Championship.  It was no wonder that critics had christened them ‘the untouchables.’

The final game of the season at home saw Liverpool beat Stoke City 1-0 thanks to a Harry Chambers goal as the team was presented with the league championship trophy.  Liverpool’s players had received a £25 bonus as Liverpool celebrated their magnificent achievement.

Days later, the club held a party to celebrate their triumph as they enjoyed music, speeches as TV Williams spoke about the unity by declaring ‘If there is a better feeling in any other club than the Liverpool club, I do not want to go there.’

The ‘untouchables,’ success was down to what makes any team winners even to this day.  A good team with every player suitable for the position and task that they were given.  Players don’t necessarily have to be a world beater but fit into that teams particular style of play and can do it effectively. 

Looking at the team they had a excellent spine from the back to the front.  In goal there was Elisha Scott, whilst in defence there was the tough stalwart Walter Wadsworth, midfield there was the left half Tom Bromilow the master of the body swerve, and the Scottish right half Jock McNab.  Upfront there was Harry Chambers and Dick Forshaw.  Added into the team was Ephraim Longworth, Bill Lacey, and Danny Shone to name but a few.  Everyone that played for Liverpool over those two seasons contributed to making Liverpool the untouchables. 

Another trait of a successful team is the desire to win and never giving up never mind the obstacles.  Grinding out wins in terrible conditions and pitches whilst in the 1922-23 season having to come to terms with their manager David Ashworth resigning. 

This Liverpool team was also capable of looking after themselves even confronting supporters such as when Walter Wadsworth jumped into the crowd and punched a spectator for the abuse he gave him, when Liverpool was playing Sheffield United.

Unfortunately, Wadsworth hit the wrong person, but this didn’t deter him as he declared ‘I was justified because a spectator called me something that I will allow no man to call me.  I am more than sorry that the man has not gone to court, because then the facts would be published, and it would be seen by all in the game of football how some spectators carry on.’

Liverpool didn’t not clinch their third successive title and it wouldn’t be until the 1946-47 when the Reds would win the title again. 

Such is Liverpool’s illustrious history that the early teams that built the foundation of success is now fading.  The achievements of the Untouchables should never be forgotten and like Liverpool teams have brought enjoyment in difficult times. 

If you want to read more about the Untouchables you cannot go wrong with ‘The Untouchables,’ by Jeff Goulding and Kieron Smith. 

Liverpool’s ‘Untouchables,’ Part one. A new world and a new team assembles.

Liverpool football club’s history has been littered with success since the formation of the club in 1892, the early history is largely forgotten about.  There are the doldrums of the second division and then the great messiah of Bill Shankly dragging Liverpool into the second division and making them the bastion of invincibility from the 1960s onwards.

Yet, there is a history prior to Shankly with a Liverpool side who set the groundwork of making Liverpool the footballing giants that they are.  It is a story well worth telling not just because of the glory and memories, but of a different era that had just come out of the first world war. 

Prior to the war, Liverpool had reached the 1914 FA cup final which was played at the Crystal Palace for the first time in their history but were beaten 1-0 by Burnley. It was also the first final that a reigning monarch was present as King George V handed the trophy to the winners. 

When war was declared against Germany after the invasion of Poland in August 1914 there was a patriotic fever to join up and support the war.  Yet, football continued despite the growing disapproval across the country who felt sport should not be continuing whilst people died in the trenches. 

So it was, that the 1914-15 season would be the last until the war ended.  A lot of speculation has been written as to why Liverpool and Manchester United players agreed to fix a match on Good Friday.  The consensus is that they agreed Liverpool would lose 2-0 and make money via betting.  Some believe it was the players ensuring that they had some income for their families whilst being sent to the front.

Either way, it was a scandal when it was discovered that the match had been thrown.  The players involved were given hefty bans with one only being rescinded in 1947.

When football did reconvene in 1919 the world was completely different to the one prior to August 1914.  Kings and empires had collapsed with the map being redrawn.  In Russia, the Tsar had been overthrown with the Bolsheviks taking charge.  Over in Germany the Kaiser had abdicated whilst the Austria-Hungary empire had collapsed. 

Britain itself was to start losing its power and influence with its empire starting to crumble as Ireland would gain independence in 1922. 

What is not widely discussed was the political uncertainty in the UK after the end of the first world war.  1919 has been described as the year of near revolution such was the unrest of that year.  Soldiers had mutinied due to poor conditions, not being demobbed as quickly as they were promised and in once incident a mutiny had broken out when they had been told that they would be shipped to Russia to fight the Bolsheviks. 

Civil unrest had broken out across the country which gave the government bigger jitters after what they had seen happen in Russia.  Liverpool was not to be immune, and when the Police went on strike for trade union recognition, riots had broken out that were so bad, the army was sent in with tanks patrolling the city centre.  Machine guns were also placed across London Road and Churchill sent another gunboat up the Mersey in case the riot took a political tone with an attempt at revolution.

The general feeling amongst the populace was the relief that the war that never seemed to end was now over.  Everyone had been affected by it, whether it was losing a relative, friend, or just surviving, the world was a completely different place.

Promises had been made by the Lloyd George and the Liberal party that they would make Britain a land fit for heroes, but the reality was different.  Work was hard to find, poor housing and bad working conditions. 

As usual, there was scapegoats with racism rearing its ugly head.  Although the Liverpool docks and port had always employed various nationalities before the war there were those that believed these foreigners had stolen their jobs whilst they had been fighting at the front. 

The Liverpool race riots of June 1919 was to be a stain on the city’s soul after a Bermudan sailor was murdered due to the colour of his skin.  Unrest broke out that summer, but it showed the volatile times that the country was in. 

Watching and indeed playing football was a chance to return to some sort of normality as the leagues got ready to resume.    Attendances were high all over the country and Anfield was no exception. 

Liverpool was in the process of re-building like most teams, especially with players who had been killed during the war.  After the death of their talented manager Tom Watson or ‘owd Tom,’ who died of pneumonia in 1915, aged fifty-six it was a worry on how they would be able to replace someone so influential on the club.

Hailing from Newcastle Upon Tyne, ‘Owd Tom,’ played for local clubs Woodbine, Rosewood and Heaton.  Prior to joining Sunderland, Watson was involved in a secretarial capacity which was pretty much the norm during that era with Newcastle West and East End.

The six years at Sunderland saw ‘Owd Tom,’ bring three league titles in 1891-92, 92-3 and 1894-95, which lead to William McGregor one of the founders of the football league to declare Sunderland ‘the team of all talents.’

So, when Liverpool managed to convince Tom Watson to swap the north-east for the north-west it was certainly a coup, considering that Liverpool was only four years old. 

Watson was certainly seen as an innovator as he had contacts’ the breadth and length of Britain of promising players in particular Scotland.  On one occasion he was pelted by Glaswegians when in charge of Liverpool after an attempt of signing one of their star players for the reds. 

One of his prominent signings for Liverpool was goalkeeper Elisha Scott who even now is still regarded as a Liverpool legend and regarded one of the greatest between the posts.  Ephraim Longworth was another Liverpool great and was Liverpool’s first ever England captain.

 Both Ephraim and Elisah were to become stalwarts of the ‘untouchables,’ Liverpool team.  Then there was the striker Harry ‘Smiler,’ Chambers a Geordie who was signed from West Bromwich, as well as local lad Walter Wadsworth.

The Liverpool Echo declared the reds signing of David Ashworth as general secretary and manager as something of a coup in June 1920.  Born in Fylde, he had spent eight years at Oldham Athletic taking them from the Lancashire Combination league to the first division. After that, Ashworth moved to Stockport before Liverpool came calling. 

A maverick manager with a fine waxed moustache, ‘Davie,’ as he was nicknamed was known to curl his moustache upwards or downwards depending on the team’s results.  At Oldham, Ashworth was known to run up and down the stand at Boundary Park to keep tabs on the action.

For a lot of clubs, it was a case of re-building but Liverpool despite the lean years prior to the war had the nucleus of a good side.  It was just a case of putting all the pieces together. 

Although everyone wanted to return to normality, life was never to be the same.  Everyone though was affected by the war either directly or indirectly. 

Danny Shone who was believed to have signed amateur papers for Liverpool aged fifteen in 1914 (no records exist to confirm this) but almost lost his life when he was called up in 1917.  Hailing from West Derby, Danny Shone was a promising footballer until the war rudely interrupted when he was posted to the 5th Manchesters. 

His battalion joined the front line at Villers-Bretonneux before being relieved and marched to reserve billets in Blangy-Tronville, a small town in the Somme region of France. 

The rest was to be short lived as the Germans launched a surprise attack at Villers-Bretonneux.  Danny took part in the third battle of Aisne when his battalion took enemy fire and Danny was hit in his abdomen.  Any penetrating wound to the abdomen was potentially life threatening.  Add into the fact that time was of the essence to get Danny to a military hospital due to the high chance of picking up infections and blood loss, it was a miracle that Danny recovered, never mind play football again. 

Tom Bromilow and Harry ‘Smiler,’ Chambers also served in the first world war and like many veterans would no doubt have suffered from fighting on the front.  Chambers, incidentally, was the last signing by Tom Watson prior to his death in 1915. 

For Tom Bromilow, it was an unusual path that saw him arrive at Liverpool aged twenty-four.  The story goes that Bromilow still in his army uniform, knocked at Anfield asking for a trial.  George Patterson the Club Secretary at the time, described signing Bromilow as ‘the luckiest signing I ever made.’

Like all successful teams, there was also a talented backroom staff in William Connell, Charlie Wilson, and Joe Hewitt.  All three knew Liverpool well and ensured that the players were well drilled. 

The role of manager differs very much to what we would expect today.  Ashworth like his predecessors were more administrators with the daily role of coaching and tactics the responsibilities of the coaches.  Indeed, the weekend line-ups were chosen by the board which didn’t end until as late as 1959. 

What can’t be denied is that Liverpool after Patterson’s brief stint were now more consistent and balanced.  It might be the case that Ashworth’s skill was recognising and signing talent as well as having good listening skills plus charisma. 

Liverpool’s opening game for the 1920-21 season started at Anfield against Manchester City.  The late August game saw a high crowd of forty-five thousand with the average Anfield gate during the season being forty thousand.  This was despite an entertainment tax being imposed.  It seemed that people wanted to get back to some sort of normality by going the football.

It seemed that the crowd got their money’s worth as City raced into a two-goal lead in the first half.  Liverpool got themselves back in the game and went on to win 4-2. 

Naturally the first Merseyside derby in years was highly anticipated with fifty thousand witnessing Liverpool beat Everton 1-0 at Anfield and a week later amongst fifty-five thousand at Goodison saw Liverpool do the double over their neighbours by winning 3-0. 

The chase for the elusive FA cup ended in the second round away to Newcastle United who beat the reds 1 – 0.  Nevertheless, the season saw Liverpool finish fourth and was to be the catalyst for the Untouchables.

By now Elisha Scott had established himself as Liverpool’s first choice goalkeeper.  It seemed that Everton had the chance to sign Scott but spurned the chance and thus allowed Liverpool to sign Scott who hailed from Belfast. 

What made Scott stand out was how serious he took goalkeeping.  Elisha knew the importance of a goalkeeper and how they could win you points ‘Get it into your head that a goalkeeper is as important,’ Elisha told the Topical Times in 1938.  ‘A centre can make a mess of things, and a pal will come to his aid.  If a goalie makes a mess of things, he’s sunk.  A goalkeeper is a footballer.’

In some training matches, Elisha insisted on playing up front to get in the mind of a forward and therefore anticipate his moves when he was in goal.  He wrote extensively about his art and how goalkeeping was about anticipation and a knowledge of angles.  ‘A goalkeeper’s job is to give him as few angles as possible to shoot at.’

One thing that Elisha was good at was controlling and commanding his box.  Any defenders refusing to listen would suffer an earbashing.  During the game Elisha would swear so furiously that it would make a docker blush. 

In one infamous episode, Jimmy ‘Parson,’ Jackson (nicknamed as he took a job in the clergy after football) once turned round to Dixie Dean after being berated from Elisha for a goal conceded, turned round, and said ‘William, I shall never play in front of this man again.’

Competitiveness and a desire to win is required to win the big prizes which was shown with Elisha Scott.  One story told is that on the eve of the Merseyside derby both Elisha and Dean met in Bold Street.  Dean sent an imaginary header towards Elisha who promptly dived to save the imaginary ball.  Sadly, there is no truth that anecdote, but it shows competitive Scott was that it became was believable. 

The opening game away to Sunderland at Roker Park didn’t start off well as Liverpool were beaten 3-0 but got their first two points on the board a week later as the reds beat Man City 2-1 at Anfield. 

Danny Shone was on a good run of form after getting the first goal for Liverpool against Everton at Anfield only for the Toffee’s to equalise late on in the game.  A fortnight later, Liverpool went top of the league on 19 November with Danny Shone grabbing a hat-trick on the 4-0 demolishing of Middlesbrough at Anfield. 

The Liverpool Echo declared, ‘The sun did not shine at Anfield but Shone.’ 

A popular player amongst players and supporters and likes most footballers mingled with supporters as he made his way to the match.  On one occasion as Danny got the bus to get to the ground the bus driver said ‘Goodison Park, then, Danny?’

Back in the day when a direct transfer between Liverpool and Manchester United would not court any controversy, Liverpool signed winger Fred Hopkins from United.  His crosses for Harry Chambers would prove vital during the next couple of seasons. 

With all successful teams the camaraderie between the players was so strong that they were like a band of brothers.  It was this that spurred them on through the cold, wet, winter months playing on muddy pitches when May and certainly the Championship seemed a long way off. 

Somehow ‘the untouchables,’ kept themselves in the driving seat and with four games to go, Liverpool were five points clear of Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley in third, six points behind the Reds. 

As always, there were stumbling blocks along the way such as the surprise 4-0 defeat away to struggling Oldham Athletic.  Liverpool though quickly bounced back after they drew 1-1 away to title challengers Burnley, blew Cardiff City away 5-1 with Harry Chambers grabbing a hat-trick at Anfield and forty-eight hours later beat Burnley at home. 

This was all done in the space of four days with no time to breathe never mind rest.  It was a set of fixtures that would have had Jurgen Klopp in a rage, but Liverpool blitzed their way through it.  So strong was Liverpool’s performances that the Liverpool Echo’s headlines joyfully declared ‘Hail to the Champions, Liverpool.’

Even the Liverpool board was getting carried away that they told the Echo reporter nicknamed ‘Bee,’ that they were already planning a ‘social do,’ to which they would invite as many former players as possible. 

Nevertheless, the maths was simple.  If Liverpool in forty-eight hours beat Burnley at Anfield and Tottenham lost, then the title would return to Anfield after a sixteen-year absence. 

The tension at Anfield was palpable as 50,000 plus supporters crammed into the stadium hoping that this would be the moment Liverpool sealed a third league title.  Moments like these make champions as they have to dig out the result required.  The players have to ignore the pressure and stress from the crowd who are yearning for Liverpool to get over the line. 

Newspaper reports state that Burnley’s goalkeeper Jerry Dawson had kept Liverpool at bay and an injury to Liverpool’s Harry Lewis (no substitutes in those days) stopped the Reds giving Burnley a hiding. 

Harry Chambers broke the deadlock in the twenty-second minute and was enough to give Liverpool the lead at the break.  With no way of knowing the Spurs score it must have been a anxious feeling wondering if Liverpool had done enough or would need to take it to the next game.  No doubt, most of the crowd may have believed it would take another game before Liverpool got their hands on the title.  Spurs after all, were playing a struggling Oldham.

Typically, Liverpool had to make hard work of it as Burnley equalised in the sixty-second minute via George Richardson.  It was a cracker of a goal with the Liverpool Echo declaring the equaliser as a ‘tribute to individual flair.’ 

Down to ten men, Liverpool knew that they had to dig deep, and Ephraim Longworth moved further up the field, allowing him to win possession closer to the opposition and set up attacks.  It was a case of having to take chances and Liverpool pulled it out of the fire as Longworth found Dick Forshaw.  In the blink of an eye Forshaw raced towards the goal and coolly dispatched it past Dawson with ten minutes left on the clock. 

Anfield erupted with joy like it has done on many occasions after doing it the hard way.  The noise was turned up another notch when news filtered through that Tottenham had been beaten by Oldham Athletic 1-0.  After a sixteen year wait, Liverpool was the Champions of England once more. 

With three games remaining and Liverpool winning the title with fifty-five points, they had the chance to surpass West Bromwich Albion’s sixty-point tally in the 1919-20 season.  Maybe the celebrations had an impact, but Liverpool lost the following two games but did beat West Bromwich Albion 4-1 away to end the season on a high. 

A lot of history picks on political events and turmoil.  Certainly, the 1920s had plenty of this, certainly as the world had been turned upside down.  ‘The land fit for heroes,’ was fading as fast as the shiny slogans on the leaflets.  In 1926 there was the disastrous May General Strike in support of the miners who were expected to take a reduction in wages despite the cost of living rising. 

Consequently, it is also important to look on events that were joyous to people.  After all, our ancestors were the same as us.  Each had their own interests and celebrated special occasions that brought a bit of happiness in their lives.

Liverpool winning the title saw a lot of celebrations with the team being mobbed by fans on their return to Central Station.  Donald McKinlay was picked up and carried out of the station in triumph.’  It showed that even in the 1920s, Liverpool supporters knew how to celebrate. 

It was a memorable season and looking at the league table a Liverpool supporter would have a grin bigger than a Cheshire cat.  Not only had Liverpool won the title by six points, but Manchester United had finished bottom and were relegated.  Everton had finished third from bottom but escaped the drop as only two teams were relegated. 

The title had been won on the strength of a strong defence, quality forwards and players who fitted each part well and played for each other.  By digging out results when games were tough in the midst of a cold winter, rain, and muddy pitches, Liverpool showed that they had the mettle of Champions. 

However, once the celebrations had died down and the champagne gone it was back to business and whether Liverpool could make themselves immortal by winning back-to-back league championships. 

To learn more about this fabulous Liverpool side I recommend the brilliant ‘The Untouchables,’ band of brothers by Jeff Goulding and Kieran Smith.

The art of defending – Virgil Van Dijk

There are moments when a signing is the final piece of the jigsaw.  It wasn’t a straightforward transfer as Southampton was furious at Liverpool for tapping up Van Dijk without their knowledge that a possible summer transfer to Anfield ended abruptly. 

In a sliding doors moment that was captured on Amazon’s All or nothing documentary on Manchester City, there is a moment when Manchester City refuse to up their offer for Virgil and allowed Liverpool to land their man and become the catalyst that has seen the Reds enjoy success and push City every inch for trophies. 

No one knows how a signing will work out.  Back then, there was frustration at Liverpool not getting a centre-half.  However, Klopp was adamant in getting his man.  There was little point in settling for second best as far as Jurgen was concerned and was proven right for holding out. 

A FA cup tie against Everton saw Virgil make his debut and make himself a hero by scoring in the 2-1 against Liverpool’s city rivals.  The impact that Virgil was made was what he was bought for and that was defending. 

Liverpool’s defence looked more composed without any of the erratic defending that had impaired Liverpool previously. 

2018 saw Liverpool reach the Champions League club where they were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid.  The calamitous goalkeeping of Karius and the cynical fouling of Madrid’s Ramos who took out Mo Salah, helped Madrid win the European cup. 

There can be no sentiment in football and one of Klopp’s strengths is making the tough calls for the benefit of the team.  Karius and Mignolet were seen as liabilities due to their unreliability in goal that cost Liverpool points.  So it was, that Klopp signed Allison Becker from Roma and instantly the pieces fell into place. 

Although Virgil had settled in quickly, a good pre-season without jumping into the deep end proved to be beneficial. 

Liverpool were organised, good at the press, and scoring goals from fun.  Virgil was like a colossus in the defence especially as he didn’t have to worry about his goalkeeper doing something silly. 

Watching Virgil was a joy for those wanting to watch a masterclass in defending.  The basics such as positioning came easy but it is the reading of the game that is Virgil’s biggest strengths.  You can see Virgil surveying the pitch and sniffing a potential pass he will either move forward, back or instruct a teammate to move to snuff out the option for the attacker. 

You can also see the movement of Virgil who will flawlessly nip in to intercept a pass or pick a loose ball.  Liverpool’s defence which was flaky and subsequently caused panic amongst the team and supporters now looked a well organised machine.  Each piece knowing their job and doing it to the best of their abilities. 

Any successful team is due to having a well-balanced team who can do the job required of them.  You don’t need big names or the lists that some supporters read from their media feed and playing FIFA to produce a team.  Just someone who is good and follows instructions.

Virgil is also a leader and Liverpool were missing this type of leader at the heart of the defence which you need.  Communication and respect are key which Virgil shows by organising teammates into positions as well as covering spaces. 

It’s also the speed of hoovering up loose balls to stop them becoming a danger. Against Everton where Liverpool won 2-0, Virgil effortlessly swooped in to get the ball and quickly switch from defence to attack. 

There are different types of centre-halves from the ale house defenders who hoof the ball and kick the opposition, to the centre-halves that are solid defenders but get a nosebleed if they get anywhere near the halfway line. 

Then you have the Rolls Royce of defending which Virgil belongs to.  Composed on the ball that Virgil is calm as he brings the ball out to start an attack.  You’ll very rarely see Virgil lose possession or give the ball away.  In some ways, Virgil is more of a centre-midfielder in the way he reads the game and makes the precise passes. 

What is good about Virgil is that there is no unnecessary fouls or last gasp sliding tackles.  Like all players there is an element of the dark arts of having to make that necessary foul with a slight nudge.  Even then, it is only done if someone has made a mistake and there is the last resort. 

Slide tackling should never be an option.  The only time it happens is due to either the player not being any good and resorts to cover up their own inadequacies and get the crowd believing that it is commitment.  Another reason is that someone has made a mistake and it is the last resort.  Slide tackling is dangerous because if it is mis-timed can result in a free kick or penalty and even worse injure someone. 

It is very rare for Van Dijck to resort to slide tackling.  Even when a mistake has been made, Virgil has anticipated it and already intercepted or got a foot in. 

Set pieces such as corners is something that Virgil improved as soon as he stepped onto the pitch in a red shirt.  Previously, there would be panic in the crowd with the defence being jittery and Mignolet flapping.  Now with Virgil and Alisson bringing much needed confidence there is no anxiety within the stands. 

Just watching Van Dijk is a lesson in defending.  Positioning and ready to tackle the ball when the corner is taken.  More often than not Virgil will head clear.  There is also no panic as Virgil makes the correct pass.  No passing it across the middle of the box it is cleared out wide. 

Some defenders such Martin Skrtel were notorious for pulling shirts and grabbing hold of his opponent.  How Skrtel never gave away many penalties is another thing, but you will never see Virgil make any silly mistakes like that. 

At times, Virgil looks a centre midfielder in the way he carries the ball up the pitch and makes the correct pass.  Even at Liverpool set pieces, Virgil poses a threat and has scored from many a corner such as his debut when Van Dijk scored against Everton in the FA cup. 

In my opinion, Virgil Van Dijk is certainly one of the best centre-halves to play for Liverpool.  The flawless reading of the game, his leadership, passing and control of the ball is second to none.  As the Liverpool song goes ‘Watch him defend and we watch him score, he’ll pass the ball, calm as you like, He’s Virgil Van Dijk.’

The UEFA champions league changes is just an official super league

When the twelve so-called super clubs brought out a statement last year announcing their intention to create their own super league, there was indigenous fury from supporters and UEFA.

This super league was strictly invitation only and was in essence a closed shop. The figures were eye watering at the money being offered and that wasn’t including the TV rights and sponsorship that it would have entailed.

Protests broke out amongst the supporters of those clubs who wanted nothing to do with this artificial league that was about money.

UEFA spluttered like a cuckolded husband catching his wife in bed with his best mate. As far as they were concerned, the super league was against sporting integrity and values. Heavy sanctions were proposed with the threat of any players even setting foot on a pitch to play a super league match being told that they would not be allowed to play international football.

Sky sports Gary Neville was vocal in condemning the actions of the club and once again the integrity of football was brought into question.

Jurgen Klopp was hung out to dry by the Fenway group as he was asked about his thoughts about the proposed super league in a post match interview. Not surprisingly, Klopp was not a fan and made a good point about the extra amount of games players would be expected to play.

Like a trail of dominoes the clubs one by one withdrew their intention to join the super league such was the furore. This was apparently a triumph for the ordinary supporter who showed what they could do if they stuck together and let their voice be heard.

A year later, UEFA announced their proposed changes for the 2024-25 season

https://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/news/0268-12157d69ce2d-9f011c70f6fa-1000–new-format-for-champions-league-post2024-everything-you-need-to-know/

Quelle Surprise! The new proposed changes was only a super league but with the official UEFA stamp.

There is a interesting turn of phrase from UEFA as they state that have spoken to ‘key stakeholders.’ By that, UEFA mean the club owners, sponsors, and the television companies. The fans, players, and even the coaches have not been consulted.

No one has asked the fans if they are happy to pay more money for the additional games, taking the time off work etc to make these games at times that are convenient for the television.

UEFA have tried to lamely sell it as a exciting chance to see even more quality games. Yet the format is geared towards making sure the big names and television pullers will progress. Out of the thirty-six teams only eight will be knocked out. The top eight qualify for the last sixteen whilst the rest will have to play a playoff game to play in the last sixteen.

You can be sure that the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Man Utd will not meet each other in their ten games. It is less quality and more saturation of football.

Recently, UEFA have also mentioned about a coefficient scheme, so for example if Man Utd do not qualify for the Champions league by finishing fifth and UEFA’s super league was taking place next season, then Utd would be given a place due to past performances in the Champions league.

Forget about whether you have earned the place it is all about how much money certain clubs bring through their fanbase and in turn satisfy UEFA’s sponsors plus the TV companies who have bought the rights to the Champions league.

Another issue is where exactly UEFA are going to fit in these games. The calendar is already packed and although the top professionals are paid well, they are only human. No one has bothered asking the players if they are happy to play more games or how much have an impact it will have on their bodies in continually playing at a high level. These days, footballers are athletes and their bodies can only take so much. Also, footballers do have a life outside of football and the question is whether they too are happy for more time away from their family.

The whole UEFA Champions league revamp is about pandering to those clubs who got itchy feet and wanted to break away. UEFA’s squealing about the ‘integrity of the game,’ was more about the prospect about losing money from their sponsorships, TV deals etc. and losing power as a result.

For UEFA losing power, money, and prestige was what worried them. Not about the good of the game. Consequently this revamp is to placate those clubs and give them a super league but with the official UEFA stamp.

It is interesting that there was not one word of open dissent from the media or supporters groups who were quite vocal in their opposition to the super league. Not even a column from any of the leading sports writers condemning it for what it is. UEFA consolidating their power by giving the big clubs what they want.

I sent two emails to Liverpool’s supporters union the spirit of Shankly which stated the following

Good afternoon,
I am writing about the proposed UEFA changes to the champions league & what we as a union can do. In essence this is a Super league but approved UEFA. Nobody has asked the match going fans on whether they are happy with the proposals. Nor the extra expense or time to get to the games. Equally, no one has asked the players and taken their well-being into account. If UEFA’s changes go ahead, it will be a detriment to the competition with the supporters taken for granted. Your opinion on this matter would be most appreciated.

The response from spirit of Shankly was as follows

Our position has not changed on this and remains in line with the FSE. We reject the reform as a whole as fans weren´t part of any consultation process even though we are the ones affected by a lot of consequences of this reform.

We have and will continue to lobby LFC and other clubs to ensure the voice of fans is heard and listened to.

So I asked if Spirit of Shankly will make a personal and open statement to this effect. The reply was as follows

“As I said we are working with FSE on this and liaising with other clubs on what to do on behalf of fans.

We will make our members aware of the next stage when this happens.”

Now I am not naïve to believe that UEFA or the clubs will back down over a statement, but you do have to fire a arrow across the bows to let them know that the paying fans are not happy with this.

To me, it seems that this new system or the official super league is going to happen. If none of the supporters groups are going to be openly vocal against it then it’s fait accompli. A lone voice is just pissing in the wind, which is the whole point of a Union in that everyone together can make their voice heard louder.

Being a supporter is being like paying for the privilege of a movie extra. At least a extra can make £80 whereas supporters are expected to get to Newcastle on New Years day for 12pm with no trains running.

Television just see the supporters as something to sell their product, such as the special European nights at Anfield. They know it isn’t great without supporters as last season showed during when football had to play behind closed doors during the pandemic. Yet supporters are still casually disregarded.

I believe that the prominent clubs will make another attempt for a super league and this time UEFA won’t be able to stop it. With money comes power and that’s why the clubs will tire of UEFA’s attempts to placate their insatiable appetite won’t be enough. After all, why dance to UEFA’s tune when you can just take the whole cake and along with it the sponsors, television deals etc.

There is so much that angers me with UEFA’s sanctimonious proposals. A procession of a competition in the early stages so that the big clubs can soak up as much money.

If UEFA was for the integrity of the game then they would be trying to sort another way of bringing financial fair play to bring a level playing field across Europe. The fiasco surrounding Man City was due to their lawyers including stuff that was timed out so it was no wonder that Man City won their case.

Either way, I am making the most of the next couple of seasons because after that we have a super league albeit with an official stamp. Football is close to no longer being a sport and once UEFA’s format starts for the 2024-25 the coffin lid will slammed shut and nailed when it finally becomes a commodity to sold and used as power chips.

1919 – The Liverpool Police strike and another gunboat sent up the Mersey

It seems incredulous now to think that the Police would go on strike, but it was this period that ensured that no Police Officer can join a Trade Union.  The dispute also had an ulterior motive for Lloyd George who wanted to make sure that the Government had full control over the Police and would not be at their mercy if they went on strike or supported other disputes.  Another added incentive was to rid the ranks of those who they believed held Bolshevik sentiments. 

This had all come to the fore during the last two months of the first world war when the Police went on strike in August 1918 for better pay and conditions.  ‘We Policemen see young van boys and slips of girls earning very much more than what we get,’ said one Policeman to the Guardian ‘and, well, it makes us feel very sore.’

Despite it being a sackable offence there were many Police Officers who had joined the National Union of Police and Prison Officers (NUPPO) which was formed in 1913.  In its early years it operated as a secret society but with disgruntlement over wages failing to keep up with inflation, pensions, terms and conditions it made them organised and vocal. 

The senior figures within the Police force decided that the best way of ending any potential trouble was to make an example of any union activity.  When PC Thiel was openly vocal about fighting for better wages and conditions he was sacked.  Rather than his fellow officers toeing the line they walked out in support of Thiel and to make a stand over their grievances.  In London twelve thousand Police Officers had walked out when the strike had been called.

Due to the seriousness of the dispute Lloyd George had to come back from the front in France.  With the country still at war the last thing that the Government needed was a breakdown in law and order especially with the troops still at the front.    He agreed to their demands of reinstating PC Thiel, as well as an increase in pay but was carefully misleading in their requests for official union recognition. 

Instead Lloyd George told them that ‘the government cannot recognise a union for the police in wartime.’ They took this to mean that a union would be in peace time rather than gaining confirmation that it would be when the war was over. 

For many in the establishment it was a danger if the Police became unionised.  Not only was there the fear that the Police may come out in support of other strikers if they became members of the TUC and the Labour party but might also encourage the army and navy for union recognition.

For the state to keep control it needed the Police and army at its side without worrying about their loyalty.  Hence the reason why Lloyd George and his government sought to break any trade union activity.

The first roll of the dice for Lloyd George was appointing General Neville Macready as the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.  An army man, Macready also detested trade unions and was seen as the perfect man to get rid of any dissenters.  In 1910 he had been sent to take control of the armed forces and the local police force to put down the strike in South Wales.

Lloyd George’s next move was to set up the Desborough committee which was tasked into looking at the pay and working conditions of the Police force. 

In June 1919 the Lord Desborough committee recommended an increase pay for all and free housing.  As an afterthought but quite clearly a move to replace the union he recommended that a body similar to a staff association be set up to represent the views of Police Officers. 

The Government announced that they intended to implement the recommendations by introducing the Police Act.  Once this was passed then it would be a sackable offence for Police Officers to be a member of a union as well as going on strike. 

However, the Government offered a sweetener to giving up their rights to join a trade union by allowing Police Officers to retire on half-pay after twenty-five years’ service to add onto the increase of wages that had also been agreed. 

For NUPPO it left them no choice.  It was either accepting the terms but give up trade union recognition and disband.  It was a case of fight or die for NUPPO.  A national Police strike was therefore called for the 31st July 1919 with the hope that its members would believe that trade union recognition was a matter worth fighting for. 

Although membership for NUPPO had increased quite considerably after the 1918 dispute it was the government who felt that they were in a stronger position than they were the year before.  With the offer of better wages and conditions in lieu of surrendering their right to join a union and strike the Government relied on this for the majority of Police Officers to accept.

The stakes were further raised with a carrot and a stick approach as the government announced that any Police Officer going out on strike would face instant dismissal.  Furthermore, all pension rights would also be forfeited.  However, to get them to think the ‘right way,’ the Government arranged that all Police Officers would be given an advance on their increase pay, that very week, of £10 each. 

The strike was a disaster.  For many Police Officers they had got what they wanted in terms of better wages and conditions without the need to strike.  Added to which the loss of pension rights was too much to risk and were quite happy for the proposed Police body to represent their interests. 

Another success for the government wasn’t just ensuring the loyalty and support of the Police but ridding them of the left-wing agitators who they felt were undermining their authority.  However, there was only one city were the strike was highly supported and would cause significant problems and that was the second biggest city of the country, Liverpool.

Due to the unrest during the past year there was understandable concern about what might happen with the lack of Policemen if the strike was well supported in Liverpool.  Not only that, but eight years earlier the Transport Strike had brought Liverpool to a virtual standstill and at the mercy of the strike committee.  With the recent events with the mutinies that had taken place in the army, there was a fear that those with a political agenda might see this as an opportunity and use Liverpool’s position as the second city to attempt a revolution.

The reasons why the Liverpool Police strike was widely supported was not due to trade union recognition, but other conditions imposed on them by the watch committee.  Pay was of course on the agenda but there was resentment from the junior ranks over the strict discipline that was enforced.  Every day when called for parade they were marched around like soldiers on the drill square.

Another complaint was that despite being on low pay, the watch committee insisted that they should live in the ‘better off,’ areas of the city.  As these were expensive places to reside in, they were expected to live a middle-class lifestyle on a labourers’ wage. 

Like the other Police forces across the country the local watch committee on the day the strike was to commence, warned that if no Police Constable reported for parade by eight pm then they would be dismissed by the force.  It was enough for some to report but more than half of the Liverpool Constables failed to show up for duty.

As word broke out that the Police were heavily depleted the mayhem started.  There had been trouble previously but many saw it as an opportunity to show the authorities what they thought of them whilst taking advantage of taking goods to either sell or use.  Simon Webb illustrates this in 1919 the year of revolution by saying ‘it was a spontaneously outpouring of anger, with a strong business edge.’

The authorities thought that by enrolling special constables who were sworn in and issued batons would be enough to deter any would be rioters.  Not surprisingly the rag tag men of shopkeepers and businessmen was not enough to stop the riots that did break out.  It wasn’t just lacking in numbers but training in dealing with violent crowds.  At one point while a shop was being looted a special constable stood like a hapless goalkeeper as rioters swooped past him to take what they wanted from a shop.

Scotland Road, Byrom Street and Great Homer Street was where the main trouble started.  Clothes shops, jewellers and pawnbrokers were the main targets as the looting spread across the city.

With no sign of the rioting and looting being contained with the broken windows and debris strewn about the street, like an invasion, the government resorted to calling in the troops.  Not only that and to ensure that they meant business the super-dreadnought HMS Valiant was ordered to sail straight to Liverpool.  Weighing in at 29,150 tons it was as long as London’s BT tower and with its eight 15in guns, twelve 6in guns and four torpedo tubes it was a match for any ship in the world.  It set sail with two destroyers heading to Liverpool after getting permission from Winston Churchill.

There was a practical side for a naval task force so that the sailors could secure the docks and protect the docks from rioters.  On the second night of the disturbances the dock gates had been set on fire.  However, the other reason was to show the occupants of Liverpool that the government would use any force necessary to subdue the city.

It even led to the government of sending in troops with full battle kit on.  Not only that but like Glasgow earlier in the year tanks were also sent to patrol the streets of the city.  It was quite a surreal sight to see soldiers and tanks roaming the street in what was meant to be peace time.  There was an unreal sense of being occupied and wondering what would happen next.  Would the troops open fire on civilians, would tanks be used to smash the crowds?

It was enough to quell any disturbances during the day, but trouble reared its head on Saturday night as a jewellers’ window was smashed by the Rotunda theatre.   An extract from Pat O’Mara ‘autobiography of a Liverpool slummy’ gives a vivid account of the looting.

“The bobbies were on strike! There were no bobbies! That could only mean one thing, and that thing happened. I was coming out of the Daulby Hall with Jackie Sanchez (having mooched the entrance fee from him) at the time when the first fever caught on. We went across the street to Skranvinsky’s chip-and-fish shop and listened to speculations over this new and strange strike. As we stood in the crowd a couple of bucks walked in, ordered in some chips and fish and refused to pay for them, suggesting to the hysterical Mrs Skranvinsky that she “get a bloody bobby!” Then they walked out, followed by others not yet paid up, who had taken the hint. Some leaned across the counter and grabbed handfuls of chips and fish and scallops, and without waiting to salt them, continued brazenly out into the street. Only Mrs Skravinsky’s screams kept those on the outside at bay.”

“There were no bobbies! We were outside. On the corners here and there stood the bobbies, grimly passive and, to signify the fact, with no official labels on their arms. Excited groups of hooligans eyed them wonderingly. A jewelry window just down London Road crashed in, and as bobbies smiled wonder vanished from the hooligans. Another window crashed in. It was the Lusitania all over again (in 1915 after the passenger ship the Lusitania was sank, riots broke out in an expression of anti-German feeling) only much more intense, since now there was no restraining hand at all. Hands were out grasping through the jewelry store windows. Inside other stores whose windows were bash in, respectable-looking men and women joined with slummies to gather up loot and flee homeward. Every store with anything worth steeling was broken into and the furnishings wrecked in the frenzy to get the best stuff available. I did not have anything like good luck until Ben Hyde’s pawnshop farther down London Road was reached. After the windows were bashed in, the place was ransacked, lockers pulled out, pledged articles tucked into aprons. I got hold of a couple of muffs that struck me, in my innocence, as very expensive things and once outside, fearing the riot would be short lived, I skipped away from Jackie, tucked two precious furs under my coat, and sped along the comparatively quiet streets for home.”

 Soldiers were rushed to the scene as a stand-off between them and the rioters ensued.  A magistrate tried to read the riot act, but this was jeered and ignored.  With the crowd getting more hostile and fearing that they were going to be overwhelmed the soldiers fired warning shots over the heads of the rioters. 

That may have been enough to quieten down that area, but the troops were still stretched.  So much so that like the specials previously, some soldiers stood helplessly by as looters stormed a clothes shop and took their booty like a Viking raid on tour.  One report mentions of men bringing a horse and cart and robbing a shop of its entire stock.  In Birkenhead the riot act was read by a magistrate in an armoured car as trouble spread over the water.

Despite the special constables being effective as a cat flap in an elephant house, the mayor sent an appeal to be read out at every Sunday church service for all able-bodied men to sign up as special constables for the month. 

To make matters worse a bakers’ strike had begun with the tram drivers now threatening to go out for better pay and conditions.  Added to which the railway men were also considering in going out to support the Police strike. 

In a move that would have made the government even more twitchy and wonder if it was a secret Bolshevik plot to overthrow the state, the local branch of the Labour party passed a resolution for a general strike ‘that the Liverpool Trade Unionists declare common cause with the National Association of Police and Prison Officers, and that in order  to give immediate and necessary assistance a down tools be herewith declared.  All trade unionists of this district are agreed to cease work at once on account of the attack made by the government on trade unionism.’ 

Even with the added presence of troops on the street and warships it still wasn’t enough to deter the rioters who were growing increasingly bolder.  On the Sunday a brewery in Love lane was looted with men getting drunk on the beer.  So much so that they did not notice a truck load of soldiers who had been dispatched to restore order. 

A rumour had spread that the soldiers did not have live ammunition as the crowd became more hostile even though troops fired a warning shot.  This led to a man called Thomas Hewlett grabbing hold of a soldier’s rifle and in the ensuing tug of war the rifle went off and fatally wounded Hewlett in the thigh as he died in hospital the following day. 

Elsewhere in the city, stones were thrown at troops as matters became increasingly volatile as looting continued across the city.  In one area troops fired on the crowd with one man being taken to hospital with a bullet wound to his neck. 

By nightfall a large crowd started to congregate by St. George’s Hall by where the tanks were stationed.  Looting had begun again along London road with the soldiers firing over the rioters’ heads as Police and special constables’ baton charged the crowd. 

Tanks on the streets of Liverpool 1919

Fighting between the rioters and soldiers continued with a crowd charging two soldiers by Christian street.  Warning shots were fired and with a body of Police Officers on the scene they launched a baton charge that managed to drive the crowd away. 

It was reaching a critical condition as rioting and looting continued that the army set up a Lewis gun in London road.  This showed the nervousness and the battle for control that the authorities deemed it necessary to set up a gun that was aimed along the length of the street so that they could fire right up and down the road.  No matter that rioting and looting had taken place it was a frightening and sobering thought that the authorities were willing to fire on civilians.  Paranoia it seemed was haunting the government that this was the start of a revolution. 

Over in Birkenhead the troops had managed to just about to secure the docks to stop any fear that any saboteurs would sabotage any machinery.  Troops were even stationed around Birkenhead town hall when a rumour spread that rioters were going to burn it to the ground. 

The tram strike on the Monday went ahead which caused vast disruption as the majority of workers relied on the trams to get to work.  Added to which there was still the prospect of the railway workers going out on strike to support the striking Policemen.  To make the government even more twitchy at whether there was an uprising on the cards the Liverpool District Vigilance Committee had been set up. 

A change in tactics also saw soldiers being relieved of their full kit and rather than carrying a rifle were issued pickaxe handles.  Parts of Liverpool were called off limits to prevent further trouble.  However, it was to be the weather and the heavy rain that stopped people congregating that following Monday night. 

It was enough to put an end to the rioting and looting as it started to fizzle out.  Over four hundred people were charged with looting or rioting.  With regards to the Police strike, there was a recruitment drive to replace the Police Constables who had gone on strike.  Not one man was reinstated with some having to leave the city to find work.  Adverts by local firms made it specifically clear that any Police Officers who were dismissed need not apply. The figures state that 955 were sacked.

Sellwood of the Police strike 1919 (printed 1978) gives a vivid picture of the former Police officers having to return their uniform which they did by piling it up outside St. George’s Hall.  ‘The uniforms started to pile up a mass of blue/black serge often interrupted by splashes of colour.  Campaign ribbon medals above the tunic’s left breast pocket bore witness to the meticulous years of service given to the city and the country that the former wearers had given.’

For Lloyd George and his government, the strike had purged the Police of any unsavoury and suspected Bolshevik supporters.  It also ensured that the state would always have control over the Police and even now it is illegal for a Police Officer to strike or join a trade union.  There is of course a Police association where Officers can put forward their grievances, but they are not in the position to enter an industrial dispute.  In short Lloyd George had ruthlessly shown his hand in curbing any further threats the Police Union NAPPO may have had.

Emmerdale and Coronation street. Not just jumped the shark, but Jaws and Free Willy

Soaps are meant to be a bit of escapism whilst throwing a magnifying glass on our on world and making the viewer questioning prejudices and injustice. Entertainment though is meant to be the main driving force.

Without going into specifics, Coronation street was only meant to be a short term drama of a dying working class world in the 1960s. It was certainly not meant to be the world’s longest running television soap. Likewise, Emmerdale (or Emmerdale farm to give it its original title) was just a daytime soap opera and although later moved to the seven pm slot was never envisaged as a long running drama.

As societies tastes change so do TV shows to keep up with demands. Ratings always dictate this if the show is to stay alive. Emmerdale had a major facelift and change in direction after ratings were low in the early 1990s.

A plane crash got rid of the weak characters and a move away from the problems of Jack Sugden’s sheep to a more flamboyant, tongue in cheek soap that notched up the romance, affairs, and back biting.

Just as importantly, it had a sense of humour as it wasn’t afraid of sending itself up. The Dingles with their schemes and scams was a break away from any fighting or arguments down the Woolpack. As was their dealings with the devious Eric Pollard.

Coronation street at the moment is abysmal. The actors can only work with what they’ve got and the writers are directed by what it is expected. That Halloween special of David Platt’s sink hole in his garden causing a huge hole that killed Johnny was truly awful.

You can tell the writer got carried away as if they were writing a horror movie as Seb’s Ma walked around with her hood up in the midst of a power shortage thanks to David Platt’s massive black hole sun in his back garden. Throw in a bit of rain, Seb’s Ma nearly killing his killer Cory and it was the equivalent of someone lacing Roy’s tea urn and causing Steve McDonald and the rest to be tripping off their tits.

Naturally, a week later it had all been forgotten about as they continue to get smashed at the Rovers return.

Another thing is the amount of drinking that goes on. A couple of bevies at dinnertime followed by a skinful at night. Most of the back street pubs have gone to the wall but not the Rovers return. Despite not having Sky sports and only serving Betty’s hotpot it still draws the punters. So much so, that it has more staff than a city centre Wetherspoons.

Quite why the writers think its okay for the two car mechanics Kevin and Tyrone to have a couple of beers at dinnertime is beyond me. Would you let a mechanic loose on your car if you smelt booze? How they haven’t been pulled over for one of the infrequent times they get a call out is beyond me.

Then there are the hairdressers and barbers who enjoy a skinful. Not being funny but a tanked up Audrey or David Platt being loose on your hair means that you risk the chance of coming out with a dodgy haircut.

What made me laugh was when one of the writers decided to go all green with Maria taking up the mantle. Considering that Coronation street is probably the greenest street in the country in the sense that everyone lives and works in the street, it didn’t really hit the spot as Maria bashed in a car window.

For the soap that gave us the dramatic scenes of Alan Bradley being knocked over by a Blackpool tram as he chased a fleeing Rita, Coronation street has provided some far out stories.

There is Pat Phelan who fell into the icy sea and ended up in a B&B in Ireland, Billy smashing his back and making a comeback that Jesus would have been proud of. Tyrone and Alina getting together was daft as well as anything that David Platt is currently involved.

No one expects a soap to be realistic as everyone works, lives, and don’t venture out of Coronation street. Even the Ginger headed copper Craig’s beat is Coronation street and if there is anything major is kicking off there he is faster than a speeding bullet. Forget about being put in a position that might affect your integrity and safety, Weatherfield police put him in Corrie.

The stories though are just silly and completely off the scale. Some of it is just sensationalist nonsense and off kilter to the character. Would Alya leave her brother’s father-in-law for dead when having an heart attack? Just total bollocks.

Predictable as a Jack Grealish step over was the fact that Imran got Abi pregnant after Cory walked and Kelly got sent down. Putting aside the plausibility of the two characters getting together it was obvious that a pregnancy was going to happen. Now that saga will drag out in a paint by numbers story.

Now we have ‘I know what you did last summer,’ after Emma and Faye knock down a old man. Why they made a big deal of Emma being hungover considering everybody is at least half pissed in Corrie, God knows.

Anyhow despite getting up and appearing to be okay, Emma and Faye go over to check up on Tony. Upon entering the flat after no answer they find him dead in his armchair believing that it might have been them that killed him.

Naturally for Corrie there is a lot of humming and rring on whether to do the right thing and call or an ambulance or risk prison, especially as Faye has just got out of clink.

They decide as you do, to leave Tony there but for some weird reason decide to clean his flat. Someone of course knocks and they take the parcel.

Of course they bump into the Ginger cop Craig who is dating Faye despite being a convicted criminal. He suspects something and once this long drawn boring saga will be drawn out, Super Cop Craig will have the dilemma of either covering for the pair or doing his duty.

As for Emmerdale that needs a restart. What used to be a mix of drama, humour, and the usual touch of soap action is in a rut. Now the storylines just consist of arguing, someone having an affair, conniving behind someone’s back and then repeat.

The misery storyline with Meena holding her injured sister Manpreet is just crap. Will Meena get Manpreet a typewriter and get her to write a decent script, who knows?

To keep up with the recycling theme, Emmerdale did this five years ago as another nurse Emma Barton did the same to her estranged husband James Barton.

I know Stephen King’s misery is a brilliant novel but he has written loads of great books. Maybe Marlon could walk the green mile or a mysterious clown shows up offering balloons with kids disappearing. Perhaps they could have a shining theme in the B&B with Eric Pollard smashing through the door with a axe and going here’s Eric!’

Here’s Eric!!!!!

The script writer’s should look up Stephen King’s bibliography on Wikipedia if you want something different.

Once again the Woolpack has been blown up that it’s surprising that it has any insurance. Nothing is memorable in that soap anymore or has a good mix of characters.

Twenty years ago you would have had Jack Sugden, Rev. Ashley, Edna, Seth, Betty mixed with Trisha, Kelly, Terry, Viv, and the Dingles. Now who have you got? Paddy the vet was a lightweight back then, whilst Zak is past his best that it’s probably Diane and like the other three has been there for twenty odd years.

Maybe it’s time to reduce the amount of episodes of both soaps with Coronation street to start being more realistic. I.E. getting characters who actually work outside of the street would be a new start.

Emmerdale needs to stop having the affair, arguing, and backstabbing on repeat and realise you have to mix it up.

Whether either will is debatable but it will come to a point when an audience won’t be watching it religiously no matter what and will have to stop being so lazy.

Boris Johnson takes the real life ‘thick of it,’ to a dark side

The French President Emmanuel Macron allegedly called Boris Johnson a ‘clown,’ and a ‘knucklehead.’ Which in the circumstances is pretty tame. In the midst of a global pandemic, Britain has the worst person in charge to steer it through this difficult period. Even if the Covid-19 pandemic had not happened, Johnson would still be nailed on to be one of the worst Prime Ministers to enter number 10.

For Boris Johnson it all about entitlement and running the country as though he was still a member of the Bullingdon club. The warning signs were emblazoned like a Las Vegas casino night sign. A proven liar that has been sacked from a newspaper, lazy, and always winging it on a populist wave.

Much has already been written about the slow reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic, the care homes thrown to the wolves, and reacting rather than trying to be proactive.

This though should be no surprise as Boris Johnson has winged it his entire life. Everything has been laid on a plate for him and it is a sense of entitlement that he should be Prime Minister rather than feeling he has the skills and ability to do it.

So it was no surprise that Boris Johnson would not admit to a Christmas party being held at number 10 last year, whilst the rest of the country was under tier three of Covid restrictions. Quite why they thought a party was appropriate whilst people couldn’t visit loved ones or in some cases say their last goodbyes, just shows the arrogance and disdain.

Boris Johnson just couldn’t take the responsibility and instead tried to brazen out by sending out cabinet members to bat. It shows that the likes of Raab and the rest have no backbone or principles to turn round and refuse to lie. Better still, admit a party took place and those responsible would take the consequences.

Instead we had a scene straight out of the thick of it with the mantra of a party took place but the rules was adhered to. You could imagine Malcolm Tucker screaming ‘For fuck’s sake,’ whilst legging down Whitehall to try and stop. You could imagine Malcolm asking ‘when is a fucking party not a fucking party? Jesus fucking Christ, why didn’t you have a secret Santa!’

The response would be well with the respondent feeling the heat from the volcanic eruption of Malcolm Tucker at the stupidity and arrogance.

Now that video of the mock press conference has been seen it shows that they were aware of the implications. The jokes and giggles was just salt being rubbed into the raw wounds that saw Allegra Stratton resigning.

It would be easy to be say Johnson is incompetent but the fact is he just doesn’t care. Take the Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe case where Johnson not only did nothing to help but indirectly extended her prison sentence by what the Iranian authorities implied was him admitting she was a spy which was not the case.

Bluster and winging it is what Johnson tries to do. Just look at the clip below, to see Boris Johnson trying to grasp his role when travelling to meet the French. You can see the glazed bored look in Johnson’s eyes as his aid acts as the patient teacher trying to teach the idle class clown who has fallen way behind.

Why should we be surprised that there should be any repercussions for Boris Johnson when he hasn’t suffered any consequences for his actions. In the past talking about clearing away the dead bodies on Libyan beach and making it in the new Doha would have seen him dismissed. And that’s not mentioning his racist comments of refering to black people as ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles,’ muslim women wearing the burqas as postboxes and homophobic comment as he said how gay men were ‘tank topped bum boys.’

Normally comments like that would see you getting sacked in the work place never mind government, but ‘Teflon,’ Boris Johnson comes through unscathed.

Why should we be surprised when Boris Johnson picks the most expensive wallpaper to decorate number 10 or not wanting to work weekends. Added to which, not being arsed to attend crucial Cobra meetings regarding the pandemic.

Boris Johnson is the symbol of the new Tories or the spawn of Thatcher ‘there is no such thing as society.’ ‘Fuck ’em and let’s make some money,’ seems to be the mantra. PPE contracts given to ‘chums,’ nothing was off limits.

Cuts to school meals and taking £20 off Universal credit was something they did without a second thought. Yet, the scandal of MPs taking second jobs sees some of them bleating how they could possibly survive on their £81,000 MP salary.

The likes of Matt Hancock are lucky not to be under criminal investigation over giving contracts to a friend who had no knowledge of PPE but owned the local boozer that he visited. At present they are quietly looking to privatise the NHS.

Even the recent scandal of fifty people attending a Christmas party at number 10 last year which broke the Covid rules sees no resignations or being sacked. Instead you have the brazen attempt of just a shrug of the shoulders and not confirming or denying it.

All it shows is that for the likes of Boris Johnson and his ilk, is that the rules do not apply to them. Whilst they drink champers at the Bullingdon or Hellfire club, for them they are the Masters and we are the Plebs that are there to serve. Until people wake up and demand real change in terms of bringing in Proportional representation in voting and getting Johnson out then they will not lose any sleep over the consequences of their actions.

Stewart in the thick of it succinctly sums up the Tories as ‘a party built on a foundation of cunts.’