Happy times at Horsley Hill stadium
“By the time 1947-48 season started, a lot of new players had joined the club,” recalls Les.
“Some of those of note were: Fred Jenkins, Chelsea, Queen Of The South; Ernie Phillips, Manchester City; Ernie Middlemiss, Lincoln City; Alan Grenyer; Dave Cummings, brother of George, Scotland; Archie Wilson, goalkeeper; Ernie Brown, played for Newcastle and Southend.
“There was Jim Maddison, Middlesbrough; Hugh Watson (captain) who was still in the Army at the time, a sergeant physical training instructor, who became a stalwart for the club. He and I were good friends. He sometimes came to Cleadon Recreation Ground to watch me play football for Westoe School.
“In the bad winter of 1947, snow was so heavy, matches were called off, and, on one occasion, we boys helped players, staff and supporters to clear snow from the pitch for the game to be played. Most memorable for me was selling match programmes on the concrete terrace end of the ground, priced two pence (old money) and being paid a sum of sixpence!
“I remember very well the players and staff having refreshments in the boardroom after matches. We ‘boys’ certainly enjoyed the tea and left over pies, before sweeping up.”
Les explains that the changing rooms and boardroom were sited behind the north stand, which ran the length of the pitch on one side.
“I had started collecting autographs of the Shields players, but also some ex-professional and current league players who had attended our home games, including Hughie Gallagher, Warney Cresswell, George Camsell, Ted Drake, Dicky Robinson, Bob Stokoe and my favourite, Stanley Mortensen, which I still have today.
“Some of my school holidays, in summer, during the close season, I spent at the stadium carrying out small jobs. I remember very well assisting George Batey and right-hand man George McDonald (old Mack) cutting the long grass, grown over close season, using string lines and a white-wash roller to re-mark the pitch.
“Later the club signed a centre forward, Chris Marron, who will live in club history.
“Mentioned by Mr George Elstob, Shields were drawn at home in an FA Cup tie, but the Horsley Hill pitch was not wide enough so the tie was played at Cleadon Recreation Ground, on the town schoolboys’ pitch.
“Shields won the game against Radcliffe Colliery Welfare 13-1, and Chris Marron scored 10 of the goals.
“My final memory of the stadium, over a few seasons, is occasionally pushing a wheelbarrow from the ground, full of muddy red and green shirts, socks and white shorts (colours then) to the home of ‘Old Mac’ and Mrs Mac, in Dean Road, passed the old Regent cinema. Mrs McDonald washed and ironed all the strips. When I called in, almost every room in the house had drying lines fitted with red/green and white hanging from them.
“I stayed with the club until they moved to Simonside Hall, then left to play Saturday afternoon football with local teams.
“I have so many happy memories, the people I met, learning and experiences. I would not have missed it for anything.”
According to Les, when the football club had to leave the stadium, they played a season at Gypsies Green, opposite the New Crown Hotel.
“The players met at Derby Street swimming baths, using the changing rooms and ‘after match’ baths. Both teams were transported to Gypsies Green and returned after the match.”
l Meanwhile here’s a call out to all former Plessey workers regarding a reunion meeting taking place tonight.
One of the organisers, Lynda Lamb says: “The reunion is taking place at Brighams’ Club at 7pm. It was such a good night last time, but we would like it to be better. Please bring any old photographs, and your memories.
“There will be a raffle, and all we ask is to pay 50p entry fee.”