Mill Hill St. Peters Football Club History
The parish of St Peter's Mill Hill, was established from St Anne's by Fr Kirwan in 1889. Fr Kirwan was sent to the chapel of ease called Sacred Heart, Witton and was asked to establish this parish on a more permanent basis in the Mill Hill area of town.
It was thought that the new parish would also be called Sacred Heart but the Bishop (Henry Vaughan) asked that it should be called St Peter's in Chains. Bishop Vaughan, an old boy of Stonyhurst College, opened the new church and school on the 25 July 1889 with Fr Kirwin as the first parish priest.
Fr Kirwin was a very pastoral man and as the parish rapidly grew he was sent assistants to help him in his work.
Here follows the story of how one of those assistants established a parish football team; a team which is still in existence one hundred years later.
Leo XIII on May 15 1891, produced an encyclical regarding the conditions of the working class. In this is stated that; "the church is properly interested in the social question because of its religious and social aspects; the state has the right and the duty to intervene on behalf of justice and individual and social well-being".
Rerum Novarum was enforcement from the church to improve, not only working conditions, but also social conditions for the working classes, and to develop interests for young men. It was in response to this encyclical that the football club at St Peter's was created.
St Peter's football club was started in 1898 by Father Mckeogh, curate to Father Kirwan, who was the first parish priest to the church. Father Mckeogh studied for the priesthood at Vallodolid in Spain. The college football team were once challenged to al game by the then Spanish champions, Real, Madrid. The seminarians defeated them by six goals.
On his return to England, Father Mckeogh maintained his great love of football, so it came as no surprise when he was asked by Father Kirwan to start up a parish football club. He eagerly took up the challenge.
The football club was to become an important aspect of the church, which even included some of the first assistant priests to play for the team. The first of these was Father Walter Turner, who, from 1910 to 1917 played for the team while he was assistant to Father Kirwan.
The current football field was bought by Father Prendergast from Mr A Littler, who was previously using the land for his butchers stall. This provided a more permanent home for the team. The family remain involved in the parish today. It was during the time that Father Prendergast was at St Peter's that the team had one for their best seasons. In the 1926/27 season, St Peter's Football Team became the Blackburn and Darwen Catholic league champions, the reserve team also won their league, they won the Brandon Cup, the Blackburn and Darwen Catholic junior knock-out cup, and the Mill Hill medals competition.
It was on this pitch "at least three Rovers players learned the fundamentals of the game in the school teams".
When Father Slevin, the fifth priest to St Peter's, moved to the parish to become the curate to Father Burscough, he became renowned for his football skills. He was a regular player for the football teams in the Blackburn Football Combination, encouraging the players to "Play the game for Mill Hill St Peter's", and it was thought that if he had not devoted his life to serving God, he would have played football professionally.
In Father Slevin's time the team only consisted of practicing Catholic's. He would go down to the pitch during training to ensure that all those in the team attended mass. He would also walk around Mill Hill on a Sunday afternoon, knocking on the doors of people who had not attended mass.
Amateur football at this time was important for the spectators as well as the players. It provided them with one of the only sources of entertainment that most people had access to, and could afford to go to. There was no cost to watch the match, and so because of this games always drew great crowds.
As well as the St Thomas medals, in this season, 1936/37, St Peter's also won the Livesey Cup, as they did the season after.
The Baldwin family were important to the teams after the Second World War. Several brothers and cousins represented different teams over the years. One of their children went on to become a great footballer, Jimmy Baldwin.
Baldwin played for several successful St Peter's school teams, after which he was signed by Blackburn Rovers, where he soon made his way to the first team, where he became part of the famous back line of BALDWIN, PRIDE and BELL.
A transfer to Leicester City to become the captain of another successful team followed his career at Blackburn Rovers. After which he moved on to the position of Player-Manager, but soon returned to his native Mill hill. He was often seen at the ground supporting the parish football teams as he had done as a boy.
Football at St Peter's was definitely a family game. When fathers played for the team, the young boys in the family would follow them. As well as Jim, his brother Joe played for St Peter's. However, when Jim went on to play for Rovers, Joe remained at St Peter's.
It was said that after the war, "There was never a team without a Walmsley".
Right up until Wilf Walmsley left in the 1960's. Also Stuart Metcalf, who later went on to play for Blackburn Rovers, had followed his father, Burt, to play for St Peter's.
Bill Duxbury played for St Peter's at the same time as Baldwin. He began in the school team before moving on to play for the club. He was chairman of the team around the time of the pavilion burning down, which happened days after the spring fair. Because of this toys and a slide that remained in there from the fair were lost in the fire.
He had first joined the committee in 1953, after sustaining an injury that prevented him from playing. He was the youngest committee member ever at St Peter's.
Fred Pickering, who is arguably the finest footballer that Blackburn has ever produced, played for Blackburn Rovers, England and for St Peter's Football clubs.
St Peter's Football Club came across major difficulties on Thursday, 15 July 1971, when the pavilion was burnt down. This occurred tow months after the club had completed its payments of the £700.00 pavilion erected in the sixties. This one had replaced the old pavilion that stood at the far end of the field for many years.
In order to raise the money for a much-needed new pavilion a "disaster fund" was set up by the Football Committee. During the rebuilding the visiting teams changed in a wooden garage that was erected on the field, donated by Mr J Standen. The home team were to use the near-by youth club.
At this time PETER STEWART was involved in the football club. He began as a player, a goalkeeper of great renowned, and even had a try out for Blackpool football club in 1959. He then moved into a more administrative role at the club, first as club secretary.
His predecessor, Tommy Moore, ran the club with Tommy Trainer. On a Saturday morning he would drive around his bicycle in order to round up his teams.
Peter Stewart took the club through a very difficult time, always showing determination, and under his instruction, a manager, Doug Alker, was appointed. St Peter's was also the first team in the Blackburn Combination to give their manager a contract.
Peter Stewart became involved in the events to replace the pavilion. Many different ways to raise money for the new pavilion were suggested. 400 letters were sent to firms asking for donations, and shareholders were invited to contribute £1.00 for a non-dividend share, for which a certificate was issued, and a "Role of Honour" was to be displayed in the new pavilion in order to remember those who donated.
A charity football match that was played at Griffin Park, was also arranged, with a team selected from Blackburn Combination, playing against a team of ex-professional players from various different local teams, the All Stars".
Entry to the match was by purchase of a programme costing 10 pence, which could either have been done prior to the match, or on entry to the ground.
A 9-gallon cask of ale was donated by the Lion Brewer for the players after the match, and another for use in a raffle during the planned field day.
Unfortunately, half an hour before kick off it started to rain, which resulted in a disappointing turn out. However, enough money was raised due to the programmes that had already been sold. The match was kicked off by Tom Finney, however he did not play in the match.
The winners of the match were the "All Stars', with a 2-1 victory, with ex Preston North End player Cunningham, and Dilworth scoring for the "All Stars', and Waddington scoring for the Combination.
Many people, both parishioners and local businesses, donated to the pavilion fund, as well as taking part in the activities arranged to raise funds. This was very much needed as the club, due to position and design of the pavilion, were only entitled to £200.00 from the insurance company.
Peter Stewart took the team out of the Blackburn Combination and into the West Lancashire league. They had originally joined the Combination in 1902 when it was created from an amalgamation of two combinations, the Blackburn Sunday School league, and another. He developed a youth policy for the young players, which created a firm foundation for the future of the football club. The club enjoyed reasonable success in this league.
At the beginning of the 1988 season, the manager resigned which was a shock to the committee and to the players, and the team began to flounder very quickly. Paul Walsh took over the club, first as secretary, and was assisted by Peter Stewart. The team returned to the Blackburn Combination with a very young side, and were soon achieving great success.
It was not long before the club's request to join the East Lancashire league was accepted, and the team again experienced success there.
In 1992 Michael Ashcroft took over as player-manager. Michael had a great history in non-league football, playing for Clitheroe, Accrington Stanley, Morecambe and Darwen. He used his skill and experience to further the success of the club. He brought in as his assistant Erick Kinder, who also had a history of non-league football, with Clitheroe and Accrington Stanley. During this time the club worked their way up through the leagues.
The club was one of very few amateur football clubs in the country to be full members of the Fooball Associated, and it remains today. Mill Hill St Peter's will be found under Manchester United in the F.A. handbook.
After 100 years the club is still going strong, and is still very much a part of the life of St Peter's Mill Hill. We trust that it will long continue to play an active role in the life of the parish, of the community of Mill Hill, and of the town of Blackburn as whole.
Mill Hill St Peter's rejoined the West Lancs League in 2001/02. Five years on the First Team is playing in division two and the Reserve Team is playing in reserve division two.