So much more than 'just a friendly'

So much more than 'just a friendly'

By Mishi Morath
9 July 2015
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On Saturday evening, kicking off at 6.00pm, we welcome our friends from Germany, Altona 93, to Champion Hill

For a special one off prize has been commissioned by long-standing Dulwich Hamlet supporter Jack McInroy, to be kept forever by the winning side...the PA WILSON MEMORIAL TROPHY, named after Mr. Lorraine 'Pa' Wilson, who founded our great club way back in 1893.
The reverse features the years 1893, 1925 & 2015.
Chosen for the founding date of both of our historic sides; 1925 because ninety years ago Dulwich Hamlet graced the current Altona stadium, on our Easter Tour that year, when our own Edgar Kail outwitted his equally famous Hamburg counterpart Adolf Jager (after whom their ground is now named) & our current year to commemorate Saturday's 90th anniversary 're-match'.

We spoke to Jack McInroy yesterday to ask him why he had arranged for such a beautiful trophy, first of all we wanted to know what it was made of:

"I designed it personally, and I commissioned another of our fans, my good friend James Virgo, to make it, as he is an artist by trade, including founding & casting. It's made from carved oak and cast in solid bronze. Standing on a granite base, it has been patinated and is actually quite heavy, weighing just under 20 lbs, which must be over nine kilos, if any of our guests are confused by imperial measurements. when I heard of the fixture I thought it would be nice to do something special to commemorate the occasion, and fortunately, through profits from previous copies of my ‘Hamlet Historian’ magazine, which I had stored in a ‘Pa Wilson Memorial Fund’, this is a fitting opportunity to pay tribute to the great man.”

The ‘Hamlet Historian’ is an occasional history publication, ably edited by Jack since 2003 & after the next edition goes on sale sometime in the autumn he hopes to have enough remaining funds in the kitty to donate one thousand pounds to the “Inter City 125” campaign, which is fundraising to take the Hamlet players and management to Hamburg, for a pre-season training camp in 2018, which will include two matches, the highlight and finale being a match against Altona 93, to commemorate what will be the 125th anniversary of both clubs.

Jack has been following Dulwich since 1981, until then even though he was a local lad, living in Camberwell at the time, he was a follower of Liverpool. He often took in their matches when the Reds played in the London area, but the awful spectre of hooliganism was taking its toll, the final straw being close to some pretty nasty incidents at a game at West Ham United. “It was at the time I’d just got married to Jackie, who I’m still happy with I’m pleased to say, in fact only last week we celebrated 34 years of married life together! At the same time a good friend of mine suggested I come to a game at Dulwich Hamlet with him. And as a result I’ve been in love with the Club for as long as I’ve been in love with my wife.”

As Jack’s support of the Club grew down the decades he found the past history something to delve into and was always wanting to find out more. “Truth is the more you discover about the past the more fascinated you become. I’ve learnt so much, with the help of other fans of course, who’ve shared their research, as I wouldn’t have been able to publish the ‘Hamlet Historian’ on my own. A few years ago Roger Deason did a lot of work on our practically forgotten First World War history, in particular the players who made the ultimate sacrifice, and actually discovered a couple of errors in the club War Memorial, which is in the current boardroom. We dedicated an entire issue of the magazine one November around Armistice Day to them. At the Club Remembrance Service at that time he gave a very moving speech, totally off the cuff from memory, it was extremely emotional, & that moment has always stayed with me.”

It was well known back in those dark days how much Pa Wilson cared & worried about each and every member of the Club on active service…and went so far as to send out regular newsletters to those serving at the front, to keep them abreast of all that was happening back at home, so they could stay in touch with their Dulwich Hamlet family. (Sadly, as far as we know, none have ever survived, if one ever surfaced it would be the ‘holy grail’ for all interested in our history) By acknowledging the work & love of the Club that was nurtured from the start by the great man that was our Club founder, Jack is trying to keep alive the very spirit of the Club that began in those early days. “There was that spirit of caring that was an everyday part of the Club. Epitomised by a love of the game above all else. All money made was put back into the Club and any surplus was direct into local charities.”

‘Pa’ Wilson himself passed away in 1924, in less than thirty years he had founded a little local football team which had ground to the greatest amateur side in the land. No mean feat. Yet his name was all but forgotten, a mere line or two in the Club history notes, sent to away sides for inclusion in their programmes. Jack explained: “Pa is buried in West Norwood Cemetery. But the plot is very overgrown, with nothing there. A few years ago I designed the bronze memorial plaque outside the main entrance, again cast by James Virgo, through money I’d raised from the sales of the magazine. The trophy for Saturday’s game is a continuation of that, keeping his name at the forefront as it deserves to be.”

The Altona connection came about through fan friendships, but has grown to now playing First Team fixtures against each other, with Saturdays clash being a ‘return fixture’, after The Hamlet led by the great Edgar Kail, defeated Altona on our Easter 1925 tour. That inter-War Altona side featuring their iconic legend Adolf Jager, who their stadium is named after. Edgar is, of course, well remembered at Champion Hill, not just in terrace chants, but through previous sterling work of fans like Jack McInroy. He has a nickname he’s not too keen on, but one which is said not just in jest, but in appreciation. He’s “Jack the Plaque” to some…as he was instrumental in the petitioning to have a Southwark Council Blue Plaque erected to remember him, which you can see on up on the wall by the entrance into the bar. And he was also involved in lobbying the Council to get our approach road named Edgar Kail Way, after a local resident, John Beasley from the Peckham Society (& the man who led the failed campaign against our current ground being built, of which if he had been successful, there would be NO Dulwich Hamlet Football Club today) had suggested the totally bland & irrelevant name of ‘Sport Road’.

We asked Jack about the appeal of the game, & the tour in three years time. Perhaps replaying the past, and the art of continental touring, something that has been lost for decades.

“Yes, it’s quite amazing that ninety years later we’re staging a return fixture. And it’s also quite amazing that both clubs take such reverence in recalling and respecting iconic figures from the past, whether that be Adolf Jager, Edgar Kail or Pa Wilson.”

We pondered if it was that love of our respective pasts that connected both of our clubs in the twenty-first century?

“I think so, yes. To be honest I don’t know too much about their history, but know of the 1893 founding date of both of us; as well as the 1925 tour game, which is why I’ve specifically included those years on the reverse of the Pa Wilson Memorial Trophy, with the addition of 2015, as the date of this meeting.”

For those of you have not had the pleasure of ever meeting Jack McInroy, & there’s a fair chance you haven’t, as he’s one of our more reserved sort of fans, I can only describe him personally as a humble, modest man, who doesn’t look for the limelight. But on Saturday he will be thrust momentarily in front of the cameras as the Club have asked him to present his special trophy to the victorious captain. We guessed it would be a proud moment for him…

“Very much so. Coming back from many a game in years past it’s fair to say there wasn’t always much joy. But in the last five years or so, since Gavin Rose took over, it’s been wonderful, what with the fanbase growing, and I’ve personally made so many new friends as a result. It’s a really special time to be following the Club & it’s nice to be able to put a little back in to recognise that all, whilst also highlighting our proud past.”

I am sure everyone from all sections of Champion Hill, as well as the Adolf-Jager-Stadion would like to offer a big thank you to Jacko for commissioning the special trophy for Saturday’s early anticipated match with Altona 93. Many thanks for your gesture, and also for all the effort you put in producing the ‘Hamlet Historian’.

You can find out more about the Hamlet Historian by

And to look at the work by craftsman James Virgo, simply

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