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Newcastle United David Kemp

The Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia

Harry Clasper

Jimmy Renforth

Bob Chambers

In the 19th century, long before football became our passion, the biggest spectator sport was rowing. There were local championships, national championships and world championships. Rowers from the Tyne excelled and crowds of 100,000 would line both banks of the Tyne to see competitors scull their way between the old Tyne Bridge and Scotswood Bridge. Harry Clasper, Jimmy Renforth and Bob Chambers were all world champions and hugely successful on both sides of the Atlantic. They could win as much as £200 in a big race, which was more than a year’s wages in the mid 19th century. Harry Clasper in particular was not only a fine rower but he was instrumental in designing the forerunner of the light skiff with outriggers used to this day. 100,000 attended his funeral in Whickham, where there is an imposing monument still to be seen. The funeral procession started at the Tunnel Inn at the mouth of the Ouseburn in the Toon but by the time it reached Sandgate, the crowds were so dense that the casket had to be transferred to a barge and sailed up river.

Jimmy Renforth, who suffered from epilepsy died in a race in New Brunswick, Canada. His last words were, ‘What will they think in England?’ The town of Renforth in New Brunswick was named after him.

Another massive funeral crowd was present in Gateshead and his huge monument is outside the Shipley Art gallery in ‘The Heed’.

 

A song written by Rowland Harrison, when news of his death reached hyem:-

Ye cruel Atlantic cable

What’s myed ye bring such fearful news?

When Tyneside’s barely yeble

Such sudden grief te bide.

Hoo me heart beats

Ivvorybody greets

As the whispor runs through dowley streets

We’ve lost poor Jimmy Renforth

The champion iv Tyneside’

Bob Chambers if anything was even more successful, but died of tuberculosis at the age of 37 and is buried in Walker, again under an impressive memorial.

All three men ran pubs, Clasper’s paid for by public subscription.

In the later 19th and 20th century, professional rowing as with professional athletics began to be looked down upon by the middle and upper classes, who relished the Corinthian ideals of amateur sport.

The working classes of Britain’s’ great industrial cities gradually began to identify with a game brought south by Scotsmen – association football, and this is where our next heroes made their names.

 

Colin Veitch,

He was Captain of our beloved Toon during its Edwardian heyday, when we were champions three times and reached four FA cup finals in seven seasons between 1904 and 1911, sadly winning only once. He played for England, went to Rutherford College (Grammar School) was a keen socialist, helping to found the Peoples Theatre with George Bernard Shaw and was instrumental in creating the Professional Footballers Association. A giant of a man! A professional sportsman and an intellectual – not many of them!

 

Jackie Milburn

(Stretching a point here, as he was from Ashington, but any Geordie will forgive me).

A lad who came up from the pit to become the original ‘local hero’. He was a gentleman, a speed merchant, who won the Powderhall Sprint in Edinburgh ( a professional race), and a phenomenal goalscorer. His 200 goals were virtually all from open play, as he didn’t really have the nerve to take many penalties. He lit up the dark, austere, dank, cold post–war years in a unique manner. He was electrifying on the pitch and was always prepared to tackle back like a hero. Like Beardsley, he never seemed to score an ordinary goal and the whole of Tyneside adored him. When we won the cup three times in five years in the 50’s he was our talisman. So much so that when he was dropped for the 1955 final by a plonker of a manager, Stan Seymour the chairman over-ruled and put him in the team. He scored what was then the quickest goal seen in a Cup Final. The manager did not last! One of the first times I saw him was on August 18th 1950 against Stoke whom we beat 6-0 and he scored a hat-trick. The crowds welcoming back the team on those cup winning occasions were immense. The team returned by train to the Central Station and wended their way up to the Shrine of St James mobbed by crowds of upwards of 300,000. I would imagine that this was when the Blaydon Races really became our signature tune, but I may be wrong. Usually only sung at cup matches mind, in those days. I went to his funeral and the Toon came to a halt. I was devastated when I heard the news that he had died. He was truly loved and he did once see me play, but that’s another story.

Peter Beardsley.

Born in Wallsend and in my view the most gifted player to don the black and white shirt. A low centre of gravity, amazingly quick feet, a wonderful dribbler of the ball and possessed of a dynamic shot in both feet, there was nothing he couldn’t do. His other great gift was the ability to work with other players and turn good strikers into world beaters, e.g. Lineker, Cole, Rush. His rapid ‘double- shuffle’ proved more than a match for defences world-wide. Lionel Messi is rightly lauded as the greatest, but in all honesty he does nothing that Beardsley didn’t do. Sadly he spent many years playing elsewhere, but he had two memorable spells at hyem.

Alan Shearer.

A marvellous, charismatic figure with a huge, strong personality as well as a powerful frame. He was another in the amazing list of captivating number 9’s who played for the Toon. He possessed the most determination of any player in the modern era. Frightened of no-one, a complete striker and like all of the above ‘black and white’ through and through. His misfortune and ours, was that he never won anything for the Toon, but if we had possessed 11 players with his heart and ‘never say die’ spirit, we would most certainly have been champions and not just second in successive seasons. Jackie Milburn was brilliant, but lacked self confidence; Shearer was a leader of men and carried the club on his shoulders through a succession of unsatisfactory managers, but at least he played under KK and SBR. I will never forget the ‘Black and White’ day for his testimonial match against Celtic or his performances against ManU or against the Mackems or the game against Inter in the San Siro. He was a colossus on whom we could depend absolutely.

David Kemp

 

Newcastle United Foundation have a heritage project for fans of all ages called Toon Times.

Toon Times will culminate with a major Newcastle United exhibition at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, although in the lead up to this event Toon Times wishes to reach out to all Newcastle United fans across the North East and further afield to get involved and share their memories, experiences, photos and memorabilia what people have collected over the years.

We are supporting the project by helping to collect NUFC memories online - fans can share their memories on the Replay Football website, simply select the Toon Times tag when submitting yours.

For more info contact the Toon Times Heritage Project Coordinator, Newcastle United Foundation, gavin.ferry@nufc.co.uk

 

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