Everton F.C. Theatrical Gala 1892

February 25, 1892
The theatrical football match and athletic sports in aid of the Liverpool charities which owes its initiative to the late Mr. Albert Smith, appears to have become an annual affair and yesterday, on the Everton ground, the buffoonery and burlesque of football which proved so successful in previous years, being even more an attraction than before. this year the proceeds of the entertainments are to be given to the Stanley Hospital and the Royal Infirmary and judging from the numbers present 14,000 in all – and also from the trade driven by the ladies, troupes of minstrels, barrel organs and in other ways, these two estimable charities should benefit in no small degree.

At one o’clock the time stated in the bills for the commencement of the afternoon’s frolic, there was a very large attendance, and proceedings opened with a 50 yards’ handicap for the children employed at the theatres. This was followed by a sack race for stage hands and a further variation was introduced in a ‘’Roman chariot” races.

During this period the artists from the various pantomime and variety companies had been gradually collecting and an extraordinary company they were. Policemen galore clowns every imaginable sort of nursery lore hero, from Blue Beard to the gentle members of the noble bands wizards, and a ‘’caster” in Mr. M.R. Morand had not his ‘’moke and shay” with them, but throughout the afternoon he drove a roaring trade, first collecting pennies then ”selling tips straight from the horses’ mouth.”

The Vendomes also were in great force, as were a detachment of Messrs. Livermore Bros.’ Minstrels Mr. Martin Adeson, Mr. Harry Wright, who created great laughter by his quaint bicycle business; the Brothers McGrath, Mr. T. Volt, Mr. Charlie Seel, and others.

There was present also a large company of the beauties of the theatres, who passed away the afternoon in disposing of theatrical photographs, cigarettes-in the latter case some of them sampled their wares possibly to prove that they were good-flowers and other dainty articles, to catch the pennies of their numerous following. Mr. Harry Ellison came on the scene later on, and asked for pennies ”to get his hair out.

‘”In fact, every conceivable excuse was put forwards by the partakers in the gala to benefit the charities on whose behalf they were present. The real fun of the afternoon began with the ‘’Roman Chariot,” race. Some of the donkeys were like the one in the favourite song, they ‘’weren’t made to go.”

The winner, Mr. Harry Wright took the precaution, however, to get his donkey’s owner to lead him round. He won in a canter, leaving his second, Mr. J.P. McGrath, some distance behind. More enjoyment was derived from the ladies’ race of 50 yards. Some of the ladies fell down towards the finish, and the winner, Miss Topay Sindon showed excellent pace-making, both in the heat, and in the final winning easily, and her victory proved very popular. Miss Gertrude came second.

The next race was 100 yards’ handicap for gentlemen of the profession, and was run in costume. Mr. Dan McGrath ran in easily from scratch, though heavily handicapped in some cases. Mr. Ernest Dottridge was second, more laughter began with the bicycle race, Mr. Morand and Mr. Harry Wright working one machine between them.

In this competition Mr. Charlie Seel proved so easy Victor, though he nearly lost the race by not riding the full distance, Mr. Jeff Vendome was second.

The promise of football was the great attraction however and long before the play actually commenced a football of gigantic proportions was rolled, for it was too large to be kicked with any effect, about the ground.

About three o’clock, however the advent of a regulation ball was hailed with delight, and the Everton League team consisting of Jardine, Collins, McLean, Kelso, Holt, Robertson, Latta, Geary, Maxwell, and Milward, were cheered on appearing on the ground in ancient and somewhat bettered silk hats. Jardine the favourite goal-keeper, indulged in a little private performance of his own. He went round the ground with two friends, and gave exhibitions of his excellent jumping powers, thereby making a no small addition to the already large collection of coppers and small silver.

Before proceeding with the match itself, a word must be said about Mr. Frank Pratt’s revised rules of the game, which printed in the programmes. The referee, he suggested, should be chosen entirely against his own will, and the duties were to enforce a general content for all rules and order. The said referee should wear a complete suite of chain armour, and be provided with a torpedo net, fire-escape, spring gun and a man-trap other rules of a similar extraordinary character were provided to govern the referee’s behaviour.

For instance, ” In the event of any appeal to the referee, he shall be given a clear two miles start, and if the appealing players shall be unable to catch him and obtain a favourable decision he shall not be allowed to maim, disfigure or otherwise injure more than seven members of said referee’s family.”

It is needless to say that the comicality and absurdity of the rules appear to have governed the game. They began ”promptly about half an hour after the time appointed’ ‘- at a quarter past three – when Mr. J.A. Wilcox, the new M.P. for Everton, kicked off the Theatricals got to work at once, and just filled the goals with their members, leaving about thirty others in the field of play.

The ball was forth with carried down to the Everton quarters, and just when Robertson thought of relieving matters by shifting the leather to the other end, one of the comedians in female attire promptly sat on the ball. There were fouls claimed for everything, rugby rules were frequently taken advantage of and when Blue Beard and Sister Ann were nearing the goal and Holt endeavoured to clear, they quietly secured the Everton champion and let in some of their own side.

It was an extraordinary thing that the Everton team knew so much about the game, and this fact was evidently a matter of surprise to the Theatricals. At one point in the first half they all collected together with the ball in their midst, and made a bold press onward for the goal. Kelso, who was arrayed in a fine glengarry, made matters a bit lively, however, and saved what might have been a goal.

Jardine made up his mind about this time that he had no work to do, and went wondering round the back of the enclosure talking to his friends, ever and upon rushing to effect a little save. At last the Theatrical succeeded in dropping the ball through the posts, and caught the goalkeeper napping.

Great cheers mingled with loud laughter hailed the first blood. Latta soon after the restart made up his mind to see if he had any carrying powers, and he forthwith picked up the ball and went a cross-country journey, dodging in and out and finally threw the leather to Milward, who made a similar perambulation, only dribbling the ball instead of carrying it.

Charlie Seel, however, made tracks, and catching the ball nicely ran down the field with it and scored number two catching Jardine talking to a friend in a corner of the field. Another start was made and Geary, Latta, McLean and others wormed the ball in and out of their ‘’millions” of opponents and finally got it through.

Half-time was called and on restarting the Everton team ”pulled up their boots” and played a little more in earnest. Latta went off with a rush and played any twenty who came near him. Jardine found that he had more leisure than ever, as he took a lofty seat on the top of the goal-post, and afterwards to get entirely out of harm’s way, he moved his quarters to the centre of the crossbar, being guarded at each end by a theatrical demon.

On endeavouring to escape he was secured and tried to the goal post. In the meantime the play and fun were fast and furious, rather too fast for the theatricals; in fact they ultimately found it necessary to send their various policeman after the referee, who was promptly turned out of the field. The attentions of the ‘’peelers” were next directed to the players, and first Robertson then Geary, then Jardine, then Kelso, Holt and others were taken into custody, with the question, ‘How dare you play football,” and the warning ‘’Just you get off and don’t show your face here again.”

In spite of these little inconveniences, however, the Everton team put two more goals on to their scorer, and the breaking of the following rule was strictly avoided on all sides:- Any player playing according to these or any other rules shall have a series of pantomime airs played to him for two consecutively hours on a barrel organ, or shall be shot dead, as he may prefer.”

This provision was so thoroughly feared by the artists that the game broke up at Mr. Henry Heard’s whistle leaving the laurels in the hands of the Evertonians by three goals to two. For the victory, the team which have been disappointed this year in two of the most important cup competitions, were presented with a fine leaden tea urn, beautifully embossed and adorned with ribbons of all colours.

For the record Geary scored two. Taking the entertainment as a whole, it was extremely successful, both financially and from an amusing point of view. The frequent outbursts of laughter in different portions of the field showed that the artistes were always busy, and enlivened the procedings with an extraordinary amount of versatility.

The main burdens of the arrangements – and it was an exceedingly heavy task to make them – was borne by Mr. Harris Fineberg amd Mr. H. Heard, both those gentleman having worked their hardest to sustain the idea of their predecessor, Mr. Albert Smith.

The prices in the various races were given by Mr. J.A. Wilcox, M.P., Mr. John Houlding, Mr. Harris Fineberg, Mr. Tom Bush, Mr. William Barclay, and Mr. William Houlding.

Mr. Wilcox, M.P. J. de Bels Adam (the major of Liverpool), Mr. John Houlding, Dr Costine, and Mr R.W. Leyland were present during the afternoon.
(Liverpool Mercury: February 26, 1892)

Bob Kelso, Everton (Lloyd’s Weekly News: September 24, 1893):


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