The Liverpool F.C. picnic of 1896

August 8, 1896
The small, but beautiful village of Freshfield was the chosen rendezvous last Saturday for the annual outing of the committee, players, and some of the friends of the Anfield club, and judging by the expressions of many of them on their return to the Sandon, their last picnic equaled, if not exceeded , the two former ones.

The start was not over auspicious, for after we took our seats in the uncovered wagonettes the thunder god began to clap his hands unpleasantly loud as if the approbation bestowed was a good augury for the coming season’s work what time the fellow with the watering can emptied it content in a manner that was more persistent than polite – and we had to chose either the risk of laying up the seeds of rheumatism and what not, or again ushering into that hospitable strand where fortification lies in alcohol until the normal winds blow.

We chose the latter, but here the billiardists had time to make a couple of decent strokes we were out again, and with a fair wind made for the Grapes Inn. All those whose duty it will be to put their best foot foremost for Liverpool in the fastly approaching season were present, save Joe McQue and Jimmy Ross, among the rest being redoubtable Tom Watson, once of Sunderland, but now of Liverpool.

On the Freshfield track where many Sheffield handicap runners have put in their final breathings – 120 saw Harry Bradshaw winning handsomely from Archie Goldie, with Willie Michael not far behind. Fred Geary was the scratch man and competed in the final, but eight yards was too much to ask him to give, and seeing he could not catch his fellow mate the left winger pulled up, although he might have been placed had he continued. Goldie is a deceiving runner, and as he was giving the winner four yards he gets over the football field faster than is generally thought.

The other races came off in an adjoining field, and Robert Neill gave a taste of his abilities as a fast distance runner by coming home first in the quarter and half mile. John Clark and Bill Keech were second and third respectively in the former handicap, both giving the winner 20 yards start. The half backs were again on evidence in the half mile, John Holmes and Matt McQueen following the winner to where our old friend F.T. Parry adjudicated. In the place kicking contest George Allan at the first attempt gave his fellows more than they could do to equal it, and many present expressed a wish to see what the big centre-forward could really do. But that is reserved for another occasion.  Willie Michael beat Davie Hannah in the final of the dribbling contest, and evidently he is no stranger in such competitions. He created a good impression by his display.

After a substantial tea, at which of 60 sat down, Mr William Houlding, in the absence of Alderman John Houlding, the president of the club, said a few words, in which he expressed the hope that the club could sustain their present high position in the football world as they knew what is was to be “down” before. He then asked Alderman Ephraim Walker to distribute the prizes to the successful.

The Alderman told us that Liverpool is his club, and that he has followed the through success and failure; but to inspire the boys to go in and win and aim high – for the sky – he promised them gold medals if they got within the first quartette when the season ended. This was received with cheers, as was also Mr. Tom Watson’s name when the Chairman previously mentioned it, and although the new secretary was not called upon to say the usual “few words,” I among the many more would have liked to have heard him.

However, as I was informed afterwards, the players and friends of the club will have the opportunity soon. I must not emit to mention that Mr. Clementson, who presides over his regardless-of-expense mart in Brick-rd, presented his promised gold medals to the players for gaining their present proud position, and he did not forget also to include Elliott, the grounds man.

A surprise packet was in store for many when Mr. John McKenna asked their late linesman Mr. Benjamin Bailey, to accept a gold medal from the players themselves, as a souvenir of their regard for him whilst he ran up and down the line last season: to which Mr B. responded in modest and neat terms.

A Vote of thanks to Alderman Walker finished the harmonious proceedings. The drive home passed off without a hitch, but not without a few stoppages.
(Source: Cricket and Football Field: August 15, 1896)


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