Going back 40 years to Fergie Suter

May 19, 1917
Apropos the notes in this column last week on the late Thomas Marshall and the early history of the Darwen club, I have received an interesting letter from Mr. Joseph Stevenson, of Liverpool, in which he corrects a slight but important historical error, throws a new light upon the far-away epoch, and makes an ingenious suggestion that will intrigue all the old school who go back to the period, even though it has nothing to support it.

He states that it was not from Partick Thistle that Fergie Suter went to Darwen, but from a club called Partick Advance, and it is fairly clear that chronicles both of this and an earlier day have been too ready to assume that it was the Thistle. In the old records the club is simply alluded to as Partick, and in an interview with Fergie Suter that appeared in this paper in 1902 it went by the same plain title.

It was only later that Partick Thistle began to be talked about in this connection rather loosely.

The distinction might not have been worth troubling about, except as a matter of historical accuracy, had it not been for what Mr. Stevenson adds. He says: “My uncle, Dr James Gledhill, played for Partick Advance and later for Darwen, at the time of Fergie Suter in both cases, but it was under an assumed name. I am inclined to think he is the James Love you speak of as a Scotsman, and would be obliged if you could tell me if such is the fact.”

An old-time personality.
Although fairly old in the game, I do not go as far back as 1879, but there are others who do, whose memory is clear upon the point. In furtherance of the theory Mr. Stevenson says that “Dr Gledhill was a Prestonian, and whilst at Glasgow University played for Partick Advance, who were composed (I remember him well saying so) of hefty men, all good players, who played for the love of the game. But most of them were married, and their wives’ objections finally compelled the club to cease.”

Mr. John Lewis, whom I consulted on this point, tells me, however, that there is no foundation for the suggestion. Dr Gledhill and Love were to altogether different personalities. The one was an educated and the other an uneducated man. Both played forward for Darwen, certainly, but they sometimes played in the same eleven, and were of different build. Dr Gledhill was tall, wore a beard, played in long trousers, and always had his braces over his jerseys. Love never did that, in fact Gledhill was the only footballer Mr. Lewis ever remembers to have worn braces outside the shirt, supporting trousers that reached the feet.

Mr. Lewis, who knew both men well, also states that the club from which Love and Suter came was always known as plain Partick.

Dr Gledhill, by the way, played not only a big part in Darwen history at the period, but in popularising the game outside by acting as its missionary through the medium of lectures on its possibilities and development, indeed Darwen people claim that it was the outcome of the first football address that he delivered in Preston, showing by blackboard illustrations what might be done by a team of selected experts, that led the late Mr. William Sudell, who was present, to form the great side that revolutionised the game.
(Lancashire Evening Post: May 19, 1917)


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