His father put up Anfield’s mast

December 16, 1958
Our appeal to any Liverpool ancient for information about the purchase and erection of Liverpool F.C.’s flag-pole (originally the top-mast of one of six masts on the famous first ship of iron, the Great Eastern) had immediate response. Seventy-five years old Mr. Arthur Shaw (“But I’m no ancient”), principal of the famous Liverpool firm of Henry Shaw and Company, block, sparmakers and joiners, Shaw’s Alley, telephoned us the next day saying that he knew a deal about it. It was erected by his father, Mr. Henry Shaw, some time before 1896.

Mr. Arthur Shaw, once a well-known distance runner with Sefton Harriers, now lives in semi-retirement at Conway and visits Liverpool only occasionally, but he has a wonderful memory. He told us: “If the mast was taken from the Birkenhead side of the river it would not have been floated across. The probability is that it would be carried by barge and landed at the old timer quay at Brunswick Dock. From there it would be transported to Anfield slung between timber wheels. The difficulty of negotiating narrow street corners was solved by the use of a antilever steering system operated by hand by a man who walked alongside.

Mr. Shaw told us that a similar flag-pole would cost to-day between £350 and £400. All timber masts are of pitch pine.

Quite a job.
The erection of the pole at Anfield must have been quite a job. Mr. Shaw said: “They would have to dig a pit six feet square and some eight to 10 feet deep. The butt of the pole would be placed in the hole by the use of sheer legs (such as the Navy use at the Royal Tournament) and then it would be raised to the point of balance by block and tackle. Concrete would then keep it in position.

“The band holding the four wire stays which support it would be put on red hot, so that when it cooled and contracted it would grip the pole and keep its position.”

Like all other members of the family Mr. Shaw has been a Liverpool follower all his life. He remembers being taken to Anfield, as a boy, by his father to watch games there seated on the grass under the ropes. There was no Kop, no stand in those days.

The man who put up Anfield’s famous flag pole must have been quite a character. His son told us that when the family lived in North Hill Street his father used to be sitting in the first bus (horse drawn, of course) at 4 a.m. and was back at work in his yard two hours later having gone aloft in the rigging of some sailing ship in the north end docks to measure any spars which needed replacing.

A Liverpool scent.
To visit Mr. Shaw’s firm, not far from the dockside and carrying that unmistakable Liverpool sea-front scent of timber, tar and roping. Indeed, we were shown dozen of instruments of his father’s craft – many of them a 100 years old. We had not appreciated, until it was explained, just what craftsmanship went into the making of ships’ masts and spars. Certainly there is not in Liverpool to-day a pitch-pine length capable of producing a mast to rival Liverpool F.C.’s.

The fierce-looking draw-knives, axes, special planes and augers Mr. Shaw displayed are now used mostly for the manufacture of barge poles and flag poles, but nothing we found was as fierce at Shaw’s Alley as the guvnor’s love of Anfield and dislike of Everton.

“I wouldn’t go to Everton if they presented me with free season tickets,” was the parting shout of the man whose father nailed the family flag to the Anfield mast – and what a mast!

We are grateful, too, to Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Shaw, of Broadgreen, for their help in this matter, and to Mr. J. Quayle (8 Clarendon Street, Liverpool 7) for the fact that the Great Eastern sale was over five days, in 1888 and realised £58,000.

He knows the route.
Mr. P. Brown, of 12 Marmion Road, Liverpool 17, writes: “As you say, the mast came from the Great Eastern, which was then lying in Garston Docks. Tom Watson, the then Liverpool F.C. scretary, bought it for a few pounds and asked Tom McLauchlan, a team owner in the South end if he could get it to Anfield.

To lashed two team wagons together and used three horses for the job. They came along Aigburth Road from Garston, and then into Lodge Lane, Tunnel Road, Durning Road, to Edge Lane where they moved into Beech Street, and across Prescot Road into Sheil Road and so into Belmont Road.

They then turned up Breck Road to Breckfield Road until they came opposite Hartnup Street down which they went straight into the ground.

They had to use this route because there was not sufficient room in Walton Breck Road for them to swing the mast into the ground. Tom Watson was so pleased he gave To McLauchlan a free pass to enter the ground at any time he liked!

Mr. H. Bryan (82 Needham Road, Liverpool 7) confirms Mr. Brown’s story, except that he says the mast was carried on timber wheels, Mr. Bryan says that he had the story from the man he used to work for, Mr. James Paterson, driver of the team of horses which did the haulage. For many years Mr. Paterson was in business as a grocer in McKenzie Street.
(Source: Liverpool Echo: December 16, 1958; via http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) © 2018 Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited

LIVERPOOL. ENGLAND. c1912. Anfield stadium, flag pole corner- Walton Breck Road and Kemlyn Road, with the original unroofed ‘Spion Kop’ stand in foreground. The flagpole (still in same place today) is a ‘top mast’ from Brunel’s SS Great Eastern.


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