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Berkshire Family Historian
September 2001

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, September 2001 Contents

Recollections of a 1920s goalkeeper

Helen Turner

Goring Football Club celebrates its centenary in 2001. As part of the celebrations a Centenary Booklet has been compiled giving a flavour of footballing life in the village over the past 100 years. Below is an extract from an article in the booklet based on an interview with Lou Plummer, who played football for Goring in the 1920s.

Lou Plummer was born in 1905, and moved with his family to Goring from Reading in 1911, to the house where he lives to this day. His father was Edwin Septimus Plummer, who worked as a hairdresser, and who was the regular linesman at Goring Football Club matches.

Lou remembers with great clarity his days of playing football for Goring in the 1920s, the days when football was revived with tremendous enthusiasm after the First World War, as recorded in the Football Chronicle, the weekly supplement to the Berkshire Chronicle, eagerly awaited at local newsagents on Saturday evenings. Football was a wonderful source of local entertainment. Every village had a team - even small places like North Stoke, Mapledurham, and Ipsden. Goring had three, two playing on Saturday and one on Wednesday, and spectators flocked to watch.

The team's home ground has always been the Gardiner recreation ground in the heart of the village. With its row of horse-chestnut trees along the bottom and tall Victorian houses at the far end, the setting has hardly changed in the l00 years since the club was founded.

Lou recalls how, as a schoolboy, he used to dash out of his classroom at the old school in Station Road, and run across to the rec. on Wednesday afternoons to watch the end of the match. Once he'd left school at age 14, he was able to join the team (annual subscription half a crown, or 12fip) and soon became the regular goalkeeper. The Goring Wednesday team, enrolled in the Reading & District Wednesday League, was made up mainly of shop workers, unable to play on Saturdays when the shops stayed open, but free on Wednesdays when it was half­day closing.

The Wednesday team of 1924-25. Back row: George Crook, G. Unwin. Lou Plummer, Bill Parrott, Stanley Walters; Middle row: Frank Gurnett, Fred Pomroy, Fred Whitehorn, Reg Martin, Ray Constantine; Front row: Frank Godfrey, Wilf Woodley, Jack Clark

The players

Lou worked for Penny's, the grocery shop in Red Cross Road (where Goring Hardware is now), and his team mates were as follows:

George Crook and Stan Walters worked at Colebrook's, the butchers in the High Street (now Davis Tate, the estate agents)

Bill Parrott worked at Goring Brewery, in the centre of the village (it closed in the 1940s)

Frank Gurnett worked at Wilde's, the butchers at the top of Ferry Lane (later Bits for Boats, then Pennywise)

Fred Pomroy worked at the bakers (the Old Bakery, just off the High Street)

Fred Whitehorn worked on the railway (as one of over 30 staff working in and around the station - porters, goods yard staff, booking office clerks and so on)

Jack Clark and Roy Constantine, the lock-keeper's son, worked at King's, the chemists

Reg Martin was a chauffeur for a Streatley family

Frank Godfrey worked at the International Stores (now Forbuoys)

George Hobbs worked at Goring Dairy (where Mary S, the furnishing fabric shop is now).

Lou also remembers a couple of Streatley players, one a butler and the other a footman in one of the big houses, who were welcomed along to the Goring Wednesday team as they had to work at weekends and there was no Wednesday side in Streatley.

Getting ready for the match

It was very much a do it yourself team - each player was responsible for buying his own kit and getting it washed. There was no team manager, although often a senior player like Jim Rumble (who had played for Goring before the First World War) would assume the role of unofficial coach/manager/mentor when his playing days were over. As for the changing room, before the wooden pavilion on the recreation ground was built, they got changed in the gardener's shed at Lyndhurst, one of the tall Victorian villas that look across the rec. The visiting team often used the Sloane Hotel, which had other attractions: a newspaper report once mentioned that one of the visitors had indulged in 'liberal doses of Sloane's liniment...'

The rules in those days seem harsh: there were no substitutes once the game had started - if a player was injured, you were down to 10 men and that was that. If a player was sent off, he was banned for a long time. Lou remembers one Saturday team member 'who started framing up to the ref' in a cup match and was banned for life.

Home and away

A home match would often be followed by a dance in the Parish Hall the same evening, attracting 200 people or more, to raise funds for the club. Another good source of revenue was the collecting box passed round among the spectators at home matches - always a good crowd, often no spaces round the touchline, and barriers required behind the goals.

An away match against one of the Reading teams - such as Reading Tramways or the Royal Berks Regiment - became a real day out. After the match, sometimes with the bonus of a post­match dip in the Kings Meadow swimming pool (showers being unheard of) they would have a trip to the Palace Theatre, then fish and chips at the Fish Bar in Union Street. Finally it was back to the station in time for the last (steam) train home, the 11.05 to Wallingford.

The Goring teams enjoyed a range of transport to away matches, the opposition being as far afield as Ascot, Bracknell, and Newbury, as well as Reading and the villages closer to home. Often they caught the train, or cycled, but otherwise they all piled into the back of Mr Vickery's coal lorry. But when it was somewhere like Moulsford - well, that was easy - you just walked; and you could take always the ferry across from South Stoke (2 miles along the river from Goring) and drop into the Beetle and Wedge for a pint on the way back. (It is unlikely that a bunch of muddy footballers on their way home from a match would be quite so welcome at the Beetle in 2001.)

A century of games

Lou played 100 consecutive games and was never sent off or booked. Nor was he seriously injured whilst playing for Goring ­there was 'not so much ankle-tapping as there is today. 'When the Wednesday team folded in the late twenties, Lou joined the Saturday Reserves team and played until he was nearly 40. 'We had some marvellous times....'he recalls.

And his best match? Beating the up-till-then unbeaten league leaders, Christchurch Old Boys, on a February day in 1925. With the final score a decisive 3-0, it was a clean sheet for the Goring goalie.

A winning side

Far from being a bunch of village yokels, Goring became a force to be reckoned with in the 1920S, usually ending the season with all three teams (Saturday 1st team, Saturday Reserves and Wednesday team) well placed in their divisions, and often reaching the late stages of the cup competitions.

In April 1922 Goring made it to the final of the prestigious Oxfordshire Junior Shield competition before losing 1-0 to Witney Swifts before a 2000-strong crowd. In a comment familiar today, the Goring reporter reckoned: 'Both teams played excellent football, but cup-tie excitement was very prevalent, especially when it came to open goals. Both sides missed several sitters. 'The Goring Parish Magazine records sadly: 'It is very bad luck that they didn't win at Oxford, as they had quite two-thirds of the game. They are such good sportsmen, and play such clean football...'

Typical - both of the result and the sentiments that went with it ­is this report from the Football Chronicle in March 1922: 'Spencers Wood Reserves put up a plucky fight against Goring, but were simply swamped in the second half, Goring adding eight more goals and winning with the utmost ease by 11-0, only three of the team failing to score. Spencers Wood's own report acknowledges: [We] came away defeated but not downhearted. We were hopelessly outclassed, but Goring played the game all through the match, and it was a pleasure to meet them.'

A date with the girlfriend...

And finally .... one episode that brings a smile to Lou's face as he recounts it:

'One Wednesday evening, I had a date in Reading, after the match at King's Meadow. Now when we had matches in Reading, we always used to go on the train. In those days, if you were responsible for causing a late kick-off, you were fined... So bearing in mind my date, I persuaded the others to get changed in the train on the way, to save time. So that's what we did.

Well, after the match, when we went to get changed, I found that I'd left my shoes on the train. So there I was, making my way up into town for my date - and those streets were all cobblestones ­in my bowler hat, blue nap coat, kid gloves... and my football boots.......'

[The Goring Football Club Centenary booklet is now available price £3.00 + 45p p&p. For further details please contact Helen Turner, tel 01491 875895 or email: ]

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updated 27th November 2001