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Soccer Stadium

Bob Thompson

Team Manager and "Crofter"

Blyth Spartans Ladies were managed by a young man called Robert "Bob" Thompson (1894-1982), who led them to cup glory in 1918. Born locally in October 1894, Bob was a Blyth lad who it is thought became a miner after leaving school.

Attending Wright Street School*, off Regent Street (today, almost opposite Herron's, the jewellers, by Morrison's car park) possibly from 1899 to 1904, Bob described (date unknown) his schooling: “I still vividly remember that everything about it was hard and grim. Even the canes used to maintain discipline seemed to carry a special sting. 

"The entire atmosphere of education under hardship was completed by the cramped play yard and dry water closets which emptied into the back street in the time of the night scavengers. The rear part of the school is still simply part of a back-street, with terrace houses on the opposite side."

*The Wright Street School building became the Blyth Town Boy's Club after the school's closure in 1972.

All images below courtesy of Gordon Smith, Chairman of Blyth Local History Society (BLHS). 

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Wright Street School, Blyth
The school opened in 1876 and closed in 1972. The building shortly before it was demolished.

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Wright Street School pupils (circa 1900)

Bob Thompson, aged five, is likely to be in this photo (canny uniforms!).

He continued: “While I was a scholar at Wright Street School one of my friends was Edwin Madgwick, who afterwards had a brilliant career in the educational sphere. He went from success to success at Blyth Grammar School (then known as Blyth Secondary School), Armstrong College (Newcastle), Durham University, Emmanuel College at Cambridge University, and in 1927 was appointed Professor of Physics at Raffles College, Singapore.

 

"When I last heard of him he was living in the south of England, but he still has relations in Blyth. He qualified for a commission during the 1914-18 war, and was awarded the Military Cross.”

 

We know Bob attended the 1912 Blyth Spartans cup tie (possibly the Northumberland Aged Miners Homes Cup, which they won in 1912) against [South] Shields Mariners. Spartans also won the Northern Alliance league that season.

It appears what skills Bob lacked as a footballer he made up for in management.

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Blyth Shamrock in 1912

Bob Thompson is on the far left of the middle row.

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Blyth Shamrock in 1913

Bob Thompson is on the far left, second top row.

The above team photo of Blyth Shamrock, in 1912, with what looks like a league winner's trophy and medals sees Bob pictured looking dapper on the far left in the middle row. He would have been 16 years old and on the club committee in some capacity, possibly secretary because another photo of Blyth Shamrock with their trophies, taken in 1913, sees Bob, aged 17, on the far left, second top row. He later penned a postcard that said on the back:

 

"This team [1912/13] won the Northumberland Junior Cup and the Blyth Junior League. Yours truly was secretary.

 

The gentleman in the middle is Mr J Ridley who is now president of the Northumberland Football Association. Unfortunately, five of our lads made the great sacrifice [in WWI]."

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A postcard written by Bob Thompson

Unfortunately, five of our lads made the great sacrifice.

He later appeared in a photo, below, of Blyth Spartan’s Munitionettes (1917). Bob is on the far left of the second row. 


Around this time, Bob passed the shorthand theory examination, held in connection with St Mary’s Church, and a postcard mentions he was living at 89 Disraeli Street, Blyth (see the (stamped) postcard image below), when he was awarded a shorthand certificate by Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd., Bath.

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"This after barely a dozen lessons in the study of the “winged art”," said the report. "[Robert] has studied under the guidance of the Rev. R. W. Lambert, curate of St. Mary’s, to whom the success of the class is due."

 

At some point, his sister moved to New South Wales, Australia, but we have no further information about her.

 

Bob's tenure as secretary of Blyth Spartans Ladies lasted until August 8, 1918, when he announced his retirement in the Blyth News and Wansbeck Telegraph. He was succeeded by Sammy Ryder, who lived at 30 Cowpen Square, but the season 1918/19 proved to be short lived for Blyth Spartans Ladies. The end of the war and demobilisation meant their last recorded match was on September 3.

 

Bob worked for The Blyth News in 1921 and went on to have a long career in journalism. His first pen name was Nor’ Easter, and he adopted the moniker ‘Crofter’ on August 23, 1928. In his book, True Tales of Blyth and Other Places (2002), Jim Harland says "Crofter" was taken from his regular attendances at Croft Park (the home of Blyth Spartans AFC).

 

Bob later became a Sports Correspondent for The Northern Echo, part of the same group of newspapers as the Blyth News.

 

In 1930, aged 36, Bob married 24-year-old Melissa Dixon (born August 13, 1906).

 

Aged 45 when WWII broke out in 1939, the family was living at 1 Third Avenue, Blyth, comprising Melissa (aged 33), twin sons Robert and Brian (born February 1, 1932), and possibly his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Dixon, who was 74 at the time.

 

Writing in 1946 about Rev. Osmund Stock, who was vicar of St. Mary’s Church for 21 years before moving - accompanied by his two sisters - to Stratford-on-Avon in April 1918, he said: "Many people felt that they had lost three very dear friends. As a boy I was a member of the Sunday School class carried on by one of the sisters, and my tangible recollection of Mr Stock is a book received from him 38 years ago. He wrote in that book that it was presented in memory of my confirmation on March 18, 1908."

 

Bob officially retired on August 30, 1968 (aged 73) but continued to contribute to the Blyth News by letters. Historian Gordon Smith has traced Bob's last newspaper cutting to April 15, 1981. "But that's not proof of his very last submission," said Gordon. "There could be more and we are always keen to hear from anyone who knows."

 

Bob died in the first quarter of 1982, aged 87.

 

He too, is a forgotten hero.

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Bob Thompson "Crofter"

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