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Gangs of men tramping the countryside in search of whatever agricultural work was available were common sights in the area during the Thirties.
So when in May 1936 a gang of itinerant pea pickers arrived in Gamlingay for the season’s work nobody would have taken much notice of them.
The gang lived rough and slept in the open air - first in a meadow, then under a cattle arch - and cooked their own food. One of the gang was a 32-year old Scot from Ayrshire, who called himself Jock Anderson.
When the pea picking was over, Anderson got himself a job with what was described as ‘a large firm of apple growers’, almost certainly the COPO (Coxes Orange Pippin Orchards) estate at Cockayne Hatley, set up by Alexander Whitehead in 1929. By 1933 some 30,000 young trees had been planted, and eventually the apple orchard was claimed to be the largest in Europe.
Having secured a full-time job Anderson took lodgings in Gamlingay. Although the orchards were technically in Cockayne Hatley, a track off the Hatley Road that gave entrance to the estate was only a brisk walk or a short bike-ride from Gamlingay, with its plentiful shops and pubs.
In the latter, Anderson soon gained a reputation as a fine snooker player.
A GAME OF FOOTBALL
As the start of the football season approached he asked his landlady where he could get a game of football. She advised him to join the village lads in their nightly kickabout, and it was not long before his footballing ability came to the notice of Gamlingay Football Club.
Anderson was given a trial for Gamlingay Reserves, who played in the Biggleswade League. As the Cambridge Independent Press and Chronicle later reported, ‘as he showed outstanding ability he was promoted to the first eleven’.
Gamlingay first eleven played in Division 1 Section A of the Cambridgeshire League at the time. The top division in the league was the Premier Division, but the next tier down, Division 1, was split into two sections, labelled A and B.
Section A was largely made up of clubs in the South Cambridgeshire area, while Section B had teams from the city of Cambridge and the fenland to the north. Presumably this arrangement was put in place to cut down on the travelling involved, much as the Third Division of the English Football League was at that time separated into two sections - North and South - for similar reasons.
It is possible to reconstruct most of Gamlingay’s 1936/37 league campaign from the results, tables and occasional match reports that appeared in the sports pages of the Cambridge Independent Press and Chronicle.
Unless otherwise noted, all the quotations that follow are from that newspaper.
Gamlingay’s season began on Saturday 12 September with a home match against Swavesey. ‘Home’ was a patch of fairly rough sloping ground in Green End with a low wooden hut for a clubhouse-cum-changing room and nowhere for spectators to hide when the wind blew. The pitch sloped from goalmouth to goalmouth and knowing how to play on it conferred a distinct advantage to the home side.
Gamlingay won the toss and elected to play uphill with the wind. Gilbert opened the scoring for Gamlingay, ‘and this was soon followed by a good goal from R. Lowings’.
Swavesey struck back with a goal of their own, before Knibbs and Hutchinson extended Gamlingay’s lead. Swavesey scored a consolation goal just before the end of the game, but the 4-2 result gave Gamlingay the two points on offer for a win.
Jock Anderson isn’t mentioned in the brief report, but the fashion then (and the space available) usually precluded naming anyone other than the goalscorers. He may have played in the game, or he may have been playing for the Reserves in his trial match; three quarters of a century on, there is no way of knowing.
FACING THE SUN
He definitely played in the next game though: another home fixture, against Royston Town, played ‘in front of a good crowd’. Cunningly, the Royston skipper won the toss and made Gamlingay ‘face the sun’.
It did his team little good, because they were soon a goal down when ‘L. Brown got away on the right, and followed up with a good shot that found the net’. A great save by Patman, the Gamlingay goalkeeper, maintained the lead until Anderson ‘headed a good goal’ to put the home team two up.
Anderson was again prominent when his shot was handled by a defender. He took the penalty himself but the Royston ‘keeper saved it.
After the break Royston attacked but ‘Patman, and a strong pair of backs, Careless and Clews, averted danger’ until Hutchinson scored a third.
‘Shortly afterwards a nice move by Anderson put Brown away’ but the goal was disallowed for offside. Although Royston scored late on, the 3-1 victory maintained Gamlingay’s winning start to the season.
Next up for the team was the visit of Sawston Church Institute, on 3 October 1936. Once again the home team scored four goals, ‘successfully bagging the points’, as the following week’s report put it. This time, though, they had to come from behind, one of the Sawston forwards finding the net with a ‘fine fast shot’.
Anderson equalised with ‘a good shot’, before Brown with two goals (one a penalty) and Meeks gave Gamlingay a half-time lead of 4-1. The second half by contrast was described as ‘not interesting to watch', with the home team having most of the play but unable to add to their tally.
Neither score nor opponents were recorded for the next game, which must surely have been played away from the sloping Green End pitch.
The league table shows Gamlingay top with a maximum eight points from four games, having scored 16 and conceded just four goals. They must therefore have won this missing match by five goals to nil.
It was a feat they repeated in their next game, winning 5-0 on the wide open spaces of Barrington’s enormous village green. The five straight wins put the team four points clear at the top of the league. In second place was Cambridge Mental Hospital, with Over third and Girton fourth.
A DIRTY GAME
A gap of two weeks followed (possibly for unrecorded cup matches) before November arrived and Gamlingay’s winning run continued in the opening day’s return fixture at Swavesey.
The home team had been unbeaten on their own pitch for nearly three seasons but lost that record when Gamlingay triumphed 4-1, with two goals in each half.
No scorers are recorded, but there is a hint of controversy in the newspaper report of the match:
'A disagreement among some of the players and some spectators as to the selection of some of the team led to a definite feeling in this game, which was very dirty.’
The report doesn’t specify which team’s selection caused the disagreement, but in the light of what was to follow a month later it may well have been the Gamlingay men who were the subject of the spectators’ wrath.
But as the reporter noted, ‘goals count’ and Gamlingay’s tally was now 25, with 5 against and a total of 12 points from six wins.
Many of the goals they scored came from Anderson, the team’s sensational centre forward. As the Winnipeg Free Press noted later, when news of Anderson’s exploits had crossed the Atlantic and reached that paper’s ‘Around the Soccer World’ column written by the intrepid ‘Scotty’ Harper:
‘His fame spread as a village phenomenon and many scouts arrived to watch him with a view to signing him on for big league clubs.’
The following week’s fixture was played at Great Shelford Institute’s ground, Gamlingay treating the spectators to ‘some of the finest passing movements seen at Shelford this season’.
It resulted in a two goal lead, before Shelford replied with two of their own. Fought at ‘a fast pace and in excellent spirit’, the points were claimed by Gamlingay with a late goal after Shelford had missed a penalty.
Gamlingay had now played seven, won seven, and were averaging four goals a game - an average they maintained in the next match, winning 4-2 away at Sawston Church Institute.
They bettered that at home against Atlas, the works team of the Atlas Stone Company, based near Meldreth. Until half time the match was fairly even, with Brown and Lowing scoring for Gamlingay and the visitors netting with a penalty. It was a different story in the second half.
‘After the interval Gamlingay, with the wind, were complete masters, and goals were scored by Anderson (who was again playing a great game), and Brown, from a penalty, and Meeks, this trio adding six goals before the close.’
The 8-1 thrashing of Atlas was to be the high point of the season. Gamlingay had now played 9, won 9, scored 40 goals, conceded 10 and were clear at the top of the league by four points. Girton United were in second place and Cambridge Mental Hospital were third.
It was also the last game Anderson would play for his adopted village team.
THE STAR DEPARTS
Anderson was absent for the next fixture at home to Sawston Paper Mill on 5 December. By then he had left the village. Two days after the game, on Monday 7 December 1936, he was appearing in court in Sunderland.
It is probable the team were affected as much by the manner of his departure as by his absence from their ranks, and they duly crashed to their first defeat of the season by two goals to one.
They had not recovered by the next game either, a 5-3 defeat at Over which saw them drop to second in the league, before embarking on a sequence of four wins which maintained their place near the top of the table.
During January 1937 they beat Great Shelford Institute 2-1 and Over 4-0 at home, then Royston 2-1 away, where ‘the snowy ground made good football impossible’.
February saw just one league game played, a 4-0 home victory against Central Old Boys.
In March Gamlingay lost 3-1 away against table-topping Girton United, but were then credited with a win in the published table - a game which is otherwise unrecorded. Since the goals for and against remained unchanged, it is likely the ‘win’ was for a forfeited match.
A season that had begun with nine wins was to end with a run of five defeats as Anderson’s absence began to tell.
Atlas gained revenge for their eight-goal drubbing by putting seven in the Gamlingay net in the return fixture. The solitary Gamlingay goal must have been scant consolation for their worst defeat of the campaign.
This was followed by losing away to Orwell (0-3), at home to Girton United (3-4) and Willingham (2-3), and away at Sawston Paper Mills (0-4) in the final game of an eventful season.
Nonetheless, mainly due to their good start, Gamlingay finished in third place in the league, behind winners Girton United and second-place Cambridge Mental Hospital.
Gamlingay had played 22 games during the 1936/37 season, winning 14 and losing 8.
They scored 63 goals and conceded 44, with a final points tally of 28, thirteen adrift of champions Girton United.
Interestingly, they did not draw a single game, and only failed to score twice.
Anderson’s importance is reflected in the results they achieved with and without their star centre forward.
With him, they won their first nine games; averaging almost 4.5 goals a game. Without him, they lost eight of the 13 games played, scoring 23 goals and conceding 34, and gathered just 10 points in the process.
WHO ‘JOCK ANDERSON’ REALLY WAS
It’s more than likely that suspicions about ‘Jock Anderson’ had been raised before his sudden departure for Sunderland.
It could be that the spectators at Swavesey who complained about team selection believed Gamlingay had a ‘ringer’ in their ranks, or it might be that one of the scouts who came to watch him play recognised Anderson for who he really was. If nothing else, his ability would have marked him out as something more than a village footballer.
By whatever means the truth came out, when it did it caused a real stir. The Cambridge Independent Press ran a story in its Friday 11 December 1936 edition beneath the headline
INTERNATIONAL IN CAMBS. FOOTBALL Gamlingay Promote a Reserve!
‘Gamlingay Football Club have been playing an international footballer unawares. Yet he graduated into Gamlingay’s League side from the Reserves!’
The paper went on to relate how Anderson had arrived in the village the previous summer before his outstanding performances attracted attention.
‘The man was known as Anderson, but it transpires that he is Tom Morrison, the Scottish international and former Sunderland full back, who mysteriously vanished from his home seven months ago.
‘On Monday he appeared in court in Sunderland, accused of leaving his wife and child chargeable to the public assistance committee.
‘On an undertaking by Mr. Lionel Wolfe, his solicitor, who is also a director of Sunderland Football Club, [that] the £16 paid in relief to Morrison’s wife would be refunded, the case was withdrawn.’
Gamlingay Football Club were naturally anxious to point out that they had acted in all innocence.
The Winnipeg Free Press article of 1 January 1937 quoted Hugh Findlay, ‘the president of the team’, as saying “He played as an amateur and we never suspected he was a professional. The whole village is heartbroken at the loss of its popular hero.”
TOM MORRISON, FOOTBALLER
I have in my files a faded copy of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle dated 2 December 1975. My father had told me the story of the ex-Sunderland footballer who played for Gamlingay and I wrote to Len Hetherington, the journalist who covered Sunderland AFC for the paper, to ask if he could shed any light on Morrison.
By way of reply the paper ran a story headed ‘The Roker star who vanished: Was he really a pea picker?’ next to a photograph of Sunderland’s 1935/36 First Division title-winning team. As well as the legendary Raich Carter the team photo includes ‘Tommy Morrison’.
The article included a quote from the team’s centre forward in that team, Sunderland hero Bobby Gurney, who said
“I remember him well but after our celebration dinner in Sunderland he just went missing,” says the great Gurney. “I never met him again nor heard of him again but there were all sorts of rumours about him. It was a real mystery at the time.”
Tom Morrison was born on 21 January 1904 in Coylton, Ayshire. His first club was Troon Athletic, from whom he moved to Scottish First Division club St Mirren in September 1924.
His playing position was right half, which may need an explanation for those who do not know what a half back was.
Up until the Second World War and beyond nearly all teams played a 2-3-5 formation, that is, with two full backs, a centre half with a half back on either side, and five forwards. (When I first played for Gamlingay in 1969 we still stuck to the formation, even though it was long outmoded by then.)
Traditionally, half backs were stocky, tough-tackling men, and judging by the surviving team photos, Morrison fitted the mould. Today he would be known as a defensive midfielder.
St Mirren finished sixth in Morrison’s first season, and fourth in 1925/26, the year they also won the Scottish FA Cup. They beat Rangers one-nil in the semi-final and Celtic two-nil in the final at Hampden in front of 98,000 spectators.
In 1926/27 they slipped to tenth in the league, but towards the end of that season Morrison was chosen for the Scotland team to play England at Hampden.
The Scots included Newcastle United's Hughie Gallacher, one of the greatest players of the pre-war era, at centre forward and more than 111,000 people turned up on 2 April 1927 to watch the game against the 'Auld Enemy'. They left disappointed as England won 2-1 with both English goals scored by Dixie Dean.
It proved to be Morrison’s one and only cap. Internationals were rare events then. Often Scotland would only play against England, Wales and Ireland each year in the Home Championship, and his chance had come and gone.
By February 1928 Morrison himself had gone, transferred to Liverpool of the English First Division after playing 149 games for St Mirren and scoring 13 goals.
At the time he was Liverpool’s record signing, costing the princely sum of £4000.
Liverpool were a mediocre First Division team then and remained so during the eight years he was with them.
He was a regular in the side, playing a total of 254 games for the Reds, scoring four goals and captaining them in 1930/31, but the team never came close to winning a trophy during his time at Anfield.
As a well-known professional footballer with a famous club, Morrison would have earned more than most working folk, and had more free time.
As well as sharpening his snooker skills there was also the opportunity to cash in on his fame by lending his name to syndicated ghost-written articles, making public appearances and so forth.
But the career of a footballer is a short one, and during the 1934/35 season, now into his thirties, Morrison found his first team appearances were becoming limited. He played his last game for Liverpool in November 1934.
In February 1935 he failed to appear for a reserve team game and shortly after was reported missing by the club.
He was suspended by Liverpool on a couple of occasions, and was reputedly seen during his absence on several golf courses acting as a caddie.
Liverpool lost patience with his eccentric behaviour and he was packed off to Sunderland in November 1935.
Converted to full back, Morrison made 23 appearances for Sunderland in what proved to be a successful season for the club.
They won the 1935/36 English First Division title in fine style. At the time of writing it
St Mirren 1925/26
Morrison is on the left of the back row of players
Morrison on the right of the back row of players
The news breaks
Newcastle Evening Chronicle 2 December 1975
Morrison, looking remarkably like a choirboy, in a Liverpool team photograph of 1928/29 (l) and in 1932/33 (r)
Action from the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park in 1926
St Mirren in the stripes beat Celtic two-nil
Liverpool team 1931/32. Morrison standing one from left
Sunderland's captain Raich Carter shakes hands with the Arsenal captain Eddie Hapgood before the match at Roker Park on 28 December 1935. Morrison played at right back in this game, a thrilling encounter played in front of 59,250 spectators that ended in a 5-4 victory for the home team.
Gamlingay's Green End ground in 1965
Hughie Gallacher of Chelsea scores in the FA Cup 6th round tie at Anfield on 27 February 1932. 57,804 saw Chelsea win 2-0. Morrison played at right half in this game, one of the 254 appearances he made for Liverpool during his time at the club. The lone Liverpool defender in the photograph looks much like Morrison.
Part of an article (probably syndicated) by Morrison on the art of captaincy.
'Now Liverpool have become famous as the team which is never beaten. I do not say this with any idea of swank...'
Exeter & Plymouth Gazette
10 January 1931
remains the last time Sunderland won the ultimate domestic prize.
After eight trophy-less years on Merseyside, Morrison had now, in less than six months, earned himself a League Championship medal, plus a large bonus (quoted as $500 by the Winnipeg Free Press).
When he mysteriously disappeared again after the team's celebration dinner he left his medal, bonus, wife and child behind him.
How and why he ended up sleeping rough in Gamlingay a month or so later is equally mysterious.
As is what happened to this enigmatic man after his court appearance in late 1936. Online records state that he played again for Ayr United in Scotland and Drumcondra in Ireland, but at the moment I can’t find any proof of his association with either club.
Rumour has it that Morrison turned up again in the local area, this time in Biggleswade, and lived there for many years - but that is merely conjecture and I haven’t checked the truth of the story.
Better by far to remember him as the goal-scoring centre forward who briefly lit up Gamlingay’s 1936/37 season with his outstanding performances.
He is the only international footballer to play for Gamlingay Football Club. As far as anyone knows, that is.
************** UPDATE *************
Recently-discovered information on Morrison can be found on the 'Morrison Update' page in the 'Articles' menu above.
Derby Daily Telegraph 6 November 1935
Morrison (second on right)
out at Everton