On Saturday January 18th 1890 the front page of the Liverpool Football Echo included a fantastic look at the players of Southport Central, then a mid-table Lancashire League club –  with player sketches and detailed biographies of all eleven first team players being published. The players listed were George Dobson (Captain), Jim Gee, William Hodgkinson, Frank Horton, Walter Akeroyd, Thomas Henry Chew, Herbert Lincoln Fecitt, Charles Mclaren, A. Barton, Thomas Lea and William Wilson. This was the Lancashire League’s inaugural season and it included teams as diverse as Bury, Blackpool, Blackburn Park Road and West Manchester.

Fourteen teams started the season but only 13 finished it as Earlestown were expelled after playing 21 games for “a systematic defiance of the League’s decisions concerning fixture dates.” Higher Walton finished the season as Champions with Bury second whilst Southport Central finished sixth sandwiched between Blackpool (5th) and Heywood (7th).

The player biographies make for interesting reading but in the case of Herbert (Harry) Fecitt (above) it’s what is omitted that is a surprise. Born in Blackburn in 1865 Harry was in the Blackburn Rovers team of 1885 that won the FA Cup by beating Scottish side Queens Park 2-0 at the Kennington Oval, London. The following season Blackburn won the cup again with Harry in the side that beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 in a replay after a 0-0 draw in the first game but neither of these successes are mentioned. Harry featured in both years cup winning cigarette cards that were produced (below):

In 1888 Blackburn Rovers were one of twelve founder members of the Football League and Harry had the honour of playing in Blackburn’s first ever Football League game, a 5-5 draw against Accrington Stanley on the 15th of September 1888. He joined Southport less than twelve months later in August 1889, spending fifteen months at the club and proving himself to be a regular goal-scorer, a personal best being four in one game against Churchtown in a Lancashire Junior Cup game that Southport won 7-1.

Thomas Henry Chew played just the one season for Southport, making his debut on the 4th of September 1889 in a prestigious friendly against Preston North End to celebrate the opening of Southport’s new ground at Scarisbrick Road. Over 3,000 were present to see Preston – labelled The Invincibles after completing the 1888/89 season unbeaten and winning both the League and FA Cup  – win the game 4-1. Thomas only stayed the one season at Southport, his last game being a 4-1 home win against Oswaldtwistle Rovers on the 19th of April 1890 but what catches the eye in his biography is the fact he played for Lancashire Clowns. It begs the question … who were Lancashire Clowns?

A search through the records of the British Newspaper Archive website shows an unexpected link to Southport as can be seen in the two adverts below from 1886:

In the first advert Southport get mentioned as being one of the clubs that would be supplying players to the Clowns whilst in the second advert the Hon. Sec. of the Clowns in 1886 was the very same Edwin Ramsbottom who held the same position for Southport Central in 1888. It’s also interesting to note that in 1884/85 Southport were training on the Circus Field ground which was in Eastbank Street.

The Lancashire Clowns were never part of a League, preferring instead to play exhibition matches whilst dressed in full clown regalia and they drew large attendances wherever they went. Not being affiliated to any league proved their downfall however and a meeting of the Lancashire FA in November 1866 brought about the demise of the Clowns and revealed hostility towards them too as shown in the two snippets below. Edwin Ramsbottom getting a name check for the multiple roles he had with the club.