George Pilkington

Dr. George Augustus Coombe, later Sir George Pilkington was the driving force behind the formation of the town’s first football club

Born: 27 October 1848

Died: 28 January 1916

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Who knows the significance of the date 30th November 1872?

That was the date of the world’s first recognised International Association Football match which took place in Glasgow between Scotland and England at the West of Scotland Cricket Club, organised by Queens Park. It wasn’t staged at a Cricket ground by accident.

It has been said that when football first began it was designed for playing, not watching, so consequently it was played just in fields. Cricket grounds however were enclosed grounds, so when football did start to become popular as a spectator sport they were ideal because Cricket grounds were already set up for spectators. That first international had 4000 watching.

Why’s that significant for us?

Well, in the very same week as that first international a new football club was formed under the guidance of this man, born George Augustus Coombe, and it chose its first home to be the Southport Alexandra Cricket Club.

On 21st December 1872 a team representing Southport, known as Southport Football Club, first played a game of rugby away at Seaforth.

George wasn’t a Sandgrounder by birth, he was born at Upwell in Cambridge. He was educated privately and trained for Medicine at Guys hospital in London. He was appointed the first house surgeon of the Southport Infirmary in 1871 which was then on Virginia Street.

Whilst there he, along with members of the Southport Alexandra Cricket Club and Southport Rowing Club, set about forming a new Football Club which would play at a ground at the Alexandra Cricket Ground, which as I said earlier, was at the top of Manchester Road, where Grange Road and Grange Avenue now sit.

In 1875 he left that position to set up his own private medical practice in the town and a year later married Elizabeth Pilkington, daughter of James Pilkington the former MP for Blackburn and at his father in laws request, he changed his name by deed poll and became George Pilkington.

He became the Mayor of Southport in 1884 and in 1885 became the towns first MP. He was Knighted in 1893.

Clearly a man of some wealth, in the 1880s he purchased a large tea plantation in Ceylon (now Sri-Lanka) alongside Thomas Lipton. There is even a place called Pilkington Point named after him which is a popular tourist destination. Lipton is a name I’m sure you’re probably familiar with as the famous makers of Lipton’s iced tea?

This explains why when you look back at the Southport newspapers over this time, there were adverts for Ceylon Tea everywhere!

He was also the local secretary to the Lifeboat Association and on 9th December 1886 he rushed from a meeting at the town hall to try and join the crew of the Eliza Fernley but arrived too late.

He later became the president of Southport & Birkdale Cricket Club, was the president of Southport Rugby club on two occasions, also Southport Central and Southport Golf Club. Some of these names might not be familiar to you yet, or if they are – forget what you think you know about them – as all will be revealed and they will become familiar a little later on.

He was also a member of the same Curling Club as Joseph Allured that used to compete in the Glacarium on Lord Street which was Britain’s first all year round ice rink.

After his death in 1916, Pilkington Road, close to the old hospital off Scarisbrick New Road was named after him.

The original Southport Football Club, that he helped to form was moderately successful and overtime a number of other Rugby clubs popped up within the town to compete with it.

The most prominent were Southport Olympic and Southport Wasps. Their place in the timeline we will explain as we continue, starting with our next stop and a man initially involved with Southport Wasps.