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 A 'Shakespeare' Football Team

Vic Garvey
My grandfather, Bartholomew Garvey was born in Rocky Lane, Aston on 5th October, 1865. He was, in fact, first generation English born of an Irish father, also named Bartholomew Garvey. His father had emigrated from County Roscommon, together with his brothers and sister around the mid-1840s. At that time, the great potato famines were already devastating Europe, but it's effect upon Ireland was a great deal worse. The Irish population were mainly a labouring class, many of whom had small plots of rented land upon which to grow a meagre supply of vegetables to sustain them through the harsh winters. Thus, the potato was the man stay of their diet, and when the crops failed due to 'blight,' starvation took over.


The English counties in the North and Midlands were those where work was plentiful. At first the family moved in and around the Staffordshire areas of Wolverhampton and Willenhall. Amelia Shelvoke my Great grandmother had been born in Willenhall, in 1835. It is thought that she and Bartholomew had met there about 1853 and later moved to Birmingham. They lived as common law man and wife and raised five children, three boys, and two girls. The boys, Thomas, William and Bartholomew all played football. Their pitches were where they found them, around Perry Barr, Birchfield and of course, Aston Park.


In a report dated 12 November 1869, printed in the Midland Athlete, we read: 'VICTORIA v ASTON SHAKESPEARE - Played on Saturday last, and after a fast and exciting game, ended in a win for the former, by two goals to one. The Shakespeare in ten minutes had scored a goal. Victoria tried to make matters equal and in a scrimmage in the mouth of the goal, Parker scored one for Victoria. Before half-time was called, Hatell scored another goal for Victoria. Nothing more of importance happened.' After listing Victoria team members, the article spells out the Shakespeare team as:
'T. Garvy, Merrit, Lawley, Cox, Foster, Morris, Hurley, W. Garvy, Fox, B. Garvy, Walters.' This spelling of the Garvey name was not unusual as it appeared that way on the birth records of Bartholomew's father's Christening in Ireland.


On that day in November 1879, Bartholomew, would have been 14 years old, and as a young player, he possibly showed merit, to the extent that in 1888, he had turned out for Aston Villa.


The photograph show the Villa team that took THE BIRMINGHAM MAYOR'S CHARITY CUP (on the left) and THE BIRMINGHAM FA SENIOR CHALLENGE CUP (on the right). This was one of a number of official photo shoots that took place on June 22nd 1888, and was possibly taken at the Perry Barr ground in Wellington Road, Aston. This was the team that beat Wolverhampton Wanderers in the final, 2.0. However, there is more to tell about this photograph as I will now relate.


I had taken to researching our family history, and the photograph had been handed down from my father. I needed to authenticate it for possible future use, so, I wrote Villa Park in June 1997 asking about the history of it. Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail back from Bernard Gallagher editor of Villa matchplay programme and publisher of CLARET & BLUE, the official Villa Magazine. They had no knowledge of this particular picture, and more important, had no record of the shirts the players wore. I was able to let Bernard borrow the picture and a copy is now in the Villa archives. And the shirts? 1888/89 was the first time Villa changed the material of the jersey from wool to cotton. However, the material didn't stand up to the wear and tear of the game, and in early 1889, changed back to wool.


Then, later, Bernard advised me that another similar photograph had turned up. This belonged to Philip Clamp. Philip's Grandfather had been secretary to the Villa board of directors at the time, and on his photo, his Grandfather is seen seated next to my Grandfather. In the event, and as it was Bernard's birthday, he invited me and my brother Clifford, to visit Villa Park and have a spot of lunch with them. 'Keep me away',I shouted!


After a splendid meal, over looking the hallowed turf, we were photographed together and so, the Grandsons were pictured as the Grandfathers had been 109 years before.
The story was published in CLARET & BLUE Number 31, January 1998, and it also appeared in Carl Chin's 'Old Brum' issue 7 and the 'Evening Mail' December 28, 1998.


Bartholomew or 'Bat' Garvey was not the only Garvey to play for Villa. His brother William is mentioned together with 'Bat' in two matches, one, a reserve match played on 'Saturday Night' November 3rd 1888 against Stoke Swifts. The second was another reserve match dated 6th October 1888, beating Unity Gas 4-2 at Perry Barr ground.


'Bat' first turned out in Claret and Blue in 1888 in a game against Blackburn Rovers. Villa won, 4-2, and he had the satisfaction of marking his debut by scoring 2 of Villa's goals. Another 'first' took place at Wolverhampton Wanderers' Dudley Road, ground on September 8, 1888 which was the first English Football League match Villa ever played. The League had been the brain child of amongst others, William McGregor, a Scotsman who had come to Birmingham to find work. A report of that match stated:


GARVEY and HODGETTS were on the left for Villa. 'Garvey dribbled the ball right through the Wanderers back up to the goal and BAYNTON, by a brilliant display of goalkeeping cleared his position'. . . . .also' As half time drew near, BROWN, GARVEY, and GREEN broke away, and GARVEY again, dribbling well into goal, shot. GREEN was in the way, but the ball came out to BROWN who passed it in the centre, and GREEN getting it onto the side of his foot and sent it against the goal post and it glided through the Wanderers goal, making the score equal.'


My Grandfather followed football all his life, although his professional days ended mid 1890s. He died on December 18th 1911, aged 46. One of his obituaries, in the Birmingham Daily Mail, dated 19th December 1911 said:


'Garvey, Bartholomew, beloved husband of Louisa, died after a short illness at 260, Clifton Road, Aston; much lamented. Late of Aston Villa Football Club.'


Vic Garvey, October 2002






Back row, left to right - Frank Coulton, Harry Dewey, James Warner(Goalkeeper), Harry Yates, Gershom Cox, Fred Burton, J. Gorman(trainer).


Front Row, left to right - Albert Brown, Albert Allen, Archie Hunter(Captain), Dennis Hodgetts, Bat Garvey.
Mayor of Birmingham's Charity Cup, left, Birmingham F.A. Senior Challenge Cup, right.


I am indebted to Bernard Gallagher of Sports Projects Ltd. for naming the team for me and helping me with my research.
Vic Garvey, October 2002




This portrait of Bat Garvey first appeared in
for February 6, 1909, under the heading
Although possibly not easily visible is a buttonhole of Shamrock. Bat was first generation English from an Irish father. The watch chain sports the two cup medals mentioned above.


Vic Garvey, October 2002