Very much so : the World Cup begins with a brief look backwards to Geddington

As county cricket is taking its now traditional midsummer break, let us turn our attention to football.  The eyes of the world are on South Africa, and looking forward to the next three months or so 0f the World Cup.  So let us – in the usual manner of this blog – look backwards – to 1894, and a subject I’ve touched on briefly before (see here).

This lot are an outfit known as the Geddington Stars.  The boy in the front row holding the ball is my great-grandfather, the man with the beard in civvies at the far left of the back row is his father and the other chap in the Derby hat in the back row is one of his brothers.  My great-great grandfather was a Scotsman, and was, at this point, employed as the Head Gamekeeper at Boughton House  in Northamptonshire.  He was clearly a man of several parts.  Apart from his day (or – often night – job) as the Hammer of the Navvies, he played the mandolin (which we still have somewhere, though, sadly, it’s now unplayable) and – as we see here –

he was also Geddington’s answer to Sir Alex Ferguson.

So what would he have thought of the current World Cup?  Obviously we can only speculate – and I’m slightly reluctant to use long-deceased relatives as sockpuppets for my own views – but I think we can guess that he would have been shocked not to see Scotland among the final 32, for one thing.  He might have found the melodious tone of the vuvuzela strangely reminiscent of the skirl of the pipes.  

But I imagine he would have been most pleased to see that the more cerebral short passing – or combination – game – pioneered by the Scotch Professors  (the professional players, usually Scottish, who had begun to dominate the game in the 1880s with sides such as Preston North End) has achieved world domination, as opposed to the more individualistic dribbling, kick and rush style of the Southern public school sides who had dominated in the early years of the Association code.  

I could, of course, continue with more of this incisive historico-technical analysis, but after tonight’s draw with the United States I’m afraid I feel too emotionally drained (are you sure you don’t mean “pissed”? – ed.)  to continue.  But, of course, there’s a long way to go yet in this tournament … and, when I have composed myself, I am sure I shall return to this subject.    

The enormous condescension of posterity …

I see that Michael Parkinson has confirmed my suspicions about the selection process for appearing on Who Do You Think You Are.


He was turned down because his family  were “On my father’s side miners and farm labourers; on my mother’s railwaymen and domestics” – thus too boring to appear on the show.

Davina McCall and the Duke of Buccleuch

Fragments of family history no. 1

A new series of Who Do You Think You Are? began last week with Davina McCall (half French) and continues this with Chris Moyles (Irish roots, apparently).  Most subjects of the programme appear to have at least one non-English ancestor. No doubt this stems from an admirable desire to demonstrate the diversity of our Island Race, but also perhaps because it means the production team get to spend a few days in an exotic location.

In the vanishingly unlikely event of my being featured on the show they’d have no such luck.  I was born in Kettering, Northants.  My parents were born in Kettering.   Two of my grandparents were born in Kettering, the other two moved into Kettering from Geddington early in life.

Four of my great-grandparents lived in Geddington.  Two grew up between Geddington and the (very) nearby village of Weekley and two in the far-off distant land of Hinckley.  Inevitably, though, they eventually moved to Kettering.

Most of this is based on my usual research methods of hearsay and my mother’s memory (though other family members on my mother’s side have done some sterling work on that side of the family).

I decide to do a bit of desultory genealogical research of my own, using the records assembled online by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Indeed, the 1881 census confirms most of it.

My father’s father’s father (b. 1865) is listed as living in Geddington and working as an Ag Lab (Agricultural Labourer).  His father, too (b. 1821) was working  as an Ag Lab in Geddington (although I think, in fact, that one or other of them actually worked as an ostler at the Star Inn – just opposite the Eleanor Cross and still open for business, incidentally).   

The other two Geddingtonians prove elusive in 1881, although there are any number of labourers of one sort or another with the same surname in Earls Barton, Crick, Creaton and so on, so it’s possible they moved into Geddington at a later date.  

The Hinckley contingent are present and correct, my mother’s father’s father’s father working as a railway porter.

The first gleam of exotica for the production crew comes with my mother’s mother’s father’s father who is exactly where I expected him to be –

John KYLE Household
  Other Information:
    Birth Year <1832> 
    Birthplace Scotland 
    Age 49 
    Occupation Game Keeper 
    Marital Status M <Married> 
    Head of Household John KYLE
    Relation Head 
  Source Information:
    Dwelling Weekley Hall Wood Keepers Lodge
    Census Place Geddington, Northampton, England 
    Family History Library Film 1341379
    Public Records Office Reference RG11
    Piece / Folio 1579 / 106
    Page Number 15

He was – by this stage – the Head Gamekeeper on the Duke of Buccleuch’s estate at Boughton House.  A bit more digging reveals that he was actually born in Rutherglen, Lanark  (I’ve always thought he must have originated from one of the Dook’s Scottish estates, though I’m not sure whether this confirms this or not).  What is mildly interesting though – to me at least – is that Wikipedia has this to say about Rutherglen –

“The immediate area could be considered the cradle of Scottish football, with Hampden Park, the national stadium and home to Scotland’s oldest football club Queen’s Park F.C. being close by as well as Cathkin Park, the home of the defunct Third Lanark F.C.”

I – or my mother – have a photograph of a football team from Geddington in 1894.  (They are recognisably a football team – round ball, 11 men and so on).  John Kyle is standing on the end of the back row in everyday clothing (Derby hat, watch chain etc.), apparently whatever the equivalent of a manager was in those days.

I quite like the idea (or perhaps just the fantasy) that he might have played some role in introducing Association Football to the Kettering area.

For anyone who’s made it this far, a little visual stimulus – John Kyle’s feudal liege, the 5th Dook.  I suspect this is rather what I look like when I read the front page of the Grauniad most mornings.