A face has appeared in the news for the past week. Fame is non existent for most of us, and often fleeting at best for others. Noteriety, infamy, now there's something very different. As Max Bygraves would say,' Let me tell you a story'.
"When I were a lad', as we used to say, I stood out in all weathers after a football match at the Baseball Ground, collecting autographs of the players. Our heroes, my heroes, heroically defying the Baseball Ground mud to thrill us with their footballing prowess. Only the prowess of the Derby players was not always present. At one stage we descended to the Third Division of the Football League, only to rise again like the Phoenix in later years. Ah happy, cash strapped austere days. And my little autograph albums contains the names of many, some famous, others less so. I, little Kenneth, did not fully appreciate what I was seeing; three names, for instance Tommy Lawton, Len Shackleton and Wilf Mannion.
Some say Tommy Lawton was the best centre forward in Britain in the 20th century. Finished his career at Notts County in the lower divisions, and suffered financial difficulties, footballers wages being unexceptional in the Forties and Fifties. Tommy died 6th November, 1996.
Len Shackleton, rebel extraordinary but a genius where football was concerned. Played for Sunderland amongst others and later wrote a book entitled 'Clown Prince of Soccer'. One chapter is entitled 'The Average Directors Knowledge of Football' and consists of a blank page! Len died 27th November, 2000.
Wilf Mannion, played mainly for Middlesborough. At one stage regarded as 'The Golden Boy' of British soccer. Played twenty five times for England yet after his football career ended he worked as a labourer and lived in a council house.
In later years I had the honour of meeting Mr Mannion in a smokey working man's club in Staithes, East Yorkshire if memory served me right. An unassuming, frail gentleman, he eagerly asked me how the likes of Jack Stamps and Chick Musson were fairing. (ex Derby County footballers). Also, they, and others of whom he enquired had long since died. Not long afterwards Wilf died, 14th April 2000.
Many years later, in the 1990's, having retired from teaching, I tested whether I had any brain cells still working. After months of extreme meticulous effort, though not as hard as teaching I devised a 'Birthday Certificate' which gave very detailed information as to any individuals date of birth. I sent these certificates to many famous people over the years and received many letters in return. Some did not reply, their prerogative of course but I was intrigued by those who did. There are still some lovely people in the world. Don't let people tell you otherwise. (Sadly the details concerning certificate production have since been lost.)
Roger Lloyd Pack, forever remembered as Trigger in 'Only Fools and Horses' sent me a delightful note on Garrick Club notepaper. Can you imagine, Trigger sipping posh drinks in the Garrick Club! Bill Owen, Compo of 'Last of The Summer Wine' fame, real name William John Owen Rowbotham, also approved of his certificate whilst Stanley Matthews 'Much appreciated' his, sending me a delightful note on Stoke City notepaper. It may be of course that 'professionals' worth their salt see it as their duty to keep their fans happy. Fair enough, but some go over the simple limits of their 'professional duty'. Let me tell you 'A story within a story.'
James Galway, the famous flutist suffers from nystagmus, a serious eye condition, as does my granddaughter, the delightful Helena. I happened to mention this fact when I sent Mr Galway a certificate. A short while later my wife the industrious, nay illustrious Paulette came into the room with the news that there was 'a Mr James Galway on the phone, ringing from Switzerland'! It was indeed flutist extrordinaire Mr Galway and he gave me valuable information concerning nystagmus. What a generous, thoughtful gesture, a gentleman indeed!
So many famous persons gave of their time, though their place in posterity was not necessarily assured in a way they had probably expected, for as as I suggested at the beginning of this post 'Fame is a funny thing.
Andy Gray, footballer turned Sky Sports commentator was a popular figure on our televisions. He wished me good luck on receiving a certificate. I wished him likewise, that is until his unacceptable views on the 'weaker sex' met with widespread disapproval and banishment to the nether regions, at least where television viewing is concerned.
I have a letter starting 'Hi Ken, signed by a man whose fall from grace is complete; a man of whom I can find no-one who now says 'I always liked him'; strange but true. I had completely forgotten I had ever made contact with the unfortunate, sad individual until I found the letter I had written all those years ago. A face that has adorned many a newspaper recently, be they 'eyebrow or gutter press.' (The equally sad Rolf Harris has dominated press and media alike most recently. an unfortunate figure I never made contact with, though I was amused by him, like so many others in his early days on the all consuming 'goggle box'.) I refer of course to Jimmy Savile, whose exploits were horrific beyond comprehension. He was, honestly, no hero of mine, though I had never an inkling of the sheer depravity of the man.
We are all influenced by others as we grow us. It is a part of life, an important part of life I suggest. Who were your heroes my friends. Any of them affected your life for good or bad, for better or worse?
(To all who have so kindly commented on my posts in the past weeks. Apologies, I read every comment. I have not got round to replying. I will EVENTUALLY, honest! Thanks for your interest, comments are valuable to me.)