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The Heritage of Everton FC

 Uniquely documented in the David France Collection, reviewed  by Ian MacDonald 

 

 Introduction

  

The oldest Everton team photo in existence 1881

I have been on many missions over the years regarding our club Everton and what I am to reveal to all Blues over the world ranks with our quest to remove the previous tenure, it's that serious and special. I hope I am worthy of representing the magnitude of what we possibly might miss out on — it’s called the David France Collection.

You may well ask: What’s this is about?  Well, author, management consultant, and avid Evertonian David France has assembled over the years a collection of Everton memorabilia and unique artefacts which has no match anywhere in the world for any club.  Some statement that, so how do I back this up?  Perhaps the following may convince you of this bold claim.

If you know your history, of course you will know that Everton were one of the founder members of the Football League way back in 1888:

  • First, we played in a far corner of Stanley Park, against local Parishes. Well, for starters, the collection includes a hundred programmes from that era.
  • The very first season tickets are here, from 1881 to 1892.
  • What if I told you that the collection includes the official tenders for the construction of Anfield, one of our first homes?
  • How about over 40 medals covering every major competition won by Everton between 1890 and 1985? — Impressed yet?
  • Let's add in shirts and International caps from our most famous players...
  • How about ledgers (29 volumes in all) documenting all the weekly meetings of directors and what was said — that is every single decision made from 1886 to 1964 — all meticulously minuted.

The ledgers are incredible.  They provide a football fan's dream of knowing what went on in the Boardroom, an in the corridors of power in our club; decisions that made us a massive club steeped in history:

  • How we came to split from Anfield (1892) in detail and the construction of Goodison Park right through to becoming the first club with all-round double-decker stands.
  • How our ground was chosen to stage the FA Cup Final way back in 1894 and the arrangements made to fulfil that game at Goodison.
  • Even a section where we discussed playing in red but opted for a salmon variation.
  • How we came to be nicknamed ‘The Black Watch’ because of the kit change to all black.
The ledgers are written in the handwriting of great names of Everton folklore such as:
  • John Houlding (who went on top form Liverpool FC)
  • George Mahon (who many think of being the father of Everton)
  • John Baxter
  • Will Cuff (who served our club for over fifty years, from Board member to Chairman)
  • Tom McIntosh
  • Theo Kelly
  • and of course, Sir John Moores.

All are in these books with their signatures, building up a picture of how we were run week by week.  How we became a Limited Company with an original issue of 500 £1 shares.  It’s incredible to read.  How apt that, now in our 125th season, a fellow Evertonian is making available a unique record of our definitive history — a history unparallelled by any other club.

Original quotes to build Anfield

  

 The Challenge

  
This review has been prepared for all Evertonians — including the Club.  For many months, I and those involved with the Everton Shareholders Association, the Independent Supporters Association among others, have tried to find a way of securing The David France Collection, which we consider to be the equivalent of the crown jewels in the tower for Evertonians.  I've talked to all parties regarding securing it, culminating with the subject being raised at this year's Everton Shareholders AGM as matters of business. 

If it is sold to others, so be it... but not without a fight!  Last week, the Everton archivist, Gordon Lock, came to David France's home to view part of this vast collection and see what all the fuss is about.  This week, Sir Philip Carter also inspected it, so fair play to them on this. 

They were followed by yours truly with Keith Wilson; I will do my best to describe what I saw and take some pictures.  I was like Lord Caernarfon looking into Tutankhamen's tomb ion behalf of my fellow Blues.  Let's hope a deal can be done — we'll sort out what to do with it later...

I know deep in David's heart he wants the club to have it.  He could secure more money if he splits the collection up.  Below is a short letter I used from David Prentice for a Shareholders Committee meeting.  Prenno is as big a Blue as you or I and has written pieces in the Echo regarding the David France Collection.  Prenno is also a leading expert on Everton history.  It reads:

Dear Ian,

Thanks once again for your contribution to the groundshare debate, but in the meantime here's what I can tell you about David's collection.  As you know David is in the process of relocating to Canada, largely through reasons of ill health, and as a result is willing to part with his remarkable collection of Everton memorabilia. 

He is a very wealthy man in his own right so cash is not an issue, but being a hard-nosed businessman — and having a wife who is likely to be left on her own in the near future, he would certainly not be prepared to make a gift of his memorabilia.  He is also keenly aware of his own mortality and as such wants to leave some kind of public legacy — hence the recent books he has been producing, and hopefully the institution of a public display of some of the items of his collection. 

He has had the collection valued by both Christie's and Sotheby's who described it as "the most impressive and most thorough one-club collection of memorabilia they have ever seen." If you wait until tomorrow, I can get a name and a number for the man who scrutinised the collection and made this statement.

The undoubted centre-piece of the collection is a series of official ledgers containing every board-meeting minute from 1883 to 1970.  These originally belonged to Everton but, presumably during the reconstruction of the Main Stand in 1970, were shamefully thrown out.  One keen-eyed fan obviously plucked them from oblivion and from there they found their way onto the collector's market.  David spent the best part of 20 years collating them — and for the final piece of the jigsaw, a fairly meaningless volume relating to the 1954 season, had to part with a Dixie Dean medal.

Should these ledgers go to an auction house they would obviously be dismantled and the more historically significant entries sold separately, i.e. the ledger which details the split which formed the current Everton and Liverpool Football Clubs.  These ledgers effectively ARE the history of EFC and should be a matter of of public record — but, of course, Ian, you don't need me to convince you of that.

In addition to the ledgers, David has a medal from every single league championship and FA Cup success in the club's history — apart from the 1995 Cup success.  Modern players have no financial need to sell their precious medals.  He has stipulated, though, that he would not sell any medals, which had belonged to players still living.  (He doesn't want them to think he is cashing in on their financial hardship).

His programme collection, though, is probably the most display friendly part of his collection.  He has every single home and away programme from the present day all the way back to the 1920s.  It really is an astonishing collection.  Even before that there are only a handful of omissions.  The first League season of 1888-89 is complete.  Again, the programmes alone have been conservatively priced at £250,000.

Money, however, is not David's motivation for selling.  He would be more than prepared to let Everton buy them on the never never, so long as they were placed on public display somewhere (that infrequently populated satellite megastore on the corner of Bullens Road/Gwladys Street, maybe).  Charge fans a couple of quid a go to go in and you could even have a self-financing project.

David also has other bits and bobs like player's contracts, rare books etc. etc.  I believe, like you Ian, that it would be a crime if they went onto the open market.  Imagine a red buying the page which details the split in 1892!!!!!

If you need any more info don't hesitate to give me a buzz.

Cheers,

Prenno.

The Shareholders Association chairman, John Sinnot, says “We must secure this history of Everton at all costs; it’s our duty to all Evertonians around the world.”

  

 The Collector

  
  

David France with the great Alex Young

A little bit about the man who has formed this fantastic collection.

There are good and there are great Evertonians; David France is a great Evertonian.  One of David’s earliest recollections of a game is from 1956-57 when we drew with the great Busby Babes 3-3, many of whom sadly perished a year later in a plane crash in Munich.  He fondly remembers the emerald green grass shinning in the floodlights before this game and the expectancy of seeing his heroes in the flesh.

His favourite period was was the days of The Holy Trinity from 1967-1970.  David names Brian Labone as the greatest Evertonian he has met, (remember Brian’s great quote?  "One Evertonian is worth twenty Liverpudlians").  Colin Harvey he describes as the most complete footballer he has seen.  The nicest man he met was Howard Kendall; and the most skilful Alex Young.

A special mention also went to Alan Ball of course — Bally would be the first name on his fantasy team sheet.  The mysterious transfer of the Ball of Fire in 1973 made David sad like all Evertonians at the time — you can equate the feeling then to any sale of Rooney in the near future!

I asked David who, apart from Wayne, impressed him now at Goodison and he immediately named Radzinski — and his devastating pace.  David believes that Wayne should play behind Radzinski and another striker; many agree.

David France was the founder of the first ever charity dedicated to helping ex-football players: our very own Blueblood.  He is not only the original driving force behind this fantastic charity but I believe that to date he remains the biggest personal donor — and for this alone David deserves respect. 

So many former-players have been helped by the foundation over the years.  I asked what sticks out in his mind?  He replied: “At one of the first Hall of Fame dinners, Gordon Watson arrived at the Adelphi in a wheel-chair.  With monies raised that evening, we paid for his hip operation and the next Hall of Fame dinner Gordon proudly marched in like an all conquering Roman Emperor with the FA Cup held aloft.  There wasn‘t a dry eye in the house." 

Gordon live in pain free for about a year before passing away.  Through the Foundation and the generosity of Everton fans we change his life when all hope was lost.  He was helped by his Everton extended family in his hour of need.  I know first-hand that Gordon West is a changed man because of the Foundation.  When I spoke with Gordon five years ago, he would look down at the ground and hobble away not wanting to get into company.  Now you can’t get rid of the dry wise-cracking Yorkshireman.

I recall Westy after his knee operation meeting David and tearfully proclaiming, “You’ve changed my life”.  The work of the Foundation gives David great pride — Blueblood is an incredible achievement.  So for that matter were the five Gwladys Street Hall of Fame Galas.  In my humble opinion, for his diligence in re-assembling the historic backbone of the club as well as his other innovations, I think that David France should be inducted into an Everton fan’s Hall of Fame.

But back to the David France Collection — David first started his collection in 1980.  I asked him what was his favourite piece in the collection and why?  Without hesitation, he pointed to the first season-ticket from our days in Stanley Park, it was in remarkable condition.  It’s a remarkable item.  Next to this prize possession was the following year’s season-ticket for the games in Priory Road.

          

The first season tickets ever for Evertonians

This small piece of memorabilia marks the beginning of our club.   David’s eyes lit up when he showed me the season ticket.  He cherished it in his hands as if it was a newborn child.  Well, it was the birth of the Blues for the supporters to watch the team.  He remembers the night he acquired it from someone in Southport.  On the way home he stopped the car in Bootle under a streetlight just to capture its magic again. 

David showed me player’s contracts from 1890 (the players earned Ј2 per week), foreign tour itineraries from 1905 and the original documentation of our offers for players — both the acquisitions and the sales.  Tony Kay’s deal for £60,000 from Sheffield Wednesday stood out, as did Dai Davies transfer from Swansea for £22,222 (an unusual fee for an unusual keeper).

The letter confirming Tony Kay’s transfer

  

 The Ledgers

  

  

Original ledgers before the split of the Merseyside clubs

I then asked what he considered the crown jewel of the collection?  David said, as a body it must be the club’s official ledgers — The Everton Scriptures.  And he wasn’t exaggerating.  These volumes loving restored are the DNA of Everton Football Club and detail how our club was formed and run.  I glimpsed into one of these ledgers modestly dated 1925 — they go back to 1886 — and it was like entering into a time machine, Doctor Who’s Tardis could have taken me there. 

Next I read a small piece regarding the scouting and signing of Goodison’s favourite son — William Ralph Dean.  The records show that we offered Tranmere £2,700 even though they wanted £3,000 and in the end we reluctantly met their demands, such was the talent of Dixie.  Even then, we bartered over a few hundred pounds. 

I read on to the next piece where Dixie’s name was first written into the team line-up against Arsenal at Highbury. The club directors picked the team in those days. So William Ralph was bought on the Friday and in the team next day. I still can’t believe what I was reading. It documented the first appearance of Dixie in the handwriting of Will Cuff.

The first time Dixie was written into the team

In assembling the collection David confessed that in all his transactions he had been fair with people never ripping anyone off (my words not David’s).  Also he had never sold any Everton memorabilia apart from the loss of a Dixie medal to secure the final volume of the ledger series.  The dealer knew of the ledger’s value to David and made him part with the medal plus a considerable sum of cash.

Dixie in white kit, one of my instant favourite pictures
I saw on a memorable afternoon

I asked David how he will he feel when the collection eventually goes; he replied that he will be pleased.  I was a bit surprised by his answer and when I queried it he told me that he had done his best to rescue our lost history and felt that, now it was complete again, it should be passed on to some safe hands for the benefit of future generations of Evertonians.  I suspect David had in mind Everton as the buyers.

There is a story going around that some of these ledgers where found in a skip.  David had heard about this but knew nothing really about it.  He believes that it is more likely that some these jewels of the club were thrown out as recently as 1994-95 when Peter Johnson’s men oversaw a refurbishment of the club and during the construction of the Park End Stand.  I don’t think David hung around skips when having a senior management position with a Texas oil company at the time, do you?

David did acquire one ledger for around £150 in a junk shop in Widnes around 1994 but on the other side of the coin his devotion to the cause had him part with £78,000 for a dozen or so early ledgers and other pieces of Everton‘s heritage.  This deal was made in Lincolnshire and the seller bought a bungalow with the proceeds.  When his wife Liz found out she obviously was none too pleased and told him to take them back that was until David explained that one of the items was Tommy Lawton's England kit.

Some of the Everton shirts and International caps

Now Liz’s mum went to school with our great centre forward so it eased the blow — a bit.  To make matters worse, the England shirt colour ran into the shorts as it was raining during the match.  No Umbro or Puma colour-stay materials back then!  Parting with that much money shows the man’s obsession to complete a valuable part of the history of the club.  During our visit, Liz confirmed the story with far less enthusiasm.

  

 The Valuation

  
I then enquired how the asking price of around £500,000 had been calculated.  This is where the big guns of Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Sports Programmes come into the picture.  All said that no other club has got this type of collection and felt that the depth and magnitude were so mind-blowing — not just to Evertonians but collectors of all persuasions.  The programmes alone — there are over 6,000 programmes dating back to the pre-League days of 1886 — are conservatively priced at well in excess of £300,000.  The match programmes are displayed in bound volumes; most seasons are complete.

These publications contain diamonds not only for Blues but for many, many clubs.  One programme I held was for Everton’s first game against Newton Heath, now more famous as Manchester United.  How much is their earliest known programme worth to the folks at Old Trafford Museum?  It’s the same with programmes for Rangers and Celtic versus Everton in 1890.  That’s 1890!  Just think about their value to these clubs.

The programme for Everton’s first game against Newton Heath

There’s also an early programme of Everton versus Church in 1887.  And others in 1888 against Notts Rangers, Burslem Port Vale, Burnley, Derby County, Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion, Blackburn Olympic, Wolverhampton Wanderers.  There are 27 programmes in pristine condition for the inaugural League season 1888/89… the depth of treasures goes on and on. 

I doubt that the above clubs have any programmes in this condition of their history.  Put some of these on eBay and see how much they would cost!  Even the artwork depicting  theatres, local businesses and later the first cars must be worth a fortune.  The history of Merseyside is logged within these programmes, charting the changes in material wants and needs over the years.

The programme of Everton’s first ever Football League game

The more I looked at the collection, the more I felt privileged to see it — never mind touch it.  I would have had to spend a week at David’s and have digested less than one tenth of it.  Now, before you would-be burglars ask where does David live, I must disappoint you that the collection is kept secure in bank vaults, sealed in airtight containers — such is its value and importance.

I asked if the monies for the collection would have to be paid for in one lump sum?  David told me that, where Everton are concerned, he is flexible and it can be paid for over a period of two to three years.  Keith’s eyes lit up with the hope we could secure this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Evertonians on the never-never.  Keith knows a lot more than I do of Everton’s history and was totally flabbergasted by the experience.  We were both kids in the Aladdin’s cave for Evertonians .

The first ever championship Everton side
with the first trophy ever awarded [That's a bit fuzzy, Ian!]

  

 The Club's Position

  
So what’s been the club’s reaction?  Very positive, said David.  As I said, Sir Philip and archivist Graham Lock have inspected the collection.  But David told me that a very hard decision has to be made by the end of this month; I knew what he meant when he looked at my eyes obviously frightened at the thought of losing our history.  I understand that there are six interested parties to date.  And the experts from Christie’s will be back again on Tuesday.

David started collecting when football memorabilia was not fashionable, simply as a desire to put our history back in order.  As memorabilia has only become more and more valuable over the last ten years, he has had to pay significant sums.  David is in ill health and he and Liz have moved to Vancouver Island in British Columbia.  Obviously, he has to look to the future and look after his family like any man would and no-one can argue with his decision to sell this labour of love now.  You can’t just give away a fortune, after all — he’s not Paul Getty or Bill Gates.  If David had collected coins or stamps with the same fervour over the years, he could expect three or four times the asking price.

The charity shields versus Man Utd 1963,Liverpool 1966 and Chelsea 1970

We have lost our history once but, through David’s devotion, we have so much of it back together in one place.  So, please God - please make sure that we don’t lose it again!  The auction experts claim that, if this collection is broken up, it would fetch far more than the current asking price.  Such a move would result in our history being dissmantled and dispersed to far flung reaches of the country — if not the world — and we would NEVER be able to get it back together again.  Nor would we be able to afford it.  As David Prentice says, how would you feel if a rich Red bought part of our history and claimed it as theirs?  Without doubt, supporters of clubs from all over Britain would bid for items important to their own histories.

David France has done more than his bit to put this collection together and it is up to the club to secure it now for future generations, then decide what to do with it.  I don’t envy the Everton Board for many reasons... but if our history is lost again, we will be so much poorer than merely the monies involved.  W

Without your history in a tangible way, you are just another club.  But Everton is not just another club!  Are we?  "And if you know your history…" has hardly ever been brought to the fore as much as this season — our 125th anniversary.  Sure you can argue to spend the money on a new player, but we can always get another £500,000 player but we will never, I repeat never, have an opportunity like this again. 

It is our history — its our club. I hope the present custodians secure this collection, I really do.  Many fans will never forgive them if they don't or won’t.  IT’S BEEN LOST ONCE, PLEASE DON’T LOSE IT AGAIN!

Examine the 40-page catalogue detailing most of the David France Collection.  I warn you its long — but so is our history....

If you are impressed with what is on offer, please use our feedback page to contact the webmaster to see what we can do as a unit to secure our past.  Time is running out, so please help.  You will never regret your part in keeping our history for generations to come.

THIS TIME, WHEN IT’S GONE IT WILL BE GONE FOREVER!

Ian MacDonald
Everton Independent Supporters Association

15 November 2003

  

 More Gems

  

Some of the medals of the collection

52/53 Season a bad period say some. Well 11 trophies won

The complete set of Everton cigarette cards from one season alone.

First time in the 2nd division and the programme from that game

  

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