There are many fellow Blues over the years for whom I have found a lot of respect. Not just for their passion, loyalty and dedication to the club we love but for the input they put into our club's meaning, to each other and leaving a mark on this energy towards Everton. One such person who meets all the criteria above is our own Doctor David France. There is much more to "Dr Everton" than a world-famous collection of swag but he?s an elusive Blue. It doesn?t help these days that David lives over the pond in Seattle due to health reasons but he is never far from my thoughts.
I bumped into him last month during an event at Goodison but he had vanished before I could bend his ear. I think of him these days as a caped crusader, so vanishing into the ether only holds true to that belief. Like our comic book heroes, David does many good deeds without looking for publicity, satisfied that a fellow Blue has been helped on the quiet is his reward. As a result I was forced to phone him in the States to get the latest scoop on his activities. Unfortunately I forgot about the 8-hour time difference and the Blue pimpernel took a little while to warm up. The following is the result of our Trans Atlantic conversation I?d like to share with you.
Ian Macdonald: They say that only when the sieve of history has stopped shaking and the dross has been removed can what is left behind justly be called great. And the Hall of Fame dinners were truly great. They were the Nuremburg Rallies of football. I?ve been privileged to attend all of them but it?s still hard for me to describe them. Surely never before had a religious congregation been so close to its heroes. After rubbing shoulders with World Cup, FA Cup, European trophy and League title winners, many of us thought we had actually gone to heaven alongside grown men with tears streaming down their cheeks, some of whom were fans and others were players.
I remember fans kneeling in awe in front of their heroes while others danced on the tables. At the end of the night I had expected the roof to open and the Angel Gabriel to whisk us away. If you could bottle that atmosphere and take it to the game, we would be masters of British football again. So, David, why have you brought down the curtain on the Hall of Fame?
Dr France: Nothing can compare with the first dinner ? it was better than sex. That said, the second dinner was pretty tantric too. And so was the third. I can?t believe that they?ve continued for a full decade because the Hall of Fame gathering was designed to be a one-off celebration. As for the 2009 dinner, I expect that it will be another love-in with the new inductees overwhelmed by the atmosphere. It will be the eleventh one ? coincidentally there were the same number of Nuremberg Rallies. I?m sure that it?ll be another sell-out.
What the hall of fame was about ? a gathering.
David France is at the back smiling, next to John Baily above Derek Temple
By the way, I hope you?re not called me at this unearthly hour to bug me for tickets. As usual, the event is being organized by Brian Snagg, Tommy Birch and Roger Kenyon. These truly great Blues have added their own touch to the proceedings. ?Organised chaos,? were the words used by our fellow Blue and compere for the nights, Billy Butler.
It?s scheduled for Thursday 19 March and is being called the Alex Young Awards Night. Possibly, it will be one of that great man?s last visits to Merseyside. As for the Hall of Fame, the membership currently stands at 119 and stretches way back to the pioneers of St Domingo. Seven new names will be added in March making the grand total 126 and then the doors will be closed because I don?t want the membership to be diluted. I still believe that its integrity is reflected by the quality of the men who are waiting in the shadows to become members. Also there are lots of other Everton dinners nowadays, maybe too many.
This year?s voting went on for a couple of months. We distributed a couple of thousand postal ballots and ToffeeWeb and NSNO hosted the web ballot. There?s been a little controversy but everything was above board. The support for Duncan Ferguson was overwhelming but, in my opinion, all of the new additions are worthy. Some people forget that Tony Kay was a truly magnificent footballer, who cost a record British transfer fee, and that his arrival sealed the 1963 title. Graham Stuart saved our bacon in 1994 and David Unsworth was simply Rhino, who would charge through brick walls for Everton and score many an important penalty.
I wasn?t surprised that Bill Kenwright was selected. Some people thought that he was a controversial candidate but it turns out that he was a popular choice. However two of my favourites ? Pat van den Hauwe and Mike Trebilcock ? were left out. More than anything, I hope that all five of the new additions show up on the night. It?ll be a great opportunity for both the fans to pay tribute to them and also it provides Duncan and Tony with an opportunity to thank the fans who demonstrated loyalty to them during their darkest days.
On the other hand, I?ll be satisfied if the other two inductees show up in spirit. They are long gone but thankfully not forgotten. Alfred Wade played in Everton?s first match against St Peter?s in 1879 and Reverend Ben Chambers is credited with starting St Domingo Football Club in 1878. Both lit the football flame that has been passed from generation to generation on Merseyside.
IM: What about your books? ?Dr Everton?s Magnificent Obsession? is a fantastic read and will be a hard act to follow. It is a beautifully crafted publication. I recall that the other night Peter Lupson, an acclaimed author himself, proclaimed that ?it wasn?t just the greatest Everton book but the greatest football book of all time?. So are there any more Everton books in the pipeline?
DF: I know that I?ve said it before but I?m in the process of hanging up my keyboard. As anyone who has ever read one of my books will concur, I can?t write for toffee. To be honest, I wish I could communicate as well as many of the contributors to ToffeeWeb. That said there are some tremendous Everton books out there. In particular I like the one by Mark O?Brien of WSAG fame. I think it?s called ?Everton Miscellany?. There will be no Hall of Fame book as such this time but there will be a Hall of Fame DVD full of unflattering caricatures and flattering pen-pics.
Regarding my own bookshelf, ?Dr Everton? was my first and only book not to be produced on Merseyside. It was printed by Trinity Mirror in China, like so many books nowadays, to keep costs down. I asked them to price it at a level which would facilitate a copy in every blue & white Christmas stocking. I?m told that it?s great value at £15. I must add that Ken Rogers and his team were great to work with and I?m not alone in appreciating their provision of extra copies which we made good use of. Dave Prentice, my truly talented co-author, and I visited Alder Hey a couple of weeks ago to donate a pile of books to the kids, both Blues and Reds. I thought that it?s only fair that the little Kopites learn something about the city?s rich football heritage.
Also we donated another pile of books to the Shareholders? Association to raise funds for the painting of George Mahon?s portrait. I think we raised a few hundred pounds. It?s tough to sell them nowadays. For example, JJB even baulked at stocking Alex Young?s biography in the megastore so we decided to take the mail order route. Nevertheless, the demand has been tremendous. So much so that there are only a few copies available at mersey.com. Also Billy Butler tells me that Radio Merseyside still receives at least one call every day asking where the ?Alex Young ? The Golden Vision? is available. My work is done.
IM: Now about your football hero ? a certain Alex Young. He is such a modest man and a gentleman to boot. Alex to me, David, epitomizes why the HOF is such a success and so unforgettable. Are you satisfied that you?ve succeeded in reinforcing his place near the top of the Everton family? Back in October I was interviewed for a film you had commissioned. What?s the latest? Have I been abandoned to the cutting-room floor?
DF: Like every Blue of my vintage, I?m a big fan of Alex. He was the most celebrated British footballer in the Sixties who never betrayed his god-given flair. My dad claimed that the big Blue upstairs would send us one of his own to lead us from the post-war gloom and it was love at first sight. Alex had such eye-catching grace that as long as Everton survives, I hope that men will talk in awe of his sublime skills. Despite his blisters, hearing loss and feud with Harry Catterick, he made us proud to be Blue.
Dr David France with a print of that iconic photo of Alex Young's headed goal against Spurs
In many eyes, he?s second only to William Ralph Dean in our folklore. Dixie?s contributions can be measured by the number of times he hit the back of the net, whereas my hero?s can be characterized by the number of times he took our breath away. Alex?s biography provided some wonderful recollections from those who saw him in his pomp that I decided to go one step farther. I?m working on a modest follow-up to the Ken Loach film made in 1968. I?d got to know the guys who are making a movie about Dixie. Their film company is called Tabacula and based in Toxteth. I had helped them with a short film about John Brodie and his invention of goal-nets and was so impressed that I decided to commission a one-hour documentary entitled ?Alex the Great?. I suppose it will an enduring love story.
I hear that Tabacula have been interviewing Alex?s team-mates as well as his fans about their memories. They plan to use some of the testimonials from Alex?s biography and are seeking a cross-section of accents for the voice-overs. I understand that Tabacula will be advertising for volunteers in the near future. I think that they are doing the readings of snippets from Alex?s biography on Thursday 15 January between 4 pm and 7 pm. As for the film, I?m told that the pilot will be available in March for reviewing with the television channels. My fingers are crossed for you and Alex!
Dr France with Alex Young at Goodison Park
IM: What?s the latest news from the Former-Players? Foundation? I haven?t seen many of our old players limping along Goodison Road lately, in fact looking at some could still grace our bench especially at the beginning of this season. Have there been many more knee and hip replacements?
DF: The Reverend, Harry Ross that is, keeps me informed of the on-going work and as you know I am sworn to secrecy about individual players. However, I know that every penny raised is accounted for and put to good use. By all accounts and thanks to the continued support of the PFA and the club, the Foundation is in great shape ? as are many of the former-players. They seem to be in better health than the first-team squad. Certainly, the Foundation is the model for other clubs in the land and farther a field. It?s something for all of us to be proud of.
Actually, I had an opportunity to gate-crash the Christmas lunch. It was great to see so many smiling faces... Gordon West, Alan Whittle, TE Jones, Gary Jones, Jimmy Harris, Fred Pickering, Duncan McKenzie and even his nemesis Gordon Lee. Reverend Harry Ross and Laurence Lee have done the Everton family proud and have reinforced the old mantra ?Once a Blue, always a Blue?.
Another new example of this saying is the initiative to commemorate the Fallen Blues. It started when Dr John Rowland?s confirmed the details of the three Blues who perished during the two world wars. They are Leading Aircraftman Brian Patrick Atkins RAFVR, Pilot Officer William Sumner RAFVR and Lance Corporal Leigh Rouse MM 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. John told me that he has visited the graves of Atkins at Monte Cassino and Sumner in Madras and had laid crosses and pennants on them at Brian Labone's request. As a result, the Shareholders? Association is working to coordinate the simple yet beautiful inscription of a memorial plaque to honour these Blues.
In addition to these Merseyside-based fallen heroes, two of our extended family who played for our sister club Everton in Chile will be incorporated in the plaque. They are Frank Everard Boundy and Malcolm Goulding Fraser. They were members of the group of teenagers who founded the Club in June 1909. Unlike the vast majority of this group, they were born in the UK, Frank near Truro and Malcolm in Edinburgh. Both died in the Great War. Lest we forget.
IM: Now that you are no longer sorting through attics, junk shops and skips for swag, how do you manage to fill your days? It?s been twelve months since the deal was done but when will we get to see the famed treasures of The Everton Collection?
DF: While there has been little in the way of formal updates from the Trust, I expect that there will be a grand exhibition in the New Year which will turn the Kopites green with envy. Certainly, the taster organized by Tony Tighe at Goodison during Heritage Week in 2007 was fantastic and that highlighted less than 10% of my collection. So imagine the mind-blowing treasures available from the combination of the club?s archives with my bits and bobs. From what I can gather, the Trust?s has been working hard but progress has been slowed by the extra effort required to restore some of the water damaged items retrieved from the Goodison bunker.
A lot of the early work, more than anticipated, has been required to catalogue the 20,000 or so artifacts and prepare them for digitization. It's important yet painstaking work and I for one look forward to accessing the fruits of their labours on the planned state-of-the-art website. Again I encourage the fans to be patient as the Trust navigates the previously unchartered waters of world-class exhibitions and world-class websites. Three experts have been recruited to work on the Everton Collection but the real challenges lie in the longer term. In less than two years from now, after the initial scope of work has been completed, the project will benefit from the appointment of a full-time coordinator, preferably with a royal blue pedigree, to maintain and possibly further enhance the project. Given that the lottery grant will have been consumed by then, it?s clear that the Trust?s ambitions would benefit from a reliable stream of funds to support all long-term plans. While it, like the Foundation, is a registered and independent charity, I hope that it continues to work closely with the club and the fans on fund raising initiatives to facilitate coordination, preservation and security work as well as new acquisitions.
Gems surface every now and then. In fact during the past 12 months, I?ve aided Lord Grantchester to secure some exquisite additions and I?ve been fortunate also to track down some items which had belonged to Big Bob and Big Nev. Therefore, I encourage all Blues to get involved because it?s our collection, it?s our heritage and it's an ongoing process. Of course, no embryonic team of hand-picked experts can be perfect.
Back in October I took them on an orientation tour of the important sites which feature in our early history. Their need for a royal blue education became evident when I pointed to the huge advertising board bordering on Walton Lane which featured Mike Lyons. Sadly, none of them could put a name to his face. Worse still they didn?t know who he was or that he had played nearly 500 times for the club. However, it proved to be a blessing in disguise because it led to the Shareholders? Association establishing an Everton Heritage Society. To date it?s composed of 20 or so really enthusiastic Blues. Names like Steve Clay (efchistory.co.uk), Steve Johnson (evertonresults.com), Brendan Connolly, Mark Denny, Barry Hewitt, Steve Hickson, Glyn Minchall, David Starsky (memorabilia collectors), Steve Flanagan (statistics guru), Tony Heslop (who is at trustee of the Everton Collection), George Orr (Blueblood fanzine), John Shearon (Ruleteros) as well as Everton-crazy enthusiasts Keith Wilson and Paul Wharton come readily to mind but I'm sure there are other that I've overlooked. They are Blues who don?t just sing about it, they know about our history and hopefully will share their know-how with the equally enthusiastic collection staff.
I?ve been impressed by the diligence of Max, Belinda and Karen and hope that improvements will be made to their working conditions at the Records Office. The building is due for a major renovation and I had trust that in the not too distant future these experts would have been will be housed in modern facilities befitting them and the collection?s importance. May be I'm paranoid, but security will always be a top priority for me. I don?t expect security protocols like those employed at Oak Ridge (David consulted to America?s nuclear research facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee famous for the Manhattan Project) but it?s vital that all artifacts are electronically tagged and logged in and out of a secure vault. Even the most conscientious staff can get sloppy and it would be unforgivable if any item, especially one in an unbroken sequence, was misplaced or went walkabouts.
I?ve said this before but it?s worth repeating ? a lot of people have worked hard to prepare the world's greatest collection of football memorabilia for the public eyes. It belongs to all Everton fans. It?s something for us all to be proud of and I encourage them to continue to support Lord Grandchester, his trustees and the collection staff during their near-term and longer-term initiatives.
IM: So what were you doing 7,000 miles from home at Goodison when I last met you, the Blue Pimpernel?
DF: Simply, I had returned to say my goodbyes because I doubt if I?ll be healthy enough to return to the UK in 2009. I know that you claim that I?ve had more leaving gigs than the Rolling Stones but I just wanted to thank the people who have helped me over the years and slip away. There?s lots a good Blues around to carry the torch. The flame seems to be in safe hands. Why was I at the meeting of the Everton FC Shareholders? Association? Well, they invited me to become its Lifetime President.
Actually I wanted to show my support for Paul Wharton who, as you know, has a deep love for all things Everton and worked so hard with little recognition on the Dixie Dean play earlier this year. I was fascinated by his initiative to tell another story at the December meeting, this time about George Mahon, one of the greatest Evertonians who never hoofed a ball in anger. I hope that I?m not alone in thinking that the meeting was a tremendous success and that it will give birth to similar heritage events.
No-one who has trawled through ToffeeWeb will be surprised to learn that Steve Flanagan?s research into the life and times of George Mahon was top-class. Also Tony Helsop and John Shearon provided some fascinating insights into our brothers in Chile. He wants to arrange at least one fixture between these two great clubs. I can pay him no greater compliment that says that this is the kind of initiative that Messrs Mahon and Cuff would have taken. I understand that another heritage meeting is scheduled for early February. This time the subject is Will Cuff, arguably the greatest Evertonian of all time. He ran the club with an iron fist for decades during which time he developed Goodison into a world-class stadium, captured 4 League titles and 2 FA Cups, implemented a commitment to cultured football and earned worldwide respect for the club.
Also he invested in big money signings like Dean, Cresswell, Britton and Lawton and also nurtured raw recruits like Chedgzoy, Gee, Sagar and Mercer. Sadly he fell out with the other directors towards the end of his life because he believed in the democratic concept of one shareholder-one vote. Isn?t that a novel idea? As for the Shareholders? Association itself, possibly it will become redundant in the not too distant future but there again it could serve a meaningful role as a valuable conduit for the new owners.
IM: Look, David, as I respect your views no more beating about the bush, where do you stand on Destination Kirkby? What do you think about the state of the club? Are we in good hands?
DF: I?m sure you?ve heard about my meeting with a specialist in Seattle. He asked: ?So what do you want first the good news or the bad news. The bad news is that your problem has spread. The good news is that you?ll never see Everton play in Kirkby!? To be honest, I?ve grown weary of the ground move debate and saddened by the damage done to the Everton family. Obviously, I?m concerned about the continued erosion of our identity and our disappearance from the city?s landscape. The Kings Dock aside, I?ve never held strong views about any move. Of course, I?m fond of the Grand Old Lady Park but I suppose that I don?t care passionately about where we play every other week but I feel strongly about a redefinition and strengthening of our identity.
I?ve always favoured the concept of an Everton Centre, by that I mean a headquarters in the city centre. I?ve come to terms that it will never happen but over the years I?ve proposed a handful of sites which, like the Old Collegiate building, have been converted into flats. Nonetheless I still nurture a vision of revamping somewhere like the old ABC Cinema in Lime Street. I would love to see us in such a signature building, one with a massive sign announcing 'Everton Football Club' in 12 feet high or even higher neon letters which would illuminate Lime Street for 24 hours per day.
Of course, it could also project a subliminal message like ?Kopites are Gobshites?. The building would house the administrative staff, press and communications centre, city centre dining facilities, museum and exhibitions centre, ticket office, retail shop, meeting rooms, sponsors? rooms, etc. It would have cost a few million to renovate but that?s a small cost for reinforcing our presence to Blues and Reds alike and healing the Everton family. On the subject of Kopites, I?m tired of interacting with them at Goodison. We need more Blues on the payroll. As for the change of ownership, I hear, from people who claim to know about these things, that it could be imminent after the Inquiry findings have been released but remain wary because I can?t understand why anyone would want to buy a football club. I never had. The operating profits are modest by design, nowadays the debt is perilous and I doubt that football will be exempt from the realities of the economic meltdown.
As you know, I like Bill. Of course, I don?t agree with some of his decisions but there again I?m not privy to the information which honed them. But what I do know is that he invested in the club when no-one else was prepared to do so. There is no greater living Evertonian. Moving on... while he may have a Rugby League roots, which as a lad from Widnes I consider to be a good thing, the acting CEO makes a good first impression. He comes across as a real gentleman with an unblemished past.
Perhaps more important than even the CEO is the quality of the team assembled around him. I wish Robert well. His immediate worry must be the absent fans and the austerity required to manage the club?s borrowings. Of course, his life as well as ours would be made a lot easier with a decent cup run. I hate derbies. I always have. I intend to watch the imminent derbies (two nil-nil draws I hope) at my barber?s shop in Victoria. He?s an old Blue from Crosby. While I?m too fat to wear my famous lucky suit, I do plan to hold on to it like a comfort blanket.
IM: So is this farewell? Surely we can we expect another fleeting visit from the good doctor?
DF: My specialists and more importantly my long suffering wife permitting, I had hoped to make one more trans-Atlantic trip to attend the Hall of Fame dinner. But I doubt that it will happen. Unfortunately my last two visits to Goodison involved losses to Pompey and Villa. I?ll miss Merseyside. It?s been great to see the transition of our great city. I only wish that we had played a part of it at the Kings Dock. Of course, I?ll miss my ?bitter and twisted? blue friends.
On a personal note, have I told you about my recent stalkers? There were two of them. Two big, burly and intoxicated brutes. They had followed me along Church Street before eventually confronting me outside of Central Station. At that point they both threw his arms around me. One of them looked me straight in the eyes and mumbled: ?Thanks for everything you?ve done for our club?. All I could say was: ?Don't thank me. Being a Blue is my reward.? I think it was one of those very rare occasions when you find the words to say exactly how you feel.
IM: David, I will never be more sincere in saying these words: ?God Bless you? Thank you for saving our heritage with the definitive Everton collection, a labour of love of Herculean proportions. I know you could have sold the collection for more money through private sales and the likes of Christies but I know deep down you never wanted to split this magnificent obsession.
As I always said to you David the collection, the HOF, the books and the fantastic innovative Former Players Foundation are your legacy to the Everton family. For many generations to come Evertonian?s can now look into our past and punch the air. They will be able to see how our club was formed and evolved with its journey to greatness, the people involved, the sad times and the glories, all there documented.
Not only is our football lives kept on record but an insight on how we lived, what we bought and the World Wars which tested the nation encapsulated in the programme?s and ledgers etc which you lovingly assembled. A through the looking glass experience on Merseyside over past generations,
Even after selling his collection David is dipping into the funds of the sale for the making of an Alex Young film and other Everton related ventures.
I remember you telling me of the joy you had when acquiring the last of the ledgers (at great cost of money and sacrificing some Dixie Dean medals to get them), and how I laughed at the myths of you personally trawling through skips outside Goodison when I knew you were thousands of miles away at the time as a director of a Texan oil firm.
When you bought the first produced Everton season ticket at Anfield and pulled the car over under a lamp light on a rainy night just to look at it again in unbelief like a kid at Christmas. Just a couple of examples of your true passion. I will never forget the first time I saw the tip of the iceberg of your collection in your Chester home. As I said at the time I felt like Howard Carter looking into Tutankhamen?s tomb, what a privilege it was.
But behind every great man there is usually a great woman. Please step forward David?s long suffering wife Elizabeth, a Bolton lass. Now if ever a woman had the patience of a saint it's Liz. Can you imagine the hours and days Doctor Everton when missing on his quest for the collection? It was bordering on an obsession.
The amount of times he must have just smiled at Liz like a little boy and said nothing when she asked how much did that cost. The thousands of phone calls from like-minded Blues and collectors she had to take whilst trying to run a home.
In recent years watching David?s health deteriorate, instead of taking it easy he still went on journeys across the Atlantic for his latest project. This shy, attractive blonde must have thought we were all crazy with Everton with her husband the group leader Mad Hatter. I?ve often thought Liz would burn David?s massive collection through sheer frustration at the other ?woman? in David?s life, demanding and taking so much attention away from her. Liz is a diamond, the real Toffee Lady.
I have to laugh at the story of how Liz and Dave, living by the harbour in Seattle, watch the daily life of a colony of Elephant seals naming one after me. They went on to say the seal named after me died suddenly and the coastal patrol took it out to deep sea for burial. As the seal was towed away they waved, goodbye Ian. Right, where?s that weightwatchers number? Thanks Dave and Liz!
David?s other passion, not known to many, is Leonard Cohen ( I think he?s seen him in concert as many times as I have seen Bruce Springsteen), but unlike Cohen, David is far from depressing when you see him. David gives you an Everton injection of faith when you meet him
So another Everton chapter is to be closed on David?s lifetime works with all things Everton? I sincerely hope it?s not, but on behalf of thousands of Blues I would like to thank David for his sterling work on giving so much time and dedication to the Everton cause, not forgetting his wife,Liz.
Best of luck, Liz and Dave, for the future, thanks for the special memories. We are so much richer in our Everton lives knowing you.
Any ideas fellow Blues how we should remember this man the present day equivalent of William Cuff? I can give no higher accolade than this.
Everton Independent Blues
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1 Posted 15/01/2009 at 05:57:21
2 Posted 15/01/2009 at 08:43:51
On a personal note, I?m delighted to spot in the background of the photo of David France with the Alex Young painting at the Radio Merseyside book signing, second and third along from his right shoulder, myself and my Uncle Dave ? another proud, devoted Blue who really inspired my brother and I to become avid Evertonians ourselves, as we grew up down south near London in exile from our Walton roots.
It was the first time in 15 years that I?d seen my uncle and was a truly special day ? the icing on the cake being the chance to meet The Golden Vision, the great Alex Parker AND Dr Everton himself. The idea of a club award named after David France is a good one, perhaps ToffeeWeb could organise a poll or a petition.
3 Posted 15/01/2009 at 08:27:59
I have been lucky enough to have had the chance of seeing a fair bit of the David France Collection, and, hopefully the Collection Trust will ensure that us and future Evertonians will get to do the same. David mentions the Heritage Week event when some of the collection was on show in Goodison Park. Naturally, I went along, and, like David, was delighted to see that the older generation had brought along their children, grand-children, nieces and nephews and everyone I saw was looking in wonder at the collection of medals, the ledgers and various other bits and pieces of the club?s history that David has tirelessly and diligently sought and purchased.
As we all know, David could have got a lot more money for his collection by selling it privately and he has told me, in confidence of course, of some of the mad ideas that suitors proposed to him when trying to prise the collection away from him. However, as far as David is concerned, the collection is for the Everton family, and that speaks volumes when trying to describe how generous he is and how much he is committed to the Blue cause.
I know that he has given shares to fellow Blues to allow them to own a piece of ?our? club, he continually provides little gifts to worthwhile Everton causes. One example, is where he provided the Everton Shareholders? Association with a large quantity of his recent book on his collection to help raise funds for new portraits to be made of George Mahon (the cerator of Goodison Park), Dr James Clement Baxter (financial backer to the creator of Goodison Park) and William C Cuff (basically, the original Mr Everton) to be hung in the boardroom.
By the way, the book, "Dr Everton?s Magnificent Obsession" is a must read, not just for Evertonians but for any fan of football. Peter Lupson got it spot on when he said that this book is not only the greatest Everton book of all-time but the greatest football book of all-time.
David is also very tenacious and very thorough. For example, let?s start with the Gwladys Street Hall of Fame. Not only were we the first football club to do such a thing, but David also spoke to Baseball?s Hall of Fame to see how they went about selecting their incumbents to ensure that we would remember those that were truly worth remembering and I can think of no greater honour for any Everton player (or backroom staff) than to be immortalised in this great institution.
Then there?s the Hall of Fame dinners, which are now legendary in Evertonian circles. How about the Everton Former Players? Foundation? Not only was it the first of it?s kind anywhere in the world, but has also been copied by the likes of Barcelona, and other top European clubs and now even Uefa have got a committee of such charities who meet on a regular basis. Former Everton players who have had their lives, and dignity, restored thanks to this magnificent charity, know how much they owe to David France and the compassion he has shown to them and their plight.
But despite doing all of these things for the entire Everton family, he has rarely been seen, or heard, preferring to remain in the background and let others do the talking. In fact, there are a lot of things that he has done for Everton that a large number of us don?t know about. For example, the Alex Young documentary, which David has funded, which will, hopefully, bring the deeds of The Golden Vision to a new generation of football supporters who can now marvel in wonder at this Everton legend.
I was hoping to keep this comment on my thoughts of David fairly short, but when you see what he has done for the club and it?s supporters and start writing about it, you can?t stop!
In a way I am saddened though by two things. Firstly, that David will no longer be making his trips from over the pond. Often we have had meetings to talk about something and ended up spending an hour or two remembering the good old days, discussing the Kirkby move and even David Moyes?s tactics. And finally, that the Hall of Fame will be closing it?s doors after March?s dinner. The membership will stand at 126 after the 7 new incumbents have taken their place. To me that number should be 127 and the final place should be taken by one of the greatest Evertonians I have ever had the pleasure to meet ? Dr David France.
4 Posted 15/01/2009 at 10:27:08
I marvelled at just how dedicated a Blue had to be to have travelled continents and spent hundreds up on hundreds of thousands of pounds putting it together, and wasn?t surprised to learn that this collection wasn?t matched by any other club in the world. Only an Evertonian could amass such a collection, and only the most dedicated.
However, I only actually met David early last year, but everything I had thought was true. Only the most dedicated, loyal, and genuine Evertonian ? in fact football fan ? could have done what David has done. He?ll probably get a clip round the ear if his wife reads that even up until last summer he was still buying items to be included in the collection ? which he no longer owns!
He introduced me to his hero, Alex Young. Although to be honest, it was hard to tell which man held whom in the highest regard, such is the respect David wins and deserves from everyone he meets.
Given the chance, David could talk for days on end about his Everton and his Everton Collection. A cold afternoon in the Vines discussing the relative merits of everything from Victor Anichebe to George Mahon whilst trying to figure out how the voting would be run for the last ever Hall of Fame shows an example of a man who, despite having more pressing things to do with his short time in England, found himself wrapped up in conversation about Everton. The idea of the Everton Centre on Lime Street was discussed with enthusiasm ? imagine a massive sign "Welcome to Liverpool, home of Everton FC" slapping everyone who gets off a train right in the eyes!
David has always worked tirelessly for Everton, and for Evertonians. And I am sadddened that he probably won?t visit the UK again, not least for the selfish reason that I quite fancied another few afternoons sat talking about Everton with him, but also because the work with the Everton Collection is only just beginning.
David?s laid the foundations for a wonderful piece of history to be available to everyone. We all know he could have got at least double what he let the Everton Collection Charitable Trust get it for, but he wanted it kept together, and he desperately didn?t want those horrible reds getting hold of any of it, but the one thing that seems to have been lost in the post is a simple "thank you".
Evertonians have thanked David personally, I know I have, I know Ian has, and I know countless others that have, but what would be nice would be for Everton Football Club to formally recognise the work this man has done for our "family" over the decades. As Evertonians, we?ve said thank you, now it?s time the club did the same.
5 Posted 15/01/2009 at 10:55:49
I hope Dr France does feel appreciated by supporters, former players and the club from board level down, he certainly should be. Perhaps we need a Supporters' Hall of Fame; David France would be automatically first nomineee & would any of us ever be worthy of nomination in comparison?
6 Posted 15/01/2009 at 11:37:38
Like most supporters, my devotion to the club is inevitably at arms length from the players, administrators and independent VIPs like David France. To be contacted directly by him was like receiving an e.mail from royalty. It took me about a week to pluck up the courage to respond!
Why the nervousness? Well it was because, for those of us like me with a deep interest in the history of the club, he is indeed royalty. ?Doctor Everton? ? yes. The ?King of Evertonians? ?almost certainly.
Since that first contact, I?ve been lucky enough to have had fairly regular contact ? always in the form of supportive and complimentary e.mails, as well as signed copies of one or two of his astounding books.
To be asked by him to be part of the Everton Heritage Society was probably the biggest honour I?ve ever had and I just hope that we can continue the fight to preserve and promote Everton?s history with as much energy and diligence as he himself has shown in everything he has done in the name of the club.
His achievements in the Everton cause are legion and expounded beautifully in Ian Macdonald?s piece. There?s no need for me to do anything other than echo what has already been said by everyone else.
It?s a point of deep regret that David?s illness means that I?m now unlikely to have the chance to actually meet him in person ? but it?s what he?s done, and continues to do, that matters. And boy does it matter!
7 Posted 15/01/2009 at 12:12:59
Oh and what a great idea about converting the old cinema on Lime Street into an Everton city centre base/ticket office etc.
8 Posted 15/01/2009 at 12:33:00
It would be awesome to have ?The Everton Centre?, what a great idea.
A truly fantastic read, well done Ian.
9 Posted 15/01/2009 at 12:37:04
His dedication to the Everton FC cause is unprecedented. Dr David France is up there in my opinion with William Ralph Dean Alex Young and Alan Ball.
He alone lifted me and my spirit in the bad times of trophy-free years. His "Hall of Fame" nights and his countless (fantastic) Books are there to be cherished, remembered for all time. It?s an honour and a privilege to know you bro.
The very first time we met, we just talked for hours and hours about our beloved Everton, and I realised then how passionate he was about Everton FC. We have always shared a joke and a laugh about our "Everton Widows" who have had to put up with our fanaticism of our beloved club and the extended family of Evertonians we have in our bosom.
Only in years to come that all Evertonians will look back at what legacy David has left. Most of the "Great Contribution" that David has given to Evertonians worldwide has been written above in Ian Macdonald?s fine article above.
I?d just like to finish of by saying that I hope that David and Elizabeth have many "Happy Days" ahead.
God bless you both... Keep the faith
10 Posted 15/01/2009 at 13:38:37
With the glory seeking shower across the Park we see vanity, self-deprecation and self-righteouness; guys like Dr David France provide a glowing beacon to the Everton bretheren that we are much, much more than that.
Thank you, Dr France for your hardwork, you make me proud to follow the Club that we call Everton. Long may we continue, hopefully to prosper and demonstrate humility in how we go about our business.
11 Posted 15/01/2009 at 15:10:18
I had the great honour of being invited by David to view the... erm.... stuff ? :-)
"Collection" seems such a trivial word for something so wonderous. I was truly staggered. Not just by the display on show but the sheer love David has for Everton. Obsessed? not half.
Everton has history that is second to none and if you ever need to back that up, it?s all there in glorious technicolour. Living and breathing. No myth, you can touch it.
I hope the collection gets the stage it deserves and although it?s a great thing that a partnership has been forged with the city fathers, I sincerely hope it?s not left to gather dust because there is no space or something else is deemed more important. I don?t think there is a more complete set of documents and ephemera, about ANYTHING, in the city.
Don?t let it go to waste.
I wish David well in what I hope will be a long (come on David you know you want to show those quacks up) and comfortable retirement and offer a VERY sincere, massive and heartfelt THANK YOU for letting me into what at the time was a very exclusive club and also for leaving a legacy that I know will be forever unsurpassed.
God Bless you indeed.
12 Posted 15/01/2009 at 15:38:20
13 Posted 15/01/2009 at 17:30:05
14 Posted 15/01/2009 at 19:21:49
15 Posted 15/01/2009 at 21:51:59
16 Posted 15/01/2009 at 22:04:55
As time went on, David told me of his idea to form the Former Players Foundation and hold the Hall of Fame Dinners at the Adelphi. I was lucky enough to be involved with him on the first five Hall of Fame Dinners.
He travelled the length and breadth of Britain tracking down our lost heroes, some of whom had hit hard times financially and health wise. He gave them their pride back, he told them that they were not forgotten and that the Blue Fans on Merseyside wanted to pay homage to them for their services to our great club. Some were sceptical and thought that he was maybe overestimating their worth to Evertonians but most of them agreed to come to the first Hall of Fame Dinner.
I was allocated my duties for the night to make sure the ex-players arrived safely and were treated well in the Bar and Reception area. I was so in awe of these players, I saw men like Alex Young, Alex Parker, Ray Wilson, heroes of mine, they all came... and when it was time for them to enter the main dining area, they were taken out and brought into the room one by one. The 600 Evertonians rose as one and greeted every one of them with a roar that made the hair rise on the back of your neck.
You could see that the ex-players were amazed, completely taken aback by this reception, it was stunning... so overpowering that it was hard not to get emotional. This was Everton's Football Oscars. The Chandeliers Sparkled overhead while the ex-players Sparkled below, it was an unforgettable night.
Everton Fans had been reunited with their past, their heroes, David France had brought Christmas forward ? it was only March but it was Christmas, believe me.
I can only say this about David... that considering he never donned the famous Blue Jersey, he is as important in our History as any who did.
I am proud to know him as an Evertonian and Author but most of all I treasure him as a friend. I hope he and Elizabeth have a great and happy retirement over in Canada and the USA and may they be as happy as they have made me.
17 Posted 16/01/2009 at 00:06:30
I had the privilege of meeting David France for the first time at the George Mahon centenary evening at Goodison Park last December. I must admit I was quite in awe at the prospect of meeting the author of arguably the most important book on football history ever written. I?m referring, of course, to Dr Everton?s Magnificent Obsession which is probably the nearest thing that exists to a personal time machine. It?s years since I?ve read anything so absorbing, informative and entertaining. And to think that it merely scratches the surface of David?s collection itself leaves me awestruck. It?s made me realise that, for all my many years? research into football history, I actually know very little.
Despite David?s gargantuan achievements, his razor-sharp intellect and his god-like status among Evertonians, it was immediately obvious to me when I met him that he is a down-to-earth, unassuming and caring man. He chatted easily to everyone, including strangers such as myself, as if we had been friends of long standing. I only wish I had met him sooner.
Everton may or may not move to a new stadium. If they do, they should loudly proclaim David France?s place in the club?s proud history as the man who safeguarded that history in all its breadth and depth for future generations. I can think of no better way than naming a stand after him.
18 Posted 16/01/2009 at 00:00:10
What can you say about Dr France? I am in absolute awe of this guy?s devotion to our club and it?s history. He has truly left a great legacy and I agree with the comments above ? it would be fitting for him to be officially recognised by the club.
A high profile Everton Centre in the city centre is an excellent idea. It could combine a ticket office and shop. Could it one day house the collection itself as well?
Thank you Dr France. May you enjoy your retirement.
19 Posted 16/01/2009 at 01:11:11
20 Posted 16/01/2009 at 03:21:27
21 Posted 16/01/2009 at 12:34:37
22 Posted 16/01/2009 at 14:33:58
How about naming the Everton collection - ?The David France Collection?.
If we ever move, how about naming the stadium - ?The David France stadium??
The Legends dinner to continue and be renamed ?The Annual David France Dinner??
The Player of the Year each year to receive ?The David France award??
A petition to the Pope for canonisation for ?St David France?.
Eternally and lovingly grateful, David ? you are my hero!
23 Posted 16/01/2009 at 16:04:46
The first time we met David was when he helped us with a documentary about John Brodie (mentioned in Ian?s article), the Evertonian who invented goal nets. We were amazed at his warmth, generosity and of course the amazing collection. He passed us one of the early ledgers ? ?Have a look through that? and sure enough, there an entry, detailing the purchase of goal nets from Mr Brodie. To us, searching for evidence of the commercial use of goal nets, it was a major breakthrough. Although he was clearly tired from a day of media coverage for the collection, David was happy to take time for an interview.
Incidentally, you can see the film and the interview on youtube:Part one: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=SJNzqLJlGDg
Part two: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=14RDeiSeRVI
And then there were the medals, the season tickets from the early days of the club, the document detailing the building on Anfield, which LFC would love to have in their museum ? it?s unbelievable that this collection, unparalleled in the football world, would be either lost, or spread across the globe and inaccessible to anyone with half an interest if it wasn?t for David France.
There is nowhere else that you can follow the history of football from before the football league to the present day, and for that we?ve got to be eternally grateful to the good Doctor. And not just Blues. Anyone researching the history of LFC has got to start with the Everton Collection. Anyone trying to find out about the birth of football has got to start with the Everton Collection.
The more you get to know David, the more you?re taken with him as a man. And the more we?re amazed that David hasn?t received the recognition he deserves for his dedication in amassing the collection, which is the best in the world bar none. Can we get Andy Burnham on this? Surely he can sort out an OBE for services to football?
In closing, we?d just like to say that it?s a pleasure to know David, a man we?ve come to regard as a true friend.
P.S. Where?s his fucking recognition!
24 Posted 16/01/2009 at 17:52:33
A tremendous tribute from one great Evertonian to another.
It seems strange to say this about such a magnificent Evertonian, but I can?t really remember the first time I met David. It?s probably about fifteen years ago. The reason it doesn?t stick in my memory is because he was ?just? another Evertonian who collected memorabilia, another Widnesian.
It?s a measure of the man?s modesty that it was years later before I discovered that he was an extremely successful business consultant in great demand from major multi-national businesses?.. not to mention the owner of an Everton collection worth over £1,000,000.
Many people who have worked their way into a similar position from humble beginnings attempt to ignore or even hide their past, but David regularly referred to his childhood in a two-up, two-down terraced house in Widnes. Certainly no ?airs and graces? from this doctor.
The Everton Collection could have contained even more items. It eventually became evident that David was ?worth a bob or two?, but he has never been one to be brash with his money. At auctions he would often be prepared to discuss Everton items on sale, to allow other collectors to get their hands on some of our prized possessions. He could, I?m sure, have ?cleaned up? had he wished and left everybody else totally frustrated.
Make no mistake though ? if there was a real prized item: the season tickets from Stanley Park, an itinerary from the 1906 FA Cup Final, a medal that was required for the collection, there was no stopping David.
As many people have already said, it?s a privilege to know David and to regard him as a friend. Even from the other side of the pond, the first Christmas card to arrive every year is the one from David and Liz.
I cannot think of another couple who would have tolerated the dealings with the club that were experienced. Can you imagine having something valued at £1.2 million, then struggling for years to convince somebody to buy it for significantly less, when major auction houses would bite your hand off at a handsome profit?
Add to all the above, the Foundation, the Hall of Fame and the fantastic books he has written. The determination of David to ensure that his legacy was left to his Everton family cannot be underestimated and we should all be eternally grateful. A truly fantastic Evertonian and even more importantly, a lovely human being.
Take care David and Liz, Love to you both.
25 Posted 16/01/2009 at 17:31:33
"As well as combing the world for Everton jewels for the past 25 years, he has flown more than two million miles from his homes in Canada and Washington State to attend games, published 16 books (the latest, The Golden Vision, about 1960s centre-forward Alex Young) to raise money for Alder Hey Children?s Hospital, established the club?s Hall of Fame and founded the Everton Former Players? Foundation, a charity to assist old Evertonians who have fallen on hard times and which Uefa use as their template for all such associations."
I can only marvel at his achievements and be thankful for everything that he has done for Everton and Evertonians.
As for how he should be remembered and recognised for his amazing contribution, wouldn?t it be something for the Everton Team to play a pre-season friendly game in or near to DF?s home in 2009, name it the David France Testimonial and have BK or Moyes present him with a unique achievement award prior to the start of the game.
Whichever way, Ian, thanks for the piece. Like others, it makes me proud to be a Blue.
26 Posted 17/01/2009 at 18:08:23
27 Posted 18/01/2009 at 03:12:08
28 Posted 18/01/2009 at 17:00:10
I have had the privilege to meet David on only a hand full of occasions but each time the enthusiasm and love for our club has shone through and becomes infectious. The first time I met with David was in March last year after he had stumbled across a web site I had started. After a few correspondence he invited to meet him at a printers in Bootle were he was putting the finishing touches to his Alex Young autobiography.
On my arrival I received the warmest of welcomes and we settled down to talk about our common love, Everton Football Club. After we had talked for some time he proceeded to go through file after file of photographs, all related to the clubs illustrious past. From the earliest team photo and the first board of Directors to Dixie?s era, the superb sixties, the list seemed endless.
When we had been though all of the photos David started to pick out ones he thought would benefit my site and in the end I had several discs full of unbelievable memorabilia, I still haven?t used them all. After several hours in David?s company you realise what the club and its great players mean to him and why he has done all he has to make their lives a little better.
Although I have met David a few times since, the last of which was at the Alex Young dinner last year, it was that first meeting that left a lasting impression. When he asked me to join him and others as part of the Everton Heritage Society, and how can you refuse? His legacy has to be preserved not only for ourselves and future Evertonians but for David who has put so much time and effort into putting a collection together that is second to none.
All the very best to David and Liz.
29 Posted 18/01/2009 at 18:41:13
The Hall of Fame nights will go down in history, not just because we all enjoyed it but what it meant, the money helping our Former Players, our Heroes being helped was another first in Evertonia other clubs now follow our lead.
When David asked me to join the Everton Heritage Society, I was very proud, as here was a man who has written over 20 books on EFC, the Collection to boot, and he wants me to play a part with our history ? I was honoured, the only way I could sum this up it?s like getting a letter off the Pope. David, you are a great Evertonian.
30 Posted 18/01/2009 at 19:06:57
I haven’t had the privilege of knowing David for as long as many of you and have not had the good fortune to meet Elizabeth at all (yet?), but feel blessed to know there are such people in the world and to think of them as friends.
On meeting David for the first time, far from the awe I expected to feel I found him to be such a pleasant, down-to-earth guy who immediately seemed part of the group. But his ability to instinctively grasp and prioritise issues hinted of an awesome intellect, cleverly disguised by a gentle, mild manner! It was not hard to see how anything he decided to do would be planned, pursued and completed come what may - and so it has proved.
Let’s face it, this man has achieved what most of us can only dream of thinking about. More importantly, he has achieved it in a way that has not only restored the health and self-respect of many of our former heroes, but has restored the pride of Evertonians everywhere in our heritage, and enabled us all to learn so much more about the story of our Club.
It was with some trepidation that I asked David if he would consider becoming the Life President of the Everton Shareholders’ Association as I felt he already took on far too much and would not have the time to devote to the Association. It was an honour when (having consulted the boss, of course!) he agreed to take the position, and despite his problematic health and his many other commitments has supported our efforts as well as providing many valuable suggestions and initiatives. Just another typical example of his devotion to all things Everton!
David, through the collection of so many club artefacts, has given us all so much to treasure for years and generations to come. But truly, one of the greatest Everton treasures is the man himself. He neither seeks nor desires recognition or reward, but I hope he and his devoted, long-suffering wife know that the "future history" of Everton Football Club will tell of a very special, very much respected and very much loved man - Dr David France.
We salute you, Dr Everton - and we all thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you have done.
31 Posted 19/01/2009 at 14:42:08
Best of health to David France.
I hope he knows what an important role model he’s played for young Evertonians.
His enthusiasm and his deeds are certainly going to leave a briliant legacy for all Evertonians interested in every nook-and-cranny of Toffee folklore.
His charitable work is also something to be admired. I just hope that Dr Everton doesn’t disappear off the scene completely.
Everton will always need men like him.
He’s certainly been an inspiration to many fans site contributors - that’s for sure!
32 Posted 19/01/2009 at 18:14:27
Dr. France: If you ever make it to the George and Dragon for an Everton match, pints are on me!
33 Posted 21/01/2009 at 10:19:53
As one who has cherished the treasures both human and material, he has earned our eternal gratitude and all the plaudits that rightly come his way. Tireless in Seattle, still, he has worked and is working to ensure that we as Evertonians understand, cherish, honour and preserve our history and heritage as well as draw inspiration from it in looking to the future. It?s a serious responsibility but one we bear with gratitude, a reminder to give thanks for being an Evertonian.
34 Posted 27/01/2009 at 17:42:49
Even then, David was desperate to find some way of looking after former players who were now suffering from all manner of disabilities resulting from their playing careers. First I was his sounding board, but as those who knew David well, it was not long before his enthusiasm rubbed off on me, and so I set to work on devising an entity which would be able to fulfil David?s criteria and at the same time achieve charitable status.
Spurred on by David, we spent time researching, meeting with the Charity Commission, preparing trust deeds, countless meetings etc and so it was that the Everton Former Players? Foundation was formed, the first charitable organisation of its kind, and now superbly lead by Laurence Lee, the Reverend Harry Ross and others.
Of course during this time I became aware of David?s collection of football memorabilia and generally all things Everton, and his vision for preserving Everton?s heritage. Whilst most of us would have taken the easy option, and instructed Sotheby?s or Christie's to sell the collection (and made an absolute fortune in the process), no, not David; he wanted his collection to be part of the Everton family, and capable of being enjoyed by all of us.
So began the long and laborious process of securing a proper home for his collection, and as we all know thanks to Lord Grantchester, the Club and others who formed the Everton Collection Trust which acquired the collection, this is now the case. Without David?s absolute commitment, enthusiasm and devotion to the cause not to mention sheer hard work, time and effort (which took its toll on David?s health), none of us would be able to enjoy what is now the Everton Collection, incorporating the David France Collection, which Lord Grantchester and his fellow trustees will now take to the next level so that our heritage is preserved for posterity.
We meet only very few individuals in a lifetime who we can honestly say have such drive, enthusiasm, charisma, and total single-mindedness to be able to turn visions into reality, but David is one of them. Truly exceptional, and I am proud to have worked with him. Spare a thought too for Elizabeth because, without her patience, tolerance and unwavering support, we would never have had our man!
35 Posted 08/02/2009 at 18:03:44
Dr Everton has been especially good to us here at ToffeeWeb, providing us with great features about his incredible memorabilia, advance copies and supporting material for his astounding portfolio of Everton books, and of course the incredible David France Collection ? helping us get the message out about how important it was for this unique celebration of Everton FC to be kept together and made available in perpetuity for all Evertonians.
The man has shown tremendous energy and imagination for the Blue cause that in many cases has put us to shame. His ideas for expanding internet coverage of things like the Hall of Fame, combined with a membership scheme and other challenging ideas about getting Evertonians involved hands on have been simply a step too far for our modest resources as ?hobby? website ? both Lyndon and I would need to give up our day jobs to find the time to implement all of his challenging ideas for taking us forward!
The piece talks of retirement, suggesting he will now be easing out of the limelight as he spends his golden years with his incredibly understanding wife, Liz, crossing the Straits of Juan de Fuca between his home in Victoria, British Columbia, and a little holiday getaway in Roche Harbor on the idyllic San Jaun Islands in Puget Sound. It's a beautiful part of the world and a great reward for a massive lifetime of hard work he has put in professionally as a high-flying management consultant in the bear-pit of the US oil and construction industry, where we share the link of having worked briefly for the same company.
Somehow, I don't think the irrepressible Doctor is going to go away quietly...