The recent death of my son-in-law’s Nan, a fervent Blue, has prompted me to put down on paper a few observations about this popular saying "Born a Blue, Live a Blue, Die a Blue".

My son-in-law’s name is Neil. His Nan, May, my old Auntie Annie, and my Dad were three very similar people in age and passion, and this very point is emphasised in these observations through my baby blue teary eyes...

I was born and raised in Sussex Gardens, a tenement block off Park Road, Liverpool 8, in The Dingle; my Dad, my Grandad Tommy, my Uncles, and all my brothers except one supported Everton, I think all families have one Red Sheep, don’t they?

The first match I went to was Everton v Fulham 1960-61 when Roy Vernon scored a hat-trick and Everton won the Football League. Me and my mate George Bramwell, we honestly seen the light that day, and have followed it ever since. The following Saturday, my old Auntie Annie took me to Jack Sharpe’s shop in Whitechapel and bought me my first and only Everton kit. I always remember my Auntie Annie paying for me, Mick McNamee, Jamesey Green and George Bramwell to go to numerous matches, no arguments no fuss just "Here you go, lads; good luck".

The next big Everton memory for me was Wembley and the 1966 FA Cup Final versus Sheffield Wednesday. My Dad drank in The Little Woodman pub off Grafton Street, Liverpool 8. He came home from the pub on the Thursday night and said to me, "Do you fancy the Cup Final!?!" Friday night at midnight, me, George Bramwell, and as many others that could, got on a double-decker bus and left Liverpool 8 for Wembley.

My Dad was a steel fixer, big and strong, and not a man of great emotions... or so I thought. From the leaving of The Little Woodman until arriving at Wembley at 6:30am the next morning, my Dad sat on the floor of the coach, allowing me and George to use his seat... Okay, the crate of Mackeson’s he put away probably numbed the pain, but this was a different Dad, a relaxed knowledgeable funny Dad I hadn’t seen or heard before... Then again, the darts team from The Little Woodman would have given "The Comedians" a run for their money.

What an education that journey was; no motorway cafes then, just endless pitstops along the way. I didn’t know at the time and only recently found out that May also made the same journey, only she was travelling on a "borrowed" coal delivery lorry from Dovecot, which by the way was later on Saturday night towed away from under Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square! Love it, May!

Being 15 years old, and a lad of few words, I hounded my Dad to see my ticket. "Don’t worry about your ticket, I will sort it later," he kept saying. It turned out he didn’t have a ticket for me but spent the next eight hours offering a king’s ransom to any Cockney tout he could find. We even stumbled upon the late great British Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Henry Cooper, helping out on his family’s Fruit and Veg stall in Wembley... still no luck. Anyway, I ended up watching one of the greatest Cup Final comebacks of all time, sat on my Dad’s seat, while he sat on the steps outside listening to the roars and groans with his bottles of Mackies,

Coming home from Wembley after beating Sheffield Wednesday 3-2 was one of the best days of my life. I had never seen so many grown men cry, laugh and sing at the same time. The big strong steel fixer was a revelation: I didn’t know he could sing I bet Chrissy, my Mam, had never heard him sing either but he sang, drank and danced the full length of the bus, up and down the stairs and alongside the bus at traffic lights. Winning the FA Cup and seeing a different side of my Dad will live with me forever.

I, along with thousands of other Evertonians, will never forget that fateful day when Wimbledon visited Goodison Park in 1994; everyone has got a story about that day. Myself and hundreds of others walked out in despair after half-an-hour. I had never in my life walked out of a match at Goodison before. I sat on a concrete bollard outside The Spellow pub transfixed, in a dream world, resigned to the inevitable relegation, when my younger brother, Paul, who I hadn’t seen or spoken to in months, came and sat next to me: "You okay, kid? Shall we go for a pint?"

He had been in another part of the ground and spookily left at the same time as me. We sat watching a blank television screen in The Spellow along with hundreds of blues, listening to Radio Merseyside’s match commentary, hardly daring to speak as the drama unfolded.

I still, to this day, feel that was such a pivotal moment in Everton’s history. It wasn’t just me and our Paul who wished, pleaded, begged for victory that day; I really believe that good breeds good, and good people are rewarded, and Everton ARE a good club. At the end of the game, me and our Paul hugged, kissed, shook hands and then hugged, kissed and shook hands again... but I really think we were in a state of total shock. Anyway, that’s my excuse for not paying for them last four pints of Guinness.

Over the years, my Dad never made it to many more games but certainly encouraged me and my younger brothers to support the Blues which we do with a passion to this day. A stand out moment in my young football career saw my team, Dehon FC, reach the Heinz Cup Final and appear at Anfield. My Dad always referred to Anfield as The Dark Side. He had never set foot inside the place before but made an exception on the day,

He was good friends with T G Jones, the cultured ex-Everton centre-half, and came to the game with him. At the time, T G Jones was scouting for the Blues and secretly I think my Dad thought this might be an opportunity for me to impress him. Unfortunately, we lost our first game in 30 by 1-0 and I was credited with an own goal, scored where else, but the Kop End!

To rub salt in the wound, the Liverpool Echo did a match report the next night and there, in big black print, was my one and only mention in our local newspaper, once again confirming my fears that it was ME who put through my own goal at the Kop end. Nine out of the eleven who started that day were Blues: Bernie "Garlic" Mahoney, our speedy centre forward, and Danny O’Hare were the only Reds...

Childish, I know... but the medal presentations after the game showed perhaps a glimpse that the title ’Bitter Blues’ is sometimes justified, when the nine blues all refused to shake the hands of Liverpool player Ian Callaghan and the revered Bill Shankly something I still very much regret. Not the snubbing of Shankly, not one bit... but the way Ian Callaghan was ignored.

Callaghan was and still is a true gentleman who never forgot where he came from. Him and his brother Philip attended St Patricks RC school in Park Place, just like me and the rest of our family. He was born and raised in Caryl Gardens, another tenement block in nearby Grafton Street, and was always seen as something of a lad made good from the block, even by us Bluenoses.

Them tenement blocks bred some fine men and women, sorry Cath, these Rappers and Jeniffer Lopez think they invented the "block" well forget it, girl, we were kids on the block 55 years ago in The Dingle, and within a one mile radius we had Sussex Gardens, Windsor Gardens, Brunswick Gardens, Warwick Gardens, Caryl Gardens, Kings Gardens, Kent Gardens and Prince Albert Gardens all tenements built just after WW2, all cramped housing conditions, six sometimes eight floors high, but I bet you would have a hard time finding anyone who criticises them.

The Sunday afternoon football on the squares of these Gardens was something to behold; sometimes 11-aside... mostly 25-aside and age-wise from 11 to 55-60. No malice, though, just good honest football until it went dark. All regally named, yet some of the most basic dwellings you could ever raise a family up in. You developed friendships, trust, and integrity in these buildings: born a blue, live a blue, die a blue. You could insert ’Southender’ as well as and you wouldn’t go far wrong.

I think I have dealt with ’Born a Blue’ in part, but in the 1990s I somehow got to fullfil a small part of ’Live a Blue’ when, through another lifelong friend, Peter Rice, I got a job working on the turnstiles at my beloved Goodison Park. Free pass to all parts of the ground; free seats anywhere I wanted; even a treasured Official Everton Tie to wear on match days. Start at 1:30pm and finish when Z-Cars started.... Blue heaven!

Just to meet and chat to the players as they made their way across the pitch prior to kick off. Meeting and shaking the hands of icons of the club: Dave Hickson; Brian Labone; and once, the best footballer I ever seen, Alex Young the bonus was, I actually got paid for it!

You needed to go into The Wimslow pub in Goodison Road before, during, and after the match, to experience the passion, the humour and especially the warm Guinness. The half-time pass-out session was especially enlightening. Why Walter Smith and Howard Kendall didn’t come over, I don’t know; it was easy, I sorted the defence, Peter sorted the attack and Wally the midfield, all in fifteen minutes and three pints of warm Guinness,

I was finally on the Official Payroll Of Everton Football Club, with an Everton Tie... the old steel fixer would be smiling down on me now. The extras that went with the job are for another day, from stewarding Wembley Specials, to making obnoxious away supporters stand in the pouring rain while I double- and sometimes triple-checked their sodden tickets are memories I will always treasure and some I daren’t repeat!

I am just turned 62 now and I like to think I have mellowed in my old age... but I sometimes doubt it. Despite all my advice to my four Everton mad daughters, three of them decided to marry Kopites. To be fair, they are season-ticket holding kopites and I certainly wouldn’t swap them for the world. They don’t talk about Liverpool to me, and I don’t talk about Liverpool to them and when we do talk about Everton they show me about as much respect as they think they can do!!

But again, you know what I get it: they love and are as passionate for their team as I am for the Blues. Misguided maybe, but passionate... Again, maybe the Bitter Blue stigma raises its head when, I sometimes ponder, why, I am blessed with seven beautiful healthy grandchildren, who all by the way, are pictures of my beautiful daughters and not their husbands, yet six of them take great pride in parading their new Liverpool kits in front of their grandad. They wear a different one every week, they really do. If it’s not a Liverpool kit, it’s a Liverpool tracksuit. It’s red, its yellow, its grey, it’s black....

Ahhhh all except my young blue-eyed 2-year-old Emily. Her mum and her dad Mark also share the faith and have followed the light. Mark has recently worked in such exotic and distant places as Sierra Leone and Nigeria and South Wales, and has spread the Everton word in these far-flung locations around the world, giving out old and new Everton tops and converting the locals to the pleasures of being a Blue. He still reckons South Wales was the hardest, by the way.... only kidding, you Welsh Blues.

As Sod’s law often dictates, one of my daughters has recently landed the position of Senior Buyer at Liverpool Football Club. You couldn’t make it up, could you? Off the beaten track a bit, I know, but to get back to my original observation: Everton Football Club have been a massive part of mine and my family’s lives. I really thought I might lose a bit of passion with age, but you know what: I still get as excited now as I did in 1960. I’m not going to change now and why should I? The legacy started by my Grandad Tommy and his dad before him will live for ever.

My Grandad Tommy, my Dad, my Auntie Annie , and May are a good example of the often misused premise Born a Blue, Live a Blue and Die a Blue all sadly passed away. And all, I am sure, lived a passionate lives, but are now settled in their own Blue Heaven.

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Reader Comments (14)

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Iain Love
1 Posted 02/10/2013 at 08:48:40
Lovely read, Fran, What I like is that even though we're from different generations and different areas, we still shopped in Jack Sharp's and have the same affinity for our grand old club.
Ian Burns
2 Posted 02/10/2013 at 11:33:18
Great read Fran (except it was 1964 when you went to watch EFC v Fulham to win the league, last game of the season).

You write with passion for the Blues (I saw my first game in the late 1950's) and I can see from your words how much this great club means to you. I am totally convinced every blue who reads this article will do what I did and imagine the very scenes you were describing in your article, some identifying with them. I too was at the 1966 Cup Final and I think I was hoarse until the start of the next season!

Well done Fran, I really enjoyed that read - thanks

Tom Bowers
3 Posted 02/10/2013 at 11:57:34
Actually guys, it was 1962-63 season when they first won the league under Catterick with the Vernon hat-trick against Fulham, so the game was actually the final one in 1963. The week previous they had beaten the Hammers at Upton Park 2-1.
Gerry Quinn
4 Posted 02/10/2013 at 11:56:12
Fantastic read, Fran - so many great memories and what a great family you have produced - ever thought about going into management? :)

One point, that both you and Ian seem to be out of kilt with is that Everton were champions in the 62-63 season - that Fulham match must have then been in 63??? is a clip from a website celebrating the anniversary of that match....

The heroes of Everton's 1962/63 championship-winning side will be guests of honour at Goodison Park on Saturday when Everton take on Fulham as the Club marks the impending 50th anniversary of that triumph.

The Golden Vision - Alex Young,, Billy Bingham, Tony Kay and Derek Temple will be among the members of Harry Catterick's squad to attend the game against Fulham the side they defeated to confirm the Club's sixth league title win on 11 May 1963. They will parade on the pitch at half-time.

Tributes will also be paid at half-time to those who have passed away R.I.P.

Harry Catterick (1919-1985)
Brian Labone (1940-2006)
Gordon West (1943-2012)
Albert Dunlop (1932-1990)
Alex Parker (1935-2010)
Alex Scott (1937-2001)
Dennis Stevens (1933-2012)
Roy Vernon (1937-1993)
George Heslop (1940-2006).

Gerry Quinn
5 Posted 02/10/2013 at 12:59:33
...some cracking real LEGENDS in that list...
Clare Bramwell
6 Posted 02/10/2013 at 13:35:52
Hi Fran, my dad is your mate George Bramwell!! I have sent him the link to your article, I'm sure he would be very interested to read this...
Ian Burns
7 Posted 02/10/2013 at 14:32:07
Gerry, both Fran and I stand corrected - you are indeed right it was 1963. Too much gin gone down the throat since then!!

That list you have put up brings a lump to the throat. I can still see that nightmare photo on the back of the Daily Express when dear old Albert let in 10 against Spurs - still a hero in my mind though.

I would like to add just one name if I may Gerry/Fran - that of wee Bobby Collins who was the catalyst in turning EFC into a top half of the table from the bottom half. He joined the club after we had lost the first 6 games of that season and he played in a 3-1 win against Man City of all teams if I recall properly.

Brent Stephens
8 Posted 02/10/2013 at 14:39:29
Fran. What a totally fantastic read! I felt emotional at various points in that. Was there at the 66 final - I can still relive the emotion of the day. And the emotion of that day against Wimbledon. Alex Young - well, nuff said.

But it's not about me. Your memories were great to read. You sound like a cracking guy to know, Fran. Obviously a blue!!

Adam Luszniak
9 Posted 02/10/2013 at 20:36:36
Great piece of writing this, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Thanks Fran.
Paul Kelly
10 Posted 02/10/2013 at 21:43:02
Quality read Fran, quality.
Peter Stone
11 Posted 03/10/2013 at 01:39:28
Fran, thank you so much. This post about your Everton journey reflects a sincerity and honesty that communicates everything that is great about our wonderful club.
Barry Rathbone
12 Posted 03/10/2013 at 22:31:42
Truly classic post Fran, will resonate with every blue of a certain age - oh my that '66 cup final - just wow!.

Captured the essence of our club - defiance, passion and hope, never ending hope come what may.

Young guns take note.

Fergus McCarthy
13 Posted 03/10/2013 at 22:57:58
I too was at the Fulham game in 63, and the Spurs game that Easter when Alex Youing scored in Gwladys Street with a header, and the 66 Cup Final. I am sure they were both yesterday! I had been in the fountains at Trafalfgar Sqaure with my brother and were both dyed blue. Got on the last train back and saw my dad who realised I had had a few drinks. I was a bit young, and he just smiled. He had missed the 1933 final, but did not miss that one!
Roy Steel
14 Posted 17/11/2013 at 16:32:25
I just love all the old stories about the Blues... keep them coming!!!

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