The Three Young Blues

The story of Liverpool-born William Gibson Walter Richards and Thomas Whittle who represented Everton in the 1880s

Tony Onslow 18/01/2019 2comments  |  Jump to last

Like any of today’s young football followers, Liverpool-born William Gibson, Walter Richards and Thomas Whittle would have quickly become fascinated with their favourite team, Everton. They would have spent their early teens watching them play on Stanley Park and hoping one day to do so themselves.

They would have observed that Everton had, by 1882, the largest number of spectators milling around the unguarded team playing on this open expanse of Parkland. Next year, when they moved to an enclosure, William Gibson was on their playing staff.

Born in 1862, he appears on the 1871 census living in Everton at 34 Hodder Street with his Liverpool born parents William, a boilermaker, and Anne. The family later moved to 53 Melbourne Street and William was working as a commercial clerk when he first appeared in a competitive game for Everton in December 1883 in the local knockout against Liverpool Ramblers. He scored one of the goals in a 4-1 win. Gibson then helped Everton to reach the final and was in the side that lifted the trophy with a 1-0 win over Earlestown. Next season, he was joined by Richards and Whittle.

Walter Richards was born in 1865, the 3rd child of Robert, an Exeter born seaman, and Anora, who had been born in Liverpool. The family emigrated to North America whose archives confirm they arrived at Ellis Island on 10 July 1868. However, by 1881 they were back in Liverpool and living at 65 Stansfield Road where Walter had begun work in the Grocery Trade.

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Thomas Robson Whittle was baptised on 30 July 1865 at the parish church of St Peter where his parents, Thomas and Rebecca, are recorded as living at 8 Garibaldi Street. By the time of the 1871 census, the family had moved to Elmore street but, by 1881, were neighbours of the Richards family at 78 Stansfield Road. Thomas gave his occupation as a Railway Booking Clerk.

These 2 teenagers, members of the parish of St Benedict, would have possibly been taught to play football by their Curate, William Jackson, before joining Gibson at Everton. The three men are first reported to be playing together, in the forward line, against Burslam Port Vale in September 1884. The Staffordshire club had invited Everton in order to introduce the public to their new sports ground on Moorland Road where around 3,000 people saw them beat the visitors 7-0.

Next week, it was then the turn of Everton to open their new enclosure on Anfield Road with a game against Earlestown. The three young players again lined up together. The two goals scored by Whittle, and one from Richards, helped the home side to win the game 5-0. All three next appeared in the Liverpool Cup tie against Bootle, which Everton won 2-1, and were together again when they again faced Earlestown in the final. They lost the game 1-0.

The last game of any significance that Gibson, Richards and Whittle played together was a 2-1 defeat against FA Cup holders, Blackburn Rovers, at Anfield because, next season, there were wholesale changes at the club.

The Everton executive, thanks to a surplus of gate money, now decided to import experience players with a promise of paying them for their services. George Dobson first arrived from Bolton while George Farmer and “Job” Wilding joined him from North Wales. Gibson and Richards assisted the club in the local knockout but it was only Gibson who appeared in the final as Everton beat Bootle 1-0. These 3 local men, due to the increase of imported players, now made only the occasional appearance in the Everton ranks before returning to everyday life.

John Robson Whittle was living at 30 Dacy Road when, on 29 September 1890, he married fellow parishioner Catherine Gatcliffe at the church of St Saviour on Breckfield Road North. The couple set up home at 102 Belmont Road where their two children, Thomas and Rebecca, were born. John Whittle was residing at this address when he died on 19 January 1895.

Walter Richards was living at 74 Rockfield Road in Everton when, on 3 July 1901, he married Elizabeth Reen at the church of St James in West Derby Village. The 1911 census finds the couple living at 26 Monastery Road, Clubmoor, where the head of household is working as a Commercial Clerk. Walter Richards died in December 1927.

William John Gibson, at the time of the 1891 census, was living with his Parents, and their other 4 children, at Barlows Lane in Walton but by 1901, as the head of household, was living at 50 Garnell Avenue in Kirkdale. According to the 1911 census, he was employed as a Merchants Clerk, still unmarried, and living at Curzon Road in Waterloo. William Gibson, the last of the 3 young blues, died in 1929.

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Reader Comments (2)

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Tony Sullivan
1 Posted 19/01/2019 at 12:59:18
More historical insights into the early EFC years.

Interesting to note how the club in its early years used youngsters from the locality, it would be fascinating to know what match day routines were in those days?

Elmore Street and Stansfield Road were two streets on my paper round in the late fifties. Also I was born in The Westminster pub not far from Barlows Lane.

Thank you, Tony, for another great historical perspective.

Peter Fearon
2 Posted 19/01/2019 at 17:40:48
Tony, do you know if Alan Whittle, who had a short but illustrious career at Everton, was a descendant of John Robson Whittle or at least part of the same family, or if the name is simply a coincidence?

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