The Goodison Bugler’s Last Post – The Life of Francis Hamill

Rob Sawyer recalls the man who provided the Toffees with their own musical soundtrack in the late 1920s and 1930s

Rob Sawyer 11/11/2023 12comments  |  Jump to last

To my delight, Everton FC has eschewed the use of in-match music to spur on the team or celebrate a goal. However, many decades before the English national team started being accompanied by a band, the Toffees had their own musical soundtrack provided by a Francis Henry Hamill, a bugler.

Born on 2 December 1894, Hamill hailed from Belfast and in 1901 was listed as living with his parents and siblings on Cairns Street, Falls Ward. He served in the First World War – moving across from the Army to the RAF in October 1918. One assumes that he honed his musical skills while engaged in service for his country. His brother, Joseph, was killed in 1916 serving with the Royal Field Artillery and is buried at Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery.

Once de-mobbed after the end of the war, he moved to Liverpool with his wife, Margaret (née Ennis). The couple raised three daughters (Frances, Veronica and Margaret) in the city. On the 1921 census, the Hamill family was living at 47 Holborn Street (a 10-minute walk from the heart of the Everton district) – his occupation was given as a ‘general labourer (out of work)’ with the Mersey Harbour Board’s wool warehouse. Five years later, the Hamills were living at 16 Cranmer Street, prior to moving on to 38 Paget Street.

With the move to Merseyside came a firm attachment to the Blues – and Hamill chose to start bringing his bugle with him to matches, probably in the late 1920s. Normally sat in the Park End stand, he would sound the charge when Everton were on the attack. It drew the attention of George Green, the celebrated Liverpool Echo illustrator. Soon, Hamill started to regularly feature in his humorous cartoon strip, which appeared in the newspaper and, later, in the official match-day programme.

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After the war, Hamill’s bugling appearances at Goodison Park became sporadic, as commented upon in George Green’s cartoons. Supporters did not forget him though; a fellow Toffee wrote to the BBC suggesting that he feature in Noises from Home – a regular radio feature intended to give British forces personnel stationed overseas something familiar to listen to. He duly appeared on the programme in April 1951, playing his instrument. As the Liverpool Echo commented: ‘It should bring back happy memories for Everton supporters in uniform overseas.’

Francis Hammill death notice

On 4 February 1953 came the sad news that Francis Hamill – at this point living at 45 Foley Street, an easy stroll from Goodison Park – had passed away unexpectedly. He was buried 5 days later in Ford Cemetery. The death notice in the Echo stated, touchingly, ‘Bugler’s Last Call’.

George Green Echo cartoon

George Green Echo cartoon

George Green Echo cartoon

George Green Echo cartoon

George Green Echo cartoon

Three decades after Francis Hamill’s death, his nephew, Errol Smalley, was – with his wife, Theresa – heavily involved in the campaign for the overturning of the convictions of the so-called Guildford Four (Smalley was related to Paul Hill, one of the four). They were incarcerated for the Provisional IRA pub bombings in the Surrey town in October 1974, which claimed the lives of five people and injured 65. The Guildford Four were released in 1989.

If anyone has further information about Francis Hamill and any surviving relatives, please get in touch with Rob via the ToffeeWeb editors. Likewise, please get in touch if anything requires correcting.

Liverpool Echo
Everton matchday programme
Find My Past
Ancestry/Brian McCaul

Reader Comments (12)

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Paul Birmingham
1 Posted 11/11/2023 at 22:38:38
Thanks Rob, for another excellent story of the history of Everton FC.
Phil Parker
2 Posted 12/11/2023 at 10:54:00
Brilliant Rob. Never knew the man's name but knew of him.

In the Beatles Anthology book, Paul writes of going to Goodison with his Uncles, and mentions the bugler playing "Over the mountains, over the sea" when a shot went well over the bar.

Great to finally read about the Goodison bugler.

John Keating
3 Posted 12/11/2023 at 12:15:34
Yet another great read.

Thanks Rob and well done!

Chris Jones (Burton on Trent)
4 Posted 12/11/2023 at 12:23:36
Simply marvellous.
Andrew McLawrence
5 Posted 12/11/2023 at 17:47:23
Always great to read about a fellow Ulsterman. Fantastic work Rob!
Peter Mills
6 Posted 12/11/2023 at 21:26:49
A poignant read this weekend. Thanks Rob.
Mike Hanlon
7 Posted 13/11/2023 at 23:07:02
Another great read, thanks Rob. Fantastic insight and research again.
Danny O’Neill
8 Posted 14/11/2023 at 07:53:19
Thank you Rob. A great recollection.

As I've mentioned, my Grandfather originated from Belfast, moving to Portrush before leaving for Liverpool. He settled in Garston before moving to Speke and then spending his later years on Arkles Lane in Anfield.

He too became an Evertonian and for a while was a season ticket holder in the Upper Bullens.

Always poignant on the back of the past weekend, he fought in Burma but would never speak about it, so I never asked.

I like the idea of a bugel before Z-Cars rather than that siren thing. We'd just have to get the tune right (not the last post!).

Thanks again. Great post.

Tom Hughes
9 Posted 15/11/2023 at 07:45:18
Great article. Sounds like he was a real character.
Rob Halligan
10 Posted 15/11/2023 at 09:21:21
Great to read about a fan from days gone by, rather than an ex player.

Talking of the siren, Danny, I was watching Mr Drone's latest video on the new stadium, and apparently there is an air raid siren attached to the hydraulic tower, a Gents of Leicester Tangent Civil Defence Siren to be exact.

I doubt very much it's still in working order, but it would be great if it could be repaired and used to warn fans still outside the stadium that the teams are coming out. Obviously not as loud as it was when used during wartime.

Danny O’Neill
11 Posted 15/11/2023 at 09:33:42
I hope it's loud and early Rob as I will still be at the Goodison Supper Bar.

I dip for the line to make Z-Cars at Goodison a lot of the time.

Margaret Cheeseman
12 Posted 16/02/2024 at 13:51:10
Hi Rob,

My great great granddad was Francis Hamill. My mum Veronica is his daughter's daughter, who had 14 children.

It was so nice to come across this story of my great great granddad, my mum always told me he used to busk. You can contact me to give you names of my aunties and uncles.

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