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Our Family Love Sport, Especially Football

By Russell Wynn

I often wondered where the love of the game came from. Maybe my great granddad Tommy, who was born in Sunderland and was a staunch red and white? Maybe my Grandad John James, who visited Wembley 3 times in the 1950’s, each time seeing Newcastle win (alright for some I guess)?

John Wynn – 1903 – 1931

But, in the mists of time lay an individual who was more than just a fan of the game. My great granddad John Wynn was born in Wallsend in 1903. The son of a shipyard rivetter, and the fifth born of eight children, both him and his older brother Jimmy loved to play the beautiful game.

Jimmy could list clubs like Jarrow, Sunderland (on amateur terms), Blyth Spartans, Sheffield Wednesday, Southport, Rotherham, Scunthorpe and Rochdale amongst a career punctuated by the Second World War. Jimmy even held a record for Rochdale scoring in eight successive league games in 1937 which was only equalled recently.

John however, had a slightly more modest career as a footballer playing for Swan Hunter works team, Wallsend and North Shields. In March 1927 he was snapped up by FA Cup Semi Finalists Cardiff City and moved with his wife Ethel and son John James to South Wales. Cardiff won the cup that year, whilst John only played reserve football to see out the 1926-27 season. John seemed to struggle at the professional level and ended up playing for the third team in the Welsh League instead.

In August 1928, the Robins brought John back home to the North East for their 1928-29 North Eastern League Second Division campaign. Scoring 23 goals, John helped the Robins back to the First Division. A transfer back to his hometown club Wallsend came in 1930.

The 1931 closed season saw John partake in the English summer sport of cricket. He and his brother Billy enjoyed watching the gentleman’s sport and on 22 July 1931, John and Billy went to the Holy Cross recreation grounds in Wallsend to watch a friendly game. However, with one team a man short, John was persuaded to play as the eleventh man.

Last to step in and facing his first ball, John was struck a hard blow in the chest by the ball, before turning, taking four steps forward and collapsing. Onlookers carried him to the pavilion, and the local doctor was summoned, but John passed away before the doctor arrived aged just 27 years. John was cruelly taken from his two sons, John James (6) and Leslie Charles (3) and the outpouring of grief from the local sporting community at such a tragic death was touching. Ethel received condolence letters from numerous clubs, including from his former team, North Shields for being “one of the best inside-rights in the league”.

John James, my Grandad, was always proud of his Dad’s football exploits. He named his occupation as professional footballer on his marriage certificate. He didn’t go to football much in his later life, claiming money was ruining the game.

We are all big football fans in our family, hardly a surprise given our history. But we have a special connection to the North East non-league scene, and North Shields thanks to Great Grandad John.

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