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I could have been a contender - The Vic Gill Story

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The Bill Hicks Appreciation Society:
My Uncle seems to value my literary opinion on stuff, and sent me the first two chapters of his life story in progress. After reading chapter 2 I thought it may be of interest to rawkites so i've decided to cut and paste it here. So hope you don't mind Unc (don't be sueing me for breach of confidentiality and please take the title of the thread in the humour it's intended ;) ).

Introduction
August 7th 1943, a wet and windy evening in Liverpool, at approximately 7pm I arrived in this world in the delivery room of the Liverpool Royal Infirmary. I am the second son of Henry and Ada Gill and my name is Victor. I have an elder brother Derek Henry Gill who was born on the 24th April 1939 and I had a younger brother Michael, he died not long after being born in 1949.

We are now in the year 2005 and in August I will be 62yrs.old. I have decided to put the intervening years into a book, my life story so far. I am an ordinary working man but I have had my moments just like any normal person and I would like to put these years on record for my children and grandchildren in the hope that they will know and understand something of my life

Chapter 1
1943-1953
The Second World War was in full swing when I was born and for the first four years of my life we lived with my grandparents (my mother’s parents) at 110 Scarisbrick Drive in the Norris Green district of Liverpool. My grandparents, Stephen Arnold and Ada Elizabeth Woolley had six children of their own, four girls, Clare, Ada, Edna and Carol the two boys were Victor (Who I was named after) and Dave. Clare, Ada (my mother) and Edna were married, Clare lived away from home, Edna was in the WRAF (Women’s Royal Air Force), Vic the eldest son was in the Royal Navy and I am told that he was in the S.B.S (Special Boat Service) during the war. Dave and Carol were the two youngest children, Dave was eighteen months older than me and Carol was eighteen months younger than me. Derek, my brother was the eldest of the quartet. My mum and Clare worked in the Royal Ordinance Factory, as did lots of women at that time doing their bit for the war effort, my father was in the Royal Air Force and away from home so from a very early age I was in nursery school, Leamington road nursery school just up the road from where we lived, I remember a young girl of about ten or eleven yrs.old was paid about threepence a week to bring me home from the nursery every afternoon and during the winter I remember coming home in the dark and sitting on the living room floor without any lights on in front of a coal fire and just staring at the flames, it was very peaceful.

I also have vague memories of being in the air raid shelter, nothing specific, just images that are not very clear. I suppose in those days people had to earn money anyway they could (there wasn’t any welfare state at that time) but the street singer used to frighten the life out of me, we would be out playing in the street with  our friends, you could hear him before you could see him and I would run and hide, I don’t know why but he scared me, all he was doing I suppose was trying to get some money for his family, he would walk down the middle of the street singing with his cap held out in front of him, some of the people would come out of their houses and put a penny or a halfpenny in the cap. The rag and bone man with his horse and cart was another familiar site, we would rush indoors, get a bucket and spade and follow him waiting for the horse to do a poo, we would shovel it into the bucket and grandy would give us a penny for it, he would put it on his roses and Rhubarb in the garden. There weren’t many cars about in those days so the street was a fairly safe place to play, not much chance of being run over by a horse and cart. Another method we had for earning some pocket money was collecting jam jars, we would go from house to house with our little steering cart that grandy made us, asking people for their empty jam jars then we would take them to the jam factory (Hartleys) which was not too far away and get some money for them. I don’t ever remember going without food though, we kids always came first and my mum was a great cook, but every day we had to line up in the kitchen and take a table spoon of cod liver oil, yuk!!

The Gill family arrived in Liverpool from Cork in Southern Ireland and settled in a council house in Elstead Road on the “Sparrow Hall Estate” Norris Green, about half a mile from where my mum’s family lived. My father was one of thirteen children, he was born on May 12th 1914 I’m not sure whether my father was born in Ireland or Liverpool, he was christened Henry Gerard Gill (Sonny was his nickname). I never met my grandfather, he was a Major in the army and earned his commission on the battlefields of the First World War, but I have been told since that he was a cruel man, he left his family and went to America where he joined “the Al Capone gang” and worked in the bootlegging business for him. He was caught and deported for “Mafia Connections”, apparently he returned to America when prohibition was ended. My father told me that when his dad left the family, he had to leave school, it was a shame because he had won a scholarship to King David Catholic School (you only gained entry to this school if your parents had the money or you passed their entrance exam). He got work in a fair ground boxing booth where people from the crowd were invited to fight on the promise that if you lasted three rounds with their fighter you could win money, my dad used to fight four or five times a night to earn the money to help the family eat.

I was quite frightened of my “Ninny” I can’t really say why but perhaps it was because she was always dressed in black, she had moles on her face, her hair was always pulled back into a pony tail and she looked quite severe and never smiled, well not that I recall. I remember standing behind my dads chair, afraid to talk to her. I have since learned that she was a lovely lady who worked very hard to bring up her family. I remember on one of our visits to Ninny’s I was running up the garden path and tripped, I hit my forehead on the front door step and dad carried me to the main road, flagged down a car and asked the driver to take us to hospital, the cut was stitched and I still have the scar today. The reason for such infrequent visits to our Ninns was that my father, a catholic had married my mum, a protestant, not a good mix, dad had been kind of ostracized from his family, on all our visits to our Ninns I don’t remember mum being with us.

In 1947 we moved into our own council house on a newly built estate called “Cantril Farm” in the West Derby district of Liverpool. It was a great place, right on the edge of Lord Sefton’s Estate “Croxteth Hall” a massive place with woods and fields with the river Alt running through it, I was going to get to know it very well. A new house meant a new school, I started at Colwell Road Infants but soon moved to a newly built school just five minutes from our house, “Cantril Farm County Primary School” in Mab Lane. It was here that my love of football was born and nourished, like most kids I had played football in the street and the playground at school but I had never played really competitive football before. The first season the school played in the league I was too young to be selected but I would watch all their home games on the school playing field. I also learned to love reading there, we had spelling tests, reading tests and our homework every night was to complete the children’s crossword in “The Liverpool Echo”. Miss Welsh, the headmistress encouraged my love of reading, I remember one day in her office I had just completed my reading and spelling test, she told me that I had a reading age of a fourteen year old, I was only nine. I read lots of books, the Enid Blyton “Famous Five” series, Just William and Billy Bunter at Greyfriars, I was not allowed to read the Beano or Dandy, (children’s comics) but dad didn’t mind me reading The Eagle or the Hotspur, I suppose they were The Times or The Telegraph of children’s comics. Anyway I loved the school and it was a joy to go there every day.

. I was now old enough to be considered for the school football team, after a few games Mr. Masheter (I think that’s how it was spelt) made me captain, I scored lots of goals, I can’t remember how many but it was a lot and we won the league.  Coronation Day 1953, there were street parties all over Britain and I went to two of them, first we went to the party in Scarisbrick Drive and then came home to Feltwood Road and joined in the party there, it was a great day and my mum won the “Mums egg and spoon race”. The following season we had a different team at Cantril Farm most of the boys had completed their primary education and moved on to Secondary education but we were doing ok in the league, then in January 1954 I got a terrible shock, along with all the other kids of my age group I had to sit “The Revue”, a mock exam for the eleven plus and I didn’t do very well. Miss Welsh described me as a borderline case and was reluctant to put me forward to take the eleven plus, my father was called to the school to discuss the problem and he insisted that I take the exam, he told Miss Welsh that he would make sure that I would not let the school down and for the next two or three months I wasn’t allowed out after school, I had to study while all my mates were playing football in the street.

It was worth it though because I passed the exam with the highest marks in the whole school, ninety six percent if I remember rightly, Miss Welsh was very impressed if not a little shocked and I know my dad was pleased because he took me to town and bought me a present, a very rare event. I was actually only 10yrs old when I sat the 11 plus I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing football in the street or on the fields off Mab Lane, this is where the big lads played, so when me and my mate finished playing Robin Hood in the woods we would ask the lads if we could join in their game. I was playing football with my mates in the street one evening and two women walked passed and one said to the other “look at the legs on that lad, they’re like tree trunks”. I even made a goal in our back garden and my mum sewed a load of onion bags together to make a net, it was a sound I loved to hear, the ball hitting the net. We had a brick built outside toilet as well as one indoors (posh eh) and my dad would get me to kick the ball against the wall using right foot left foot continuous for what seemed an age and it paid off because I was one of the very few two footed players in all of the teams I played for. He watched a lot of the games I played and sometimes would embarrass the life out of me, making sure that anyone in earshot would know that I was his son. When I think back to those times, which I do occasionally, I realize that he was just proud of me and it makes me smile.

Chapter 2
1954-1964

I was just eleven years old when I started the second phase of my education in September 1954 at “Old Swan Secondary Technical School”, I think my dad chose this school because he wanted me to follow in his footsteps and become an engineer. All the teachers wore the mortarboard and gown, it was a bit overpowering at first and the discipline was quite strict, the cane was used for any misbehavior and I received my fare share over the years. The most pleasing thing for me was the football, the school had a good reputation for providing “The Liverpool Schoolboys” football team with some fine players and the whole of Tuesday afternoon was set aside for football, the sports master split all the first year boys into “Houses”, Whitworth, Faraday, Telford and Newton and we played against each other, I was put in Whitworth House and fortunately the sports master had put some good players in with me. The school team was then selected from these games but to my surprise he picked me to play centre half and even more surprising I enjoyed it, in those days tactics were not really employed, the rule of thumb was, if you were tubby you were a full back, if you were nippy and small then you were a winger, inside forward or half back, big and strong, either centre half or centre forward, not exactly rocket science but it seemed to work.

I was placed in class 1A, I suppose because of the high marks I got in the eleven plus exam but alas this would not continue, while I was building a reputation on the football field, academically I was not so hot, not that I was stupid, but I spent a lot of time thinking about football, day dreaming if you like, I would think about playing at Anfield, the home of my favourite football club, Liverpool FC. On one occasion our English teacher, Mr. Jones asked us to write an essay on what we wanted to be when we left school, while all the other boys wrote about being engineers, scientists, draughtsmen and architects, I wrote about being a professional footballer, playing in front of thousands of people every week, scoring the winning goal in the FA cup final, playing for England and earning £20 per week. My favourite subjects were History and Geography, most of the other subjects I was ok with, except Maths, I was very good at Arithmetic and Mental arithmetic, but Algebra was a foreign language to me, I remember one day Mr. Thompson, our maths teacher almost having a nervous breakdown after I asked why, a+b=c, he screamed at me “Gill don’t question why boy, just accept it” it wasn’t the first time I had asked this question and he was quite red in the face.

We didn’t get a television set until I was twelve years old, in pre television days we listened to the radio or the wireless as it was called then, you really had to use your imagination and they put on great plays, Oliver Twist, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Dick Barton Special Agent and one of my great favourites Dan Dare Pilot of The Future, on Saturday night after the sports results we would listen to In Town Tonight, a variety show, singers and comedians, on Sunday there was Family favourites followed by comedy, Round the Horn, Life with the Lyons, Jimmy Clitheroe, the Ken Dodd show and Archie Andrews, can you imagine, a ventriloquist on the radio, but it was great, the first soap opera on the air in Britain was “The Archers” an everyday story of country folk, I believe it is still running to this day and another, “Mrs. Dales Diary”. I t was lovely, those cold winter evenings sitting on the settee in front of a roaring fire listening to the radio. It was on one such evening that I thought my dad had lost the plot, he made my brother and I go out of the house and stand on the path to the front door, he gave us an empty suitcase and told us that we were salesmen and we had to gain entry to the house by talking our way in, one at a time we had to knock at the door and when he answered we had to explain what we had in our suitcase and ask if it was possible to come inside and give a demonstration of whatever we had told him was in the suitcase. I don’t think I ever made it passed the front doorstep, I couldn’t talk for laughing but Derek made it every time, he went on to become a really top class salesman.

Croxteh Hall (Lord Sefton’s Estate) me and my mates had this wonderful place as an enormous playground and we used all of it even the places marked private, there was one time when the gamekeeper caught us bird nesting (collecting eggs from birds nests) he frog marched us up to this sign that said PRIVATE and said to me “what does that say” I replied “PRIVETS” so he let us go, calling us ignorant little bastards. There was a program on television at the time called “Robin Hood” and we kids had the perfect setting to play it in, we would all take turns in playing Robin Hood except for one boy who always played Maid Marion, I don’t suppose we understood at the time why he always wanted to play the girl but his sister wasn’t pleased because he pinched her dresses and make up. I met Rodney many years later on in life and he was really gay.

I was now in class 2B, not so much pressure on me to do very well but I still couldn’t grasp the algebra or logarithms and pi equals something squared, I don’t know what, but I was playing some great football, I was now captain of the school team and we won the Echo cup, a trophy donated by the Liverpool Echo Newspaper and played for by all the schools in Liverpool. I had now reached the age were I qualified to play for the Liverpool Schoolboys football team and it was during a maths lesson that the school secretary entered the class and said that the headmaster wanted to see me in his office right away, I was a bit worried because as I left the class I looked back and Mr. Thompson had a wicked gleam in his eyes, I knocked on the headmasters door and heard “come”, I went in and he told me that the Liverpool Schools Football Committee had enquired about my availability to represent the City in the football team, well you can imagine how I felt, absolutely thrilled, he continued saying that he had rejected the request because he felt that my academics were suffering through my silly notion about being a footballer, he said that I had to devote more of my grey matter to my studies and to get rid of my ridiculous dreams of wanting to play professional football. I was shattered, to represent your city at whatever sport you excel at is a great honour, the next step would have been Lancashire Schoolboys and then England Schoolboys, well I spent the rest of the day in a haze and spent even less time thinking of my studies, if that were possible.

At the beginning of the new school year September 1956 we were moved to a brand new building on Queens Drive and our new school name was West Derby Secondary Technical School, everything was brand new and the workshops (Metalwork and Woodwork) were something else. I am sure that some engineering firms would have given their eyeteeth for the machinery that we had to play with, the Physics/Science and Chemistry laboratories were brilliant, the sports facilities were to die for, it was a very special school, but I started my third year in class 3C and continuing my steady decline while everything else seemed to be on the way up, sport was my thing and I represented the school at football, cricket, boxing, swimming and athletics (Shot Put and Javelin) our P.E. teacher at that time was Ken Box, an athlete at the 1952 Olympics and he designed a special badge for any pupil who represented the school at two or more sports, I wore mine with great pride.

At the age of twelve I joined “The Boys Brigade”, I had heard that they had a useful football team, so there I was private Gill of the 70th Liverpool company playing football twice a week now, Saturday mornings for the school and Saturday afternoons for the boys Brigade (centre half for the school and centre forward for the Boys Brigade).In my first season for the 70th I scored over 80 goals and we won the cup and the league, we were a very good team and won some of our matches by ridiculous score lines. In one particular game we won 19-0 and I scored eleven goals, we won the cup final by 6-0, we were a very good team. I have been a Liverpool fan for as long as I can remember and in early 1957 I received a letter inviting me to go for trials to Liverpool FC. I, had received several offers for trials, Everton, Oldham Athletic, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End being some of the clubs interested, but there was only one club for me, Liverpool. On the day of the trial I was very nervous and was cuffed around the head a few times for not paying attention in class. I don’t know why but I had never told anyone about the trial and it was a very long day in school. I turned up at Melwood (the Liverpool Training ground) a very nervous boy. I remember there were about 100 boys there mostly older than me and certainly bigger. The man in charge explained that they were going to have four matches playing at the same time and would we please pay attention because he was going to read out the eight teams, those boys not selected initially would be used to replace boys as and when the coaches thought fit. Four teams were to play in red and four in white. By this time I was having problems controlling my nerves and he started to call out the teams in the order of play, i.e. Goalkeeper, full backs, half backs and forwards. I felt that there had been a terrible mistake when I heard my name called for the red team in the position of left half, I said to the man (Bob Paisley) “excuse me I think you have made mistake, I play centre forward or centre half”, he replied “no mistake son that’s where you’re playing” I didn’t argue but felt a little bit hard done by.

The games started and after about ten minutes the nerves had gone and I was really enjoying it, I knew I was playing well and I still get little flashbacks of the game today. I wasn’t taken off and finished the whole game, as we left the pitch Mr. Paisley asked me if I would like to sign for Liverpool FC, he explained that because of my age they would need my fathers signature on the forms as well as mine and that I would be the second youngest player ever to sign for Liverpool FC, the youngest being a full back called Ray Lambert. I was so happy, after all those years going to Anfield to watch my heroes playing, Billy Liddell, Alan A’Court, Jimmy Melia, Dick White, Laurie Hughes, Geoff Twentymen, John Evans, Charlie Ashcroft, Ray Lambert, Johnny Wheeler, Jimmy Harrower and big Louis Bimpson, I was now part of the same club, I would see my heroes up close and personal, to even tread the same grass, I even tried to walk like Billy Liddell. A footballer, it was the only thing I wanted to be and I had put my foot on the first rung of that ladder.

Liverpool FC were in the second division of the football league, having been relegated in from the first division in 1954, the man given the task of getting the club back into the first division was an ex Liverpool and England wing half called Phil Taylor who very rarely showed up at any of the junior team training sessions or matches. I remember one Tuesday evening training session in particular, a coach pulled in to the car park at Melwood and this guy stepped down from the coach and said to Tom Bush in a very posh voice” could you get some of your lads together to give my team  a game “, apparently the English league were going to play the Irish league at Anfield the following evening and the guy in charge of the English was none other than Walter Winterbottom, the manager of the English international team,  so there I was lined up to play against players that I loved to watch every Saturday, I still remember that team, it was Colin McDonald(Burnley) in goal, Don Howe(West Brom) right Back, Bernard Shaw(Sheffield Utd.)left back)Johnny Wheeler(Liverpool)right half, Joe Shaw(Sheffield Utd.) centre half, Wilf McGuiness(Man Utd) left half, Jimmy Harris(Everton)right wing, Jimmy Melia(Liverpool)inside right, Len White(Newcastle Utd.) centre forward, Johnny Haynes(Fulham)inside left and Alan A’Court(Liverpool)outside left.. We drew 1-1 but the following evening they beat the Irish league 5-1.at Anfield.

One of my dad’s favourite sayings was “If you don’t put anything in, you don’t get anything out” so he used to get me out of bed at six am every week day morning and I would run around Lord Sefton’s Estate about five or six miles. It hurt at the beginning but it was a lovely run, so peaceful and quiet except for the birds and sometimes his lordship out riding with family and friends, dad would have a hot bath ready for me when I got home and while I was having my bath he would cook my breakfast, two snotty eggs and crispy bacon just the way I didn’t like it, he couldn’t cook to save his life but I would eat it all, I couldn’t hurt his feelings. I have a lot of good memories of my dad, I know he wasn’t perfect but then who is, it was later on in life that I realised he only wanted the best for me and god knows he tried really hard.

I got myself a job at the local news agents delivering newspapers around our estate, it gave me some extra pocket money, I started about 7-30am every week day and when I finished went to school. The Sunday papers were hard work because they were so much thicker than the daily’s but I thought it was also good extra training after the morning run, I remember one particular Sunday morning I was about to finish my round when I met my mum getting off the bus, she had spent all night at the hospital, her mum, my Nan, was very ill and had been in hospital for some time as I met mum I could see by her face all was not well, she told me Nan had died during the night.

1959, I had been at Liverpool now for a little over two seasons and the club were still in the second division, it was December and Mr. Taylor had been sacked or resigned, I can’t remember which, but either way it was a good decision. Tuesdays and Thursdays were the training nights for the amateurs and part time professionals, it was a Tuesday and I had arrived early, I made this a habit because I liked to warm up with a few laps before training started, this particular evening I got changed into my training gear and went down stairs to the toilets to have a pee, while I was there this old guy came down and stood next to me, he had training kit on and I thought bloody hell they’re signing some old players, he said to me in a broad Scottish accent “how old are you son” I replied “sixteen “ and he said “aye yer a big lad”, we went out onto the pitch together and did a few laps we chatted while we jogged along and he seemed quite a nice bloke, by this time all the other lads had turned up and I returned to the changing rooms to have a chat with my mates, I was approaching the changing rooms when Eli the grounds man came up to me and called me a suckhole, I laughed and said why, he said that’s the new boss Bill Shankly. The following week we were playing a mid week match at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool. I can’t remember why we were playing mid week because it was unusual but I remember in the team that night were Tommy Lawrence, Tommy Smith, Ian Callaghan, Willie Carlin, Frank Twist and a few other very good players. While we were changing, Tom Bush who was in charge of the team that night said “the new boss is coming to watch and he’s going to say a few words before you go out”. This was quite a surprise to us because in the previous two years we had rarely seen Phil Taylor or spoken to him. Bill Shankly entered the dressing room and while we were waiting for the pearls of football wisdom to be bestowed on us he said “ok lads keep it simple and pass to a red shirt”. We did and we won 3-2.

I think it is safe to say that all the part time and amateur players on Liverpool’s books were a little surprised to have the boss run our training sessions and talk to us, it certainly hadn’t happened before in my time there. The training sessions were now enjoyable and there was lots of ball play and exercise with the balls and we could talk to the boss just like the first teamers, great. I played in every position for the Liverpool junior teams, goal keeper included, Ruben Bennett said that I would make a good goal keeper, Joe Fagan liked me playing forward and Bob Paisley insisted that I would be a very good wing half, even saying to me that if I progressed well I could be a second Duncan Edwards, who was also one of my heroes. He was killed in the Munich air disaster in February 1958; he was the youngest player to play for Manchester United and England. He was a great player and the night he died I cried myself to sleep. I was very lucky to be around at that time, every team had great players.

I had left school and was working as an apprentice fitter for a company called “Davies, Pritchard and Richmond”. The factory was at the back of Liverpool Airport and they made lifts and conveyors, although I wasn’t very keen on becoming an engineer it was a very good company to work for and the lads were a great bunch, we all got on very well. Along with some fitters I was sent to Scotland to install a conveyor belt in a nuclear power station at Hunterston on the west coast of Scotland, we stayed in a town called Largs, we had a decent hotel but it was a bit of a one horse town, not much to do really but I had made friends with a guy called Ted from Newcastle and one Saturday evening we went for a stroll around the town, we were making our way back to the hotel when a gang of blokes jumped out of a shop doorway and gave us a bit of a fright, there were six of them and they followed us ,shouting and swearing, I said to Ted “can you smell anything” and the really gobby one amongst them shouted back” aye you can smell six scotch tims”,(apparently a Tim was a roman catholic Scot) well I didn’t know what they meant but I knew we were in trouble, they had made a semi-circle around us, we had our backs to a bus shelter so I said to Ted in the roughest Liverpudlian accent I could muster “you take them three Ted and I’ll have big mouth and the other two” well the gobby one said “you boys from Liverpool? Ian StJohn, Ronny Yates, Bill Shankly, sorry lads “and started to hug us and just went on about Liverpool FC. They explained that they were players for Glasgow Celtic and that they had come to Largs for a weekend break with the club. The tallest of them all was the goalkeeper, Frank Haffey, he played in goal for Scotland the day England beat them 9-1 and the mouthy one was Pat Crerand who went on to play for Manchester Utd. What a player he was, we stayed there quite a few months and I played a few games for the local team, Largs Thistle, with the permission of Liverpool FC of course.

The city of Liverpool started to come alive around this time, music, clubs and dance halls, you could go to any club or dance hall and dance to fantastic groups, the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, Freddie Starr and the Midnighters and many more. It was a great time and I was easily led, my mates would be going out for a night of fun and I would be going training, I had joined a club in West Derby Village called “The Lowlands” it was a big house that had been converted, The cellar was where all the groups played and we danced, the other floors were used as coffee lounges and sitting rooms, no alcohol was served but we didn’t need it anyway the atmosphere was just great and it was here that I discovered girls (I was a bit of a late starter).Training became a bit of a chore and it wasn’t long before I caved in to my mates and started missing a few training sessions, we would go to the clubs in the city centre, The Cavern and The Mardi Gras, great clubs, great music and lovely girls. I would sometimes turn up for a game not having slept all night, I didn’t realize at first but the coaches soon noticed that I wasn’t playing my usual game and then my name disappeared from the team sheets, it was during the close season of 1962 that I waited in vain for my letter telling me to report for pre-season training. It was all over for me at Liverpool, at first I blamed the club but it eventually dawned on me that I had cocked up again and that I had slid down that very exciting ladder. I started the next season with a non league team called Winsford Utd and had a couple of enjoyable seasons there. I floated round the non league for a few years and earned a few bob on top of my wages, a kind of “have boots will travel”. When I look back now I wish that would have had the dedication and self discipline to take the chance that was offered to me at Liverpool, but there it is, I didn’t and I only blame myself for not realizing my dream.

n truth I have to say that I was very happy just to be playing football and little did I know then that Bill Shankly was going to return into my life under rather different circumstances.

I had a particular mate during my time at Liverpool, his name was Bobby Oldham and he lived right next door to the entrance to the Everton training ground in Bellefield Avenue, the very same road where the Shankly family lived. Bobby and I would occasionally play head tennis in the entrance to Bellefield and sometimes this young girl would come and watch, we chatted to her and she told us her name was Barbara Shankly, she seemed to have a crush on Bobby but she was too young and was also the boss’s daughter. I met her again in the club that I mentioned before “The Lowlands” in West Derby Village and we would have a dance and a coffee, nothing serious and sometimes I would walk her home, it was only a ten minute walk from the club to her house, and just say goodnight and then catch the bus home. She was a strange girl, she could be really good company and had a great sense of humour one night and quiet and moody the next time I saw her, anyway as I said it wasn’t serious and I just looked upon her as a friend in those first  years
But eventually it got a little more serious and we started dating we would go to the cinema or the club and sometimes for a drink in the city centre. It was quite a strange relationship really, sometimes we would have a row over something stupid and wouldn’t see each other for a while and then we would get back together again. By the time I was twenty one years old and Barbara was eighteen our relationship was very serious and I asked her to marry me and she said yes, it was 1964, Mr. and Mrs. Shankly gave their approval and a date was set for the summer of 1965.

It was December 1964 and I had arranged to meet Barbara at her house and we would go for a drink in West Derby village, nothing heavy because I was playing football the next day. I arrived at the house and was shown into the living room by Mrs. Shankly, I asked her if Barbara was ready and she said no, Barbara was in bed not feeling very well, I asked what the matter was and was told that Barbara was pregnant. I went upstairs and we had a chat for a while, she seemed quite pleased and I have to admit I was a bit chuffed myself, after about half an hour I left and Mrs. Shankly said that I should return the following evening, Mr. Shankly was not there because Liverpool had a game against Stoke City in Stoke the following day. I played in a match on the Saturday afternoon but my heart wasn’t really in it, I turned up at the Shankly home in the evening not knowing what to expect, strangely, I felt just as nervous as I did all those years ago waiting for Mr. Paisley to read out the teams.

Mr. Shankly arrived home and the first thing he did was to give me two loaves of bread, I’ll explain, at the time all the major bakeries in Liverpool were on strike and you couldn’t get a loaf for love nor money. I remember thinking” what a decent bloke to think of my family when he must have had a thousand other things to think about”. After his meal Mrs.Shankly broke the news to him and there was an ominous silence, Mr. Shankly paced up and down behind the settee that I was sitting on, I was waiting for a punch in the back of my head or at least have the bread taken off me, then he said “well it happens in the best of families”. I was a bit shocked but very relieved.

I was to have another shock within a week but this one has stayed with me all of my life so far, I mentioned at the beginning of this story that we lived with my grandparents in Scarisbrick Drive and that they had two young children Dave and Carol. Dave and I were only eighteen months apart so I suppose it was natural that we mated up, we played together as I mentioned earlier and we grew up together and both of us supported Liverpool FC as did all the family. Dave and I would go out to the clubs and pubs with our mates and if I wasn’t playing on Saturday afternoons through injury then we would go and stand on the Kop and cheer on the reds. Normally he would come and watch me play, if we were playing locally. Sunday 20th December 1964 he didn’t turn up to watch me play, one of our friends Jeff Fendle had just passed his driving test and had bought himself a car, he asked Dave to go for a Sunday lunch drink at a pub in Ormskirk just outside Liverpool, on the way there they crashed into a big articulated lorry and Dave was killed, he was twenty three years old, what a terrible waste of life. When I think about him I see him just the way he was, good looking, great smile, black curly hair and always making me laugh, he was a great artist and he taught himself to play Spanish guitar. I had seen Dave for the last time on the Saturday evening prior to the accident when I told him about Barbara being pregnant, he told me not to worry and that everything would be ok, he asked me how Mr. Shankly had taken the news, I told him what had happened the previous week and he said “bloody great, typical of shanks”. Dave was convinced that Liverpool would win the FA Cup under Shankly; it was a trophy that Liverpool had never won in its entire history. We did, but Dave missed it by five months.

About a week or so after Dave’s Funeral I was leaving the Shankly’s house when Mr. Shankly called me back and said that Mrs. Shankly was having great difficulty living with the fact that we were having a church wedding and that Barbara would walk down the aisle in a white dress, Barbara was just as determined that she would, Mr. Shankly asked me to talk to Barbara about it he said that if we cancelled the church wedding and had a register office wedding instead he would give us the deposit on a house, any house of our choosing. I told Barbara what her dad had offered, pointing out that all our friends would have a great day out and we would end up homeless, after giving it some thought she agreed and we went house hunting. We found a lovely three bed roomed terrace house in Inigo Road just off Queens Drive in the Stoneycroft district, it was £2,200 and only a ten minute walk from the Shankly home, I think Nessie was beginning to like me.  Mr Shankly paid the deposit (£450) and I got a mortgage for the rest at £14 per month over 25 years.

Chapter 3 1965-1975
Barbara and I were married at 10am on Saturday 23rd January 1965 at Brougham Terrace Registry Office, why 10am ? It also happened to be derby day in Liverpool and the reds were playing Everton at Goodison Park in the afternoon and one guest in particular was not going to miss the game, a feeling shared by several of the other guests I imagine. We held the wedding breakfast at the Lord Nelson Hotel, at the back of the Empire Theatre and I was quite touched when Mr.Shankly said in his speech that it was one of the best transfer deals he had ever done. As it happens the derby match was called off, waterlogged pitch I think. We spent our honeymoon at my Uncle Vic’s house in Weymouth, Dorset and on our return we moved into our house in Inigo Road.

By this time I was a qualified fitter earning about £14-10 shillings a week, I was offered another job at The Government Wool Station on the Dock road, all the wool that came into England had to come to the Wool Station first to be cleaned then it was shipped on to it’s final destination. The pay was better, £15-10 shillings a week and an extra thruppence an hour for each machine I could operate in the machine shop, thanks to West Derby Tech. I could operate them all so I received an extra 10 shillings bonus per week. The extra money came in handy because through all our time together I never knew that Barbara couldn’t cook, so we bought quite a few meals from the local fish and chip shop. We spent most Sundays having dinner at the Shankly’s or my parents so we got to have at least one good meal per week. Barbara did try hard to learn but I guess she just wasn’t cut out to be a cook. Everything was going ok, Barbara was getting bigger and Liverpool reached the Cup Final and the European Cup Semi-Final playing Leeds Utd and Inter Milan respectively.

I think it was a couple of weeks before the Cup Final when Mr. Shankly made one of his regular visits to our house, I made two cups of tea, herbal tea for him and we sat down to chat, he started talking about Gordon Milne and Geoff Strong, “what do you think son”, the problem he said was that Gordon Milne looked like he may be fit for the final but Geoff Strong had been playing really well in his place, I thought Christ  why he is discussing this with me but I suppose he was just using me as a sounding board and we went on and talked about it for a while and then he said “are you going to the Final” and I said that there would be about six of my family going so he said that he would arrange six tickets for us, he said goodbye to Barbara and left, blimey I felt like I had sorted the team for the final (just joking) and had managed to get six tickets for my family, bloody great. But on the Sunday before the final we were having dinner when he asked me if I would do him a big favour, of course I said yes, he explained that the police had advised him that his house might be broken into while he was away, so the favour was, would Barbara and I stay in his house while he and Nessie were at the final. I couldn’t refuse and had to watch the final on his tele, but what a great day though, for the first time in football history the FA Cup was coming to Anfield, I was jumping up and down all round the living room while Barbara was looking at me as though I had gone mad. I know she didn’t like football, it had taken her dad away from her for so long, but she was really pleased for him. We didn’t have time to absorb what had happened and only a few days later Liverpool had to take on Inter Milan at Anfield in the Semi Final of the European Cup, another brilliant game which we won 3-1 and had a tie winning goal ruled out for a non existent foul. The return game in Milan was lost 3-0 and we were out of the Cup but Mr. Shankly was furious, convinced that the referee had been bought and you only have to watch the game on video to see that he was right.
.
6th August 1965, Karen Elizabeth was born and what a beautiful birthday present for me (my birthday is 7th August) she weighed in at 9 pounds 4 ounces, both our families were absolutely delighted. I had never seen my father behave the way he did, holding her with a big stupid smile on his face and Mr. Shankly saying it was his turn to hold her, but it was nice.

It was not long after Karen was born, I was going to work and I was on the No1 bus traveling down the Dock Rd the conductor came to me and asked for the fare, I looked up and there was my mate from our apprenticeship days taking my fare off me. I asked him what he was doing working as a conductor and he told me that the money was great he could earn up to £40 per week if he did quite a bit of overtime. I got off the bus at the next stop and made my way to Hatton Garden, the head office of The Liverpool Transport Corporation department. I was interviewed immediately, they offered me a job, I gave my notice in to the Wool Station and started the following Monday at the training school for conductors. A week later I was sent to start work at the Green Lane depot.

This work brought me into daily contact with the Liverpool public and I have to say it was really enjoyable, it is said that Liverpool people have a very rare sense of humour and I believe it to be true, every day something would happen that would make me fall about laughing, I remember one particular day during the afternoon rush hour my bus was absolutely packed and we pulled up at the bus stop in West Derby Village about three or four people got off the bus and I allowed the same amount to get on, I had to put my arm across a lady who was trying to push herself on, I said “sorry love no more room” so she asked me “how long will the next bus be” and I replied “the same length as this one” instantly she shouted back at me “and I suppose it will have a shithouse on the back like this one”. Of course not all the things that happened were funny and there were some nasty incidents, like the time some guy was poking me in the chest while telling me that I was a public servant, I really didn’t mean to break his finger but I grabbed it and pushed him back off me, I received a caution from my depot inspector for that but on the whole I really enjoyed the work. Each depot had its own football team and played on Wednesdays in the Business house league but on Saturdays they had the “Rep team” (which was selected from all the depot teams, Representative team) which played in the Liverpool Combination, (I think) so every Wednesday and Saturday during the football season I was guaranteed a nice easy shift. Mr. Shankly had been to watch a few of the games I played in but I remember one in particular, we were playing Kirkby Town, a really good team but even more special it was the switching on of their new floodlights and it was played on a Wednesday evening, Mr. Shankly turned up to watch and it made the occasion even more special, he came up to me and said “I’ve noticed your boots are a bit worn son, so I brought you these “ and handed me a box with new boots in it, I played out of my skin that night, we lost 4-3 but I scored a hatrick and had a goal disallowed in the last minute to equalise, the referee said I had handled the ball but I swear to you I had chested it down and buried it. Mr. Shankly gave me a lift home and during the journey he was quiet which was unusual for him, I asked him if he enjoyed the game, he said yes he had but that he hated to see talent go to waste, I said “who’s that then”, thinking he had a problem with someone at Anfield, he replied “you son” well, the rest of the journey was spent in silence.

It was now early December 1965 and Barbara tells me she thinks she is pregnant again, it was a bit of a shock but a very welcome one for us, I was really pleased when the Doctor confirmed it and we both went to tell her parents. Nessie was alone in the house and when we told her, she said to me, “you should be locked up in November” but she was pleased as well. My mum and dad said more or less the same thing but again I knew they were pleased. It was about this time that Barbara, Karen and I were at her parent’s house for the proverbial Sunday lunch, we had finished eating and Barbara and Nessie were in the kitchen doing the dishes, Karen was asleep in her pram, I was having coffee and Mr. Shankly was having his herb tea, Yuk!! Terrible smell, a bit like fish, anyway I asked him about the previous day’s game at Anfield, I think it was Arsenal we played but I’m not 100% sure and Liverpool were cruising to a win when Tommy Lawrence let in a really stupid goal, which put Arsenal ? back in the game, I know we finished the game as winners and I asked him about this particular incident, he replied “Aye son, if I’d had a snipers rifle I would have shot Tommy there and then” just then the phone rang and Mr.Shankly answered it, the person on the other end of the line was a guy called Colin, a reporter for one of the daily national newspapers and from their conversation I assumed that “Colin” had broached the very same subject that we had just been talking about, because Mr. Shankly answered “Nah Nah Colin son, he’s the finest Goalkeeper in the worrrrld”.

1966 every thing was going ok, Barbara was getting bigger and more tired but both grandmothers were helping out, I was doing as much overtime as I could get and Karen was great. I applied to become a bus driver and successfully completed the 3 week course. I had loads to look forward to, our second baby in August,  Liverpool were going great in the league and the European Cup Winners Cup and England were going to host “The World Cup” in the summer, football fan’s heaven. It was early June I think and I had just finished my shift and arrived home, I had felt quite uncomfortable for the last couple of hours, like I had peed myself or sweating, so I took my trousers off and put my hand down my underpants, my hand was covered in blood. I went straight to my doctor and he examined me, he told me that I had something called “Pylonidal sinuses”, at the base of my spine I had 3 or 4 little holes and the blood was seeping out of them, also being quite a hairy person my body hair had entered these little holes and over the years had formed into a sizeable ball, which explained the discomfort I felt if I sat in the same position for a length of time. The doctor phoned the hospital and made an appointment for me and within in a couple of weeks I was in the Royal Infirmary to have an operation, what should have been a formality ended in my staying in hospital for 6 weeks, my wound became infected and I had to have skin grafts . There was always a bit of commotion when Mr. Shankly came to visit me, it would go something like, “Hello son how’s it going are you ok?” and then he would be off round the ward talking to every other bloke in there and the nurses, it happened every time he visited. Now the real pisser is that Mr. Shankly had got me a block ticket to watch all the qualifying games of The World Cup at Goodison Park, so I missed all those great games but my granddad didn’t because I gave them to him. I loved my grandfather to bits, he taught me to play crib, we would sit and talk for ages about his life, he fought in the First World War and in the second he was in the Home Guard helping to put out fires on the docks. I always new when I said or done something wrong he would say “now then bugger”, he was a good man and he was desolate when Dave was killed, as were all the family but he mourned with great dignity and put aside his own sorrow to help us with ours.

Pauline was born on the 29th July in Broadgreen Hospital while I was in the Royal Infirmary. The Royal were very kind and arranged for an ambulance to take me to Broadgreen to see Barbara and Pauly, you can imagine the piss taking that went on, “you for the maternity ward Mr. Gill when’s it due” although not as big as Karen she weighed in at just over 7lbs and she was beautiful, so there I was, me in a wheelchair, my wife in bed and my second daughter in my arms, brilliant.

© Victor Gill 2006

further extracts in posts lower down the thread ...
 

WOOLTONIAN:
Vic
that was a thoroughly enjoyable read, I loved it.
So many of us get a chance, but we do not recognise the opportunity.
Your sliding academic levels bring bloody tears to my eyes, as I was exactly the same.
The only lessons I was half useful at, were where my masters were the sports masters.
What they said, seemed to make more sense to me.
Whereas 'fossils' like the french and chemistry teachers might as well have been speaking dutch. (Cant spell swa-heelly)

Writing is hard, but perservere, you definately have talent.
Just try to write in small passages and then assemble later.
Writing too much in one go does put you off.

Best of luck with your book, even if it only turns out to be something your grandkids read, I'm sure they will be glad you did.

Karl

ps. save it on a disk as well as computer. I lost a 120 pager recently that will never see the light of day as my computer crashed.

vicgill:
Thank you Wooltonian, really needed that, I know it's only for my kids and grand kids but it has become very special to me and your thoughts and council are well taken ...thank you again

vicgill:
The Deysbrook football team...Mid sixties i think


oops forgot....this is for "al daas" and Michael A. I am third from left, back row

The Bill Hicks Appreciation Society:

--- Quote from: vicgill on April 13, 2006, 11:06:07 am ---The Deysbrook football team...Mid sixties i think

--- End quote ---

tiny picture that unc. click to enlarge.

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