Did the Whites fans lead the chimes 100+ years ago?


Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

On Good Friday up at Norwich the home team brought out the best in keeper Marcus Bettinelli, and it was not until the last half hour that Fulham took control, with goals from Stefan Johansen and Tom Cairney.

Wolves and Cardiff won as well, so the play-offs still look the more likely outcome for the Whites.

Fulham fans should be delighted that Alex White is now the club’s official historian.

For more than 30 years he has been producing authoritative, scrupulously researched and highly readable volumes about Fulham FC, some in partnership with Dennis Turner. Since Dennis passed away, Alex has been the man to consult on all periods of the club’s history. Although he published a definitive book Fulham FC the Early Years in 2014, he is still finding fresh material from the club’s pre-Football League days.

I was particularly interested in a report that he sent me of a Southern League match played at Grays United in December 1902: “Fulham brought down a fine pack of supporters, who kept all together and made the echoes ring with PLAY UP FULHAM sung a la Big Ben.”


The earliest known drawing of a Fulham supporter (1891) shows him with a card saying ‘Play up Fulham’

When I first took an interest in football 70 years ago, the Westminster Chimes were used exclusively by Portsmouth supporters: “Play up Pompey. Pompey play up. Play up Pompey. Pompey play up.”

It is remarkable that Fulham fans were using a similar chant as far back as 1902. The earliest known drawing of a Fulham supporter (1891) shows him with a card saying ‘Play up Fulham’ on the front of his hat. Did the Westminster Chimes ring around the Half Moon ground in Putney where Fulham played before the move to Craven Cottage?

These days I tend to confine my research to the pre-1920s and I have found some wonderful material being amassed by family historians.

I have spotted the absorbing history of Samuel Athelstan White, painstakingly compiled by his great grandnephew, who has kindly allowed me to summarise it. Samuel was born on 27 August 1869 in Winchester, but the family soon moved to London and settled in Chesilton Road Fulham in the 1880s. The father, a supervisor for the Inland Revenue, died in 1886 leaving to each of his four children a house in Canterbury, the rents of which ensured their well-being.

The 1891 Census places the family in Waldemar Avenue Fulham. Samuel, who was over 5ft 10 inches and weighed 170 lbs, with a fair complexion and light brown hair, was working as a commercial clerk but clearly fancied a more active life. He headed for Canada, like many young Britons of the day, and became a trapper and a hunter.

When the Boer War started and Lord Strathcona raised a cavalry regiment at his own expense, Samuel signed on and sailed with the regiment to Africa on the 18 March 1900. He saw plenty of action over the next two years, though he spent his leave visiting his mother who had settled in Putney.

He received his medal from the hands of the new monarch Edward VII, but as his great grandnephew comments, ‘despite any heroism Samuel was out of a job’.

The First World War prompted his return to arms though he was in his mid-40s. Between 1915 and 1921 he rose from being a private in the Rough Riders (City of London Yeomanry) to 2nd lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. He survived both World Wars and died in the (now defunct) West London Hospital, just off Hammersmith Broadway, on 6 October 1945.

I have included Samuel in this blog because an SA White played for Fulham St Andrew’s 3rd XI in the Autumn of 1889 just before the club shortened its name to Fulham FC.

This coincides with Samuel’s residence in the district and no other member of the team is listed with two initials. Samuel was surely proud of his middle name, which he also used in order to distinguish himself from his father Samuel E White.

I do not suppose the teenager had any footballing ambitions (most of the others eventually made it to the first team) but I am sure he enjoyed the camaraderie, and I have few doubts that the 3rd XI right-back later became a Rough Rider.

Finally, until next January the National Portrait Gallery is devoting its first-floor screen to some excellent pictures of Bobby Moore.

Most attention has been paid to Terry O’Neill’s chess match between Bobby and Franz Beckenbauer, but Whites fans will also appreciate Fulham’s semi-final squad from 1975 in celebratory mood, a great picture taken by Les Strong.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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