A WW1 Death

On this day (17 November) in 1915 former Manchester City, Oldham Athletic and Hyde forward Frank Hesham was killed in action in Belgium (often reported as northern France at the time of his death). The Gorton born player was on City’s books for 5 years during the late 1890s. Here’s a profile of his life and career:

Frank Hesham began his football career at St Francis (the well-known Catholic monastery and related school in Gorton) before joining City in November 1896. He made his debut at Newcastle United in February 1897. Sadly, the game ended in a 3-0 defeat and Hesham was unable to establish himself in the team. 

In total he only made three first team appearances for the Blues and one reserve game over a period of about five years.

Brief spells at Crewe and Accrington followed before he signed for Stoke in May 1904. 17 Stoke appearances followed before he moved to Leyton Orient, returning north to join Oldham in August 1907.

He made his Oldham debut in a 3-0 victory over Hull City on 28 September 1907 and it finally looked as if he’d found the right club. He stayed at Boundary Park for a couple of years, playing 29 first team games before joining Preston North End in 1909.

The move to Preston was not a success and two months later he joined Croydon Common in the Southern League where he scored 27 in 55 appearances. Another return north came – he clearly had reasons for wanting to alternate between southern and northern clubs so frequently which have yet to be identified – and he joined Hyde.

Hesham also played for Newton Heath Albion but was working as a clerk in Manchester when war broke out. 

The following details of his military service and death are from the website: https://www.footballandthefirstworldwar.org

First World War Service

Gunner 53546 Hesham, who had pre-war service with the 4th Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment (time-served), enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) on 18 November 1914 and was subsequently sent for basic training. After leaving Number 2 Depot, Gosport, Gnr Hesham was posted to 21 Siege Battery RGA and landed in the French port of Boulogne on 25 May 1915. On 29 September 1915, Hesham was granted short leave before returning to his unit on 3 October 1915 – just two weeks before the Second Battle of Ypres. On 17 November 1915, Gnr Hesham was killed in action and subsequently buried at La Clytte Military Cemetery, located 8km south-west of Ypres. He left a widow and a 14 year-old son who lived in Longsight, Manchester.

The First ‘Manchester Derbies’

Back in 1881-82 the two teams that would eventually become Manchester City and Manchester United met for the first time with the first fixture occurring on this sate (12th November 1881). To mark this anniversary here’s a free article on the first two derby matches. Both were friendlies of course!

The First Time

Back in 1881-82 the two teams that would eventually become Manchester City and Manchester United met for the first time. This was only a year after the first reported games played by the clubs, then known as St Mark’s (MCFC) and Newton Heath (MUFC). The first St Mark’s game to make it into print was against Macclesfield Baptists on 12th November 1880 while Newton Heath’s earliest known game came seven days later against Bolton Wanderers’ 2nd team.

On the anniversary weekend of St. Mark’s first reported game, 12th November 1881, Newton Heath and West Gorton (St Mark’s) met for the first time.  The game, played at North Road, Newton Heath, attracted an attendance of around 3,000 (according to details recorded many years later – I’m dubious about the number but we have nothing contemporary that’s accurate so we’ll go with that).  

The ‘Heathens’, who went on to become Manchester United in 1902, defeated West Gorton (St. Mark’s) 3-0 in what was described as a ‘pleasant game’.  I wonder what the reporter would make of 21st Century derby matches!  Two goals were scored in the first half, one being an own goal by one of West Gorton’s ‘backs’.  It is not reported who scored the goal, all the ‘Ashton Reporter’ match report says is that the player was “attempting to stop a shot by E. Thomas”.  

One of the significant aspects of the way this game was reported which has created some confusion over the years concerns the St. Mark’s name.  It was recorded as West Gorton (St. Mark’s) as opposed to St.Mark’s (West Gorton) and that change has caused some to suggest that the church were unhappy in some way with the club.  There was a suggestion that the club was attracting players from outside of the parish and that was an issue, but none of this now appears to be correct.  The church appeared to be happy with the way the side was developing and, if anything, the selection of Kirkmanshulme Cricket ground actually meant the team were playing fairly close to the St. Mark’s rectory.  The move potentially increased the opportunity for spreading the church’s work and that may be why the person sending in the match reports to the local newspaper changed the emphasis.

The Return Match

The return match took place at the Kirkmanshulme Cricket ground (West Gorton’s home) on 4th March 1882. On the image above this is the cricket ground to the right of Tank Row (and left of Belle Vue Zoo).  

West Gorton (St Mark’s) gained revenge for the 3-0 defeat in their first encounter, as they overturned Newton Heath 2-1. The Gortonians had managed to take the lead, via Charles Beastow, as early as the eighth minute, and then had to hold off the Heathens who had been awarded a couple of consecutive corners.  The second actually lead to West Gorton’s second goal.  James Collinge obtained possession in front of the West Gorton goal then proceeded to run the full length of the pitch, before sending the ball flying between the Heathens’ posts amid loud cheering.  

The score remained 2-0 until late in the game when, according to reports, the Heathens baffled the home ‘keeper Edward Kitchen by performing several good passes before the ball entered the goal.  Exactly how baffled Kitchen was we don’t know, but we do know that this game was well attended.

Years later the attendance that day was reported as ‘around 5,000’, although it would be unfair and ridiculous to suggest that this was the actual attendance.  It seems incredible that around a sixth of Gorton’s population would have been able to attend a game which, at that point, was not regarded as a ‘derby’ or an important fixture whatsoever.  Nevertheless. it does provide an indication that football in West Gorton was becoming popular.

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