Mike Jay has written this piece outlining the life of Captain Albert Prince-Cox.
Manager Captain Albert Prince- Cox Bristol Rovers Manager 1930-1936. There cannot be another Bristol Rovers football manager who has had such a remarkable and interesting life and career than Albert Prince-Cox. He was born in Southsea on 8 August 1890 and began his career in show business as a cockney boy impressionist earning £6 a week. Living near Portsmouth it was perhaps no surprise that young Albert was attracted to join the Navy as a marine. By the age of 15 he had travelled halfway round the world. While still a teenager he had developed a passion for flying and when the First World War started he was promoted to an officer in the Royal Flying Corps. Flying bi planes and air ships he suffered a flying accident in 1920 and was placed on the retirement list. He became an assistant meteorologist to Lord Dunboyne; famed for his long-range weather forecasts. Albert became a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society and for a period of time reported daily to Buckingham Palace, to present the King with the weather forecast. He moved onto two of his other sporting passions -boxing and football and qualified as a professional referee in both sports. He took charge of several Bristol Rovers matches, including the 4-1 win against Crystal Palace in Division Three (South) in April 1927. By 1935 he had refereed 32 international football matches in fifteen countries over Europe. This included Spain v Hungary played in Vigo in 1926. He was awarded a medal for that appointment and this medal and other personal items mainly photos have been donated to the Bristol Rovers History group in July 2020 by his surviving relatives who live in Plymouth. Prince Cox replaced David McLean as Secretary Manager in November 1930 becoming Rovers sixth full time manager. Apparently, he arrived for the interview for the position at Eastville on 23rd October 1930 in a red open-topped sports car with white wheels, smoking a large cigar bringing with him an air of change. Within a week of his appointment, the 40-year-old had arranged a tour for the Rovers players of the Netherlands. Just twenty-four hours after a tough league fixture and following an overnight North Sea crossing, Rovers defeated the Dutch national side 3-2 on Sunday 16th November 1930. For the commencement of his first full season in charge “Prince” as he was known decided to ditch the Rovers white shirts they had worn – they were known as the Lilywhites from their election to the Football League in 1920, to an impressive and colourful royal blue and white quartered shirts. They were unique no other professional league club had them. Prince Cox telling supporters his players will look far more intimidating to opponents in quarters and he quickly adopted a new club nickname The Pirates, a theme associated with Bristol as a major sailing port. Rovers’ charismatic manager, Albert Prince-Cox, led the club through an exciting season in 1932/33 as the side finished ninth in Division Three (South). This performance equalled the club’s highest final league position to date. With five former internationals on their books, Rovers played some exciting football. The manager’s response was to take the club on various overseas trips, to Rotterdam in September, to Paris and Amsterdam in the New Year and back to France to play a friendly with AC Milan in Nice once the season had finished. To some it appeared that the manager was simply an eccentric and publicity seeker. He arranged for a private aircraft to fly the experienced amateur England International centre-forward, Vivian Gibbins, a London school teacher, from Romford Aerodrome to Filton in time for the 6.15pm kick-off in the September game with Southend United. However, Gibbins responded with a goal in Rovers’ 3-1 victory and scored two hat-tricks the following month, in a 5-3 win over Brighton and a 3-0 win at Clapton Orient. Finishing Season 1933/34 in seventh position it was their best league position in the inter war period. In February 1934, Prince-Cox managed maximum publicity for the Club as he flew a group of Rovers supporters from Whitchurch Airport, at a cost of eight shillings a head, to watch Rovers beat Cardiff City 5-1 at Ninian Park. During his tenure at Rovers he regularly promoted Charity boxing and wrestling events something which proved popular with the Bristol public. The following season 1934/35 the Club finished a creditable eighth and won their first national cup and first honour since becoming Southern League Champions way back in 1905. They won the Third Division (South) cup defeating Watford 3-1 in a Final played at Millwall. A great organiser and strict disciplinarian with his players he had managed to entice five former Internationals, quite a coup for a Third Division club at the time to play for the Club. However, things changed from Easter Monday 1936 following an uncharacteristic 12-0 defeat at Luton Town with famously Joe Payne scoring ten of the goals, it was the Club’s heaviest ever defeat. Some poor results and perhaps his inability to influence to motivate his players proved significant and just two months into the new Season in 1936/37 Prince Cox resigned. His record over six years was pretty good taking charge of 251 football league matches with 96 wins, 57 draws and 98 defeats: 419 goals scored and 448 goals conceded. Prince Cox had for a time successfully turned the Club from perennial underachievers into one with potential to achieve. His legacy was significant as the club’s ground at Eastville was substantially improved, profits had been made and the club attracted attendances of over 20,000. Following his life away from football Prince Cox then spent two years working as a full-time boxing promoter, before briefly returning to football in 1938 on a part time basis as manager of Gloucester City. At that time he was one of the best-known sporting figures in the West of England. Prince Cox was an astute businessman and entrepreneur. He brought to Bristol two World boxing champions Americans Freddie Miller and Tommy Loughran. Not everything he did was successful as his first venture to promote a circus in Leicester was a failure. Unperturbed he became general manager of the International Carnival circus in Southampton 1939-40. Meanwhile despite a raging World war in Europe in 1942 he promoted boxing shows at the Colston Hall in Bristol. But the circus promotions were to form part of his life and over three decades he proved that they could be successful. In 1950 he was Director of the International Circus. He introduced a circus at the Liverpool stadium in 1953.In Croydon’s Davis Theatre in 1955 he introduced the Chipperfields animals and bakers riding acts. In July 1957 he was mauled by one of Clem Merks lionesses behind the scenes. It was reported he received deep lacerations above his right ear which required hospital treatment. He had previously had his finger lacerated by a lion at Brighton and been attacked by a polar bear in Edinburgh. His health did not affect his business he had to endure a serious mouth operation in 1951 this was followed by liver problems in 1953 and in 1959 while living in Suite 7a Shaftesbury Avenue, London he was having problems with his remaining kidney. Battling with phlebitis in 1960 he was still very much in charge of his main circus event in Rhyl. This circus in North Wales proved very popular from the 1939 right up to is retirement following the summer season of 1961. He and his beloved wife Cissie celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in Feb 1961 and in September at the age of 71 Prince Cox decided to finally retire after illness and a doctors warning to repress his activities. He died on 26 October 1967, aged 77, in his Bristol home 24 Queens Court, Clifton Bristol. There were many tributes from the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Rovers manager at the time Bert Tann sent the club’s condolences to his widow as did Bill Pinnell who wrote in the Bristol Sports newspapers as the “Traveller” for many decades and was a close friend of Prince Cox. Also, Bristol City Chairman Harry Dolman who had been a regular Rovers supporter who had been persuaded by Prince Cox in the late 1940s to join Bristol City’s board of Directors rather than Rovers. Prince Cox was without doubt one of Rovers greatest personalities, an energetic man who was born to be a showman and he lived and loved every minute of it.