|The Pirate revisited||
John Peden Hamilton.
Of the six fathers who will appear in this series of articles on fathers and sons who have represented the club, John Peden Hamilton was the first to appear in a Rovers shirt.
Scottish by birth, he was born on April 25th 1909 in Armadale and played for Penicuik Juniors prior to signing for Bristol Rovers in June 1929.
John’s daughter, Margaret, has confirmed that it was football that prompted him to move to Bristol. He stayed in lodgings with an aunt of his future wife Hilda and that’s where they met.
Margaret was unsure how many siblings that John had, though she does know that he had at least two sisters and a brother.
John’s mother was also named Margaret and although we don’t know the name of John’s father, we do know that he was a coal miner, as was John before he became a professional footballer.
His first game in a Rovers shirt was in a reserve game against Lovells Athletic in August 1929 and when he made his league debut, against Swindon Town on 7th September 1929, John became the 128th player to appear for Rovers in the league. It wasn’t, unfortunately, a winning debut as a crowd of 5,000 at Swindon’s County Ground witnessed a 2-2 draw.
Given that his position was as a wing half, I think it’s safe to say that John would be a midfielder in the modern game. His debut against Swindon was the first of 35 league appearances he made in 1929/30 and he scored once, against Newport County at Eastville on 8th February 1930.
Another crowd recorded as 5,000 saw that game and they also saw John score at both ends of the pitch, thus becoming the first Rovers player to do that. Unfortunately, Newport were 3-2 winners on that occasion.
Interestingly, the match report I found for this game didn’t mention the fact that he scored at either end! In fact, the reporter felt that Rovers were unfortunate to have lost and laid the blame firmly at the door of goalkeeper Jesse Whatley, as this extract shows.
‘The Rovers did quite 75 per cent of the attacking but the shooting, especially in the second half, lacked sting and direction.
‘The half backs, Britton, Plenderleith and Hamilton, worked hard to keep up the service of the ball and to create openings, but most of these were thrown away through the over-eagerness and poor finish of the forwards.
‘Bristol Rovers should have made the game secure in the first half when their forward line almost completely dominated the game. Newport’s attack was intermittent in the first half and the goal they obtained was in no way a reflection on their share of the game.
‘In fact, a combination of bad fortune and the uncertain mood of Whatley principally led to the downfall of the Rovers.’
John also made four other appearances for Rovers that season as he appeared in the three FA Cup ties played by the club and one of the two Gloucestershire Cup ties against Bristol City.
Results of the FA Cup ties were as follows; a 2-0 away win against Nunhead, a 4-1 home win against Accrington Stanley and a 1-0 defeat away at Clapton Orient.
John’s son, Ian, was born on September 12th 1940. A promising young footballer, who played as an inside forward, Ian suffered a badly broken leg as a teenager which would leave him with his right leg two inches shorter than his left leg!
Nevertheless, on his recovery, he was good enough to be selected for a course at Lilleshall aimed at youth players and their coaches where it’s understood that one of his fellow students was a certain Bobby Moore.
(The programme for the FA course Ian attended in 1957 (all images kindly supplied by Ian’s family)
His early career saw him play for the club his father had joined on leaving the professional game, Thornbury, though he joined Rovers as an apprentice in 1956 and signed professional forms for the club in January 1958.
It was a time when players were paid a maximum wage, and there was also a minimum wage! In the Supporters Club handbook of 1958/59, it was noted that an 18 year old professional with Rovers could earn a maximum wage of £12. 10 shillings per week (£11.00 in the close season) while the minimum rate was £5.00 all year round.
Although not quite complete, I have a collection most of the club’s teamsheets from the 1950’s and whilst he may have signed, initially, in 1956, the first record I have of Ian playing for a Rovers team is from August 31st 1957 when he played, and scored, for the District Premier League side in a 2-1 win in an away game against Keynsham Town. I don’t recognise any of the other names on the teamsheet for that game and am pretty sure that he was the only one to go on to play in the first team.
The first teamsheet I have showing Ian playing for the Colts is from 14th September 1957 when he was in the side that lost 2-1 against Salisbury City at Kingswood (presumably the Douglas Ground).
Joe Davis, Terry Oldfield and Doug Hillard were in the side that day and those three and Ian would become colleagues in the first team in years to come.
He appears to have played regularly for the Colts and the District Premier League side in 1957/58, though he is on the reserves teamsheet for the 3-2 win against Charlton Athletic at Eastville on March 15th 1958.
He scored one of the Rovers goals that afternoon when his team mates included Howard Radford, Hillard, Paddy Hale, Jack Pitt, Ray Mabbutt and Alfie Biggs.
On December 6th 1958, some 29 years after his father’s Rovers debut, Ian made his first team debut for Rovers in a 4-3 defeat against Charlton Athletic at The Valley. He became the 336th player to represent the club in the Football League.
The side lined up as follows: Radford, Doyle, Watling, Sykes, Pyle, Ricketts, Petherbridge, Hamilton Bradford, Ward, Hooper.
Dai Ward (2) and Geoff Bradford scored for Rovers that afternoon on what was Ian’s only first team appearance that season….
As for the Gloucestershire Cup games, Rovers drew 0-0 against City at Eastville on September 30th 1929. John didn’t play in that one, though he did play in the replay which wasn’t played until April 22nd 1930 at Ashton Gate when Rovers lost 4-1.
That season John played in the same side as legendary Rovers goalkeeper Jesse Whatley (372 league appearances for the club), who retired at the end of that campaign, and Cliff Britton who left for pastures new at the end of the season.
Britton went on to play for Everton, win nine England caps, represent the Football League and collect an FA Cup winners medal in 1933 when his side beat Manchester City 3-0. He won 12 wartime caps and was a successful post war manager with Everton and Hull City.
Also in the side was Ronnie Dix, who remains the youngest player ever to make his Rovers league debut, against Charlton Athletic on February 25th 1928 when he was just 15 years and 173 days old. He would go on to play for Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Derby County, Spurs and Reading and win one full cap for England.
It wasn’t a particularly successful season for Rovers as they finished with just 30 points and in 20th position in the Third Division (South) table with only Gillingham and Merthyr Town below them.
John was one of only two players (the other was defender Jimmy Haydon) from that campaign to feature in the first game of the 1930/31 season, which ended in a 4-1 home defeat at the hands of Northampton Town.
It was the first of his 28 league appearances that season, when he again scored just once. That goal came against Exeter City, at St James’ Park, 17th September 1930.
He also played in all four of the club’s FA Cup ties that season, and also in the Gloucestershire Cup Final against City.
FA Cup results were as follows; a 4-1 home win against Merthyr Town, when John scored his only FA Cup goal for the club, and was described as ‘playing a plucky game and being a fearless tackler’, a 4-2 home win against Stockport County, a 3-1 home win against Queens Park Rangers and a 5-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers.
It was another runners up medal in the Gloucestershire Cup, as Rovers suffered a 3-1 defeat against City at Ashton Gate on 1st October 1930.
He played under two managers that season as David McLean resigned in September 1930 and was replaced by a flamboyant character by the name of Captain Albert Prince-Cox.
One of his first actions was to organise a tour of the Netherlands, where Rovers defeated the Dutch National side 3-2 on November 16th 1930 and beat a Dutch club side called The Swallows 4-2 just a few days later.
John was one of a tour party that included 13 players, along with several club directors and manager Prince-Cox that travelled across the North Sea shortly after beating Coventry City 1-0 at Eastville on November 15th.
At 2.30pm on Sunday November 16th, twenty four hours after kicking off against Coventry, they were in action again, this time against the Dutch National side, in Amsterdam, where goals from Ronnie Dix (2) and Arthur Attwood secured a 3-2 win. The report says that both Dutch goals were scored by their centre forward Hulsman, who was born in 1900 and died in 1964. He was on the books of Go Ahead Eagles at the time and won four international caps for his country.
John played in this game, which saw Rovers field the following starting XI; Berry, Barton, Richardson, Black, Dinsdale, Hamilton, Forbes, Ball, Attwood, Dix, Young.
Rovers lost to a controversial penalty, awarded after the referee spotted a handball by centre half David Pyle, though the player said afterwards; ‘It should have been a free kick in my favour. Leary pushed me and sent me staggering towards the ball. It was never a penalty.’
Of Ian’s debut, local reporter Pat Kavanagh said; ‘It was a difficult match for the BAC apprentice 17 year old Ian Hamilton to make his league debut.
‘I like his style and distribution, but often the extra pace of the Second Division found him at a loss. Nevertheless, it’s only a couple of seasons since Dai Ward, who played so well in this game, made a similar sort of debut at Eastville.
‘Now Ian knows exactly what he has to achieve but at least he knows that his manager approves of his baptism in league football.’
Bert Tann was the manager then and, indeed, throughout most of Ian’s career with the club and he said afterwards; ‘I thought it was a most encouraging start for him. His passing was good and only the pace and lack of experience beat him at times. I was well satisfied and think the game will do him a lot of good.’
After that game it was back to playing in the reserves and, occasionally, for the Colts again and it wasn’t until the 1958/59 campaign that he earned himself another first team opportunity. He appeared in five league games during the following season and scored twice (his first league goals) in a 4-3 away win at Scunthorpe on March 5th 1960. He also scored twice the following week, in a 3-1 home win against Rotherham United.
His first team opportunities were obviously limited at the time as Rovers could field a well established forward line in Bradford, Biggs, Hooper, Ward and Petherbridge, though as the 1960’s dawned, the careers of many of those stalwarts who had given the club such loyal service during the halcyon days of the 1950’s were coming to an end.
There were no substitutes back then, of course, and very little player movement because of the maximum wage and the Rovers’ No Buy No Sell’ policy, which often hindered the progress of young players hoping to break through into the first team.
Progress for Ian was slow; there were five more league appearances in 1960/61 and a first ever appearance in the Football League Cup when he scored twice in a game against Reading at Elm Park.
It was only Rovers’ second game in what was the first season of the competition and they were 5-3 winners in this second round tie though they were beaten 2-0 by Rotherham United in round three.
His first goal brought the scores level, at 2-2; ‘The equaliser arrived courtesy of Ian Hamilton, who took Harold Jarman’s through ball before beating Meeson.
‘The final goal arrived 17 minutes from time when Peter Hooper crossed from the right and Hamilton headed home at the near post. Rovers comfortably held on to their lead for the remainder of the match without being troubled by the home side.’
There were ten league games in 1961/62 and a first FA Cup tie, against Oldham Athletic, on January 8th 1962. Although Rovers drew 1-1 with The Latics at Eastville, they were beaten 2-0 in the replay at Boundary Park.
There was also a first appearance in the Gloucestershire Cup Final, though the game against City at Ashton Gate on May 1st 1962 ended in a 3-1 defeat and meant another loser’s medal for the Hamilton family.
The season ended with Rovers suffering relegation to the Third Division but the following season, 1962/63, he appears to have made his breakthrough in terms of becoming a first team regular as he appeared in 31 league games and scored ten goals…
The tour itinerary allowed for a short sight seeing trip the next day, though where they went, I have no idea. They were in action again on the Tuesday evening when they took on The Swallows.
A little piece of Rovers history was created that night as it was the first time they had played under floodlights. Ronnie Dix (2), Arthur Attwood and Frederick Forbes scored as Rovers ran out 4-2 winners. Barenbrecht and Tapp scored for the home side.
I did manage to find a report of that match and whilst the line-ups were not included, I was able to confirm that John was in the side.
The report, under the headline ‘Rovers in Holland – second match won handsomely’ began as follows; ‘Bristol Rovers won the second and final match of their Dutch tour, played at the Hague Stadium last evening, when they beat The Swallows by 4 goals to 2.
‘The game was played with the aid of floodlights, there being 80 arc lamps, 20 over each corner, 50 feet from the ground. It was certainly a novelty for the Eastville players who, however, enjoyed the game under the new conditions.
‘It was most interesting and was enjoyed by a crowd of quite 10,000. The Rovers thoroughly deserved their victory, being the more clever and balanced side.
‘Richardson figured at right back, Barton being his partner. He did much better than in the game against the national side and the same can be said of Hamilton, but Dinsdale was the outstanding player in the Bristol defence.
‘Dix was again a star with his clever footwork, but Forbes ran him very close for the honours of being the best performer, centring with more accuracy.’
Another reporter, under the name of Viking, said this; ‘There were many incidents of the tour that will be remembered, the chief being; The great play by Dix, who was in his element in both matches and scored four of the goals. His brilliant play made the attack sparkle while Hamilton and Dinsdale were also outstanding.’ This extract was accompanied by the caricature of John shown in part two.
From then until they played Southend United on January 28th 1931 John was a regular in the league side. However, he played only two more games after that, against Notts County and Swindon Town.
And so, just as they had provided the opposition on John’s debut, Swindon were the side he faced in his final league game for Rovers. That game, on 7th March 1931, attracted a crowd of 4,000 to Eastville and they saw a 3-1 win for the visitors.
Not only was it his final game for Rovers, it was the end of his league career and in June 1931 he signed for Scottish side East Fife. He was named Man of the Match in their 6-0 win against Edinburgh City in a Scottish Division Two match in January 1932 and in August of that year he signed for Armadale.
Whilst with his hometown side he appeared in their last ever Scottish League fixture, a 2-0 home defeat against Dundee United in front of a crowd of 1,000 at their Volunteer Park ground. Armadale were then expelled from the league after playing just 17 games of the 1932/33 season and their results expunged from the records.
The Armadale club disappeared and was replaced by junior club Armadale Thistle, in 1936, and they now play at Volunteer Park.
John had married Hilda Clutterbuck in Thornbury, on July 4th 1931 and following the end of his career in Scotland he joined Thornbury Town in February 1934, Thornbury Sports in September 1935 and Trowbridge Town in October 1935. He also played for Tytherington Rocks and worked at Parnalls in Yate.
It was a season in which snow and ice disrupted the league campaign, particularly in January 1963, and the final game of the campaign wasn’t played until May 20th.
It had looked as though Rovers were heading for a second consecutive relegation until Ian’s intervention. When the side travelled to face Halifax Town at The Shay, in the penultimate game of the season, a win was desperately needed and they managed it, beating their already relegated hosts 3-2.
More than 500 Rovers fans travelled to Halifax for the game in the hope they would see their side get the necessary win to stave off relegation, and they weren’t disappointed.
Here are just a few extracts from the match report; ‘Rain poured down throughout the first half and made the pitch and ball extremely slippery.
‘Rovers took the lead through a second minute Bobby Jones goal and Ian Hamilton headed in a fine second goal from a brilliant Geoff Bradford centre 10 minutes later.
‘A third first half goal for Rovers, which would have sewn things up, didn’t materialise and after the interval the pattern of play changed dramatically and Bernard Hall made smart saves from Bill Hopper and Dennis Fidler.
‘Paddy Stanley pulled a goal back for Halifax after 56 minutes when he headed Fidler’s corner high into the net and Rovers began to struggle.
‘A quick 69th minute breakaway down the right by Bill Holden saw him square the ball to Fidler and his rasping angled shot beat Hall to put the home side back on level terms.
‘For a few moments Rovers fans were stunned into silence but the roars quickly returned and five minutes later Hamilton scored his second headed goal of the game, this time from a Bobby Jones corner from the left.
‘There were no conspicuous individual successes in the Rovers side although, of course, Hamilton must be singled out for two well taken goals. It was essentially a team effort that brought victory in a game that was always interesting and exciting.’
After that game the team that pulled off the win, together with Dave Bumpstead and Dave Stone, who travelled but didn’t play, were told this by Chairman Geoffrey Vaughan; ‘Thank you for keeping Rovers in the Third Division. I want you to know now that you will all be retained for next season.’
Rovers lost their final league game, at Port Vale, but three days later Ian was on target in the Gloucestershire Cup Final against Bristol City at Eastville. Rovers won 2-1, Ian scored one of the goals, so at last there was a winner’s medal for the Hamilton family!
The following season saw him play in 40 games, the most he had ever played in one season for the club and, once again, he was into double figures with his goal tally as he went four better than the previous campaign…
On September 23rd 1963 Rovers beat Shrewsbury Town 6-2 in a League Cup tie at Eastville when Ian scored four of the goals and he followed that up with his first league hat trick, against Brentford at Griffin Park on October 12th, as Rovers ran out 5-2 winners.
Here are just a few excerpts from the Shrewsbury match report, written by Herbert Gillam of the Western Daily Press; ‘Ian Hamilton, who has been unable to keep a regular place at inside forward in the Bristol Rovers side, accomplished the best performance of his career when he shot four goals, including a hat trick, against Shrewsbury Town in a League Cup first round replay at Eastville last night.
‘Hamilton headed in from Geoff Bradford’s corner to give Rovers a 13th minute lead and he made it 2-0 in the 32nd minute when he outjumped Dolby on the six yard line with goalkeeper Beel late leaving his line.
‘Hamilton completed his hat trick after 55 minutes from the best movement of the game. Mabbutt sent a fine pass to Biggs, who touched the ball back, and from Mabbutt’s through pass Hamilton streaked through to hit the ball past the luckless Beel.
‘Hamilton struck again two minutes later as he robbed full back Wright and burst through and Beel could do nothing about it as he left his goal.’
He also appeared in all four FA Cup ties played by the club that season. Rovers beat Bournemouth, Coventry City and Norwich City in rounds one, two and three respectively and those victories earned them a fourth round tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Even back then United were one of the top teams in the country. They had rebuilt the side following the Munich Air disaster in 1958 and were once more becoming a force to be reckoned with in English football, They were too strong for Rovers on January 25th 1964, blowing Bert Tann’s side away by four goals to one and a certain Denis Law scored a hat trick.
The attendance at Old Trafford that day was 55, 722, the biggest crowd Ian was to play in front during his career. What an experience that must have been!
Rovers finished that season in 12th place in the league and in the end of season Gloucestershire Cup Final they drew 2-2 against City at Ashton Gate. Ian appeared in that game as well.
There were high hopes of promotion back to the Second Division in 1964/65 but, eventually, they fell four points short of an automatic promotion place, one of which was occupied by their cross-city rivals from Ashton Gate.
In terms of appearances, Ian totalled 33, though in terms of goals it was his best ever campaign, as he managed 21. He missed just one game up until, and including, the match against Shrewsbury Town on February 23rd 1965, but injury then forced him to miss the remainder of the season.
At the time of the Shrewsbury game Rovers were four points behind league leaders Hull City and three points ahead of their red neighbours. Would promotion have been achieved had Ian not been injured? We will never know, of course, but without him in the side and without his goals, it was a disappointing end to a promising season.
Ian did claim a place in the record books that season, in that he scored a hat trick against Southend United at Roots Hall on October 23rd 1964. Unfortunately, Southend scored six that day and one of their players, Jimmy McKinven, also scored a hat trick. It was the first occasion that a Rovers player had scored three goals in a game and ended up on the losing side…
A reporter for the Western Daily Press said of this game; ‘Bristol Rovers, victims of the biggest form upset of the day, crashed 6-3 to Southend United, lowly placed members of the Third Division, at Roots Hall on Saturday.
‘Rovers, minus their skipper and top scorer Alfie Biggs, had fears about the effectiveness of their new look forward line, led by Roy McCrohan for the first time.
‘Yet it gave them a third minute lead and added two more goals before the end. They were all well taken by inside left Ian Hamilton.’
His third goal was described thus; ‘Within a minute the lead reduced when Hamilton completed his hat trick with an incredible 40 yard lob.’
He also scored his first FA Cup goal for Rovers that season, getting on the scoresheet in the 4-1 home win in the second round of the competition, against Weymouth.
Two days after the final league game of the season Ian returned to the side for the annual Gloucestershire Cup Final against Bristol City. Rovers were 3-2 winners at Eastville on 26th April 1965.
The knee problems he experienced that season would resurface during the remainder of his professional career and both he and his goals were sorely missed by Rovers, who didn’t succeed in gaining promotion until 1974.
In 1965/66 Ian made 12 appearances and scored two goals, while there were 11 appearances and three goals in 1966/67.
There was a four match loan spell with Exeter City in October 1967, and he scored for the Grecians in a game against Doncaster Rovers.
However, he returned to Eastville and his final league appearance for Rovers came in a 3-1 defeat against Stockport County, at Edgeley Park, on April 13th 1968.
By then he had scored the final hat trick of his career, netting three goals for the reserves in an astonishing 6-5 defeat against Swansea at Eastville on January 16th.
He was awarded a Testimonial match the following month when a combined Rovers/City XI took on an All Star team at Eastville.
Writing in his Testimonial programme, Bert Tann said; ‘Ian Hamilton is yet another player who has spent ten years with the Rovers and is one of the players who helped us enjoy two of the better years in the last eight.
‘The success of the Hamilton-Biggs partnership in season 1963/64 saw the beating of Geoff Bradford’s club scoring record and Ian himself scored 18 goals.
‘Alfie Biggs’ goals, or many of them, came from Ian’s efforts and Ian scored a number as the result of Alf’s work. When the split came, neither of them found anyone so complete in their understanding and therefore the results of our games began to be less fruitful.
‘I hope tonight’s game will bring a reward through good support and an enjoyable experience for those who play and watch. All of us wish Ian well and hope his future will be a happy one.’…
By the time of his testimonial match Ian already knew that he wasn’t being retained by Rovers and so the 4,000 or so fans at Eastville that night would see him appearing in a Rovers shirt for the final time.
In front of a crowd of 4,000 the All Stars won 5-3 thanks to goals from Johnny Byrne (2), Trevor Brooking (2) and Ernie Hunt, with the Rovers/City XI replying through Bobby Jones, Steve Stacey and Joe Gadston.
At the time of the match Gadston was playing for Cheltenham Town and was involved at the request of manager Fred Ford, who was keen to sign the inside forward who scored what was described as the most spectacular goal of the game; ‘Gadstone scored the most exciting of the eight goals when he collected the Bristol side’s third. From the edge of the penalty area he scissor kicked home a Stacey cross.’
This is how the sides lined up that evening.
Rovers/City XI: Frank Parsons (Crystal Palace), Alec Briggs (Bristol City), John Trollope (Swindon Town), Ken Wimshurst (Bristol City), Larry Lloyd (Bristol Rovers), Keith Miller (West Ham), Steve Stacey (Wrexham), Ian Hamilton (Bristol Rovers), Alfie Biggs (Bristol Rovers), Joe Gadston (Cheltenham Town), Bobby Jones (Bristol Rovers).
Substitute: Dave Stone (Bristol Rovers)
All Star XI: Mike Kelly (QPR), John Bond (Torquay United), Billy Bonds (West Ham), Johnny Haynes (Fulham), Jack Connor (Bristol City), Ivor Allchurch (Swansea), Harry Redknapp (West Ham), Trevor Brooking (West Ham), Johnny Byrne (Fulham), Ernie Hunt (Coventry City), Don Rogers (Swindon Town).
Substitute: John Quigley (Bristol City)
Ian’s Rovers career took in 149 league games and 60 goals and, by my reckoning, he also appeared in another 24 games (FA Cup ties, League Cup ties and Gloucestershire Cup Finals) scoring another nine goals to give an overall total of 173 first class games and 69 goals.
The knee injuries which had first surfaced when he was just 24 and had, arguably, his best years ahead of him as a footballer brought his career to a premature end, though he did score twice for Newport County in 15 games before helping out at Weston super Mare and Welton Rovers.
(these six Rovers players reunited in their cricket whites for a six a side tournament organised by Old Bristolians; Harold Jarman, Bobby Brown, Bobby Jones, Ian Hamilton, Doug Hillard, Larry Lloyd. (Ian & Doug Hillard had already left the club at this point)
On leaving football altogether he worked in the offices of Rolls Royce at Filton and took early retirement in 1994. That left him time to pursue his hobbies of cricket and gardening; he and his wife, Betty, travelled far and wide supporting the England Test side.
Ian had played cricket for Thornbury as a youngster, hence his lifelong interest in the game, while as for gardening, his lawn was described as being far better than any bowling green!
Quite a footballing family, the Hamilton’s, for Ian’s older brother David had been on Rovers’ books until his untimely death in a fire in November 1956. As we shall see, as we continue our fathers and sons’ sojourn, it wasn’t uncommon for there to be three footballers emerge from the same family.