When this rather battered photograph of Heaton United’s 1909-10 squad was taken Newcastle United were the League Champions (and had been in three of the previous five seasons) and were about to win the FA Cup for the first time in their history. You can understand why these Heaton young men would have chosen what appear to be black and white stripes for their own kit.
The photo was found by Jennie McGregor in the Norfolk antique shop where she works. It landed on the Heaton History Group doormat the day that the takeover of Newcastle United by a Saudi Arabian government led consortium was announced and Newcastle fans began to dream of the sort of success the club had enjoyed over a century earlier under the captaincy of Heaton’s Colin Veitch, who would have been a familiar figure to many of the players as he walked about their neighbourhood. Perhaps he sometimes paused to watch Heaton United play. Is the team posing for the photographer in Heaton Park just a stone’s throw from Veitch’s Stratford Villas home ? The fence looks very like that which borders Jesmond Vale Lane now.
The fortunate discovery led us to wonder about the lives of the young men in the picture and how different they were to ours today, let alone to the highly paid global superstars the media were now linking with the Magpies. You could be forgiven for assuming that most of those photographed were Geordies born and bred, that they mainly worked with their hands and that many would have gone to war a few years later, some never to return.
Luckily someone has neatly written the players’ names on the bottom of the photograph, so we could have a go at testing out these theories. There’s some educated guesswork involved as we don’t know anything apart from surnames and initials but, based on the assumption that they would have lived in or around Heaton, this is who we think they might be.
Back row, left to right:
B. HOIT Hoit isn’t a common name in the north east and there’s only one person in the 1911 census who fits the bill: Albert (probably known to his football pals as Bert) James Julian, who in 1911 lived with his father, also called Albert, who worked as an electrical overseer for the admiralty, his mother, Jessie and three siblings at 22 Tenth Avenue. Young Albert was born on 17 July 1891 and so would have been 18 years old when the photo was taken. He was an apprentice electrical fitter at a firm of electrical engineers.
The family weren’t local. They all came from Portsmouth. Bert was born on Portsea Island, very close to the historic dockyards. They hadn’t been in Newcastle long: even Bert’s youngest brother was Portsmouth-born. And we know that Bert returned to his home town eventually and, in 1938, married a local woman, Constance Day. He died in 1949, aged 58.
R STOBIE We reckon this has to be Henry Robert Stobie. He was just a few months older than Bert, having been born in Newcastle on 24 April 1891. In 1911, he was living with his widowed mother Margaret and two younger brothers at 89 Seventh Avenue and working as a plumber. By 1924, he had married and was living with his wife at 26 Amble Grove, Sandyford. Eleven years later, at the start of the second world war, the couple were still at the same address and Henry was still a plumber. When he died, aged 71, in 1963, they were living at 70 Guelder Road, High Heaton.
A HUXHAM Arthur Reeby Huxham was also 18 and, like Bert Hoit, a southerner with a father who worked for the admiralty. He was born in Stonehouse, Devon and had moved to Newcastle with his parents, Samuel and Selina, older brother, Henry, and younger sister, Mabel. His father was described as an ‘admiralty overseer (blacksmith)’. In 1911, the family was living at 28 Cheltenham Terrace. Arthur was an insurance agent. During the war, he bowled for Heaton Victoria but he died in 1926, aged only 34 years old.
A TURNER Unlike Bert Hoit and Arthur Huxham, Arthur William Turner was born in Newcastle but he wasn’t destined to stay here. Like the other Heaton United players mentioned so far, he was eighteen years old when the photo was taken, having been born on 10 March 1891. His father was from Yorkshire and his mother from Gateshead. In 1911, Arthur was an engineer’s apprentice and living with his parents, at 39 Cardigan Terrace.
Arthur married Cicie, an Essex girl, and in 1926 they had a young child, Audrey, who, was born in Tongshan, Hebei, China, where documents show that the family had been living. This may seem surprising but Cicie’s father, Henry Franklin, was a railway worker who, in 1899, had travelled to China, where he worked as a brake inspector and later, consultant, for the Imperial Railway of North China. British managers and workers played a major role in the building of this railway, although they endured some turbulent times including the Boxer Rebellion, just as Henry joined, and the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.
Cicie herself was born in England in 1901 but soon travelled with her mother to join her father in Tongshan. Both her younger brother, Philip, in 1903 and sister, Winifred, in 1908, were born in China. We can assume, therefore, that Arthur was helped find a job on the railway by his father in law. He certainly described himself at this time as a ‘railway engineer’. We don’t know precisely how long Arthur and Cicie spent in China but in 1927 they travelled to Canada, first of all as tourists, and then later that same year with the stated intention of emigrating.
Sometime before 1939, however, the family had returned to England. Arthur became the proprietor of a filling station in Clacton on Sea. They were still in Clacton when Cicie died, aged 47, in 1948. Arthur outlived her but we haven’t yet found out any more about his later years.
T RODGER Thomas Rodger came from good footballing pedigree.
His father was one of many Scots who came south to play for East End United and Newcastle United. Thomas Rodger senior, a left back, made his debut against Liverpool on 25 November 1893 and played 24 games for the Magpies before concentrating on his career working as a print compositor for the ‘Journal’, where he was to stay for over 40 years.
Thomas’s mother, Martha, was born in Kamptee, India while her father was serving in the army. By 1911, the veteran was living with his daughter’s family at 20 Edwin Street, Heaton.
Young Thomas was born in Perth, his father’s home town. He was the eldest of ten children, eight of whom were still alive in 1911. He was employed as an accountant’s clerk and would have been 17 when the team photo was taken. He married Olive M Hart in 1919. At this time, he was living at 71 Malcolm Street.
Thomas went on to have a successful career as an accountant, eventually running his own firm on Ellison Place. By 1939, he, Olive and son, Glen, were living in Monkseaton, where Thomas died in 1958, aged c 66. Glen followed his father into accountancy and the practice he established is still going strong, based at Cragside House on Heaton Road.
This could be Peter White, eldest son of George, a joiner, and his wife, Margaret, who in 1911, was living with parents and his younger siblings, Jane and Joseph, at 83 Seventh Avenue and employed as a shipyard clerk. The family had moved from North Northumberland sometime between about 1897 and 1901. Peter was born in Amble in c1894 and so would have been about 16 in the photograph. But we haven’t been able to find out any more about him.
Middle row, left to right:
There was a 16 year old Donald Smart living at 27 Coquet Terrace in 1911, with his mother, Amy Lavinia and his step-father, James Gray, a furniture salesman from Killochan, Ayrshire and two older sisters, Norah and Carmen. Donald was, at this time, an apprentice wholesale draper.
Donald and both of the sisters still at home had been born in ‘San Domingo in the West Indies’, which we now know as the Dominican Republic. Amy, his mother, who was born in Birmingham, had married John Smart in Derby in 1886. On their marriage certificate, John described himself simply as a ‘traveller’. We don’t know what took the couple to the Caribbean but it may have been the sugar industry.
By 1901, John had died and Amy and her five children had returned to England, to Moseley in Worcestershire. Amy was described as ‘living on her own means’. A major source of income appears to have been her lodgers. On census night, there were three boarders, one of whom was James Gray, soon to become her second husband.
In World War One, Donald served firstly a private then a sergeant with the Royal Fusiliers, which was known as the City of London or Stockbrokers’ regiment, as it recruited mainly from city workers. We don’t know whether Donald had moved to London, only that he died of wounds on 11 March 1917, aged 22, in Southampton War Hospital. He left his worldly goods amounting to £14 to be divided equally between his mother, two sisters and his brother, Herbert.
This name is difficult to make out but we think it must be that of Alexander Gauld. Alex was born in Gateshead on 6 March 1892 so would have been 17 years old when the photograph was taken.
By 1901, he was living at 12 Balmoral Terrace his mother, Elizabeth, and father, also called Alexander, who was a travelling salesman for a firm of stationers and a talented amateur artist, his older brother, John, and his aunt.
By 1911, with the family still at the same address, Alexander Junior was employed as a clerk. His older brother, John Richardson Gauld, was now studying at the Royal College of Art in London and he went on to attend the London County School of Lithography. He went on to teach, served as President of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts and exhibited widely. One of his watercolour landscapes is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum and there are portraits by him in the Laing, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery and elsewhere.
Unlike his brother, Alexander stayed at home. In 1939, he was still living with his now widowed mother in the same house on Balmoral Terrace. His occupation was now given as a ‘Solicitor’s Managing Clerk.’
When he died in 1966, aged 73, he was, somewhat confusingly, living at 7 Balmoral Avenue in South Gosforth.
This seems to be Richard Trotter, who in 1911, was living with his widowed mother, Jane, and two younger sisters at 12 Addycombe Terrace. He was working as an engineer’s apprentice at ‘Parsons Turbine.’
Richard was born in Bedlington on 11 April 1891. His father, James, a Scot, was a ‘Physician and Surgeon’ who came from a long line of doctors. ‘Burke’s Family Records’ traces the medical lineage back to Dr Robert Trotter of Edinburgh, who was one of the founders of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and its second president in 1689. Another notable ancestor was Robert Trotter (1736-1818), an associate of Robert Burns who, like the poet, planned to emigrate to the West Indies but ‘missed his ship’. Robert’s successful treatment of his patients in Galloway made him famous far beyond the area and he treated patients from all over Scotland.
James and Jane had 14 children, 12 of whom survived beyond infancy. The two oldest boys trained as doctors, as family tradition suggested they would, but Richard was only 8 years old when his father died. The bereaved family returned to Scotland for a while before Jane and the three youngest children came to Heaton, where Richard completed an apprenticeship at Parsons.
In 1912, however, Richard was on board SS Waipara when it set sail from London to Brisbane, one of many British people who went to Australia under government assisted immigration schemes. He found work in the Australian government’s railway workshops. On 17 April 1913, aged 22, he married an Australian, Lucinda Sinclair, in Queensland. War broke out the following year.
By the time Richard joined the Australian armed forces, the couple had two children. The British had asked the Australians to aid the war effort by recruiting battalions of railwaymen to move men and supplies on the Western Front. Now working for Westinghouse as a brake fitter, Richard joined the 4th Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company on 10 February 1917.
From his war records, we know a little more about what Richard looked like. He was 5 foot 10 inches tall, weighed 10 stone 2 lb, had grey eyes and brown hair. He described himself as Presbyterian. He travelled back to England for training and then onto France.
Richard survived the war and returned to Australia to resume his life with Lucy and their children. Lucy died in 1943 and Richard in 1973, aged 82.
W SIMM William Simm would have been 15 when the photo was taken. A year later, he was living with his father, also called William, a manager in a leather and rubber factory, and his mother, Eliza, at 35 Simonside Terrace. William junior was a clerk in a tannery.
By 1939, William was living in Whitley Bay with his mother and brother. His occupation was recorded as a commercial traveller. It was noted that he was incapacitated. He died in Newcastle in 1966.
J TAYLOR There are a couple of possibilities for the identity of this player but the most likely seems to be James Lloyd Taylor, born 30 September 1893, who, in 1911, was living at 54 Second Avenue with his Birtley-born mother, Ann, and his father, a railway passenger guard. Seventeen year old James was a railway booking clerk.
James stayed on Tyneside. In 1939, he was living in Jesmond with his wife, Frances, and still working as a railway clerk.
He died in 1968 in Seaton Sluice.
N SKELDON In 1911, Norman (full name, John Norman), an apprentice pattern maker, was living with his father, John, a clerk from Berwickshire, his mother, Emily, and three younger siblings at 27 Ebor Street. Norman had been born in Tyne Dock on 5 October 1891 so he was about 19 years old in the photograph.
He married Elizabeth in 1914. In 1939, he was still working as a pattern maker and living with Elizabeth and 22 year old daughter, Betty, in Warwick.
He died in 1947, aged 55.
Front row, left to right:
C BILLETOP This name was difficult to make out at first but we eventually realised that the player on the left of the front row was Torben Christian Billetop who, in 1911, was living at 40 Lesbury Road with his mother, Helen Bell Dixon, a Glaswegian, his father, also called Torben Christian, a younger sister, Gladys and a servant, Annie Sanderson. There was also an older brother, Adolph, who was no longer living at home. Ten years earlier, the family had been at 3 Guildford Place.
Torben Christian Billetop senior, a Dane, had come to Newcastle via Robert Napier, a shipbuilding firm in Glasgow, and Vickers of Barrow to work for Henry Watson and Sons, an old established Newcastle company, which during the 19th century made hydraulic cranes and machines designed by William Armstrong. Billetop joined the company in 1896 and became managing director. During his thirty years there, he patented many improved designs for machinery. By this time, the company was based at Walkergate.
Torben Christian junior (known as Christian) was born in Glasgow on 1 July 1892 and so would have been 17 years old when the team photo was taken. In 1910, he passed exams at Rutherford College in machine construction, drawing and applied mechanics. In 1911, he was an apprentice engineer and, in 1914, he graduated with a B Sc in Engineering from Durham University.
When the world war one broke out, we know that there was a great deal of suspicion of foreigners so it is no surprise to discover that in 1916, Torben senior took steps to become a British citizen.
In 1918, Christian married Mary Dixon and the couple lived at 15 Norwood Avenue, where their eldest son, also Torben Christian, was born. They relocated to Leicestershire, where Mary came from and in 1939, the family home was in Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, where Christian was described as an engineering works director. He died on 18 May 1980, aged 87.
G JOHNSTON George Collin Johnston, who appears to be the Heaton United goalkeeper, was born on 6 January 1892. In 1911, he was working as a ship chandler’s apprentice and living with his Scottish parents, Robert and Janet, six siblings and a lodger at 125 Tynemouth Road. On census night, the house was even fuller, as they had a visitor, Harold Battle, a marine engineer, staying with them.
By 1939, George was a dealer manager of a ships’ stores and living at 27 Swaledale Gardens, High Heaton with his wife, Alice, whom he had married in 1928. He died on 10 November 1968, aged 76.
J BUCK Finally, John Robert Buck, born on 21 February 1893 and so 16 or 17 when the team photo was taken. In 1911, he was living with his mother, five of his siblings, his maternal grandmother, a brother in law and a nephew and a niece,11 people in total, at 19 Spencer Street, where the family had lived for at least 10 years. His father a railwayman from Thranderston in Suffolk, was absent on census night. He was serving a seven year prison sentence at Portland in Dorset. John was working as a butcher’s assistant at this time.
By 1914, John married Sarah Kennon in Willington Quay. Their daughter, Elsie, was born a year later.
John is one of only three of the footballers for whom we have found war records. On enlistment, he described himself as a ‘horseman’. He served with the Army Cyclist Corps in Egypt and was wounded in action on 19 April 1917. In April 1918, Sarah wrote to his regiment to find out the whereabouts of her husband, from whom she had heard no news since February when he was ill with fever at a convalescent camp in Alexandria. By this time, he had also been diagnosed as suffering from mental illness or ‘monomania’. John’s employers, the Cooperative Society of 10 Newgate Street, had also written to the army. They applied for his discharge so that he ‘could resume his duties’ after being informed by the army that his condition would necessitate his doing outdoor work.
Immediately after the war ended, John was discharged as ‘no longer fit for active service’. In 1939, he was driving a light lorry and his nineteen year old son, Walter, had followed in his father’s footsteps and was working as a butcher’s assistant, possibly also at the Co-op.
John died in October 1979, aged 86.
So, although some of our footballers were born in Newcastle and at least one, Robert Stobie, stayed here all his life, many of our footballers experienced places far beyond Heaton, whether that was because they were born in the Caribbean like Donald Smart, worked and brought their families up in China or Australia like Richard Trotter or Arthur Turner or served their country in Egypt like John Buck. Others, like Christian Billetop and Thomas Rodger had parents who were born overseas, Denmark and India respectively.
Their jobs were equally varied: there were engineers, shipyard workers and railway clerks, as you might expect, but also an insurance agent, an accountant, a solicitor’s clerk, a tanner and a butcher’s assistant.
Many moved away from Newcastle permanently to other parts of England like Portsmouth, Essex, Warwickshire and Leicestershire as well as further afield.
We don’t know how many of them served in World War One as many records have been destroyed but at least one, Donald Smart, died on active service and another, John Buck, was incapacitated as a result of the war. Arthur Huxham lived only to the age of 34. But others, like Christian Billetop, lived well into their eighties.
Heaton United was probably short lived – we haven’t yet found a reference to it in the local press – but I wonder how many of the young men continued to play and watch football. Were some at Goodison Park to see Colin Veitch lift the cup at the end of that season or in the huge crowd that welcomed the team home? And what would the Heaton United players have to say about Newcastle United winning only one more league title since they posed for their own 1909/10 team photo, let alone the way the club is financed today?
Can You Help?
If you know more about Heaton United or any of the players in the photo or have photographs of your own to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Researched and written by Chris Jackson of Heaton History Group. Thank you very much to Jennie McGregor, for taking the trouble to send us the photograph.
British Newspaper Archive
‘Newcastle United: the ultimate who’s who 1881-2014’ / by Paul Joannou; N Publishing, 2014
‘Newcastle United’s Colin Veitch: the man who was superman‘ / by Keith Colvin Smith; AFV Modeller, 2020