Our Heritage: George knew the score

Williamsons 1960-61.'Front row from left: D Woodhouse, K Thistlethwaite, Ray Gibson, Arthur Park, W Roberts. Back row from left: George Nelson (manager/chairman), Joe Townley, E Hodgson, Charlie Timperley, Bill Mossop, Tony Sweeney, Ken Moscrop, J Sweeney (secretary).
Williamsons 1960-61.'Front row from left: D Woodhouse, K Thistlethwaite, Ray Gibson, Arthur Park, W Roberts. Back row from left: George Nelson (manager/chairman), Joe Townley, E Hodgson, Charlie Timperley, Bill Mossop, Tony Sweeney, Ken Moscrop, J Sweeney (secretary).

George Nelson was born in Morecambe in 1932 and died in Lancaster in 2013.

These bare facts though tell us nothing about the man who lived a life following his passion that was football.

At the age of two he lost the sight in one eye while playing with exploding “caps” that were used by all youngsters in those days.

He attended the Cathedral School, Lancaster, and left at 14 to work at Dempsey’s painters and decorators but because of his impaired vision he moved on to be a messenger boy at Lansil.

A move to Williamson’s soon followed and George played football for the works side. But at the age of 19, whilst playing at Galgate, he broke his tibia and fibula and never played another game.

His love of football now propelled him into another role, that of football manager and administrator and he guided many Williamson’s teams before moving on to work at Standfast Dyers and Printers in the 1960s.

Standfast, who played their home games on Ryelands Park, didn’t have the excellent facilities that George had experienced at Williamson’s.

George was chief tea maker and would fill a huge urn with boiling water, put in maybe 20 or 30 tea bags, milk and two pounds of sugar and then stir the concoction with an empty milk bottle.

When his wife, Margaret, offered to take over these duties, the players declined her kind offer saying they liked tea the way George made it.

So often the men in suits on the periphery of football photographs are nameless with all the focus being on the players – but George Nelson was bigger than this and his reputation and record was recognised at the highest level of local football.

Mick Campbell was a great friend of George Nelson and his memories of George are almost endless.

Every Saturday morning they would journey into Lancaster to call at Riley & Braithwaite’s sports shop to find a bargain or two.

If a football had been on display in the window George would get it at a reduced price because it was described by Mr Braithwaite as “mucky” and then they would call in at the Mechanics Arms for a gill of ale (equivalent to a quarter of a pint) on the way home to prepare for the game.

George would hold weekly draws or raffles at Standfast during the week and the club was financially sound thanks to his efforts, so much so that Mick recalls the team travelled to away games on an executive coach, most likely Ireland’s.

Before away games the team would congregate at the Carpenter’s Arms, Lancaster and await the arrival of their executive coach, which almost certainly impressed most of their opponents.

When George married he took a ‘gap year’ away from the game and Standfast was run temporarily by Bill Manley, who couldn’t prevent them being relegated.

It is likely that two of the biggest personalities in the game were George Nelson and Ray Harrison, and Mick recalls another memory that was typically Ray.

They were scheduled to play a game at Milnthorpe in midweek and all the team looked forward to performing under the new Corinthians floodlights.

Big Ray found himself having to play in goal and he emerged from the dressing room in a yellow jersey, bright red shorts and a cap.

Not satisfied with that he fixed a bicycle headlight to the cap and took up his place in goal much to the amusement of the crowd.

In a Milnthorpe attack the ball was played down the wing over the full back’s head and when the defence turned to chase they saw Ray behind the net sharing a bag of chips with a young spectator.

Who knows what the final score was – it seems almost irrelevant when you had entertainers like Ray Harrison on the field.