On June 23 1981, the man known as ‘Mr Football’, John Bagot, died.
He had been ill since December 1980 but had continued his work as secretary of the North Lancashire and District League.
John was born in Derby Road, Skerton, on November 19, 1902 and I assume he played football at school.
After the First World War he possibly carried on playing before becoming a referee.
He was the son of James Bagot, a former warehouseman at Williamson’s and his grandfather was a well-known personality in Lancaster at the end of the Victorian era.
His family was justly proud of the prestige which attached to grandfather John Bagot’s photographic studio which stood at the junction of Wood Street and Damside Street.
John was educated at the old Skerton British School during the headmastership of the revered Mr JN Armstrong (see photograph) and afterwards attended Dallas Road School before going to the Technical College.
There he became associated with the Lancaster Storey Institute Students’ Association, whose secretary he became in 1926.
In the course of time Johnny raised the prestige of the association to a plane which was never eclipsed.
He continued as secretary until 1938, was persuaded to return in 1942 and continued until his marriage in 1949.
He married Annie Sharples on June 8, 1949 at Lancaster Priory Church and they spent their honeymoon at Bowness-on-Windermere.
During his term as secretary he was instrumental in founding a flourishing debating society as well as tennis and rambling sections.
Always a keen outdoor enthusiast he inaugurated the Lancaster Rambling Club which was formed in November 1938. He was unanimously appointed secretary and held office until his marriage.
He took a leading part in promoting the affiliation of the club with the Ramblers’ Association (Lake District Section) and was secretary of the Lancashire Council for a number of years. John’s introduction to North Lancashire League Football was as a referee in 1931.
During his service as a qualified referee he was appointed to control an English FA Cup tie between Workington and Chorley in 1936.
He joined the North Lancashire League Council at a meeting on September 20, 1940 and in 1941 became Registration Secretary.
He was appointed League Secretary on Friday, May 1, 1942 and combined with those duties the onerous job of fixture secretary.
John was elected on to the Lancashire Football Association Youth Committee in 1947 and never relinquished that position.
He donated a number of trophies including an award for the most promising young referee.
The first holder of this cup was Norman Wilson who has served football all his life and is still to be seen on the Giant Axe selling raffle tickets at Lancaster City’s home games. With John Bagot at the helm the bond between the clubs and referees was strengthened for the benefit of the game.
I’m not sure if John ever played football but he loved the game and served it faithfully throughout his life and I have found many references to him in a book called The Second Tuesday in the Month by Clifford Moffet, that records the history of the local society of referees from 1921-81.
One extract reads: “In January 1932 nine teams took part in a competition held by the Lancaster Storey Institute with the object of promoting interest and enthusiasm in the Students Football Club.
“The referees were to be John Bagot and T Betton who were members of the Lancaster & District Referees Society (in 1952 it became the Lancaster & Morecambe Referees’ Society).
“February 1933 saw John pass the theory test as a candidate for the Senior List of the Lancashire Football Association.
“John was presented to HRH the Duke of Gloucester in January 1934 when he paid a Royal Visit to Lancaster to expound the principles of Boys’ Clubs and to emphasise the need for more branches of the organisation.
“In season 1936-37 John Bagot was referee for the Infirmary Junior Cup Final between Caton United and Cellulose Reserves on the Giant Axe that ended with the villagers winning 3-0.”
The Lancaster Guardian reported that during a match on November 3, 1937: “John Bagot had to receive attention for exhaustion during a game he was refereeing brought on by the appalling conditions.”
In 1942 John was still an active referee when he was elected Secretary of the North Lancashire & District League and played a major role in its continuation. In spite of great difficulties caused by problems of communication, travel and loss of players due to call-up and work pressures, the league continued throughout the war years without a break and John deserves great credit for this achievement.
The registration of players highlighted the problem in the area for in 1939 the number registered stood at 1,066 but by 1941 this number had declined dramatically to 398.
When he joined the league in wartime there were about 20 clubs operating in two divisions. Ten years later there were more than 70 in four senior and two junior divisions.
One of the photographs on this page is my favourite of John – in the company of the best footballer of my generation, Sir Tom Finney.
When he attended this function in Lancaster he was still plain “Tom”, the Preston Plumber.
When Sir Tom kindly agreed to write the “Foreword” for an earlier book of mine I sent him this photograph to remind him of his connection with local football and he was always delighted to support grassroots football and officials like John Bagot who devoted their lives to the game.
Sir Tom Finney reached the pinnacle of the game as a player and John Bagot reached those same dizzy heights as an administrator, a man without equal.