Our October meeting, held on October 3rd, was a little different. Instead of a former player or coach we were introduced to the story of a player who played for the Tigers over 100 years previously. No one present could even claim to have seen him play!
Patrick O’Connell played 58 times for our club between 1912 and 1914 before he was sold to Manchester United for the huge sum of £1000. Even the legendary Billy Boston was only signed by Hull FC for £600.
Our speaker was Rob Bell from the Hull History Troup, a man passionate to tell the story of our city and her people. His interest in O’Connell stemmed from a personal love of FC Barcelona, coming from the years he lived and worked in the Spanish city. The link that gained his commitment was that our hero went on to coach the Spanish giants and took on the name of Don Patricio. It is a remarkable story, one which we were privileged to receive.
O’Connell was born in Dublin in 1887, near Croke Park. As a young lad he would join Belfast Celtic before moving to Sheffield Wednesday in 1909 and then to Hull City. During his time with City he was appointed Captain of the Irish team that played in the British Championship and which won the Championship for Ireland in 1913.
He was strongly opinionated too and having moved on from us to Manchester United he joined the fledgling Players’ Union, one of the first to do so and making him none to popular with the club. On Good Friday, 1915, United played Liverpool in a game that would decide the survival of both clubs. At half-time United led by 2-0 which was a result that would ensure that both clubs survived. However a last minute penalty was awarded which would, if scored, condemn Liverpool. History says that it had been a second half that was “crammed with lifeless football” so no surprise that the resulting penalty missed the goal and hit the corner flag! The rigged game saw a number of player convicted but not O’Connell. Shortly afterwards all games were suspended for the duration of the War. During the War he moves south and is employed by the Ford Motor Company delivering new vans. He also guest appears for Clapton Orient but his playing days were coming to an end. Instead he took up coaching and moved to Spain were many of the managers were British or Irish. Don Patricio, as he now becomes, takes Racing Santander to five regional titles before moving to Real Oviedo and then Real Betis, Seville’s second club. In 1934-35 they won their one and only La Liga title playing ‘Total Football’. He moves again, this time to the mighty FC Barcelona. The European drive towards Fascism was firing many flames and the Catalan team was not popular with the Spanish Government under Franco but Don Patricio took a keen role to ensure that FC Barcelona survived despite Franco threatening to shut the club down.
O’Connell had married Ellen Treston but she wouldn’t leave Ireland. She remained there and Patrick did other things! In time he met and married another Ellen – possibly bigamously! Returning to England he stayed with his brother who ran a hotel near Kings Cross. The later years of a man who has shaped and changed so many things would be disappointing as he hit the bottle. In 1957 O’Connell passed away in London and was buried in a pauper’s grave at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Kilburn. Since then efforts have been made to ensure he is given honour and that history does finally recognise a most remarkable talent – and, yes, he played for the Tigers!
During the meeting praise was expressed for the brilliant trip to Saltaire and members were reminded of the up coming trip to Middlesboro FC and the James Herriot Centre in Thirsk. Bookings were now being taken for the Christmas Luncheon on Thursday 5th December. Our Chair introduced our two Well-being Co-ordinators, Elizabeth Clague & Paul Bryan, encouraging members to take issues to them. Elizabeth had been asked whether we could have a Senior Tigers Ladies Walking Football or Netball and this was being explored.
Jeff Barmby is organising a Fundraiser Support night on Friday, 6th December – call him on 447472
After another excellent Raffle it was left for David, our Chair, to announce that our speaker in November will be Les Hare, from the re-emerging North Ferriby United.
Rob Bell with Committee member, Pat Ellis holding a copy of Rob’s book, ‘Sharp Street’