In the beginning ....
History of the London Clarets
We have gathered together a collection of articles from members who were involved in the early years of the London Clarets and originally published in the magazine. They have been taken from the archive of Firmo's earlier website.
Firstly an overview circa 2001 ...
The Burnley London Supporters Club (commonly known as the London Clarets) was founded in 1976 by a small number of fans on their way back from a match at Norwich City, who wondered why they kept seeing the same faces on trains from London when Burnley were playing!
The club was formally established during season 1976-77 with the blessing of the legendary Burnley Chairman Bob Lord. Lord was not noted for his tolerance of supporters' organisations, and at the time Burnley did not even have an official supporters club. However, it's said that Lord decided we were too far away to interfere in anything!
That makes us the oldest of the many Burnley supporters groups around today.
Our membership has grown to a present day level of around 400, and we have published over 140 editions of our newsletter / magazine since our early days. More than anything, we have enabled hundreds of people to get to see Burnley, and kept the Claret flame burning in the South East. That said, although the main focus is on the south, we have members all over the country and overseas.
The club has always been an autonomous body, but has generally enjoyed a good and supportive relationship with Burnley Football Club. A lot of this is thanks to our Honorary President, Peter Pike, the MP for Burnley.
A sum of over £7,000 has been raised during recent years and donated via various forms of sponsorship to Burnley FC. In the dark days of 1986-87, which culminated in The Orient Game, the London Clarets made a straight cash gift to the club, but since then we have sponsored matches, match balls, players kit, programmes and the community scheme. It was recently decided to concentrate our sponsorship on the Gawthorpe redevelopment scheme.
Which leads to more detailed articles ...
The Formative Years (and beyond)
London Clarets newsletter and AGMs, 1977-1992
Some of those Saturdays in the close season are a little tricky to fill aren't they? That's not true, of course, as there is a lot of summer drinking to do, but it sort of explains how I was recently tidying out some cupboards at home and came across my pile of historical London Clarets material. I have kept everything since I joined in October 1977 so it is a very large pile indeed! Then I thought, why not write an article for the newsletter; for some of the many old timers (you know who you are) it may invoke memories; for the newcomers the history may prove interesting. First off I sent my findings to Danny West (a founder member) for him to add some of the early stuff. Thanks are due for his help.
The first 'newsletter' seems to have been an item dated June 1976 and actually headed 'a circular letter to Southern based Burnley supporters'. This is the earliest item Danny has. He thinks there were two more of these circulars before a missive headed 'Newsletter no. 4’ (the first one given that title) was issued in February 1977. This was followed by no. 5 (it would be wouldn't it!) in April 1977, no. 6 in June 1977 and so on, thus establishing the every two months format which has continued, with hiccups, to this day. In the early years the newsletter was composed of typed and duplicated A4 sheets and not until issue no. 28, March 1981, was the current booklet style adopted. The first issue I have is no. 8, so if anyone has 1-7 that they don't want I will be pleased to take them off their hands.
It was the policy in the early years to hold informal meetings in Central London, usually on Saturday evenings after Burnley had played in town. The first of these, which was reported on in newsletter no. 4, was held on 20th January 1977 (a Thursday) at the New Savoy Tavern, Savoy St, WC2. Some 26 members attended, the subscription was increased to £1 and it was decided to start a sports and social section - something I think we've done with great success!
Further meetings were held at the same venue on 19th March 1977, 14th May 1977 and 25th August 1977. The fifth and sixth informal meetings were held at the Black Horse, Rathbone Place, W1, on 5th November 1977 and 25th February 1978. The last one was poorly attended and these gatherings ceased.
In place of them came the much grander sounding AGMs, and the first one to be actually called this was held at the Oporto, High Holborn, WC1 on 30th October 1978. This so far has been the only non-summer AGM. It was later called the 2nd AGM, even though none of the earlier meetings had this title bestowed on them, so I assume the 20th January 1977 meeting was deemed to be the first AGM.
In 1979 we moved to a summer date of June 9th and again met at the Oporto, which was also the venue for our darts matches in the early years. It was the first AGM I attended and I had the great pleasure of beating our newsletter editor in the individual knockout darts tournament held after the meeting. Since then I have been to all the AGMs and found them excellent social occasions over the years. For connoisseurs of lists they have been held as follows.
Let's hope there are many more to come!
Michael E Benyon
Calvert's Claret Reflections
Marking the first 100 issues of the London Clarets magazine
It was November 1958 and I was living in Bredbury, near Stockport, on the street where I spent the first 24 years of my life. School pals mainly followed the Manchester teams, whilst a few stood on the terraces at Edgeley Park, Stockport County being the nearest league ground. One day I accompanied a friend to old Trafford when Burnley were the visitors. I think the return coach fare was two Shillings and we were both aged eleven. Parents didn't worry too much in those days about youngsters making those sorts of trips.
I remember the day being dull with a cold breeze blowing. The result was a rare 1-3 home defeat for United, but two factors specifically stood out about that autumn afternoon. One was experiencing the atmosphere under floodlights, although it was late afternoon rather than evening. I still experience a buzz during night matches at the Turf. The second was a blond centre forward called Ray Pointer, who scored twice. I was captivated by his swift passing and shooting, where the ball rarely left the ground's surface. Whilst my contemporaries’ heroes in that post-Munich period became Charlton, Law, Best etc, mine was Ray Pointer, and thus began my support for the Clarets. Incidentally, it was marvellous to see him at Wembley a few years ago competing in the Vintage Claret team prior to the Sherpa Van Trophy Final. He looked no different thirty years on, if understandably slightly slower.
In my teens living thirty odd miles from the Turf and with no car in the family home, matches witnessed were few and far between. The coach trips (five Shillings?) were utilised when United or City played Burnley away, and Christmas or Birthday treats to the Turf were the exception. Pointer moved on but my allegiance stayed as the heights of the early and mid sixties fell to the relegation battle and subsequent Division Two status at the end of that decade.
Life moves on and I found myself working and living in London in the early seventies. We have the joy of promotion back to Division One after two years and then three years in the top flight under the shrewd management of Jimmy Adamson. What a tragedy when he left after the Blackpool Cup defeat and caused the loss of so many key personnel both on and off the field.
It was at this time that one began to notice some regular faces on trains to and from London on match days. Could there really be a small nucleus of Clarets fans in the South? Our magazine editor in the 99th edition asked contributors to use 1976 as the trigger point for supporters club items, so I hope you will forgive the preamble so far. So when can we really say our club started?
From my own standpoint, I would regard 6.00 pm approx. on 10th January 1976 as the catalyst. I was returning from Norwich to Liverpool Street after witnessing a 3-1 defeat I recall Keith Newton was our goalscorer.
Walking up the corridor of the Inter-City train were Michael Garrard and Greg Peck. The latter is sadly no longer with us after a personal tragedy in the mid-80s. The former had a briefcase with about ten of the original APFSCIL clubs specified in large letters, including of course, their own Norwich City. (How ironic that Norwich feature in this article, a team whose current close passing game resembles so much our own both now and in the past.)
Greg and Mike talked about APFSCIL and the various social functions arranged. Also the joint travel procedures. I seem to recall Danny West and I liased by phone the following Monday and agreed that he would attend an APFSCIL darts match and I would turn up at one of the monthly meetings. From my recollection I went to the Savoy Tavern off the Strand and it was there that our own first meeting took place. Regrettably, I don't recall the exact date, but it was probably about four months after the above-mentioned Norwich v Burnley match.
From there the supporters club grew in opposite proportion to the team's fortunes as Second Division became Third and then Fourth. I was privileged to be Chairman / Secretary in the late seventies and also treasurer of APFSCIL for a while. Personal circumstances restrict my current involvement, but it is marvellous to know the membership is presently 210 and rising. One record I do have intact is to see the youth team at least once a season, and I've kept this going since 1979. I used to try and do the same with the reserves, but sadly this lapsed in the 1980s.
Highs and lows? You bet. Exhilaration at witnessing the 4-1 win at Elland Road in March 1974. For a Turf Moor performance, the 2-1 victory over Liverpool on a wet Boxing Day 1973 springs to mind. Utter depression at seeing a 0-2 home defeat by Plymouth Argyle in the New Year of 1977, and sympathy for keeper Billy O'Rourke's debut performance in a 7-0 away drubbing at QPR in October 1979. Smiles at witnessing a similar score line, this time in Burnley's favour at home to Rotherham in February 1985. Dejection with a 0-6 home defeat by Hereford in January 1987. And so one could go on.
Coming up to date I attended the superb Youth Cup victory at Wimbledon in January 1994 and it was again pleasing to witness some solid and vociferous away support, even at youth level. Taking Burnley FC generally as opposed to simply the first team, I feel there is a solid foundation for the future, and-hope that league elevation will continue for the remainder of the decade.
In conclusion, the supporters’ club has achieved a status beyond my wildest dreams from some twenty years ago and I wish it well for the future. To all current and past Committee members, thank you for your time and efforts. To all members], remember you are supporting a great footballing institution, not withstanding the problems of the last ten years or so, and we can all hold our heads high in any football gathering.
It finally occurs to me that if the newsletter frequency continues at the current rate, I shall be in my seventies for the 200th edition! Assuming I'm still around to contribute to that publication, Ray Pointer will once again feature in the opening comments.
Make a note in your diary now!
Approaching 25 years of the London Clarets
As interest in our website grows our 'Tsar' has been busy making requests for historical articles for insertion on the site. As a member of over twenty years standing (I joined in October 1977) I foolishly said I would try and dig out some relevant back magazine issues for Firmo to play with. I have thus loaned him issue 50 (February 1984) and issue 100 (February 1994), which contain excellent historical articles by Micky Bullen and Neil Calvert respectively. I have also loaned him issue 92 as it includes an article I wrote myself on the club's early years with particular reference to the meetings and the AGMs. Hopefully all these articles will appear on the web in due course.
Whilst doing this little bit of research, and bearing in mind that there has been talk of 25th birthday celebrations (as if we need an excuse!), it occurred to me that we should try and get the date right. Unfortunately it's not that simple.
The idea for the club arose from a series of casual meetings on train journeys to and from matches. Eventually on Saturday 10th January 1976, Neil Calvert and Danny West, returning from Norwich met a couple of APFSCIL people on the train and resolved to do something about it. They spoke on the phone the following Monday, 12th January, and agreed to attend both an APFSCIL meeting and a darts match. Micky Bullen in his article claims that 12/1/76 was accordingly the formation date and he has a point.
However can you form a club without either a meeting or something in writing? Not in my book. Neil in his article says that he (and presumably others) attended an APFSCIL meeting at the Savoy Tavern just off the Strand and that our own first meeting occurred at the same time. Critically he can't pinpoint the date other than towards the end of the 1975/76 season. However the result was a subscription of 50p, presumably to raise the funds for our first written item titled 'a circular letter to Southern based Burnley supporters' and dated June 1976. Newsletter No 1 in effect. So perhaps that is when we were really formed.
The first formal, rather than ad hoc, meeting of the club, gleaned from newsletter No. 4 (still just an A4 sheet), was not in fact held until Thursday 20/1/77, also at the Savoy Tavern. Some 26 members attended and subscriptions were raised to £1. From the minutes and dates of subsequent meetings it is clear that this was subsequently deemed to be the first AGM. So it could be said that we weren't formalised until January 1977 although that is perhaps an extreme view.
From the above it seems clear there is no certain answer unless more light is shed on the events of early 1976. My view is that perhaps we should celebrate in our traditional manner every month from January to June 2001 just to make sure!
Michael E Benyon
25 years and all that
Approaching 25 years of the London Clarets
In the last magazine Michael Benyon raised the subject of the difficulty of pinpointing an official date for the formation of our supporters club. I agree with Michael that it would be nice to have a particular date to focus our energies upon and maybe to have the official celebrations. As one who was around at the time I feel a little responsible and to a degree guilty that Benny says in his article "getting the date right is not that simple." However I do have reasons for this and I also have an official date in mind and would like to put this forward for consideration.
Looking around at the AGM attendances and our ever growing membership over the years, it is totally mind-blowing to sometimes reflect upon the fact that this organisation was born out of a nucleus of about half a dozen souls during our last season in the then division one back in 1976. I often wonder how we would have fared had we started the club earlier during our 1st division heydays, but I am not sure we could have done any better. There was an ill fated attempt at a club in the late sixties which arranged two trips by coach (Coventry 1-4, Southampton 1-5) and a couple of newsletters, but in the summer of 1969 a mixture of lack of enthusiasm among members and a serious car accident involving two of the committee spelt its demise. I believe membership totalled about 25. On forming our club years later we were never able to trace any of the members of this early attempt at organising the 'London Clarets'.
I had first attended Turf Moor on 30th January 1971 for the game versus Newcastle. I made the journey alone, although I later discovered that future Chairman of the club Clive Jennings made his first trip to Burnley on that day. I made three more trips to Turf Moor that relegation season and on one of them I met the small band that would form my travelling companions for a long time to come. Names such as Simon Pettit, Michael Bullen, Ken Webb and Peter Benjamin spring immediately to mind. Others such as Pete Hodson (Uri), Nigel Blackburn and of course Henry Lumley joined us soon after.
1971/72 saw me take in 36 league games as Burnley finished the season on a high of six straight wins, and the following season, despite the turmoil caused by British Rail’s electrification of the London to Glasgow line, I managed a 100% record as the Clarets won promotion back to Division One. Further obstacles were thrown in the way of trying to see the Clarets play over the next couple of seasons. Miners strikes, train strikes and a ban on cheap day return travel to name but three, and then came 1975/76, relegation year. (Again.)
I wrote an article for magazine number 101, which gave some of the background to the formation of the club. In that article I suggested that I took some persuading before going ahead with my part in the proceedings. What I didn’t say was the motive behind me finally agreeing to arrange our very 1st organised trip. It was of course SELFISHNESS!
Forming a club and joining APFSCIL would give us many benefits, including sports and social activities, but to me the one thing offered was the chance to continue to support the Clarets and get to the matches as cheaply as possible. In fact, for a while in those early days, we were able to travel at a rate below the prices of two or three years before.
Benny asks, "Can you have a club without a meeting or something in writing?" I would suggest that on 28th February 1976, when the train left Euston station for Preston and had on board a joint group of Burnley and Aston Villa supporters travelling officially under the banner of Burnley London Supporters Club, we had our 1st meeting, and the contract with British Rail contains the proof that we as a club existed.
OK, more formal meetings followed, subscriptions were set, committees formed, newsletters circulated, teams formed to compete in many competitions, BUT the first and foremost reason for the club's formation and existence was to attempt to get as many people along to Burnley matches as organised and as cheaply as possible. During the dark days of the mid eighties when the travelling Clarets were down to mainly Woody, Clive and Nigel, the club still existed, we still had our newsletters, sports and social events and once a year met for the AGM, but I wonder how long it could or would have continued in that manner? The fact it survived at all is great testament to those who travelled at the time.
So there it is. There are no records, anything formal, or anything official. It was all a gradual process driven by a selfish desire to see Burnley play and it all came together on:
Saturday February 28th 1976