Bluebow puzzle mystifying

A PLEA in this column in June for more information about a former Yarmouth Mercury journalist from more than a century ago had a positive outcome, I am pleased to report.

My help was enlisted by Colin Sherwood, of Onslow Avenue in Yarmouth, who was researching family history and wanted to elaborate on facts he had already elicited about his grand-uncle, James Benjamin Beckett (1872-1935).

At one time James Beckett worked at the Mercury’s Gorleston office in High Street and wrote under the pseudonym of Bluebow before leaving this area for King’s Lynn where he continued in journalism, and returning to Gorleston later in life.

Despite Beckett being a prolific surname in the Yarmouth area, the name vaguely rang a figurative bell with a long-time friend of this column, Peter Allard, of Mallard Way in Bradwell, a man with a deep interest in local maritime, historical, archaeological and ornithological matters.

“I’ve had a quick search through some old literature and found that James Beckett formed the Great Yarmouth Young Men’s Naturalists Society in September 1889 which held its first meeting a month later at the Yarmouth Free Library,” Peter tells me.

“James was living then at Trinity Place, Friar’s Lane, Yarmouth. In the November of that year, he gave a talk on local fresh water molluscs.

“By January 1890, the society was being called the Great Yarmouth Naturalists Society, although it appears it may have folded as, by 1893, James’ address was now at Belvoir Street, Earlham Road, Norwich.

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“In his absence, a Yarmouth section of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society had been formed in June 1893 and James certainly became involved with this section, giving a talk or two on local molluscs again.

“By 1894, he was living at 11 Lancaster Road, Yarmouth, and continued there until at least 1897. He is not listed as a member of this society after 1897 and the story goes rather cold on him after this date.”

But Peter’s delving failed to provide an explanation for Bluebow, James Beckett’s pen-name during his time on the Mercury and the middle name he bestowed upon his only son, James Bluebow Beckett (1902-1980).

That remains a puzzle to the three of us, and one I fear is unlikely ever to be solved despite continuing investigation.

Another topic that occupied this column was local football, looking not only at the old Thursday league, in which many of the teams represented shops and businesses that enjoyed half-day closing on that day of the week, but also referees Norman Burtenshaw and Alf Grey who progressed to officiate at the highest level, including FA Cup finals.

That prompted a call from reader Michael Nicholas, of Wadham Road, Gorleston, to remind me of the remarkable record of his old senior school – the Alderman Leach (now the Sixth Form College) in Gorleston - in producing players who progressed to professional clubs.

I could have named him Peter Simpson (Arsenal), Mike Bailey (Wolves) and Dave Stringer, who went on to manage Norwich City, but Mr Nicholas produced others for me, including: Peter Denton and Graham Willis (both Coventry City), Graham Saunders (Norwich City), Eddie Stone (Charlton Athletic) and Brian Boggis, a former Crystal Palace player who was latterly running the now-closed White Horse public house in Gorleston.

The Alderman Leach also produced many lads who dominated the Yarmouth Boys and Gorleston Boys elevens in the Fifties, some of whom progressed higher in local soccer, he said, mentioning David Webster, Johnny Alcock and Barry Wadham. At one time nine of the 11 Yarmouth Boys were from the Leach.

As for Peter Simpson, many Arsenal fans believed he was one of the best players never to win an England cap despite his 14 years as an imposing defender at Highbury in the Sixties and Seventies, helping his team to win the league and cup double in 1970-71 and the European Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1971.

He played in four domestic cup finals for Arsenal, with the 1971 FA Cup win over Liverpool the only success of that quartet.

Mike Bailey was the Charlton Athletic captain at the age of 19, moving to Wolves in 1966 for a �40,000 fee. He represented the Football League and had two full England international caps, and skippered Wolves when the club won promotion to the First Division in 1966-67.

Mike was wearing the skipper’s arm-band in Wolves’ League Cup final victory in 1974.

In the promotion year he was voted Midlands Footballer of the Year.

During his Molyneux career, Mike Bailey played 436 times - scoring 25 goals but preventing hundreds!

His testimonial was in 1976, after which he went to the United States for a while but returned and managed and coached non-league sides as well as Charlton, Brighton & Hove Albion and Portsmouth.

That reference to the White Horse public house at Gorleston led me on to another train of sporting thought: bowling greens!

For it used to have a bowls green along with several other pubs in Yarmouth and Gorleston, but I doubt if any remain today although I hope that is a wrong assumption.

Recently Mrs Peggotty and I played in a Norfolk Petanque League match against the Yarmouth Bloaters who have switched terrains from the closed Burrage Centre to the Rumbold Arms on Southtown Road.

For many years a bowling green was one of its amenities and attractions but it has long gone, and it seemed bizarre that a traditional English game on a lovingly tended lawn had been succeeded by the French version on shingle and rough ground.

And, of course, instead of wooden bowls cast along a green, steel boules weighing 1�lb each were being tossed on to gravelly pistes.

Derek Webster, who is currently organising the Yarmouth Festival of Bowls that starts at the end of this month, took over the Rumbold in 1982 when the formerly manicured bowls green was covered in grass 6ft high!

He has listed other pubs that had greens attached: the Lord Roberts, Two Bears Hotel and the Halfway House, opposite which was Watney’s Maltings where there was also a bowling green.