Bethel Robinson, a Man of Many Clubs. When the inaugural Football Season ended on the 30th of March 1889, the Everton full back Nick Ross returned to his former club Preston North End while his partner Sandy Dick returned to the family home in Kilmarnock. The club however, had arranged fixtures that would take them in to the month of May so they invited several players to make a guest appearance.
One of them was the “much travelled”, Bethel Robinson. Named after his Father, he was born April 1861, in the fishing port of Fleetwood and was the first child of his Preston born mother, Phebe. The 1871 census finds Bethel, who now has 2 younger brothers, staying at the home of his Grandmother in Poulton – le – Fylde because his parents are in the process of setting up a Cabinet Making business at 6 Lord Street in Preston where the family would later settle. When his education was complete, Bethel started work as an assistant to the Town Clerk of Preston and became a founder member of the North End club who first played under Rugby rules before adopting those of the Football Association.
Lieutenant William Sudall, later to become a Major, of the local Volunteer Force was the mentor of Bethel Robinson when he began his soccer career accompanying “Cun” Duckworth at Full Back. He had assumed the role of club secretary when he married Margaret Parker at Holy Trinity church on the 4th of April 1882 and settled at 22 Milner Street in Preston. Mr Sudall, however, had noted the success enjoyed by the teams from neighbouring Blackburn and now began to import players from Scotland and pay them for their services. Rumours of “Professionalism” soon began to reach the ears of the officials at the FA headquarters in London who moved in to investigate. Matters “came to a head” in January 1884 when, following a drawn FA Cup tie with Upton Park, the North End club were found guilty of infringing the rules and expelled from the contest. It was never made clear what Robinson, who took part in the game, thought about the proceeding but he left Deepdale at the end of season to play for local amateur side, Preston Zingari. Around December he left Preston, with his Wife and Daughter, to become the Landlord of the Fisherman’s Arms in Oswaldtwistle.
He next played for Accrington, where he once appeared for Aston Villa, before taking on the role of club captain/secretary, at Church. Formed in 1882, they shared a home with the local cricket club on Pickup Street and enjoyed the nickname of the “Turkey Reds”. This was in due to the colour of their shorts that were produced, locally, at Steiner’s Dye Works. Several of the Church players, who been imported from Scotland, worked at this establishment. Robinson entered his team for the National knockout and, after beating Rawtenstall 7-1, were drawn against Rangers on their home on West Scotland Street in Glasgow. The game, which took place on 28th of November 1886, saw Church narrowly beaten by 2 goals to 1.
On the 12th of March 1887 Everton, on their first visit to Church, found the location difficult to find and arrived well after the time agreed for the kick-off. They fielded a weak side and were beaten by 5 goals to 3. Two weeks later Bethel Robinson appeared at Anfield where a crowd of 4,000 waited to greet him and his team mates. Everton, who fielded a stronger side, beat them by 4 goals to 1. However, when Everton appeared at Church next season, a local reported described them as…not resembling the team who appeared here last season. The game ended in 2-2 draw. Robinson had again entered his side in the FA knockout but they fell at the first hurdle after being beaten, 2-0 by Darwen, on Barley Bank Meadow. When the currant season came to an end, he moved his family to Bolton where he became the proprietor of the Crown and Cushion on Mealhouse Lane and, when the Football League commenced, was on the books of Bolton Wanderers.
When Everton visited Pikes Lane in September, they were well beaten 6-2 but won the return game, in November, at Anfield 2-1. Robinson played in both matches. In February 1889 he can be found playing for his former club Preston North End, against Hyde, in a game that was designed to raise money for the bereaved families of the men killed in the explosion at St Helens Colliery near Workington.
When the season had ended, Bethel Robinson accepted the invitation to play 3 homes games for Everton beginning – on the 8th of May, with a 2-0 win over Darwen. He then took part in the game against Preston North End, a 3-1 defeat, and ended his sojourn with a 1-0 victory against Accrington. During his second season with Bolton Wanderers, Robinson assisted them in reaching the semi-final of the FA Cup where they took on Sheffield Wednesday on the home of Aston Villa at Perry Barr. Former Everton player Jimmy Cassidy gave the Lancastrians the lead but the Yorkshire side fought back to win the game 2-1.
During the 1890-91season, Robinson adopted a roving commission and “turned up” playing at several different locations. On the 11th of October, he is found playing for Bootle as they beat Newton Heath, 3-0, in a Football Alliance match. Two weeks later he can be found playing for Newton Heath as they were beaten 6-1 in hastily arranged friendly home game with Darwen. Robinson took part in the West Bromwich Albion FA Cup campaign and was in the side that was beaten, in the semi-final, 3-2 by Blackburn Rovers at Stoke.
The Crown and Cushion had become a magnet for football fans from all over Lancashire and no visit to Bolton was complete without “calling in for pint” at “Bethels” to catch up on the latest gossip. Robinson was at this location when the 1891 census was taken and it tell us he now has 4 children and employs 2 people who reside on the premises. In the August of 1891 Robinson signed for Lancashire League side Fleetwood Rangers where he spent the season.
He next signed for Southport Central and appeared against Liverpool, Anfield, in the Lancashire Cup. In December he returned to Fleetwood and made a second appearance at Anfield in a Lancashire League match. He later retired from the game. The 1901 census shows a fifth child has been added to the Robinson family who are now residing, in London, at 40 Oxford Street, Chiswick.
The head of the household, who is now a Widower, declares himself to be a Turf Accountant. Bethel Robinson was living, as a Boarder, in London when news reached him, October 1917, of the death of his only son, Bethel who was serving with the 15th Battalion (City of London) Civil Service Rifles. He is buried at Kantara Memorial Cemetery in Egypt. Bethel Robinson later retired to Westcliffe-on-Sea where he died on the 26th of October 1933.