John Shearon (The Ruleteros)
The Background to the Everton FC War Memorial Plaques
When Dr. David France first started the search for the Everton players who had given their lives in the two World Wars, who would have thought the net would have fallen as far as South America? While Paul Wharton, Dr. John Rowlands and Dr. France set about identifying the Goodison fallen, Frank Gorman and Linda Lines from the Ruleteros Society were busy tracking down the details of two ex-pats, Frank Boundy and Malcolm Fraser. These co-founders of Everton Football Club in Chile both died on the Somme in 1916.
The idea of a commemorative plaque for the Everton players was proposed and, at Paul Wharton’s suggestion, the two names of the two ‘Chileans’ were added to the five ‘British’ names: Brian Atkins, Thomas Gracie, Leigh Richmond Roose, William Sumner and Wilfred Toman.
An initial plaque was commissioned by Dr. France and his wife, Elizabeth, to be installed at Goodison Park. A second plaque, identical to the first, was then commissioned by the Everton Shareholders’ Association, and paid for by supporter donations.
This second plaque was to be in Spanish and the hope was to ship it to Chile in time to be installed at Everton’s Sausalito Stadium for Remembrance Sunday. As a number of Evertonians will already know from experience, shipping goods to Chile is easy; but getting them out of customs is another question. I identified the potential risk and selflessly volunteered to follow the plaque and help in any way I could with its delivery and installation – at least that was the mantra I used at home, and almost came to believe – unlike the rest of my family.
The Everton Shareholders’ Association arranged to have the plaque shipped from Tilbury (thanks were due to Sean Stokes of Seafair, who showed the patience of a saint while guiding Tony Heslop and Anne Asquith through the “export ropes”). At the Chile end, Juan Foxley (a frequent visitor to Goodison) mobilised various Evertonians working in and around the ports of San Antonio and Valparaiso (Jorge Moya, Ruben Vilches and Javier Radrigán) and with the help of Francesco Gandolini with his truck, we managed to transport the plaque to the ground.
The stadium is owned by the local Municipality (Viña del Mar), and they gave permission for its installation and offered to carry out the work. Unfortunately, the size and weight proved too much for the on-site team and help was called for from the stonemason at the local cemetery.
By the day before the game everything was in place.
Inauguration of the Plaque
The fact that we were able to coincide with Remembrance Sunday was a bonus, but this was not a Remembrance service in the normal sense, as we were unable to get hold of the local Anglican vicar (he was busy at the service in Valparaiso).
What we were able to do was call on all the elements of the Everton family in Viña to remember and celebrate the lives of the seven Evertonians who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. As well as Club Directors, there were representatives from the two main supporters groups – Los Ruleteros & Los Del Cerro. Members of the Former Players Association and the Mayoress of Viña, Virginia Reginalta, were also in attendance. We were also lucky to have representation from the British Embassy in Santiago in the form of Janet Huntington with husband Dan and daughters Poppy and Phoebe.
President Bloise began proceedings shortly after 11am. He outlined the common history and recent links between the two Clubs and gave the background to the event in hand. I then elaborated somewhat (although not for too long – much to the relief of Phoebe and Poppy) and with the help of the Mayoress, unveiled the plaque. A minute’s silence was held before Phoebe laid a Remembrance wreath at the foot of the plaque. The ‘ceremony’ then came to an end with the cry of ‘Ever-4-E’ from all assembled, and we moved to take our places in the ground for the game against Antofagasta, with a mid-day kick-off.
Agrupación de ex futbolistas profesionales ORO Y CIELO por siempre Viña del Mar (Former Players Association)
One of the highlights of this trip was meeting up with the former players group, headed by Erasmo Zuñiga (who played in the 1976 championship winning side). They were formed in 2006, and at present have a membership of around forty. The initial impetus which lead to their formation was the death of René Orlando Britó Melendez, champion with Everton in 1950 and 1952, and possibly the greatest Chilean player ever. In 2002, after years of ill health, René died in Viña del Mar. Although there had been attempts to help out financially, including a testimonial match at the Sausalito, at the time of his death there were not enough funds to pay for his funeral. His former colleagues, led by Oscar Padró and Jorge Miranda, managed to collect enough money to find René a niche (a traditional space in wall within a cemetery) in the local Santa Inés Cemetery, where he was laid to rest.
At that instance, the former players said, ‘Never again!’ Never again would one of their group be exposed to the indignity of not having a place to be buried in. They set about looking to collect funds to buy their own mausoleum in Santa Inés where their final resting places would be assured. This goal was achieved recently with the purchase of the land and construction of the mausoleum. To date, there are two occupants – Ricardo Contreras and José Mario Lourido.
The next goal is to build a centre where the players can hold meetings and stay overnight, if necessary, when coming from out of town. To this end they have received substantial support and have just received news that the land has been granted to them on which to start building.
Years ago, Dr. France had the idea of bringing supporters together to sing the praises of players who had worn the Royal Blue. We felt it a privilege to be in their company, even though we outnumbered them by 50 or 100 to one. On Thursday, 10 November, I was invited to attend the anniversary meal of the Former Players Association in a restaurant on the outskirts of Viña del Mar. Apart from representatives from the local media, the only other non-players were Everton President, Antonio Bloise and Everton General Manager, Juan Pablo Salgado. The anniversary falls on 27 November, but the meal was moved forward to accommodate my visit, something which made me feel very humble and a little embarrassed. The embarrassment continued as I was presented with a pennant for myself from the Former Players, a book from the Mayoress of Viña and, on behalf of the Everton F.C., a marble plaque. Can you imagine being in the same room as Alec Young, Jimmy Gabriel, Joe Royle, Bob Latchford etc. but in a minority of 3 to 50?
Earlier that day I had accompanied a number of the Former Players to the Cementerio de los Disidentes in Valparaiso. This was where the majority of the protestant British were buried in the 19th and early 20th centuries – including David Foxley – co-founder of Everton Football Club in Chile in 1909. The Former Players had tracked down his grave, which was in a poor state of repair, and set about restoring it to a fit and proper condition. We then set off for the cemetery of Santa Inés in Viña del Mar to visit the recently established mausoleum – the eventual resting place of all members of the association.
Although inspiring, it is also a little sad that this group of ex-players has still to receive the sort of recognition former Everton players receive today, in Liverpool. One case in hand is that of Daniel Escudero – the greatest living Everton player. Leading scorer in the 1964 season with 34 goals, but almost totally unrecognised by the Evertonianos in the street. This is a cultural phenomenon, but not necessarily a regional one. In Argentina, just over the Andes, supporters are fed from an early age on the statistics of the ‘cracks’ and regularly pay homage to wizened old forwards, presented at half time in the colours of Velez, Racing, Boca or River. Fans in Viña talk about the various championships won (1950, 1952, 1976 and even 2008), and take inordinate pride in them without giving a thought to the actual, living heroes who provided these glories. It would be nice to think that the examples set in Argentina and England could catch on the Pacific side of the Andes.
British Legacy in Valparaiso
The week was not all football, however, as I was fortunate enough to be invited to Saint Paul’s Anglican Church in Valparaiso to attend the launch of a book called The British Legacy in Valparaiso. Any visitor to the port can still see the influence we had on this city through its architecture and commercial institutions, However, there is so much more if you look and listen – from the tea which is drunk by locals, the ‘cut of the jib’ of the ever-present local navy personnel, to the names of their football teams (Everton and Santiago Wanderers) and even the vocabulary of the local game (match, field, referee, linesman, kicks, backs, halves, forwards etc.).
An entire chapter, written by Juan Foxley, was dedicated to Everton Chile – which, before moving to nearby Viña del Mar in 1944, was a Valparaiso club. It was nice to be abroad and for once not be on the end of a ‘cultural kicking’ for being British. I believe there is a lot of respect and appreciation still felt towards the legacy left by our forefathers (including my Dad who was a frequent visitor in his days in the merchant navy) in the port which, fortunately, rubs off on us when we visit.
In summary, I don’t think it is possible to estimate the impact the sending of the Remembrance Plaque to Chile will have on the local community. I do know that everyone who witnessed the unveiling was moved by the sincerity of the donation and that it will serve as a permanent reminder of the sacrifice made by ‘Evertonians’ for their country. It will also serve as a reminder of the links that exist between the two Evertons, which will, hopefully, become stronger with time.
Every Remembrance Sunday going forward, will have a little piece of Goodison Park in Viña del Mar and of the Sausalito in Liverpool.
[This article was written c.2012 – initially for the Shareholder’s Association and the Ruleteros website].