Unlike many clubs, Everton FC has always eschewed the use of in-match music to spur on the team or celebrate a goal – or so I thought.
A conversation with veteran Toffees supporter Tom Walker gave me this nugget about the late 1940s, “‘The Everton Bugler used to sit in the top of the Bullens Road stand and sound the charge if we were attacking.”
Further corroboration of the existence of a supporter (or supporters) bringing a touch of brass to Goodison comes from Sir Paul McCartney. When recalling his childhood for the mid-1990s Anthology project he stated:
‘I went occasionally to watch football. My family team was Everton, and I went to Goodison Park a couple of times with my uncles Harry and Ron…I remember being at one game and a guy had a trumpet and was commentating on the game musically. Someone would have a shot at goal which would go way, way over the top and he’d play: “Over the mountains, over the sea.” Very skilful.’
McCartney subsequently took up the trumpet – but it might be a stretch to suggest that this was inspired by his taste of Goodison musicality. We can’t even be sure if the Beatle was referring to Francis Hamill, the ‘Goodison Bugler’, but Tom Walker certainly was.
Born on 2 December 1894, Francis Henry Hamill hailed from Belfast and in 1901 was listed as living with his parents and siblings on Cairns Street, Falls Ward. He served in the First World War – moving across from the Army to the RAF in October 1918. One assumes that he honed his musical skills while engaged in service for his country. His brother, Joseph Robert, was killed in 1916 serving with the Royal Field Artillery conflict and is buried at Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery.
Once de-mobbed after the end of the war, he moved to Liverpool with his wife, Margaret (née Ennis), having tied the knot in their home city in 1917. The couple raised three daughters (Frances, Veronica and Margaret) on Merseyside. On the 1921 census the Hamill family was living at 47 Holborn Street (a 10-minute walk from the heart of the Everton district) – Francis’ occupation was given as a ‘general labourer (out of work)’ at the Mersey Harbour Board’s wool warehouse. Five years later the Hamills were living at 16 Cranmer Street, prior to moving on to 38 Paget Street.
With the move to Merseyside came a firm attachment to the Blues – and Hamill chose to start bringing his bugle with him to matches, probably in the late 1920s. Normally sat in the Park End stand, he would sound the charge when Everton were on the attack. It drew the attention of George Green, the celebrated Liverpool Echo illustrator. Soon, Hamill started to regularly feature in his humorous cartoon strips, which appeared in the newspaper (pictured at the end of the article) and, later, in the official match-day programme .
After the war, Hamill’s bugling appearances at Goodison became sporadic, as commented upon in George Green’s cartoons. Supporters did not forget him though; a fellow-Toffee wrote to the BBC suggesting that he feature in Noises from Home – a regular radio feature intended to give British forces personnel stationed overseas something familiar to listen to. He duly appeared on the programme in April 1951, playing his instrument. As the Liverpool Echo commented: ‘It should bring back happy memories for Everton supporters in uniform overseas.’
On 4 February 1953 came the sad news in the local press that Francis Hamill – at this point living at 45 Foley Street, an easy stroll from Goodison Park – had passed away unexpectedly. He was buried five days later in Ford Cemetery. The death notice in the Echo stated, touchingly, ‘Bugler’s Last Call’.
Three decades after Francis Hamill’s death, his nephew, Errol Smalley, was – with his wife, Theresa – heavily involved in the campaign for the overturning of the convictions of the so-called Guildford Four. Smalley was related to Paul Hill, one the four implicated in the 1974 pub bombings which claimed the lives of five people and injured 65. The Guildford Four were released in 1989.
If anyone has further information about Francis Hamill and any surviving relatives, please get in touch with Rob via the comments section or site email. Likewise, please get in touch if anything requires correcting.
The Beatles Anthology
Smith, Billy, bluecorrespondent.co.uk
Everton matchday programme
Find My Past website
Ancestry website / Brian McCaul