MEMORY LANE: Football star was all business

FLASHBACK: The Mail's profile of Joe McDermott
FLASHBACK: The Mail's profile of Joe McDermott

IF Joe McDermott was playing football today he could look forward to a comfortable retirement on millionaire’s row once he hung up his boots.

But it was a different story 50 years ago even for someone who once scored two goals every week for 12 weeks, as ANDREW LEVETT discovers.

PICK up any evening paper printed in the North-east on a Saturday night in the 1930s and you could almost certainly read about Joe McDermott.

That’s how the Mail began its profile of the district manager of the Hartlepool branch of the Royal London Mutual Insurance Society.

One of his most treasured possessions was the pile of newspaper cuttings which traced his career.

“They would have told how soccer star Joe had either scored himself, or opened the way for his team-mates to hammer in goals,” said the profile in November 1964.

“They described his skill and enthusiasm at inside-right or any of the forward positions.”

Joe was described as “quite famous” after a playing career which included Middlesbrough, Gateshead and the England Amateur X1, but still needed his career in insurance.

Even in his prime, he chose Boro ahead of rival offers from Sunderland and Huddersfield because he could play for them as a “part-timer” and continue his business job.

He joined the Royal London in 1931 and was gradually promoted to the senior position he held in Hartlepool in 1964 after spells in Chester-le-Street, Sunderland, Blyth and Belfast.

“In the career of any footballer there must be many outstanding memories and Mr McDermott can talk for hours about his,” said the Mail profile.

Besides his international match, Joe, aged 55 in 1964, was particularly proud of scoring two goals every week for 12 weeks for Bishop Auckland in his amateur days.

From Boro, he moved on to Gateshead, then a successful Football League club, playing for them for 16 years and staying on as trainer, coach and scout once he hung up his boots.

Football was still a big interest for Joe in 1964, but he told the Mail he did not like the changes he had seen in the game, saying there was more speed but less craft in the modern sport.

Married with teenage daughter, his other interests were gardening and the St John Ambulance, for whom he was Mid-East Durham Corps Officer.

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@jpress.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.

Also in the news:

BONFIRE Night 50 years ago was described in the following day’s Mail as one of the “safest and quietest” on record.

There were no injuries but calls to the town’s fire brigade included a house in Bower Street, where children had set fire to curtains and a window frame, a field in Elwick where someone had set “several tons” of turnip tops alight, which took two hours to bring under control, a beach tent store ignited by a firework in Seaton Carew and three bonfires which had got out of control and were threatening buildings.

• THE Peter Pan statue in the town’s Burn Valley Gardens, which had been a regular target for vandals since its erection three years previously had been wrecked.

Gardeners found it at the bottom of a lily pond with its arms and legs snapped off and said it would be impossible to repair.

It had been bought by Hartlepool Girl Guides, who had also funded a previous statue, erected in the gardens in 1936 to celebrate King George VI’s coronation but wrecked by vandals in 1960.

• WORK on raising the Ilse, which had held up dredging of the channel at Hartlepool for many years, had had to close down until the spring, engineer J A Campbell told a meeting of Hartlepool Port and Harbour Commissioners.

Mr Campbell said there were still two large sections of the wreck to be cut and cleared, although six large sections had been raised and beached.

• THE Mail had the remarkable story of Australian athlete Reg Spiers, who after a failed bid to get into his country’s Olympic team, found himself penniless in London.

To get home he wrote his address and COD (cash on delivery) on a shipping crate at London Airport, climbed inside, and flew back home down under for nothing.

“There was enough space between the planks to give me air and allow me to peek out,” he said.