Pools footballer was too poor to buy a house - or even his own kit

Hartlepools United in 1931/32 - the season that Joseph Murray signed up to play for the team.
Hartlepools United in 1931/32 - the season that Joseph Murray signed up to play for the team.

Today’s professional footballers can command hundreds of thousands of pounds by taking to the pitch and securing lucrative sponsorship deals.

But, when goalie Joseph Murray played for Hartlepools United during the Great Depression, he had to work down the pit just to make ends meet.

Blackhall FC at the time Joseph was goalie.

Blackhall FC at the time Joseph was goalie.

“I’m not sure if he was even provided with a goalkeeper’s jersey. I think mam had to knit him a polo-neck pullover,” recalled his daughter Joyce Curtis.

Joseph, the son of a miner, was born in Market Place, Houghton, on March 4, 1911, and his skills on the football pitch soon attracted attention.

“My grandfather died when my father was 19, making him the main breadwinner. My grandmother had just had twins and he had to help to bring them up,” said Joyce.

“I think that’s a major reason why he stayed in the North East and didn’t push to go further afield with his football, although he was talented enough to do so.”

Footballers weren’t paid anything like they are these days. Dad couldn’t afford the £1 a week to buy a house, so rented for the whole of his life.

Joyce Curtis, daughter of Pools goalie Joseph Murray.

At the age of 20, Joseph had a trial with Birmingham, but opted to sign with Hartlepools United instead, playing in a memorable FA Cup match at Grimsby.

One of his team-mates at Pools was the legendary Jack Howe, who went on to be capped for England several times and won an FA Cup medal in 1946.

“Footballers weren’t paid anything like they are these days. Dad couldn’t afford the £1 a week to buy a house, so rented for the whole of his life,” said Joyce.

“While at Hartlepool, he was offered a job at Blackhall pit - on the condition he played for Blackhall Colliery Welfare football team, which he decided to do.”

Joseph and his wife, Florence Harrison, moved from Herrington Burn to Blackhall after he accepted the job - remaining in the village for the rest of their lives.

The Wearside League club won the League Championship, League Challenge Cup, Shipowners Cup and Orphanage Hospital Cup during Joseph’s first season in 1934/35.

And, in the season that followed, Blackhall were runners-up in the league - as well as finalists in the Durham County Challenge Cup.

A press cutting from about this time, when Joseph was 26, revealed he was “showing brilliant form” and “attracting attention from higher circles”.

“Much of the credit for his side’s 100 per cent record in the Wearside League games is due to him,” the article added.

“Preston, Blackburn and Newcastle have all shown an interest in him, and it will be no surprise if an offer comes his way.”

Sadly, however, the move never came off. When war was declared soon after this, Joseph joined the army and only returned to the football pitch for charity games.

He died at the age of 66 from cancer.

“Had he been born in this era, I’m sure he’d have gone further. But he will always be remembered for his football in Blackhall and Hartlepool,” Joyce concluded.