Home From Home
Familiar Port Of Call For The Gold And Black Army
It has been well known for decades that Wolves had to reach out to Merseyside to sign the outstanding player who went on to become an even better manager.
But links between Ellesmere Port and Wolverhampton run deeper than one Stanley Cullis. Much deeper.
Just how firmly connected the two towns are was brought home to us by exiled Wulfrunian Bob Wilkins, who wrote interestingly on the subject in an article used in a school magazine and allowed us to reproduce it, in part, below.
And it reveals how he unexpectedly crossed paths with a man who had tried his luck at the club around half-way through the legendary Cullis reign.
Bob kicked off by writing: “For the past 45 years, I have lived on the Wirral, that small coastal peninsula in the North-West of England, sandwiched between the estuaries of the River Dee and the River Mersey.
“In my retirement, I play the guitar and sing in a group called Memories, performing mostly in nursing and retirement homes. We have a regular monthly spot in Wallasey, organised by a charity called Dementia Together Wirral.
“A few months ago, I noticed a new couple in the room, whose names turned out to be Dick and Doreen Calvert. During the interval, I went for a chat and was amazed to learn that as a young man in the 1950s, Dick had been a professional footballer with Wolves.
“I told him I was from Wolverhampton and that, as a teenager, I walked past Molineux to school and went to most of the home games at that time. He was delighted that he had met someone who actually saw him play.”
Bob points out that this may seem like pure coincidence – and then explains why it was not.
“The Wolverhampton Corrugated Iron Company was founded in 1857 by the Jones brothers (John and Joseph), who were prominent businessmen and Aldermen of the town. It was a very successful enterprise and, by the end of the 19th century, business was booming, particularly the export side.
“From the outback of Australia to the Wild West of America, there was a huge demand for corrugated iron for the quick and cheap construction of shacks, pens and the like. However, the logistics of getting the product from Wolverhampton to the nearest seaport were difficult.
“There was also a lack of expansion space at the factory at Horseley Fields in Wolverhampton, so the Jones brothers made the astonishing decision to move the factory to Ellesmere Port and take their workforce with them.
“At the time, Ellesmere Port was a small town on the Mersey but products made there could be carried easily by barge across the river to the port of Liverpool and from there to the rest of the world. A township of about 300 houses was built to accommodate the workforce. It was called Wolverham and many of the streets there were named after places in and around Wolverhampton.
“The new factory was opened in 1905 and became known locally as Jones’s. According to the 1911 Census, about 2,000 people in Ellesmere Port had been born in Wolverhampton or nearby towns like Bilston, Tipton and Dudley. Over the next few years, the numbers continued to grow.”
We hope you are enjoying the history lesson as much as we did……”it was an extraordinary mass migration. Some of the poorer families walked the 70 miles from Wolverhampton to Ellesmere Port, carrying their possessions with them. It was easy to find the way. Although it took several days, they just walked along the towpath of the Shropshire Union Canal until they reached the banks of the Mersey.
“William and Elizabeth Cullis and their children were among those who made the move. They settled in Wolverham and, a few years later, their son Stanley was born.
“As a teenager playing for Ellesmere Port schoolboys, he was spotted by several clubs who wanted to sign him. However, his father insisted that the only club he would allow him to play for was Wolverhampton Wanderers.”
We all know the young Cullis flourished at Molineux, becoming the youngest captain of England and then following up his enforced retirement by being hailed as the most successful ever manager of the club. But what about Jones’s?
“During the 20th century, the demand for corrugated iron declined and the company closed in 1947,” the article continued. “But the family ties between the communities in Wolverham and Wolverhampton remained strong.
“So when the young Dick Calvert was also spotted as a talented young footballer playing for Ellesmere Port Town in the 1950s, Stan Cullis soon heard about it and Dick, whose mother’s family was from Wolverhampton, was snapped up by the Wolves.
“He served his apprenticeship on the groundstaff and signed as a professional in 1955, aged 17, for £6 a week. He became captain of the youth team, then played in the reserves in the Central League.”
In those pre-substitute days, benches were not filled with first-team players. Those outside the team were given a spell in the reserves, so we are informed that Dick played alongside virtually all of the members of the great Wolves team of the 1950s. He also lodged with Eddie Clamp’s family and even helped in Jimmy Mullen’s shop.
Alas, his story did not have a high-profile conclusion. “In 1956, Dick sustained a serious injury in a crunching tackle,” Bob added.
“After two months, he had recovered but never regained the level of fitness required for top-flight football. He returned to the Wirral, where he has lived ever since.
“However, he continued to play, in the Wirral/Cheshire leagues and has been captain, coach and manager of teams like Ellesmere Port and New Brighton.
“Last year, after the family got in touch with Wolves at the time of Dick’s 80th birthday, the club invited he and his family to Molineux for a tour of the stadium and museum. It is good to know that in these days of multi-million-pound salaries and fees, the club still cares about those who served it so long ago.
“Dick’s footballing days are not over yet. He still takes part in ‘Walking Football’ twice a week at Tranmere Rovers.
“The factory in Ellesmere Port has now gone and most of the Wolverham houses have been demolished to make way for the new town centre.
“Several streets are still there but the Wolverhampton accent that used to be so strong has all but died out.
“And memory is a strange thing. Dick may have problems with things that happened yesterday but remembers in great detail his footballing days in the Cullis era.”