TV Captures Tribute To Gentleman Joe

Family Pride At Golden Award

The two Johns captured during the happy handover….Gardiner (left), Richards (right).

A three-man Wolves delegation have travelled to the north-east to honour one of the unsung heroes of Molineux’s glorious past.

John Richards headed up the party who met members of Joe Gardiner’s family and presented them with the award marking his induction to the club’s hall of fame in April.

And a BBC camera crew were in attendance to record the handover and package it for screening today. See video

“Joe never married or had children and spent nearly all of his adult life in Wolverhampton, so we initially struggled to track down any relatives of his,” said Richards.

“We made strenuous efforts through social media to find any Gardiners in the Durham area and were close to accepting defeat. Then we launched one last effort in May through broadcasters in the north-east and a BBC reporter called Martin Lindsay found Joe’s nephew, John.

“We discovered he was a retired deputy head teacher who was not only a big football fan but one who had taken a real interest in Joe’s career and made sure a lot of his keepsakes were treasured by the family.

“We would love to have invited John and one or two others to the hall of fame dinner in April and put them up overnight but the next best thing was taking the award to his and Kathleen’s house yesterday – that seemed much more satisfactory than it staying indefinitely somewhere at Molineux.”

Richards was accompanied on the outing to Durham by his Wolves Heroes partner, David Instone, and a third member of the seven-strong hall of fame committee, tour guide Peter Crump from the club’s museum. Their destination was Lanchester, 14 miles from St James’ Park and not far from where Joe was born and raised in the mining village of Bearpark. Bobby Robson lived just down the road in Langley Park.

“We have some good souvenirs here, like a 1930 cap from his schoolboy career and a collection of pin badges from his travels round the world, but this is something very, very special,” John Gardiner said.

“He joined Wolves (as an amateur) at 16 in 1932 and probably only came back up here two or three times a year, either in the summer or for big family occasions. But the visits became more regular when he was a scout there as he would sometimes watch matches in the north-east and stay over at his mom’s or even at our house.”

Joe was one of four brothers, the only one who made significant head-way in football, and is said to have worked in a blacksmith’s as a boy.

So reluctant was his mother – a strict former Victorian school-teacher known to John and others as Grandma Gardiner – for him to risk a career in sport that she is reputed to have once picked up a contract offered by Bolton and torn it up before throwing it on the fire.

“I’m too young to have seen him play, of course, but I do remember being taken to a late-1950s Newcastle v Wolves game when I was probably still at primary school,” John added. “I’m sure it was my first time at St James’, two bus rides away, and we saw him in his collar and tie, signing autographs on the steps outside the ground.

“When I was in my teens, I realised how important he was to Wolves, first as a player, then as what was vitually an assistant manager and finally as scout. I am sure he was particularly good in his role helping younger players because he was never unfair and I can’t ever imagine him shouting. He was a lovely man.

“I have enjoyed seeing so many pictures of him now that I hadn’t seen before and to have filled in a few gaps in his career and life.

What a think-tank! From left: Stan Cullis, Joe Gardiner, physio George Palmer, Jack Davies and Jack Dowen.

“We’re very proud of him and what he did down there and some of us went to his funeral, which was held at a church between Molineux and the city centre in July, 1997. But he could talk about much more than just football and I recall the family being fascinated by all the stories from his travels.

“To have this ceremony here at our house now more than 25 years later, with the BBC filming it, has been something we will never forget.”

Among the items we were able to take to show the family were a letter Gardiner Snr wrote to Richards in 1969 congratulating him on signing for the club and wishing him well for his future and with his school exams.

We have previously recorded how some old-fashioned courtesy and manners had helped convince the forward and his parents that he would be in good hands at Molineux, Gardiner also promising to go and watch him in a Scotland Grammar Schools v England Grammar Schools game at Hampden Park shortly afterwards.

“It’s interesting because Joe once played in an England-Scotland match of sorts through the two country’s league representative teams and, like me, also had interest from Derby before signing for Wolves,” the Wolves Former Players Association chairman said. “We shared another coincidence as we both made our debuts away to Albion.

“Much later, Joe later served as trainer for a couple of senior England games and two of the dozens and dozens of badges he collected appear to commemorate those honours.

“He had a fabulous career at Wolves, with playing in a side who finished runners-up in the League and the FA Cup in the last season before the war and then serving the club throughout Stan Cullis’s time as manager here – effectively as his assistant – and helping win all those League Championship titles and FA Cups.

“Later, he went into scouting for many, many years in which he also did much to get Kenny Hibbitt here. We were interested yesterday to see a silver engraved bowl that he had been presented with in 1981 to mark his 50 years’ service to the club. He was a remarkable man, so devoted to Wolves and very well liked by so many people at Molineux and beyond.”

The half-back line of Tom Galley-Cullis-Gardiner was a major reason behind Wolves’ powerful emergence to the brink of greatness in the late 1930s, the latter of that trio also having a good wartime career in the side before developing another string to his bow on the training ground.

Kathleen and John Gardiner – grandparents to young Jamie and Amelie – pictured with John Richards and Peter Crump.

He made 139 Football League and FA Cup appearances in gold and black – a total that would have been much higher had it not been for the outbreak of war.

Martin Lindsay, a reporter both on BBC Newcastle and the region’s Look North East programme, interviewed Richards at length on camera and said afterwards: “We usually run radio packages at a maximum of four minutes but I pushed this to five, given how special it was.

“To be honest, there was so much lovely detail I had to leave out, it was THAT good! And it was great to have a happy story to focus on considering there is often a lot of gloom and doom in the news.”

The link to the radio feature is

Midlands Today dipped intot he BBC network to ensure they carried the TV story on their Tuesday programmes.




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