65 years ago today David Fletcher helps Linfield win Test match to clinch the Irish League title

Posted : 25th May 2020 at 00:12:38

On this May 25 date Linfieldfc.com marks and celebrates the 65th anniversary of this club’s triumph in winning the 1954/55 Irish league after a play off test match.

It was the second of Linfield’s four similar dramatic ‘winner takes all’ post war ‘cup finals‘ to win the league title - the other winning play off League deciders being in 1949/50, 1960/61 and 1961/62.

In 1954/55 the league table was tied between Linfield and Glenavon, both on 36 points from their 22 league games and in those days of two points for a league win and no goal difference, the title had to be settled by way of a one off test match which went as follows.

May 25, 1955 - The Oval

Linfield 2 Glenavon 0

Billy Kennedy scored both goals for a Linfield team which lined up as follows

Russell, McGuicken, Keith, G. Nixon, Hamill, Fletcher, Maguire, M. Nixon, Kennedy, Dickson and Lunn.

Three days later, the same line up won the County Antrim Shield final, defeating Crusaders 3-0 at Solitude. Billy Kennedy again scored twice, with Tommy Dickson also on the scoresheet, to complete a trophy winning end of season.

Linfieldfc.com now turns our focus on one of the trophy winning ‘unsung heroes‘ whose name appears on the team sheet above and whose grand son Gareth Frazer has been in touch with the club in recent weeks from his home in Newcastle, England.

As always with similar requests for information about ancestors who played for Linfield, we rely heavily on the treasure trove of the personal handwritten archives of the former chairman, the late David Crawford.

David Fletcher was born on December 10, 1932 at 3 Oswald St in the Sandy Row area of Belfast.

As a player, he was a left half who was 5ft 6 and weighed 10 and a half stone.

David had a twin sister Marie and an older brother Tommy (born 12/01/31) whom he joined at Glentoran, after starting his footballing journey at the Blythe St boys‘ club.

David signed for Linfield for the 1954/55 season, having been at Glentoran in 1953/54.

He signed professional for the 1957/58 season and David Crawford describes him in his handwritten records as “A gentleman on and off the pitch who was very popular with his colleagues“.

He was part of the 1955/56 half back line of Truesdale / Hamill / Fletcher and he played in a famous game in this club’s history against Newcastle United which marked the switch on of the new Windsor floodlighting system in October 1956. Jackie Milburn played for Newcastle in this game and of course, he was later to become Linfield player / coach.

The lights were officially switched on by the then Northern Ireland prime minister Lord Brookeborough and the Linfield team was as follows - Russell, McGuicken, Graham, Nixon, Hamill, Fletcher, Hill, Richardson, Ervine, Dickson and Weatherup.

Newcastle won 4-1 with Milburn scoring one for the visitors. Malcolm Brodie described how ‘Wor Jackie‘ “ran from his own half of the field, outpaced the Linfield defence, before deftly cracking the ball into the net”. Weatherup scored the Linfield goal.

David Fletcher won the following honours with Linfield

1954/55 - Irish League winners medal

1954/55 - County Antrim Shield winners medal - 3-0 v Crusaders

1957/58 - Gold cup winners medal - 1-0 v Glenavon

He was released in April 1958 and he joined Ards for the 1958/59 season.

Unfortunately, the mid to late fifties is the period where the clubs archive records have the most gaps, meaning that we do not hold any records of season by season appearances and goals.

Strangely However, we have details of David’s reserve team appearances with Linfield Swifts

1954/55 - 10 apps and 2 goals
1955/56 - 16 apps and 2 goals
1956/57 - 24 apps and 2 goals
1957/58 - 3 apps

What we can confirm is that he scored in Linfield’s 7-0 home win against Portadown on September 9, 1954 in the Ulster Cup. The great Tommy Dickson was also on the team sheet.

He also played in a 3-0 home win on Christmas Day 1954 against Glentoran with the great Alex Russell in goal for Linfield.

He picked up a runners up medal after playing in the 3-2 defeat to Glenavon in the Gold Cup final at the Oval on May 4, 1955.

However, he got his hands on a Gold Cup winners medal on November 27, 1957 when he played in a 1-0 Gold Cup final win against Glenavon, although this time at Grosvenor Park. Tommy Stewart scored the goal.

He picked up an Irish Cup runners up medal on April 26, 1958 when he played in the 2-0 Irish Cup final defeat against Ballymena at the Oval. His team mates that day included some of the greats of this club - Russell, Gilliland, Graham, Hamill, Parke, Milburn, Dickson and Braithwaite.

The great Jackie Milburn was player / coach at this time.

David Crawford’s records conclude with confirmation of David Fletcher’s passing on September 22, 1980.

However, with Gareth Frazer, David Fletcher’s grand son getting in contact with us from his Tyneside home we have been able to discover more details about our former player who won 3 winners medals and 2 runners up medals during his time at this club.

Gareth has also provided a couple of family photos of his grandfather who was only aged 47 when he sadly passed away. These photos have been added below to several other images in the club’s possession.

The following details and family memories are shared by Gareth Frazer, grand son of David Fletcher.

"My mum tells me that from an early age, he had a variety of sporting talents. He loved to swim (that would have been at the old Ormeau Baths pool). However, mum remembered going as a family to the old outdoor pool at Pickie in Bangor, and passers-by being impressed by David diving off the high boards. She said that at the time she didn't understand why they were so impressed, as she was just used to him being athletic!

A young David enjoyed his time at the 39th BB company, with gymnastics being a particular favourite of his BB memories.

My mum used to laugh when he told her about 'trying out boxing' (he even gave that a go !). But, his first opponent was someone bigger and more experienced and they punched him in the face straightaway - he quickly decided that wasn't for him and stuck with the football.

He went to the Linfield Public Elementary School, on the Linfield Road in Sandy Row. He left at 14 and his first job was as a message boy at Harland and Wolff shipyard. He then 'served his time' as a saw doctor (an old trade - sharpening saws) and worked at Short Bros Aircraft factory.

He trained as a medical orderly, then worked at Crawfordsburn hospital for a time before going in to the Ambulance service.

He met his wife Jean as a young teenager and they married in 1954 and had 3 children together.

They set up a family home in the Silverstream area of Bangor and Interestingly, ended up living in the next street to 2 of his Linfield team mates John Parke and Ralph McGuicken.

My mum remembers him always talking of 'the greats ' such as The Duke and Blanchflower.

David Fletcher sadly passed away too young, aged only 47 on September 22, 1980. He suffered kidney failure and his final resting place is at Clandeboye Cemetery in Bangor.

His twin sister Marie is still with us and will be 88 this year.

The family are aware that a genuine well respected memorabilia collector is in possession of his 1957 Gold Cup winners medal and one of David's daughters has his County Antrim Shield medal.

We are attaching a copy of the newspaper article from 65 years ago after Linfield won the test match to win the league and the photos of David are of him in the newspaper when he signed for Linfield (we believe), a photo of him on his wedding day (L to R, his brother Tom, David, his brother-in-law Joe) and a team photo after the 1954/55 season including the Irish League and County Antrim Shield trophies Linfield won on May 25 and 28 in 1955."

Linfield FC is indebted to Gareth Frazer for sharing these fascinating and family memories of his grandfather who helped Linfield win the Irish League trophy on this May 25 date exactly 65 years ago today (and County Antrim Shield trophy only 3 days later).

Gareth is keen for anyone who has any other photos or memories of his grandfather to get in touch with him as he has been fascinated to delve into his family history and learn about his grandfathers trophy winning achievements, as well as all the great players he played alongside as team mates.

Anyone who can help Gareth in his quest can be put in contact via siteeditor@linfieldfc.com

Gareth and his family will be special guests at a Linfield game at Windsor Park at a future time when football has restarted after the current global corona virus pandemic.

Linfield FC loves hearing from descendants of our former players and as with all these memory lane profile articles on players who helped Linfield win major silverware, I trust that this latest offering can do justice and pay adequate tribute to the memory of a humble family man who David Crawford described as "a gentleman on and off the pitch who was very popular with his colleagues". On this May 25 date in 1955 David helped Linfield win the Irish League and hopefully enjoyed some title winning celebrations with those same colleagues afterwards (before preparing for a Shield success 3 days later).

Audaces Fortuna Juvat


In the team photo below David Fletcher is standing beside Gerry Morgan who is wearing the white coat.

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