Dripping Yarns with David Arnold

Harry Holford and Gladys Mitchell
Harry Holford and Gladys Mitchell
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Regular readers of Dripping Yarns will know how fascinated I have become about Harry James Holford.

Although Harry passed away half a century ago, it has become clear he occupies a very important place in the history of Lewes Football Club.

It’s a place that would have been lost in the mists of time but for the surfacing of a copy of a local newspaper from 1963 that happened to carry a fulsome tribute.

A mention of Harry in this column led to my meeting up with three generations of his family; daughter Pauline, grandson Trevor and great grandson Daniel.

I also met Pauline’s husband, Bill Head. The latter and myself had something in common in that we both went to the Pells School, albeit divided by a decade or so.

Born in 1915, as a boy growing up in Lewes Harry Holford was a member of the St John’s Sub-Castro church choir.

His own mother and father ran the bar known as the White Hart Shades, located close to the hotel of the same name.

As well as being involved with the Rooks for some 30 years as a player and, later, as a tremendously hard-working volunteer, Harry also served as a Lewes Town Councillor.

His full-time career was played out in the Education Department of East Sussex County Council.

Pauline told me that her father had joined the Royal Navy early in the Second World War and had been attached to the land-based training establishment, HMS Ganges, before seeing service in Malta.

He spent time ashore in Venice at the end of hostilities.

Harry’s brother, Ron, was another Navy man but sadly lost his life when his ship, HMS Dunedin, was torpedoed by a German submarine in the South Atlantic on November 24, 1941.

Some five months earlier, Harry had married Gladys Mitchell at Southover Church in Lewes, an event recorded with a photograph in the Sussex Express and County Herald of June 20, 1941.

The accompanying story records that Harry had played pre-war for Lewes FC and had also been the club’s Hon Secretary. It also says that Gladys lived with her parents in Mountfield Road, close by the Dripping Pan.

That same photograph is reproduced on this page.

Groom and Bride Harry and Gladys are in the foreground with linked arms.

From left to right the other people shown are: Jack Mitchell (brother of Gladys), Rose and Frank Holford (Harry’s mother and father), Ted Mitchell (Gladys’s father), Philip Noel and Nell Mitchell (Gladys’s mother).

Pauline was born in 1944. She was an only child and in later years she remembers her father often remarking how, if she had been a boy, she could have played for the Rooks.

How times have changed; Lewes FC today boasts not just one but two very successful teams of Ladies!

Pauline also told me that Harry was a very well known figure in the town and a regular at the Lewes Arms.

She told me: “The downside to having such a high profile Dad was that as a teenager keen to rebel I couldn’t get away with anything without news getting back to him.”

Harry’s grandson, Trevor, and great grandson Daniel have taken in Lewes games on several occasions and have always enjoyed the experience, though these days the pair divide their loyalties with a resurgent Brighton.

Indeed, Daniel has actually played for Priory School on the Lewes pitch in a cup final.

It also feels a somewhat fitting conclusion to this story that come the morning of Sunday April 28, Trevor himself will be pulling on his shooting boots to take part in a game at the Dripping Pan.

It’s the occasion of the annual Veterans’ Match, organised by Peter Hambly. This is a friendly tie between ‘past it’ pub team footballers keen to revive old rivalries.

Afterwards, in the Rook Inn, the participants love to analyse their game pundit-style as they sink a pint or two of Harveys. I definitely think Harry would have approved!