This illuminated address was presented to Villa player and team captain John Devey on the occasion of his benefit match against Derby County, played at Villa’s Perry Barr ground on Monday, October 5, 1896.
The artwork was produced by the former Villa forward Oliver Whately, a commercial artist who claimed he introduced the famous combination of claret and blue as the club colours which first appeared as stripes on the kit worn for season 1886-87 when Villa won the FA Cup for the first time; so it is interesting to see how Whateley’s colours on his artwork match with those of modern times. Devey’s benefit match raised £100 for the player who later became a director of the club.
The illuminated address reads as follows:
• On the occasion of your benefit match – Derby County v. Aston Villa – we, the undersigned, on behalf of your numerous friends and admirers who have subscribed, ask your acceptance of a cheque value £100, as a mark of esteem for, and goodwill towards you, and as an acknowledgement of your great, successful, and unique skill as an Athlete extending over a period of 13 years.
• We remember with pleasure that you were for four years a forward player for the late St. George’s Football Club, abd were Captain during the latter portion of this time, and since the year 1892 you have held some honorable position in connection with the renowned Aston Villa Football Club.
• Under your judicious, kindly, yet firm captaincy, this club has more than maintained the prominent position it attained under the leadership of your predecessor – the evr to be remembered and beloved Archie Hunter.
• We record with gratification that during your Captaincy the Club has enjoyed the proud distinction of twice securing the League Championship, years 1894 and 1896, and winning the English Cup in 1895, besides numerous other Local Trophies, and your splendid play and Captaincy have been largely instrumental in producing these brilliant results.
• In the glorious cause of Charity, you have ever been a willing worker, ungrudgingly placing your services at the disposal of your club, for Charity matches.
• Your courteous demeanour, manliness of character, love of fair play, and power as a leader, have alike endeared you to comrades and opponents, whilst the willing admiration of countless thousands has testified to your skill on the football and cricket fields.
• We trust your career as an athlete will long continue, and when, in the natural course of things, retirement comes, that your days may be long in the land, and passed in the part of it, in which you have worthily lived, and with which you are so closely and honourably identified, and that you may yearly see the games to which you are so devoted, increase in popularity, bringing fuller health, and improved physique to its legion of players and followers.
Signed on behalf of the Subscribers: W. McGregor (Chairman), Joseph Dunkley (Treasurer)
Signed on behalf of the Committe: J. Adams and A. W. Cooknell (Hon. Secretary)
“Olly” Whateley, Illuminator, Elm Lodg, Mortlake, London