Joshua Evan Margoschis

Joshua Evan Margoschis (known to his friends as JEM) was born in Poland in 1847. In his twenties he emigrated to England, lodged with a Mrs Smith in Leamington Spa and subsequently married her daughter. The couple then moved to Birmingham to open a cigar shop in Constitution Hill, not far from the site of Wiliam McGregor’s drapery in Summer Lane. The cigar shop became known as “The Same Old Spot”. Margoschis also worked part-tme as a representative for the MItchells and Butler brewery.

As a football enthusiast he became friendly with the Aston Villa football club secretary George Ramsay who, recognizing his talents and enthusiasm, invited Margoschis to become a member of the Aston Villa committee. He was given the post of personnel officer, where his kindness, generosity and understanding of the problems of football players proved invaluable.

He could, however, deal firmly with any person who transgressed on and off the field of play and always let it be known that sportsmanship above everything else was the first requirement of anyone who wished to play for the club. Furthermore, on the rare occasions of dissent within the management of the club, JEM was always there with his charm and smiling manner to iron out these difficulties. He was also the first to volunteer to arrange fund-raising schemes to help deserving causes.

In the early days Villa had no proper headquarters so players, the press and others made frequent visits to the tobacconist shop to gossip and learn the latest team news.

JEM’s enthusiasm for the game and Aston Villa was best illustrated in the FA Cup Final of 1887 when the club won the trophy for the first time. With five minutes to go, Villa were leading West Bromwich Albion 1-0 when Archie Hunter scored the second and decisive goal. This prompted the normally staid JEM and William McGregor to throw their hats into the air and dance the fandango around the press table.

Ten years later, Margoschis had been appointed club chairman by the time Villa won ‘the double’ and to commemorate the even the club presented him with an inscribed gold medal.

In 1918 Mr Margoschis completed forty years valued service for the club, but died a year later. This Aston Villa lost one of the greatest servants and best friends the club ever had.

Derrick Spinks

Of boots and balls and celebrated football goods…

IMPORTANT: In consequence of unprincipled Firms offering Worthless imitations of my CELEBRATED McGREGOR FOOTBALL GOODS I am compelled to warn my customers that none are genuine unless stamped with my Registered Trade Mark.

A letter from G. B. Ramsay to Arthur Loach, 15 September 1886

Dear Sir
I am very sorry you did not turn up for training, please try and do so tomorrow Thursday. Our Trainer is on the ground from 6 till 9 o’clock and besides I would like to see you. I hope you have your new boots. You have been selected to play for us on Saturday at Perry Barr v Druids. Kick-off 3.30 pm prompt. Please be early and oblige.
Yours sincerely
Geo B Ramsay

A letter from G. B. Ramsay to Fred Dawson, 17 September 1886

Dear Sir
A short time ago you told me you had a new ball belong to the Villa. Will you kindly send it down by Saturday. I will depend upon it and do try your very best to play on Monday.

When Aston Villa played baseball

• From a Birmingham Mail report by Matt Kendrick, October 2012

‘What about the Villa? Forgotten figures from Britain’s pro baseball league of 1890’ is Joe Gray’s record of a unique achievement during the club’s late 19th century glory years.

For, just three years before the claret and blues became the “greatest football club in the world”, Villa were the only ever winners of a professional national baseball league in England.

After embarking on the exhaustive task of chronicling the historic title win Gray, a Villa fan at heart and statistician by trade, has unearthed a forgotten chapter of Villa history.

Villa were in danger of dropping out of the First Division when American entrepreneur Albert Spalding took Major League baseball players on a world tour which stopped off in Britain.
Spalding, a sports equipment manufacturer who wanted to globalise baseball, formed a committee with English sport’s main movers and shakers, including Villa legend William McGregor.

Football, rugby, athletics and even lacrosse teams across the country were invited to join a professional league with the aim of keeping players fit during the summer months.
In the end a four-club competition was formed with Villa competing alongside Preston North End, Stoke City and Derby.

Back then Derby was the only baseball team not already affiliated to a football club – the soccer came later with Derby County FC also inheriting the purpose built Baseball Ground. Villa’s nine-man team was made up of three specialist baseball players, imported from America, a cricketer and three former Villa footballers, Fred Dawson, Joey Simmonds and Arthur Brown.
The other two members were James Cowan a Scottish defender just starting out with the football club, and forward John Devey, who would become a baseball star and Villa’s most successful football captain.

Aston Villa Baseball team 1890… Back row: Fred Dawson, William Barr, William McGregor, HE Simon, Frank Barr. Front row: Harry Widdowson, James Cowan, Arthur Brown, Joey Simmonds, John Devey.

“Devey’s first exposure as an Aston Villa player was actually on the baseball field, not on the football field, and this was a guy who went on to captain Aston Villa during the 1890s when they won five league titles and two FA Cups,’’ says Gray. “He was the captain when they won the double in 1897. He was one of the all-time Aston Villa greats, who actually played baseball for them first. It’s worth adding, on John Devey, he was a brilliant baseball player, who led the statistical categories at the end of the year, including being the league’s batting champion.”

Devey played a key part in helping Villa to the baseball title which they clinched in the penultimate match, but by then the end was already nigh for the one-season-wonder league.

The traditional British weather rained on the league’s parade with crowds at the Perry Barr ground shared with the football club fluctuating between 100 and 1,000 depending on the elements. League organisers, including McGregor, who is believed to have made a loss, were forced to halve the 6d admission because it was deemed unfair to charge as much for a new sport as for football.

Joe Gray’s book is available to download as a pdf from the Project Cobb website

Noted accomplishments

If you are a collector of ephemera then this item may interest you – an Aston Villa Football Club letterhead produced for use in the first decade of the 20th century.

It’s printed in three colours, predominately blue, but a second shade of blue is used for the club crest and also what now appears to be a discoloured gold ink.

Shown right is a better example of the crest’s colours from a version of the club’s letterhead used 50 years later: light blue, embossed in a gold colour.

Notice the telegraph address – Villa, Birmingham – used by the club for communication. No email in those days! No mention of Villa Park, either. The registered office is Aston Villa Grounds.

Ramsay less than impressed

Here’s the front and back view of Aston Villa’s fixture card for season 1889-90. It shows the club’s reserve team fixtures and was printed by John Gateley, a letterpress printer whose company was located in Weaman Street (where the Birmingham Mail offices are now.). In 1891 John Gateley was living in Grosvenor Road, Handsworth, with his wife and two servants. He was also a season-ticket member of the club.

George Ramsay, the Villa Secretary once wrote to Gateley – in March 1887 – complaining about some posters he printed for the club and said this:

“I have just seen the Port Vale Bills which are not to order and the Committee have refused to accept them. You must therefore print anotheer 100 in the proper diamond form. Last time you printed across the diamond I told your people how disappointed we were and that we would never have any more done that way. If you were trying to save time we would rather wait a couple of days than put out such an abominably ugly thing. I have told Smart to return them. Please do the others at once. Yours Geo. B. Ramsay”

E. Smart was an employee of Gateley. Two months earlier Ramsay issued another complaint via Smart:

“Can I depend on you having about half a dozen Bills for January 8th match pasted about the ground next Saturday, 3 on the back of the big stand, 3 in the road, 2 at Bowan’s Corner. In explanation to my last card your son tells me Mr Gateley told him he had no Bills left. This was not true as I saw Gateley thereafter who told him to come back in a few minutes and he would have them ready and they were lying there for him. Besides if he could not get them he should have let me know at the time. I hope it will not occur again or I will get some one else to do it that I can depend on. If you cannot do it this week let me know at once.”

Recognition for some, not for all

In the aftermath of Aston Villa’s success in winning the League and Cup ‘double’ in 1897, this letter from the former player Billy Watts was published in a local newspaper.

Presentation Medals to Aston Villa Directors & Officers

Sir – I was pleased to hear that the officials of the above club had been presented with medallions in recognition of services rendered, and I venture to suggest to the management that it would be a graceful act on their part if they could allow such a splendid recognition to act retrospective by honouring the small band of players now left to us who worked so hard in the early history of the club (without fee or expenses), and who subscribed the finances out of their then limited means to keep the concern going. Philospher Jack’s philosophy says had it not been for these pioneers and their hard work on and off the field (including bill posting etc., etc.) the present directorate would have nothing to direct. Going back to the first match played upon their old meadow – viz., against Wednesbury Town – I find we have still in our midst the following old players who took part in same: G. B. Ramsay, Jack Hughes, Teddy Lee, Sammy Law, the writer of this letter, and I would add the names of Will Sothers and Tom Pank. These might be presented with a token which would admit them to present and future matches, and I would venture to suggest that they would be of service rather than otherwise to the management. It is not the intrinsic value, but the graceful recognition which would be appreciated.
W. H. Watts

Drunken disorder… a safe bet

From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, June 20, 1892

Villa President James Hinks

The annual meeting of the members of the Aston Villa Football Club was held on Friday, Mr James Hinks (president) in the chair.

The Chairman moved the adoption of the report and statement of accounts. Mr Macgregor seconded the resolution, remarking that how to keep the players steady and sober was the coming question, and whoever could devise a plan whereby professional footballers could be kept at work and out of the public-house would render the football world a great service. The resolution was carried unanimously.

A motion, proposed by Mr Butler, and seconded by Mr Johnson, senior, that any official known to bet either on or against the Villa should be called upon to resign, was carried almost unanimously.

The officers and committee were then re-elected, and the meeting resolved itself into a special committee to consider the question of increasing the subscription from 7s 6d to 10s 6d. A motion to this effect was moved, but the meeting became so disorderly that it was impossible to count the voters on either side, although several attempts were made. Eventually the Chairman adjourned the meeting until Friday next.

source: “Play Up, Liverpool”

Lacking discipline

A letter from G. B. Ramsay to A. Brown, 15 September 1886

Albert Brown.
Notice the cigar butt in his right hand.
And he’s not wearing football boots!

Dear Sir
I am much disappointed and the Committee annoyed at your not turning up to Training last night, as you promised me you would, and they hope you will go down regularly every Tuesday and Thursday in future. I have also been told that your Boots are not fit to play with, and must request you to get another pair at once. I have also heard expressions from the Committee to the effect that you don’t seem to work very agreeably with Rich Davis when he is your partner, and they hope you will try to improve this point which will be to the further interests of both of you. I hope you will give this your earnest attention, as all are on the look to make any improvement whatever, towards the better making of the Team in view of the great match we have before us. You have been selected to play on Saturday at Perry Barr, kick-off 3.30 prompt.
Yours etc
Geo B Ramsay

Another tragic death

From The Villa News and Record, December 5, 25 & 26, 1925

Wally Strange, Villa’s assistant secretary

“It is with deep regret we announce that E. W. Strange died at four o’clock on Friday afternoon last, after lingering in a hopeless condition for several days. Everybody who knew him will be exceedingly sorry for “Wally” Strange was a very likeable man. He was about 50 years of age, and had been assistant secretary to Mr George B. Ramsay for 26 years. He was a good and faithful helpmate to Aston Villa, having its afairs at his finger-ends, and being one of the most loyal workers through all the years.

“The accident which led to Mr Strange’s death occured at Snow Hill Station, on the evening of Saturday, December 5th. He had been to Cardiff to make valuation of a player, and on alighting from the train fell down the stone steps leading from the Livery Street platform. Immediately it was seen that he had sustained a severe wound at the back of the head, and, unconscious, he was removed to the General Hospital; later he was transferred to the Dudley Road Infirmary, where he remained in a more or less comatose condition until the end came on Friday, the 18th, at 4 p.m. He had, during all this time, the most loving care and attention of the medical staff and a devoted wife, and his passing was without pain.”

Tragic death of Philip Clamp

From the Birmingham Daily Mail, April, 1893

Philip Clamp – “intemperate habits”

Early on Saturday morning Philip Henry Clamp, who resided in Upper Thomas Street, Aston, and was until comparitively recently well-known in connection with the Aston Villa Football Club, was found incapably drunk in Parliament Street, Aston, and was conveyed by a constable to the lock-up in the Victoria Road. In consequence of his behaviour he was subsequently seen by Alderman A. Johnson, a magistrate, with a view to his removal from the station. Alderman Johnson after seeing Clamp, however, refused to sanction his removal, and a bed was prepared for him in the cells, and Dr Bark sent for. On arriving, the last-named gentleman said that Clamp was suffering from the effects of alcoholic poisoning, and ordered that he should be treated in his cell, inasmuch as it would be unsafe to remove him in the condition in which he then was. He was well looked after, and should in the ordinary event of things have been dealt with at the court sitting today. As he was unable to appear before the magistrate, Mr A. Hill this morning announced that as Mr Clamp had been in custody since early on Saturday morning he would be discharged. Immediately on the rising of the Court a visit was paid to the cells, where it was found that Clamp had just died. The deceased, as previously stated, was at one time hon. secretary of the Aston Villa Football Club, but of late had given way to intemperance.


The coroner Joseph Ansell JP,
who later became President of Aston Villa.

Yesterday, Mr J. Ansell held an inquest at the Aston Police Court on the body of Philip Henry Clamp (44), agent, 58 Upper Thomas Street, Aston, who died in the cells at the Aston Police Station on Monday afternoon. Mrs Clamp stated that fro some time past the deceased had given way to habits of intemperance. Police constanble Wale said that about quarter-past one on Saturday morning he was in Parliament Street, Aston, when he found the deceased sitting on a doorstep. In reply to a question, deceased said he had fallen off the top of a tramcar at the Barton Arms, at the same time putting his hand at the back of his head. The ambulance was sent for and the deceased removed to the lock-up. When the charge was being taken he said, “Who is taking this charge?” and on the sergeant saying that he was, deceased asked, “What is it?” Receiving the reply “Drunk in Parliament Street” he made no reply, and was locked up. At the station he denied falling off the tramcar. Police-sergeant Howkins said he was on duty at the police station when the deceased was brought in, and heard him deny that he had fallen off a tramcar. As he felt cold when being put in the cells witness fetched four rugs and wrapped him in them. Shortly after five the same morning witness saw the deceased and found him more cold than before. He got a bed and placed the deceased upon it, and put more rugs over him. He remained with the deceased until half-past seven, and on the instruction of Superintendent Walker, he sent for Mrs Clamp, and also for the doctor. Dr Bark also saw the deceased about eleven o’clock and ordered his removal to a cell which was waramer than the one in which he was. The deceased denied to witness that he had fallen off the tramcar but said he had had “much champagne” at the Villa meeting on the Friday evening. Mr Bark, surgeon, Aston Road, said he attended the deceased in 1882, when he ordered him to give up dinking. After this he left off drinking for four or five years. Death was in no way attributable to foul play, but was due to syncope, primarily attributable to his drinking habits and neglect of food. The Coroner saaid it was very satisfactory to find the police administration under the circumstances was in every way above complaint. A verdict in accordance with the medical eevidence was returned.