St James’ Park in the late 1940s

The above image is St James’ Park, Newcastle, 1930, by Byron Dawson

Before my Dad got our second season ticket my visit to St James’s Park consisted of the following. We would go to the ground about an hour before the kick-off i.e. 2 o’clock. My dad would take me to the Leases End of the ground. There, at a certain turnstile, was an old fella who had worked on that gate for a number of years.

When my Dad approached with me in front of him the old chap would tell my Dad to lift me over the gate. I would run up the concrete steps make my way along the back of what was then a packed end. My Dad would disappear to find his seat or, maybe, have a drink first then go to his seat.

In those days the Leazes end was the only covered end other than the seating area reserved for season ticket holders. The cover that existed was a cantilever shell covered by corrugated sheeting and stretched from the car park at the rear right over to the cinder track that ran around the pitch. The Paddock, as the East stand was known, the Gallowgate end and the standing area in front of the old stand underneath the season ticket areas were open to the elements. Consequently, they were cheaper than the Leases end and when it rained the people standing there got a good soaking. Many people would leave the ground completely soaked to the skin when making their way home. That’s why they were cheaper. From memory I think the charge at the Leazes end was 9d (3p) for children and Old Age Pensioners and 1/6d (7 1/2p) for adults.

When I was at the back and about the centre of the goal one of the many fellows in the crowd would ask if I wanted to go to the front to sit on the wall. I always said yes and then I would be lifted up by the fella, he would shout ‘hear he comes’, and a wall of hands would automatically go up ready to pass the youngster overhead all the way from the back to the front. Whilst this was happening, I would be holding on to my coat pocket where I had a packet of ‘sherbet lemons’ to sustain me throughout the match.



When we got to the front one of the fella’s would move the other kids around so that a gap appeared and I could be slotted in right behind the goal. From there I would see all the action including the ball flying into the net – hopefully headed or kicked by a Newcastle player.

In those far-off days a wall ran right around the pitch. Behind the walls was a drop of about 3 feet then a series of concrete steps would go all the way up the terrace to eventually reach the back were at 2 feet wide step was in place. At various points between the back and the front of the terrace there were metal stanchions, lots of them right around the standing sections of the ground. Some people stood in front of them whilst others stood behind them. But always all of the standing areas around the ground would be full of people.

I remember being in the ground when there has been 62,000 even 63,000+ supporters in the ground. Me and my lofty position on the wall and directly behind the goal would be in awe at the size of the crowd and the fact that I had been passed over their heads of the ordinary working lads who were kind enough to see that got to the front safely. A proud Geordie among many proud Geordies.

Another feature of the ground at that time was the 10 minute flag. During every match, whether winning or losing, the crowd and the team would be watching towards the end of the second half for the movement of the stewards going across the back of the Gallowgate end to remove the flag from its position right on top of the corner of the Gallowgate end and the East Terrace end. On many occasions when the flag was taken down the team would see this happen and started to really play their best football. I recall games against Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur where the team was losing but after the flag going down Newcastle piled on the pressure and won the game. This was particularly so in the Milburn, Mitchell era as well as when Lenny White was playing his football.

Even in those days the Gallowgate end was the most popular end. The entrance was at the levels of the Strawberry Pub. Then, for 6d for children (2 1/2p) (adults a shilling {5p}), you would enter the ground and then begin the long climb right up to the top of the Gallowgate and then walk all the way back down towards the wall at the front. Adults, in the meantime, would place themselves around the stanchions at that end of the ground as well. Because it was the cheapest end, along with the East Terrace (the Paddock), they would be packed tightly. Unfortunately, it was not unknown that visits to the toilet were extremely difficult to make. One, you would lose your place. Two, you would have very little chance of returning to the spot you had vacated. Hence, a lot of fellows who would have had a good drink before coming to the match would relieve themselves exactly where they stood. Consequently, many shoes and trouser bottoms would be soaked long before they left the match. That’s what happened when the ground was full to capacity.

(To his dying day, my Dad used to swear that in September 1930 when Hughie Gallacher returned to St James to a record crowd, that there were hundreds more than the stated 68, 300 in that crowd. In fact, he said there were that many outside of the ground. He said he had to fight his way through the crowds when leaving at the end of the match to get to the bus station to get the bus home. It was often believed by the crowds at the matches that the official figures given to the Journal and Chronicle were well below those that were actually at the match).

After the match I’d meet up with my Dad and off we’d go home either saddened by what we’d seen or elated by the result. Just some of my happiest memories of being amongst some of the finest working class people who have looked after the kids so that they too could enjoy their football.

Out of interest, my Dads last match before handing the tickets over to me was when he went to watch Newcastle play Pompey at St James. Portsmouth won 4-0 and they had a player called Dougie Reid who was about 7 feet tall (well over 6 ft. anyway). Apparently, he had an excellent game in what was an excellent team. According to my Dad, the Pompey player Reid was stepping over little Ernie Taylor as if he wasn’t there. That defeat was the end for him and so my Dad gave me the seats in the old stand which was one seat away from Malcolm Dix’s father’s seat.

Tom Page

15 thoughts on “St James’ Park in the late 1940s

  1. Thank you Tom. The smell must have been lovely with so many people urinating on the spot! Great insight into St. James Park history yet again.

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  2. Cheers Tom. I always wondered how the hell 60 odd thousand got into SJP back in the day. I used to go in the old Leazes back in the mid-70s and it was chocka even when the gate was about 33k. It was absolutely mental whenever we scored with a massive surge to the front. I was always amazed that everybody kept their feet, especially me and me mates who were skinny 12 year olds.

    Glad to know you were in the Gallowgate and that later it wasn’t you and your Dad sending runnels of piss down the terraces next to me.

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  3. I have been at a Wedding and am just catching up with some of the news:

    1. Moyes is now favourite for the chop. That would be hilarious if they sacked him and reemployed Toad of Toad Hall.

    2. Some Spurs fans are getting frustrated with Sissoko. He has zero goals and zero assists. I have watched a few of their games and he is exactly as he was at NUFC (who knew 🙂 ). Flattering to deceive and no end product.

    3. Ian Holloway has done a U turn. According to him we are actually quite good now even though he predicted a loss on the weekend.

    4. I got the score right against Brentford. That never happens so I will predict the Barnsley score as 2-2. There is no way I will get 2 in a row.

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  4. great story mate brings back good memorys,i always said the crowd were a lot larger than what the club disclosed by quite a few thousand a right tax fiddle there were not the checks in those days,in my day i always went with my dad into the family enclosure,if you were not in the queue which went out into the street by 12 o!clock you missed the kick off,great days,once had a real laugh while in queue a cop on a horse there was a guy with a large afro hair style the horse was quite happy standing chewing off the top of the guys hair,he must have been real tanked up not to notice 😆

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  5. icedog:
    great story mate brings back good memorys,i always said the crowd were a lot larger than what the club disclosed by quite a few thousand a right tax fiddle there were not the checks in those days,in my day i always went with my dad into the family enclosure,if you were not in the queue which went out into the street by 12 o!clockyou missed the kick off,great days,once had a real laugh while in queue a cop on a horse there was a guy with a large afro hair style the horse was quite happy standing chewing off the top of the guys hair,he must have been real tankedup not to notice

    😆 that’s well funny ice.
    Tom, wonderful memories you have, another great story.
    That picture of the old SJP is a lovely stand alone piece of art isn’t it.

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  6. OK, I am going to predict the team again. I don’t think I have got any right so far.

    Darlow

    Yedlin Lascelles Clark Dummett

    Ritchie Hayden Shelvey Gouffy

    Gayle Diame

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  7. Nice memories Tom. If I remember rightly though the Paddock was the standing area below the main stand and what is now the East stand was known as the Popular side. Ice is right too – it’s well known that the gatemen would stop clocking the numbers before the gates were shut. Attendances were sometimes thousands above what was published.

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  8. So it looks like Warnock could be in the shit,one of his ex players saying certain players had to pay him to get into the team 😯 😯

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  9. Icedog:
    So it looks like Warnockcould be in the shit,one of his ex players sayingcertain players had to pay him to get into the team

    crooks everywhere mate

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  10. Georgia,
    You are quite right.
    The Paddock was the standing area under the seating places in the old stand and the East Stand was the Popular side. My mistake.
    I remember fighting my way into the Popular side once. It was over a Christmas time in the early sixties? I had let a relative from London have my seats for the game so he and his son (who was a Chelsea supporter) go to the match.
    We played a young Chelsea team who introduced a very young player called
    Jimmy Greaves (aged about 16), a young winger called Mick Block and some other youngsters. They beat us 3-0 and I think Greavesie scored a hat-tick.
    However, I remember, more clearly, going home to see my relatives with my trouser bottoms and shoes soaking and not from the snow that had remained on the basic wood facings and ash filling that was the norm at that time. No Sir, it was directly due to the fact that the ground was packed and the fella’s were unable to move let alone get to the toilet!
    Sorry about the mistaken description of the two sides of the ground.

    Tom Page

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