by Dave Taylor
In the early 1950s, Saturday was special. Not because
it was a 'non-shoolday'. All days were 'non-schooldays'. I was a few months too young for schooldays!
Saturday was special because, after living in the
female world of mum and friends all week, it was the day
for dad...... and events that would unfold just a quarter
of a mile away at The Belmont Football Ground.
In fact, Saturdays were constructed around those events. Dad
arrived home from the shunting yard by
midday... and fish and chips arrived home from The
Waverley by 1 pm. By then, dad had
scrubbed evidence of shunting from his face. I skipped the fish and dipped my chip soldiers
into a lightly boiled egg. I hated fish. Why would
anyone eat a submarine? If God had intended us to eat
fish, he wouldn't have hidden them in water.
As the chip soldiers and submarines disappeared, we
listened to the wireless for previews of Manchester United v Arsenal
and Bolton v Blackpool..... but our conversations
were all about Whitstable v Margate.... or
Dover... or Sittingbourne.
At 2.30, we set off from Railway Avenue and headed
into Cromwell Road for the shortcut along Stream Walk.
Already, we could hear the music wafting across open fields that
time would later transform into Millfield Manor and Millstream
Dad was pedalling while I was wedged on a seat
affixed to the crossbar and clinging to the handlebars. No-one
in Whitstable was very sure whether cycling was
permitted on Stream Walk and, if it was, whether such
permission extended to two people cycling
the same bike. So, we kept a wary
eye out for policemen.
There were policemen in those days. In fact, there was always one
on duty near the ground to control traffic and crowds.
Yes.... there were crowds too.... and we started to meet them
Walk as other locals made their way to the ground in
hope if not expectation. As we
turned into Old Bridge Road, we met non-locals streaming
from the station. These were the friendly
enemy and there were more of them in Belmont Road -
offloading from a line of pre-war coaches.
Dad parked his bike by the fence and we paid our few
pence at the gate. We also picked up
our programme - a flimsy publication printed wholly in
red ink on thin white paper. The content amounted to
very little beyond adverts and the team sheet. The adverts
were of no interest, the team sheet was usually
amended by the crackling loud speaker and I couldn't read. Nevertheless, a
programme was essential.
A roar greeted the teams. Town were in their red
shirts with white sleeves. The opposition were from
somewhere we knew and wore colours that we recognised -
gold and black (Folkestone), green (Canterbury), blue
(Margate), red and
white stripes (Sheppey), white and black (Dover). If
they wore white and black.... or gold and black... or
roar for the opposition was louder than the roar for The
We stood at the Gas Works end
because the main stand had gates and guardians. It
cost extra to sit. Only posh people had extra. Only posh
Dad would pick out some of the players to watch....
from the opposition. And they needed watching too...
because, as often as not, we lost - particularly if the
opposition wore black offset by white or gold.
Goals were always greeted with roars.
Sometimes, they were also greeted with a sound that has
remained with me for half a century - "the
Belmont thud". This was caused by the ball crashing against a
white board at the base of the netting.
extract from the team photo of 1948/49 shows one
of the curious white board inserted at the base
of the netting at both ends of the Belmont.
Over the years there were more foreign thuds than
Native thuds. It was disappointing to lose.... but we didn't expect
to win every battle and we certainly didn't expect to
win the war. Being part of it was the thing.... and we
knew that, in two weeks time, another familiar tribe of
neighbours would descend Borstal Hill in an attempt to create more
thuds than us. Thus, we would have another
chance to vanquish the friendly foe and celebrate a famous
victory by two thuds to one.
Mind you I don't think I ever saw the end of a match.
A few minutes before the final whistle, dad would
suggest that we "make our way to the gate to
avoid the rush". We rediscovered his bike where
we had left it..... complete with wheels and cycle lamp.
The only problem was that it was six bikes from the
Then it was back along Stream Walk - stopping briefly
at Weatherly's Bakery to pick up crumpets. These would
be toasted on an open fire while Sports Report crackled
over the wireless. The day had turned out okay....
Arsenal had been thumped at Old Trafford.
There were, of course, Saturdays when dad was working
all day. Then, it was a case of kicking a ball in the
garden and listening for roars that carried on the
breeze across the open spaces between The Belmont and
In later years, I became independent and attended the
Belmont with friends. By then, we had taken to the
economy seats - the branches of a tree on the banks of
the Gorrell Stream close to the football ground toilet
block. At half time, we would drop neatly over the
fence.... but more often than not, we
Then, suddenly, it had all gone. The Reds were
immersed in something 'orrible called the Aetolian
League and we were being visited by teams from places
that we had never heard of.... wearing colours
that we didn't recognise.
The tribes and friendly hoards had been taken from us
along with the coaches, policemen.... and dad's cycle