So why did the Isle of Dogs, by the 1880's grow to be
a solid working class district full of football mad immigrants from the
North and Scotland. Its a story that encompasses the growth of London,
the Age of Empire and the development of working class leisure time. Why
after 25 years did Millwall Football Club uproot and move to New Cross
on the other side of the river.
On the following pages: A Potted History of London and its
growth , the Isle of Dogs and South East London.
It’s become the one fact included in every
write up about Millwall. Millwall FC Founded by Scotsmen working at
Morton's Jam Factory on the Isle of Dogs.
Let’s explore this and other myths that
have grown up about the founding of Millwall Rovers in 1885.
Did Scotsmen found Millwall Rovers? This
seems to be the impression that many people who have read Jim Murray’s
book seem to take from it. Actually what Jim wrote was: “A group of
workers in a preserve factory – many of them Scottish, some English
– were convinced they could form a football team to give other local
clubs a tough time.”
A Scottish flavour certainly, reflected in
their choice of colours for the kit of Navy Blue and White. The names of
some of players in Millwall first season show the cosmopolitan mix that
was the Isle of Dogs in those days. Duncan Hean (Capt) George Oliver, J
Reekie, Patrick Holohan, Owen Elias, Henry Gunn, Tom Jessup, Joe Potter,
Fred Northwood, John Rowland, James Crawford, Harry Butler & George
Syme. The Club Secretary was 17-year-old Jasper Sexton, the son of the
Landlord of the Islander pub in Tooke Street where Millwall Rovers held
their meetings. The First Chairman of the Club was Irish International
and Local GP Dr William Murray-Leslie.
What there definitely isn’t any hint of is
a group of Scottish Football Missionaries invading the Isle of Dogs and
inspiring the locals to found a football club, which certainly is the
pattern in some parts of the world. Millwall Rovers was a working mans
team, not a works team, founded by young 'Londoners' with the luxury of
leisure time on Saturday afternoon, a recent social change in Britain,
to indulge in the English mania for football.
One of Millwall’s famous early players,
Obed Caygill was a South Londoner, born in 1870 and Millwall’s
goalkeeper till 1894 when he broke his leg and gave up football. Asked
in an interview in 1893 in English Sports, he said of the founding of
Millwall: “A few tinsmiths, engaged on the island were the founders.
First called the “Iona” (A distinctly Scottish name!) it grew in
importance till it reached it current position. It still continues
practically as a working man’s team, only one or two of its members
being engaged in other occupations, such as clerkships.”
JT Morton certainly was a Scottish firm,
founded in Aberdeen in 1849, supplying food to sailing ships. With the
development of the Canning process the market expanded greatly, with
Morton’s opening a new plant on The Isle of Dogs in 1870 at the mouth
of the West India Docks. Morton's works were on both sides of West Ferry
Road, at No's 2 to 4 and 19 to 21. The River frontage was named
Sufferance Wharf. The myth also put about is that Millwall was founded
by Scotsmen who moved down to London with Mortons. However the 15-year
lag tends to rule this out, indeed none of Millwall’s founders were
natives of Aberdeen.
It was the growth of London and its job
opportunities which drew men and women from all corners of the British
Isles and with the Docks and related industries crying out for man
power, the Isle of Dogs was a favourite destination for 20 somethings.
The most ridiculous idea about the founding
of Millwall is there is such a thing as a Jam Factory! Apart from Jam
making being highly seasonal work, the idea that Tin Smiths would be
required if the only product was Jam is silly. Jam came in Ceramic pots
and was usually made by women workers in the plant. Jam would be a small
sideline of the Morton enterprise. Indeed when JT Morton died in 1897 he
left a fortune of £250,000 (around £20m in today’s money!) to
foreign Missionary work! Morton’s cannery and plant produced a wide
range for foods for consumption at home and abroad. The range of
products included: preserved fish, meat, soup, vegetables, fruit,
sausages, ham, bacon, cheese, confectionery, jams, jellies, marmalades,
candid peel, pickles, sauces, potted meats, and potted fish, oatmeal,
barley, spices, pepper, salt, curry powders, bottled essence, tea,
cocoa, flour, nuts, custard powder and hair oils!
Morton’s employed hundreds of local men
and women throughout the year and many more at certain seasons during
the year. Morton’s was later swallowed up by the Unilever group and
the name stopped being used on products in the 1970’s.
The island also was the home of other famous
firms, McDougall’s (Self raising flour) and Duckhams (oil) as well as
famous ship building firms such as Yarrow’s and John Scott Russells.
Indeed the famous shipyards did reverse journey to Morton’s in moving
to the Clyde just after the turn of the century.
The final myth is the Millwall club badge is
derived from the Scottish Rampant Lion emblem. This can be scotched
because Millwall were known as the Dockers until around the turn of the
century when things African came into vogue due to the Boer war. With
Millwall’s cup run to the Semi Finals in 1900, they were referred to
as Lions for their acts of giant killing and the name stuck and was
adopted as the clubs nickname and emblem. It did not appear on club
shirts as a badge till the 1930’s. Indeed the first Millwall emblem in
the we fear no foe badge bears no resemblance to the heraldic Scottish
Lion used by the Scottish FA, indeed even the current badge bears only a
passing resemblance to it.
The idea that the badge was modelled on
Scottish Lion is down to the similarities of English and Scottish
Heraldic symbols and also the wide use of the Rampant Lion symbol in
both England and Scotland. In Scotland, the Red Lion is a common because
when James I (1566-1625 known as James VI in Scotland) came of age on
the throne in 1583 he ordered that a heraldic red lion should be
displayed in public places.
In England, The Red Lion evolved because of
John of Gaunt who, during the fourteenth century, was the most powerful
man in the England. Born in Ghent in 1340, he was Duke of Lancaster and
fourth son of Edward III. Gaunt is a corruption of his birthplace. He is
most famous for his opposition to the clergy and his protection of
Wycliffe. When Wat Tyler led an insurrection in 1381 it was John of
Gaunt's palace, which was destroyed. He is mainly remembered in pub
names, The Red Lion being the most popular name for pubs in England.