Top players at Manchester United Football Club earn about £15 million year and itís one of the richest clubs in the world. However in 1878 it was called Newton Heath, a local team and part of the Carriage and Wagons railway department. The workers create a football team and in their first recorded game in 1880 they lost six nil to Bolton Wanderers.) The man who lifted the club from doom and made it go zoom was John Davies and here I am at his impressive grave.
The club had a ramshackle start. In 1880 Newton Heath applied to join the Football League but were rejected. They applied again but were rejected again so they formed another league called The Alliance (along with 11 other teams.) After three seasons the Alliance merged with the Football League. Soon they were relegated to the Second Division and were insolvent. Tickets sales fell and debts grew to £2760 but thankfully John Davies helped out. He was a self-made brewery owner who acquired Newton Heath in 1902.
He was born of humble origins, the fifth of nine children. He grew up in Chorlton-on-Medlock in Greater Manchester and was an estate agent and inn keeper. In his twenties he formed his own brewery which thrived. This graduated to the chairmanship of other breweries which bought up pubs across Manchester. His wealth multiplied when he married his wife Amy who was the niece of sugar titan Sir Henry Tate. The couple were so rich they enjoyed giving money away, supporting sports activities in the Manchester area. They bought a Tudor mansion called Bramhall Hall (see photo) in Cheshire where they lived until the end.
How did John save to club? How did he get involved? Newton Heath football club received a winding up order they tried to raise some money. The club captain Harry Stafford had an idea: at a grand bazaar he would strap a donation box on the back of his St. Bernard dog and let it wander between the stalls. It worked but on the fourth day it got lost and made its way to John's big mansion. His daughter loved the dog so much that he tracked down the owner to see if he could buy it. The two men became friends and John decided to take over the club, pay its debts and save it from doom. Over the next decade John transformed the club, buying a land plot from the Earl of Trafford to build a 100000-capacity stadium. This became Old Trafford and John was 36 years old when he watched its first game on 19th February 1910.
Sadly John's money and success couldn't save him from death and he conked out aged 63 and now lies here with his wife and daughter. His grave stands in the main circle of the c with a few other wealthy notables. He did well - from meeting that lost dog the club changed its name, avoided extinction, changed its colours to red and white (from yellow and green) and can now overpay its top prima donna players £16 million a year each.
The grave is still in good condition bearing in mind he died in 1927. Is the woman with her head on her hand his wife? No flowers on it, no red and white scarf draped over it, no mentioned of Manchester United. A man came strolling toward me as I took some footage of it. Hours earlier a man with dementia had walked out of a nursing home in his slippers and had been missing for hours? Had I seen him? No. I told him about the man buried there. He gave it a brief glance and said, "I'm blue through and through; I'll do my best to avoid it in the future."
Wonder where the dog Major is buried? His owner Henry Stafford died penniless in Montreal. He emigrated to Australia and ended up in Quebec as a boil inspector. His ashes lie in an unmarked grave.