11 May 1963 – a momentous day in Everton’s post-war history. After nearly two decades of torpor, John Moores and Harry Catterick had turned the also-rans into the champions of England. Bathed in bright sunlight – a contrast to the biting winter that had disrupted the season, hat-trick hero Roy Vernon led Alex Young, Brain Labone, Tony Kay and his other teammates on a lap of honour of the Goodison Park pitch. Photos from the day capture the elation of the players and supporters packed into the ground – a few also capture a 10 year-old boy, resplendent in Everton replica kit, sharing the moment with his heroes. The boy was John Murray – mascot to the champions. I caught up with John and his family to revisit those halcyon days and discuss the family’s gilt-edged Bluenose credentials.
John was one of six children born to Jimmy and Flo Murray. Jimmy – known as ‘The Major’ in family circles – joined the Merchant Navy at 14 as a galley boy, but jumped ship in New Zealand, where he earned a living sheep shearing. Family legend has it that he was the first ‘Pom’ to play for New Zealand’s national football team – apparently this feat made the front page of a Kiwi national newspaper.
Jimmy eventually secured his passage back to Liverpool where met and wooed Flo Ealey of Lita Street (next to Goodison Park). The couple had had five sons and a daughter. John, born in 1952, along with his siblings, attended St Matthew’s School on Queens Drive. All are dyed-in-the-wool Evertonians (there is just one ‘red sheep’ in the extended family).
In the early 1960s they were living on Philbeach Road – just off Walton Hall Avenue. Jimmy, by now working for Cammell Laird, became something of a mate of Dave Hickson. John recalls his early memories of going to Goodison: ‘When I was 6,7,8 and 9 I was in the Boys’ Pen – but I used to climb up and drop down into Gwladys Street to join my dad. The bizzies didn’t mind fellas bringing their kids in over the turnstile – they’d turn a blind eye as everyone was skint back then.’
John recalls how his father was keen for Everton to emulate the Red’s adoption of a matchday boy mascot – and nominated his second-eldest son for the role, albeit in an unconventional manner:
‘Everton had the Toffee Lady but Liverpool had a boy mascot. So one day my dad popped me over the wall and I walked along the side of the Goodison Road stand to where the players came out. They said, “Are you the Everton mascot?” and I said, “Yeah”. The steward told me to go downstairs and wait by the changing room. Roy Vernon came along and said, “Alright lad”. He was a cracking fella, a real character. So I then came out with the team. In them days they never put numbers on the shirts so you’d buy them from Lewis’s or TJ Hughes – my mum had put the number 10 on the back.’
Somehow, Jimmy’s chutzpah in pushing his son forward as mascot paid off and John became a regular in the role. He recalls: ‘I did it for every home game – the only time the teams came out together was in the derby match. My dad and his brothers still bumped me and my cousins in. I’d meet the players and go out in front of them. The referee would give me the coin toss penny and I’d collect them all in a little envelope. Then I’d go back into the Gwladys Street for kick-off. Sometimes there were 65,000 in there – they’d pass me over their heads.’
John’s sister, Tricia, recalls: ‘I went in the boy’s pen from about the age of three and remember John on the pitch coming up from the tunnel next to Roy Vernon many times. Often one of the players – Roy Vernon or Alex Young – would drop him off home after the match. l remember that Roy was particularly fond of John and would chat about the game over a cup of tea.’
John recalled that being of primary school age seemed to be no impediment to following the Blues away, also: ‘For away games [in London] we would get the overnight train and arrive at Euston at 6 or 7 am. We used to go to Covent Garden by 8am where the boozers opened dead early for the fruit and veg. workers. My dad and uncles would be ratted by the time the game started!’
As for the championship-clincher against Fulham in May 1963, John was there to escort captain Roy Vernon onto the pitch – before watching the Welshman vanquish the Cottagers and ensure the title came back to Goodison. John the epic afternoon recalled to Becky Tallentire: “The buzz around the ground was incredible...Roy Vernon told me that if they won, I was to make my way to the bottom of the steps and wait for him, he would come and get me and take me up to where the medals were handed out. He scored a hat trick that day. I never doubted him for a minute. When the game was finished, Roy ran over to me and lifted me high into the air. I still have the picture in a frame.’
A Liverpool Echo photographer captured the moment that Vernon held John aloft, united in joy with the Toffees’ juvenile talisman. Sadly, it would be the only thing that the captain held aloft that afternoon, as the Football League trophy was not at Goodison (it would be handed to the club chairman at a Football League function in the summer).
John remained in the mascot role as the 1963/64 season kicked-off. He was caught on British Movietone newsreel with Tony Kay for the coin toss before the season’s curtain raiser at home to Fulham. He was also there, under the lights, for the visit of Inter MIlan in the first round of the European Cup. At some point in the season he retired from his role – ‘quitting at the top’, you might say. A photo of Roy Vernon leading Everton out at Roker Park in February 1964 shows John’s successor trotting out alongside the captain. If anyone knows the identity of John’s successor, please get it touch through ToffeeWeb or my Twitter account (@robsawyer70).
Seven years after the euphoria of that golden May day at Goodison, John was captured on camera again – but this time on enemy territory. Everton had beaten Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield as they homed in on the title. John was one of a number of teenagers to invade the pitch and ‘politely’ remind Tommy Smith of the score. A year John’s junior, brother Dave did his bit for the Toffees’ cause by bunking off school to go to Lime Street and wave the squad off as they journeyed to London in preparation for the 1966 FA Cup final. He was photographed by the press doing so – hopefully the school headmaster never saw the evidence. Many of the Murray clan made it to Wembley for that memorable day and saw a 3-2 win for the Toffeemen.
The Major continued to attend Everton matches into his 80s. In the three years leading up to his death in 2013, he was able to enjoy the luxury of the 1878 Lounge, where his son James’ legal business had a table. He’d enjoy his chats with the affable Martin Dobson over lunch. Naturally, the wake after his funeral was held at Goodison Park.
Now retired, John lives in Somerset, close to his son. Nearly six decades on from his hour of Goodison glory, he remains the most avid of Blues. In 2014 he was over in Darwen, Australia, to visit his daughter. He was proudly sporting an Everton t-shirt when spotted by none other than Mike Trebilcock. The pair got chatting and spent much of the subsequent couple of day’s reminiscing about ‘1966 and all that’ over a few beers.
The Everton connection continues through another of John’s brothers, Tony, who, for 20-plus years has owned the fast-food concession on the corner of Goodison Road and Spellow Lane. He’s hoping that his catering business will follow the club to Bramley Moore Dock when the time comes!
Becky Tallentire has penned a sister article to this, which can be found here on ToffeeWeb.
The Murray family
Billy Smith (bluecorrespondent.co.uk)
Movietone News via YouTube
Reader Comments (19)
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1 Posted 08/05/2021 at 17:58:30
2 Posted 08/05/2021 at 22:36:25
3 Posted 09/05/2021 at 01:44:38
Brian, my youngest brother privately thanks me for his middle name of Howard, even though my sisters shook their heads!
4 Posted 09/05/2021 at 06:26:28
No coincidence that dreaded FA Cup Semifinal collapse when we was cruising with the likes of Toshack not getting a look-in until he went off injured. Plus Rankin letting us down. Still hurts to this day never mind 1986 and so on!
But I wouldn't change it for the world. Being a blue is something we sometimes hated our dads for... but maybe we will rise again. Coyb!
5 Posted 09/05/2021 at 08:01:21
Of all the games, I'll never forget the Fulham clincher for the league title.
6 Posted 09/05/2021 at 08:31:02
Great reading about your family's devotion to the Blues, it reminds us of the many good times they have given us, just nowhere enough.
7 Posted 09/05/2021 at 08:44:31
I've known little Tony for many years but never put the two of them together. What a character and what a blue. "Never trust them Poolies, lad!"
8 Posted 09/05/2021 at 09:11:27
Didn't realise that the Toffee Lady went to away games. Wonder where it was?
9 Posted 09/05/2021 at 10:14:08
10 Posted 09/05/2021 at 11:03:21
11 Posted 09/05/2021 at 11:04:15
13 Posted 09/05/2021 at 11:27:49
14 Posted 09/05/2021 at 11:35:08
15 Posted 09/05/2021 at 11:41:56
It's Roker Park, Sunderland... but the Toffee Lady is a puzzler. Can't imagine that going down well with any of the locals away from Goodison!
16 Posted 09/05/2021 at 12:43:36
Yes, Michael..I wonder what 50,000 Mackems made of Nuestra SeÃ±ora de Los Caramelos.
17 Posted 09/05/2021 at 12:47:29
18 Posted 11/05/2021 at 17:22:32
We have been to away games and I love being on the coach with him, especially when a RS fan is there. I could listen to him all night taking the piss out of them. I have sat at a table having a drink with him and now I know about his exploits as a boy the next time we meet the drinks will be on me all night.
19 Posted 12/05/2021 at 22:40:14
20 Posted 13/05/2021 at 13:32:51
Let me know when you are thinking of bringing John up and will come up with son. Hopefully Steve can make it as well, would be good to have night out in Liverpool and listen to what happened when you were kids.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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