Respect for a Great Sheffield Wednesday Fan of Days Gone By

Tom Wharton

A  guest blog post by Wednesday fan Glenn Poulton.  Sincere thanks for your support from FOWC 

Having been lucky enough myself to have be selected by Jason Dickinson to be in The Owls 150th anniversary book, ‘WAWAW fans memories through the generation’, I was quite fascinated to read the first person mentioned was of a Mr Tom Wharton….

(Mr. T. Wharton from Jason Dickinson’s book)

It seems fitting that the first supporter profile should actually be a dedicated fan called Tom Wharton, who passed away in 1933 after devoting his life to Wednesday. The following is an interview with Tom in the Sheffield mail in 1926:

Surely old Tom Wharton is The Wednesday’s most enthusiastic supporter. And incidentally the most happiest man in Sheffield. He is no ordinary supporter, but a supporter who sticks to Wednesday thick and thin. For 46 years he has attended every home match except one The Wednesday have played. The exception was caused through a somewhat severe illness but Tom will let no ordinary illness interfere with his visits to see his team play. He has been ill in bed of Saturday mornings and has got up in the afternoon to get to Hillsborough. But it is not only home matches he has seen. He has been on every ground in England except three with The Wednesday. And he has a pile of programmes three feet high at least, issued in connection with the Wednesday club in different towns. The three grounds he has yet to visit are Stoke, Burnley and Newcastle. 

Old Tom lives at 26 Burnt Tree Lane, Sheffield and for many of a great year was a glass cutter. He has made some thousands of glass tumblers, and decanters, but is now retired and spends most of his time telling tales of derring-do in connection with The Wednesday and at the Sheffield Arms Hotel, Meadow Street, where he is now employed. He organised a party from the hotel to see the cup final on Saturday. The party went down by the Sheffield mail special train, but old Tom had not got a stadium ticket and did not get to see the match. But he has already seen 27 English Cup Finals. His first was in 1890 when The Wednesday played Blackburn Rovers and was beaten by six goals to one. That is a memorable occasion in old Tom’s life. It was his first visit to London, and the one he still talks about, in spite of having seen The Wednesday play over 1,500 times, before and since. His delight in the party played by Hayden Morley, one of The Wednesday backs, has not yet subsided. He stills talks of the enthusiasm with which the crowd carried off Morley shoulder high after the struggle. 

In the early days of his support for The Wednesday a party of about 40 or 50 enthusiasts, including himself, always banded together to see the team play. These enthusiasts have gradually dwindled in number until there are only eight or nine of them left. Some of them assemble in one corner of the Kop each Saturday when The Wednesday are playing a home match. They stand on the Penistone Road end of the ‘new stand’. But Mr. Wharton is doubtless the most consistent and oldest supporter of the lot. He has yelled himself hoarse times without number and has argued in the ground with men twice as big as himself. He will hear nothing against his The Wednesday and when they are down he says they will soon be up. Mr. Wharton is 72 years-old. Recently he and two other supporters had their photographs taken. His friends are George Wood, aged 69, and Mr. J. S. Redfern, aged 74. These three men had followed the fortunes of the team through thick and thin, their ages are total 215 years. Mr. Wood is a lamplighter and Mr. Redfern has lived at ‘the old black pudding shop’ in Meadow Street 

Tom Wharton 2.jpg

Having reading this I later found out via Twitter he is buried in an unmarked grave at Wardsend Cemetery which is located at the end of the seemingly never ending Livesey Street, behind Owlerton Stadium. So over the Christmas period with a bit of spare time I thought I’d seek out this once forgotten hidden cemetery and check it out for myself.

As soon as you cross over the river Don via the blue bridge you can see many of the head stones of the people who are buried there, right in  front of you. All being overgrown by nature. Nearly 30,000 men, woman and children have their final resting place here. As you walk along the path to the top of the incline you begin to see how big this place actually is and with all the trees that now stand there you cannot see the end whichever way you look. It’s also worth noting that Wardsend is 1 of only 2 cemeteries in England that has a railway line running right through the middle of it, so you have to cross a 2nd foot bridge to the top side where you find the resting place of Mr. Wharton.

I spent a good hour looking and walking through this fascinating woodland and taking various pictures including some of Hillsborough Stadium, which is only a stones throw away and can been seen if you follow the River Don up stream and then up to Scraith Wood near Herries Road, which I use to make the rest of my walk home to Parson Cross.

The long term goal of all this is not only to bring publicity to The Wardsend Cemetery and its friends, but also us Wednesdayite’s can give whatever we can and hopefully get Mr. Wharton the head stone or at least the recognition I feel a fellow Wednesdayite deserves. Hopefully we can maybe start a crowd funding page? For just £5 a year membership you can also become a friend of the cemetery which will also go towards the general up keep of Wardsend plus other benefits for you. You can find the application form on the website.

Up The Owls and Friends of Wardsend.

Glenn Poulton. (@PoultonOwl).

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