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In memoriam: Jack Leslie’s daughter Evelyn

It is with great sadness that the Campaign confirms that Jack Leslie’s daughter (and only child) Evelyn has passed away peacefully, aged 94.

The Campaign extends our condolences to the family.

The funeral will take place in Southampton on Friday 22 April.

Evelyn always felt her father deserved recognition and was delighted that so many people donated to the statue which will be unveiled later this year. Donations to the campaign in Evelyn’s memory can be made here

The following obituary has been written by Campaign Supporter and football historian Bill Hern, with the approval of Evelyn’s daughters.

Evelyn (Eve) Winifred Baxter nee Leslie who died in Southampton on 30th March 2022 was born in Poplar, London on Friday 4th November 1927. It’s a safe bet to say that her father Jack Leslie wasn’t present at the birth. Not only was it not the done thing for men to attend such events in those days, Jack had a game the following day, a local derby at Torquay. This was the first ever League meeting between the two clubs. Jack celebrated his daughter’s birth with a 2-1 victory and, although he didn’t get on the scoresheet, he was said to have “delighted the crowd with his cleverness.” The result lifted Argyle to 4th place in the Division Three (South) table so Jack had much to celebrate on that momentous weekend in 1927. 

As soon as the final whistle blew his thoughts no doubt turned to making the long journey back to London to see his wife, Lavinia (known as ”Win”) and his beautiful daughter Eve for the very first time. He couldn’t remain long however as he was needed by Plymouth who had a game at Home Park the following Saturday against Southend. 

Eve was the couple’s first child but Jack needed have no worries that Lavinia and baby Eve were being well looked after in his absence. Eve had five aunties and three uncles on her mother’s side of the family (the Garlands). And, of course, Emma, Lavinia’s mother, knew plenty about having and caring for children having had nine herself!

In contrast, in 1927, the Leslie side of the family consisted solely of Jack, his father (also Jack) and Jack’s thirty-five-year-old sister Letitia. 

Certainly Eve would have got plenty of love and attention from her various grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins as well as her proud mum and dad.

The prospect and then reality of becoming a daddy clearly inspired Jack on the football pitch. In the week of Eve’s birth there were press reports of Bolton Wanderers, then a top First Division club, offering £4,500 for the services of Jack’s teammate Sammy Black. That was an incredible amount – the world record transfer fee at that time was only £6,500. Those in the know wrote that Sammy Black would be only half the player he was were he not playing alongside Jack Leslie. It was said that Jack was enjoying his best ever season and “many think that Leslie’s splendid work as a forager should earn for him representative honours.” As we know only too well Eve’s daddy never did win that England cap but that didn’t lessen the pride she had in him as a footballer, a man and a dear dad. 

Christmas is a busy time for footballers and it is highly unlikely that Jack, Lavinia and Eve spent Christmas 1927 together. Jack was needed in Plymouth on Christmas Eve where he played in a 5-1 hammering of Crystal Palace. Boxing Day brought a 2-0 defeat at Exeter City followed by a 2-1 loss in the reverse fixture the following day.

Eve would have got used to not always seeing her daddy on Christmas Day. Jack’s first football-free Christmas was in 1933 and, although this was due to injury, it must have been a huge consolation that at last he could relax and enjoy Christmas with Lavinia and six-year-old Eve. Christmases were always spent together as a family after that. 

Eve remained Jack and Lavinia’s only child. We don’t know if they would have liked more children or perhaps Lavinia, who in 1911 lived with ten other family members in a five-room house in Plaistow, decided she had had enough of living in cramped conditions with little or no privacy. 

After retiring from football in 1935 Jack ran a pub called the White Swan in Truro before moving back to East Ham with Lavinia and Eve in 1938.

In July 1950 Eve married Reginald A H Baxter in East Ham. 

Reginald was born in Norfolk on 15th November 1927, the son of Cecil John Baxter a gamekeeper and gardener who had served with the Royal Navy in World War One and his wife Victoria Daisy Baxter. Lavinia’s father had also served in World War One, with the British Army in 1915 in France before being invalided out. Reginald died on 1st July 2020.  

Eve and Reginald had three daughters; Lesley, Lyn and Gillian. 

It was Eve, rather than Lavinia, who made the inspired suggestion that, bored with retirement, Jack should go to Upton Park and seek a job there. This heralded a third career for Jack (after football and boiler-making) as boot boy for the West Ham team. We have a lot to thank her for.