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Jack Leslie Statue To Be Unveiled Next Season

  • The date will be announced soon after the fixture lists come out on June 23rd. The Campaign plans to centre the event around a home game in late September or early October.
  • Work on the full-size clay sculpture is almost complete, with Jack Leslie’s granddaughters declaring the work ‘a triumph.’

After an incredible fundraising effort, the Jack Leslie Campaign is in the final stages of delivering its key objective: a bronze statue of this pioneering footballer outside the stadium where he plied his trade, Home Park.

Born in East London, Jack Leslie signed for Plymouth Argyle in 1921 and scored 137 goals in 400 appearances before injury forced his retirement in 1934. Lauded as a true Argyle legend, he is now known as the first Black footballer to be selected for England in 1925, but his place was denied before the game took place due to the colour of his skin.   

Leslie’s three granddaughters, Lyn, Gill and Lesley, who have supported the effort from the very start, were recently able to see the work at sculptor Andy Edwards’ studio.

Andy Edwards crafting the full size Jack Leslie sculpture

It was an emotional moment for them.

It’s fantastic. We can’t believe the likeness and Andy has truly captured the essence of Granddad. You can see that sparkle in his eyes, that wonderful smile that he had. It’s so much more than looking at a picture. His emotions come through in the sculpture. It’s incredible. It may have taken a hundred years, but he will now be known for the great goal scorer that he was.

Here they are at the studio having just seen the work in progress:

Andy Edwards is a renowned sculptor who has created many of the country’s top sporting works. These include the Stanley Matthews monument at Stoke City, Liverpool’s Bob Paisley and Emlyn Hughes statue, and the recent Sir Alex Ferguson statue at Aberdeen.

He has been working on this statue for nearly a year, researching and working on scale models. Now he’s putting the final touches on the one and a quarter life-size sculpture of Jack Leslie.

Andy said: “Statues have to stand in for their subject, so we have to make sure to get everything right. Not just the detail, but the character has to come over too. For fans, they will never have been able to walk around an image of Jack before, but for his family, I know this is very emotional. When they visited my workshop recently, it was emotional for me too, and I don’t know which of us was more, but the first thing they said was, “We want to hug him”. All three girls carry their Granddad’s likeness here and there, and I added refinements and detail directly from their faces. The next time we meet will be in Plymouth when Jack makes his triumphant return to Home Park. I can’t even dare to imagine what that will be like. I just hope we’ve done him proud, but as the saying goes, we’ve left nothing on the pitch in terms of effort.

Jack’s boot from the work in progress

The full-size clay sculpture will soon be moulded and then cast in bronze using the centuries-old lost-wax process at one of the UK’s leading foundries, Castle Fine Arts in Liverpool. It will then be installed atop a stone plinth in the area outside the Lyndhurst/Devonport End corner, the busiest area on matchday.

Campaign co-founders Greg Foxsmith and Matt Tiller said, “We are incredibly excited to announce our unveiling plans as this is the culmination of a huge effort. Thousands of football fans from Plymouth’s faithful Green Army to the other clubs Jack was associated with, West Ham and Barking, and many more across the nation and globe have made this happen. We are so grateful to them and can’t wait to see the monument revealed. It will stand as a fitting tribute to Jack Leslie the player and tell the story of the injustice of 1925.”

The EFL League One fixture list comes out on 23rd June. A date will be chosen for the unveiling and released to supporters and the wider public as soon as possible.

Plymouth Argyle has fully supported the project and Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Parkinson, said, “We are delighted to see the Jack Leslie Campaign press forward, and we are really looking forward to seeing the statue of an Argyle great take pride of place at Home Park. Congratulations to everyone who has made it possible – including a huge number of Argyle fans who contributed to the fundraising effort. As well as telling an important story, Jack’s statue will look fantastic alongside other stadium improvement works taking place in the seasons ahead.”

Many individuals and businesses have contributed, and the campaign welcomes further donations. They will be used to create a legacy fund for the maintenance of the statue and help continue spreading the story of Jack Leslie far and wide.

Contributions are welcome via the Crowdfunder site: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/jack-leslie-campaign

And The Jack Leslie Campaign is also keen to hear from businesses and individuals that would like to get involved. Please contact the Campaign for more information: jacklesliecampaign@gmail.com

Jack’s granddaughters Lesley, Lyn and Gill (L-R)see the work in progress
Andy Edwards, Matt Tiller, Lyn Davies, Greg Foxsmith, Lesley Hiscott & Gillian Carter (L-R)
Gill, Lesley and Lyn with sculptor, Andy Edwards
Matt Tiller, Andy Edwards & Greg Foxsmith (L-R)

NOTES:

The Aims of the Campaign:

  1. To raise funds for and build a statue of Jack Leslie at Home Park, Plymouth
  2. To promote and share Jack’s story.
  3. To celebrate diversity and combat racism.

More Information on the campaign and process to date:

Jack Leslie signed for Plymouth Argyle from Barking in 1921 and scored 137 goals in his 13 years with The Pilgrims. The pinnacle of his career should have been in 1925 when Jack was selected to represent England in a game versus Ireland, but his name was removed from the team sheet when officials discovered that he was Black. (See Jack’s story)

The Jack Leslie Campaign was set up in 2019 by a couple of Argyle fans (Matt and Greg) who had learned of the story, and they were soon joined by a diverse team of volunteers.

In July 2020, the Campaign launched a crowd-funded appeal and smashed its £100,000 target in six weeks. One year later, Andy Edwards was commissioned to create the Jack Leslie Statue.

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 https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/jack-leslie-campaign

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.

Jack Leslie v Chelsea FC!

Introduction

Chelsea have a 4th round FA Cup home tie against Plymouth Argyle (League One) this weekend (Saturday, 1230 KO, BBC “red button”)

Our Campaign is building a statue to Argyle legend Jack Leslie, and using his story (as the first black footballer to be selected for England) to campaign against racism and discrimination in sport, so in advance of this match we reached out to Chelsea FC (no reply) and it’s fan-base, and were delighted when the Chelsea Supporters Trust got in touch and offered us a guest blog on their website.

True to their word, the full blog is on their website here, and reproduced in part below, and we thank the Trust for featuring Jack’s story. Plymouth and Chelsea fans alike will also enjoy this feature by Paul Waterhouse on previous meetings between the clubs.

Jack Leslie and Chelsea

Today of course there is a vast financial gap between the two clubs, with the multi-million pound Premier League Chelsea squad facing the more modestly assembled, albeit sustainable and transparent League One Argyle.

The first time Chelsea and Plymouth had encounters in the FA Cup, back in the 1920s, the gulf between the clubs was not so wide as today,

In 1921, there were two replays needed before Chelsea eventually triumphed by the narrowest of margins in a 2-1 win.

 Later that same year, Plymouth, then a division 3 South team, made 3 signings from Barking FC, one of whom, Londoner Jack Leslie, played for Argyle against Chelsea in their next FA Cup encounter in January 1926. 

Once again, the encounter was close with Chelsea again coming out on top 2-1 at Home Park.

Just a few months before that, in 1925 Leslie made history by becoming the first black footballer to be selected to play for England, although his selection was later controversially rescinded.

Jack’s story became less well known over the years, until in 2020 a campaign was started by a couple of Argyle fans to tell Jack’s story,  and fundraise for a statue. 

So who was Jack Leslie? 

JACKS STATS-137 goals in 400 games

Born in Canning Town 1901 to a Jamaican father and white mother, he showed incredible promise with his first club Barking from 1919-1921,  and played for a representative London team. 

Chelsea may be the team with European experience now, but in 1919 it was Jack Leslie travelling to France to play for London against Paris in France!

Jack’s Barking team competed in the final of the London Senior Cup in May 1920 at West Ham’s Upton Park ground, and won the final the following year at Millwall’s ground. 

Jack (now aged 19) left Barking to join Plymouth, by which time he had acquired  a London League winner’s medal and was an integral part of the team that had won two West Ham Charity Cups, an Essex Senior and a London Senior Cup. 

Jack stayed with Plymouth for 14 seasons, and became club captain. He scored 137 goals in 400 appearances with the Pilgrims. The team finished second for several consecutive seasons (at a time when only one team were promoted) before eventually securing promotion. 

It might be Chelsea now who are about to take part in the FIFA World Cup, but 100 years ago it was Jack Leslie’s Argyle travelling abroad! In the Summer of 1924 Plymouth went on a tour of Argentina and Uruguay. The team and officials travelled to South America by boat and played nine games beating Argentina twice and Uruguay once. Jack was a regular in the side and scored twice against Uruguay; the first in a 4-0 victory and the second, a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

Jack Leslie and England

Jack’s prowess at Argyle brought him to the attention of the England selection board, and in 1925 he was selected to play for England.  Unlike today, it was not unusual for players outside the “top flight” to get a call-up, and Jack’s selection was widely reported and not unexpected. Shamefully, his name was later withdrawn, because as the only “non-white” player, his face did not fit with what was the perceived image of an English footballer. The full story is here https://jackleslie.co.uk/jack/

It was over 50 years before Viv Anderson became the first black footballer to play for England at full international level in 1974, by which time racism was being overtly expressed at football matches. It was not until 1981 that Paul Canoville became the first black player to play for Chelsea, sadly receiving a negative reception from racist elements amongst supporters.

Jack Leslie Campaign and Chelsea Supporters Trust v Racism

In 2022 we hope that football can be inclusive. Chelsea, Argyle, and England all have players from diverse backgrounds, playing in front of huge crowds without having to endure the vile racist abuse of previous years. But racism still exits and is manifested in different ways, particularly on social media.

We at the Jack Leslie Campaign are delighted to see that Paul Canoville (who follows our campaign and whom we admire) is being celebrated in his lifetime at Stamford Bridge with a suite named after him  https://www.chelseafc.com/en/news/2021/10/12/paul-canoville–paving-the-way

Jack Leslie retired, returned to London and worked for a while in the West Ham boot-room before passing away in 1988. But it is not too late to celebrate his achievements, and acknowledge a historic wrong. We hope the statue (to be unveiled later this year) will be a reminder to us all to learn from the past to build a better future.

We like to to build bridges as well as statues.

Jack Leslie Campaign and Chelsea fans

We welcome support from football clubs and fans- please do check out our campaign website https://jackleslie.co.uk/ , and if you like please contribute to out crowdfunder campaign, which has been supported by fans of many clubs https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/jack-leslie-campaign 

Thank-you – and let’s hope it’s a great game on Saturday!

New Event: Jack Leslie in Barking!

The Jack Leslie Campaign were invited to attend Barking FC on 3rd January 2022 at a pre-match event to celebrate Jack Leslie’s Barking roots. In the clubhouse, the Campaign was able to share with Barking fans the Jack Leslie story, with an emphasis on his incredible exploits for and with Barking FC 100 years ago! (see note 1 below)

The backdrop in the Barking FC clubhouse proudly celebrates the Jack Leslie connection

The Campaign then presented Barking FC with a bronze statuette, created by artist Andy Edwards, who has been commissioned to create the Jack Leslie statue at Home Park, Plymouth.

The maquette was an early design to illustrate a potential pose rather than the final version, and is thus a unique gift for Barking, who were early supporters of the Crowd-funded statue campaign.

Barking FC are proud of their Jack Leslie connection. Chairman Rob O’Brien said : “we are delighted to continue our partnership work with the Jack Leslie Campaign, and share their aim of telling Jack’s story, which began here in Barking. We are equally proud of our ongoing role in celebrating diversity -Barking Football Club is a club rooted in the local community, welcoming to all

Cartoon by Robby Bullen

Notes

1 Spoiler alert- Jack was part of a cup-winning Barking team that competed in London and Essex, but also played overseas.

2 Local media coverage here: https://www.barkinganddagenhampost.co.uk/news/barking-fc-backs-jack-leslie-statue-campaign-3385612

3 Barking FC and the Jack Leslie Campaign started our partnership in July last year, see https://jackleslie.co.uk/news/barking-fc-partners-the-jack-leslie-campaign/ and Barking have supported the campaign’s crowdfunded statue campaign. Barking FC, as with all significant sponsors, will have their name on the supporters list on the plinth of the final statue, and Barking FC will be invited to the unveiling. It is not too late to get in touch for individuals or companies to also have their names added.

4 Follow us on twitter! @jacklesliecamp and @barkingfc

5 For media questions on the campaign contact here https://jackleslie.co.uk/faqs/

6 The Club and Campaign would like to see a commemorative cup game between Barking and Plymouth Argyle for the “Jack Leslie Cup”, and are looking for a business or company to sponsor that event -get in touch if interested!

JACK LESLIE CAMPAIGN REVEAL STATUE PROGRESS AND UNVEILING PLANS FOR 2022

After its incredible fundraising effort, designing and planning for the Jack Leslie statue is well underway, and today the Campaign can reveal more about its design and location.

Work on the artwork itself is now progressing apace with renowned sculptor Andy Edwards, crafting the clay maquette (a scale model) to finesse the pose. In the new year, it will be scaled up to one and a quarter life-size to create an impressive, detailed and lifelike statue of the Plymouth Argyle legend.

Andy Edwards carefully crafting the Jack Leslie maquette

Everyone involved is excited and impressed with the work in progress. The statue’s full detail will only be revealed at the unveiling, which will happen in 2022. The Campaign will announce the date in the new year.

Edwards, the artist behind many such projects, including the Clough-Taylor monument at Derby County FC and the Beatles statue in Liverpool, was appointed after an exhaustive selection process earlier this year. He said, “As a football fan, the last few months of research have been hugely rewarding. I’ve enjoyed listening to many enthusiastic and informed Plymouth Argyle fans, had insightful conversations with former players and had the privilege of guidance and encouragement from Jack’s family. I’ve tried to put all of this into a new scale model design from which the statue will begin being enlarged very soon. Without wanting to give too much away, the new design portrays an iconic legend at his peak, when his goalscoring prowess was first being noticed by the press nationally. Fans can look forward to an installation that features many other elements to illustrate the story and recognises the many, many contributions that have made this new unique landmark monument possible.”

Garry McBride of Monumental Icons is leading on project delivery, planning the landscaping that will surround the work and dealing with logistics. With Garry’s expertise, the Campaign has identified a preferred location that Plymouth Argyle also supports. It would provide maximum exposure to the statue for supporters, Park and Ride users and park users. Subject to discussions with the local authority, we hope to confirm the location in January 2022.

Campaign co-founder, Matt Tiller, said, “All involved in the Campaign want the most public-facing location outside Home Park as possible. We hope Argyle fans, away supporters and passers-by alike, will stop and not only admire this celebration of Jack as a player, but also consider the injustice that befell him in 1925.”

Jack Leslie’s family has been involved throughout, particularly his three granddaughters Lyn, Gill and Lesley who said, “We are so proud to see our grandad’s life recognised, celebrated and also used as an educational tool in the fight against racism. We were finally able to meet members of the Campaign and the sculptor, Andy Edwards, in person recently. Now, the whole family is excited to see the statue coming together.”

Members of the Leslie family with Cllr. Winston Vaughan Chair of Newham Council at the unveiling of the Heritage Blue Plaque

Aside from statue planning, it has been a busy year for the Campaign, with several events linked to Black History Month. This culminated in the unveiling of a Heritage Blue Plaque in Newham, East London, where Jack was born, raised and first played football for nearby Barking FC. It was there that he signed his professional contract with Plymouth Argyle. See https://jackleslie.co.uk/news/event-jack-leslie-plaque-unveiling/ for more details.

Campaign Co-founder Greg Foxsmith said, “We have had an incredible year in terms of raising awareness of Jack’s story, which has been featured on everything from “Antiques Road Trip” to “Coronation Street”. The Campaign has already shown Plymouth in a positive way, and the statue, once unveiled next year, will continue to do that as a lasting legacy.

Matt Tiller & Greg Foxsmith – co-founders of The Jack Leslie Campaign

Meanwhile, fundraising continues, and people can contribute via the Crowdfunder site: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/jack-leslie-campaign

The Jack Leslie Campaign is also keen to hear from businesses that would like to get involved. These extra funds will help the statue project and the educational work supporting the monument and telling the Jack Leslie story. Please contact the Campaign for more information: jacklesliecampaign@gmail.com

NOTES:

The Aims of the Campaign:

  1. To raise funds for and build a statue of Jack Leslie at Home Park, Plymouth
  2. To promote and share Jack’s story.
  3. To celebrate diversity and combat racism.

More Information on the campaign and process to date:

Jack Leslie signed for Plymouth Argyle from Barking in 1921 and scored 137 goals in his 13 years with The Pilgrims. The pinnacle of his career should have been in 1925 when Jack was selected to represent England in a game versus Ireland, but his name was removed from the team sheet when officials discovered that he was black. (See Jack’s story)

The Jack Leslie Campaign was set up in in 2019 by a couple of Argyle fans (Matt and Greg) who had learned of the story, and they were soon joined by a diverse team of volunteers .

In July last year the Campaign launched a crowd-funded appeal, and smashed it’s £100,000 target in six weeks. One year later Andy Edwards was commissioned to create the Jack Leslie Statue in conjunction with Monumental Icons.

LINKS:

The Jack Leslie Campaign: https://jackleslie.co.uk/

Crowdfunder page: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/jack-leslie-campaign

Andy Edwards: https://www.cornoviiedwards.com/

Monumental Icons: https://monumentalicons.com/

Event: Jack Leslie Plaque unveiled!

On Friday 19th November at 3pm, a blue plaque was unveiled at Jack Leslie’s former home at 12 Gerald Rd, Canning Town, E16. Members of the Jack Leslie Campaign attended, together with Jack’s grand-daughters and great-nephew, football historians David Gleave and Bill Hern (co-authors of “Football’s Black Pioneers”) and representatives of Newham Council including councillor Terence Paul.

The event happened thanks to the inspiration of Newham resident and campaigner Neandra Etienne, who curated the recent acclaimed exhibition “Newham’s Black Footballers through the years” (see also https://jackleslie.co.uk/news/jack-leslie-in-newham-exhibition-and-talk/)

The unveiling was shown live on the Jack Leslie Campaign facebook page and highlights are on the West Ham website here.

This plaque is be the first permanent legacy of Jack Leslie, ahead of the unveiling of the crowd-funded statue of Jack in Plymouth, scheduled for next year. https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/jack-leslie-campaign

History: Jack Leslie was born on 17th August 1901, to John Francis Leslie a sailor from Jamaica, and Ann Regler, a seamstress from Islington.

At the time of his birth the family lived at 60, Clifton Road, but later moved to 12, Gerald Road, Canning Town, which would remain the family home for many years.

Jack played football for nearby Barking FC, before signing for Plymouth Argyle in 1921, where he remained for 14 years, scoring 137 goals in 400 appearances. In 1925 he became the first black footballer to be selected to play for England, before being dropped because he was black. Full bio, story of the England call-up, and stats here: https://jackleslie.co.uk/jack/

Memories of Granddad Jack

                                Granddaughters memories of life with Jack Leslie

Guest blog by Jack Leslie’s grand-daughter Lyn Davies.

Our Grandad and Nan always lived with us, so they had a great impact on our lives.  They were always there to support us and help when ever they could.  Grandad was a hard working man, always on the go. When he retired from football in 1935 due to an eye injury from a lace on the ball, which resulted in him not being able to look into the sun, he and nan ran a pub in Truro called The White Swan.   All the locals would bring any animals they found injured or sick to the pub for Nan to look after and Grandad used to invite his mates for a drink “on the house” and nan would complain that he was drinking all the profits away, but it didn’t stop him! Then they moved back to the East End in 1938 to East Ham just before the war broke out.

He was a boiler maker by trade and worked in East India Docks, he could use his left hand to rivet, so was in high demand.  He worked there through the war, experiencing the London bombing as the docks were obviously a prime target.  He worked there until he retired aged 65.

He got bored with retirement so our mum Evelyn suggested he go to the West Ham Football Ground, not far from where we lived in Wakefield Street, and see if he could get a part time job there.  He met up with Ron Greenwood, the then manager, who recognised him straight away, and said “we will find you a job somewhere Jack”. He was given the job of “boot man”,  getting the boots repaired and cleaned ready for the game, for the likes of Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, Frank Lampard and Billy Bonds to name a few.  He never spoke a lot about his football years to his granddaughters, we presumed he would tell the West Ham players some of his stories, and were shocked to find out that he didn’t, he had told us that they would ask him for advice on football, which he gave along with a lot of cheek.  Once Frank Lampard came in and said to him he had scored a goal,  so Grandad said “ thats good -now go out and score another one”. One of his great grandsons Michael was good at football, so he asked John Lyall, who had become the manager by this time, if he could write to him,  which Lyall did, telling the young Micheal about the importance of getting a good education so he had something to fall back on, because football players only have a short career.

He was a very caring, loving Grandad, the rock of the family.  When we were young he was our “hair dryer”,  he would say “come on me ansome” (part West Country accent mixed with part East End) and we would sit on the floor in front of him and he would towel dry our hair, doing a good job too.  In return we would style his hair, it was short but his curls and the texture made it easy to stay in place and we loved making two little devil horns.  He would keep us mesmerised with his story telling, “Joe the alligator” was our favourite and he could remember all the weird and wonderful names he would give the animals.  When our friends came round they all wanted him to tell them a story.  He had huge charisma as we are sure anyone who met him would agree, there was always a twinkle in his eye.

At school I used to have a bad time as the darkest of the three granddaughters, being told to go back to my own country and remarks like that, Grandad knew I was having trouble so when he saw me in the street with my friends he would cross to the other side of the road so I could pretend I didn’t know him. Of course I wasn’t having that and would run across the road to talk to him, or shout out “hello Grandad”, he did the same for Gill as well.

Every Saturday morning he would go early to the Bakers to get a hot bloomer loaf, then we all had “doorsteps” with butter and jam or sugar for breakfast. He brought Gillian lots of comics, she would sit on his knee and he would read every one of them to her, cover to cover.  On Sundays he liked a couple of pints before dinner, when he came home be would bring a bag of winkles and a block of raspberry ripple ice cream for tea, he would go for an afternoon nap and always say “if you start on the winkles save some of the big ones for me”.

20 years after leaving Plymouth he was asked if he would go to Home Park for the celebration of the Silver Anniversary of the club getting promotion to second division.  Over the loud speaker they were telling the supporters who the guests were at the match that day and when they mentioned Jack Leslie he got a standing ovation, he got very emotional, as he thought he would have been forgotten after all those years.

His poor old knees gave him a lot of pain with “Arthur Itus” (as he called it), but he would never complain, we would see him rubbing in a pain relieving cream every night.  He always carried on the tradition of having a hot bath and then a cold one, to close the pores and he polished all our shoes.  His teeth were little as they had worn down over the years, so he decided to get some dentures, but the teeth on them were so big, they just didn’t suit him, they made us all laugh, he couldn’t get on with them so never wore them.

We all went on camping holidays together (including the budgie Joey) and had lots of fun.  Nan went to the butchers one day and Grandad waited outside, she brought some steak and some sausages, when she came out Grandad said  “looking forward to a nice bit of steak for dinner tonight” nan said “the steak isn’t for you it’s for the dog you’ve got sausages”. Grandads face was a picture!

He loved a paddle in the sea with his trousers rolled up to his knees.  In his youth he won medals for swimming, but we never saw him swim.  He loved an ice-cream when we went to the beach. He also had a lovely voice and a choir master wanted to enlist him in the local choir, but he only wanted to play football.  Mum said when she was young he made her cry singing “Danny Boy” with so much emotion.  When Nan was in the Kitchen and she wanted Grandad she would sing  “When I’m calling you” and Grandad would sing back “Will you answer too”.

A man of many talents, Granddad played cricket for Plymouth a few times, he also boxed, played bowls and played the violin. He is also in the Guiness book  of records for the most goals scored by the Inside Left, a position that no longer exists.

Lesleys children, including the youngest who was 7 when Granddad died, remember him playing “Big Bear” chasing them around the house growling like a bear, they usually ended up hiding under the dining table.

Gillian remembers mum putting her to bed, then a few minutes later grandad would call her to come for a hot chocolate, and they would sit and chat.  When Grandad took the dog for a walk, Gill aged 7 would go as well, he would walk so far then let Gill take the dog as far as the telephone box, and he would call the dog back dragging Gill behind.

Mum and Dad brought a shop in Essex, so nan and grandad came to live with me as I still lived in East Ham.  When I moved to Kent in the 80’s nan and grandad came as well.  Living in Kent Grandad started to get an interest in nature and would sit watching the birds for ages, but again he started to get bored and wanted something to do, we had wood burners then, so gave him the job of chopping the wood and kindling, which he did every day come rain, shine or snow, and he wouldn’t let anyone else do it, that was his job.

He and nan liked a little flutter on the horses every Saturday.  He loved a fried breakfast, his favourite chocolate was Bournville dark chocolate.  He smoked Players cigarettes.   His favourite group were the Ink Spots and his favourite singer was Petula Clark.

When nan died Grandad seemed to give up and 7 months later he died (we think of a broken heart).

Grandad was simply the best, when he died he left a huge hole in our hearts, we lost our rock.

Lyn Davies. October 2021

Pictured below: Lyn reading “memories of Granddad Jack” at the Jack Leslie event in the Canning Gallery (Canning Town, Newham) on 18th October 2021.

Jack Leslie Campaign: Black History month 2021

October is Black History Month, and the Jack Leslie Campaign were kept busy delivering presentations about Jack’s story- at schools, for businesses and fan groups. Jack’s story got a lot of coverage, and also featured in an exhibition -see below!

Campaign co-founders meet Jack’s relatives at exhibition- see below for detail

For Schools 

We loved presenting the Jack Leslie story as part of an assembly, in person or remotely. This year we were particularly proud that our partnership work with the Argyle Community Trust meant greater outreach into Plymouth schools. Read more here: https://argylecommunitytrust.co.uk/black-history-month-it-started-with-jack/. And check out this summary on YouTube !

For businesses/Companies

We present at corporate level, as a discussion platform for companies or organisations who are interested in engaging with black history. Last year that included e.g.  presentations with the CPS, the General Dental Council and Kingsley Napley solicitors. Our presentations are interactive, challenging but fun. This year amongst others we were delighted to do a presentation for the Environment Agency, and a virtual event with Norfolk libraries amongst others.

Exhibition

This year we were delighted and proud to feature and participate in an exhibition in Newham- including an amazing dedicated Jack Leslie event, which featured the campaign team, Jack’s family, and sculptor Andy Edwards -read more here: https://jackleslie.co.uk/news/jack-leslie-in-newham-exhibition-and-talk/

Coverage

We were featured on Argyle TV, and referenced on Coronation St, (see the Corrie clip shared by our friends at Football Black Pioneers here)

Jack’s story and our campaign were featured in a West Ham United match programme, and starred in this feature on West Ham TV: https://www.whufc.com/news/articles/2021/october/25-october/jack-leslie-east-londoner-who-should-have-been-englands-first

Jack’s story was even featured on Antiques Road Trip! Watch on catch up -it’s about 9 mins 20 secs in https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0010bxx

Jack Leslie even had a tube- station named after him -in a version of London’s Tube map that was powerfully recreated to honour hundreds of people who helped shape black history in Britain (map produced by Transport for London in partnership with Black Cultural Archives) -see here: https://metro.co.uk/2021/10/12/londons-tube-map-recreated-to-honour-black-people-who-shaped-britain-15409241/

Conclusion

We believe that Jack’s story, and black history generally, should not be shoe-horned into one month, and we are happy to continue with events (live attendance or virtual) throughout the year.

Racism in sport and football continues, as we saw earlier this year with players being booed for taking the knee, racist abuse of England’s black footballers after the Euros, and ongoing issues with abuse on-line.

We therefore like to contrast the historical example of Jack Leslie’s exclusion from the England team on the basis of the colour of his skin, with contemporary issues, using Jack’s story to engage with audiences. History is nothing if we cannot learn from it, and Black History Month is an opportunity to engage with issues and stories otherwise ignored.

To contact us to book a presentation or event, contact Greg or Matt: https://jackleslie.co.uk/faqs/

Notes

1 We also learned more about Jack Leslie’s personal history, from his grand-daughters. Read ‘Memories of Grandad Jack” here: https://jackleslie.co.uk/news/memories-of-granddad-jack/

2 We also attended an Argyle Legends event at Home Park, and were delighted to get the backing of one of Argyle’s play-off final winners: Paul Williams! Updated supporter list here https://jackleslie.co.uk/supporters/

Paul Williams with campaign co-founder Greg Foxsmith

Jack Leslie in Newham-exhibition and talk

We were delighted when Neandra Etienne curated an exhibition “Newham’s black footballers through the years” in the Canning Gallery, Canning Town (London Borough of Newham) running through October.

Naturally Jack Leslie, born in Canning Town 1901 and later living in East Ham, featured heavily!

Neandra at exhibition launch, with campaign co-founder Greg Foxsmith, and Jack’s great-great nephew George.

Neandra has also commissioned a blue plaque, displayed in the exhibition, later to go on the exterior wall of the house where Jack lived. The unveiling is scheduled for November 2021.

Jack took centre stage for an event on Monday 18th October, when Campaign co-founders Greg and Matt told Jack’s story, and were joined by sculptor Andy Edwards, soon to start work on Jack’s statue.

Andy Edwards, with Greg and Matt

Meeting them for the first time in person were Jack’s grand-daughters, who visited London for the talk and to see the exhibition.

Lyn shared the memories of Grandad Jack (see here for the text)

NOTES

This was one of a series of talks organised by Neandra- see here for details of other events: https://newhamvoices.co.uk/talk-events-newhams-black-football-players-through-the-years/

This was also one of many events the Jack Leslie Campaign participated in for black history month 2021- read more here: https://jackleslie.co.uk/news/jack-leslie-campaign-black-history-month-2021/

West Ham TV were present, and filmed part of the event- see their piece here: https://www.whufc.com/news/articles/2021/october/25-october/jack-leslie-east-londoner-who-should-have-been-englands-first

West Ham TV interview Andy Edwards

Artist for statue confirmed!

The Jack Leslie Statue –  Sculptor Announced!

Exactly one year after the launch of our Crowdfunder appeal, the Jack Leslie Campaign are delighted to announce the sculptor for a statue of Jack Leslie, to be situated outside Plymouth Argyle’s stadium, Home Park.

After careful consideration, including thorough interviews of the four shortlisted candidates, the Campaign can now confirm the successful artist as……

ANDY EDWARDS!  

Andy Edwards is a renowned sculptor, with a wealth of experience in delivering iconic sporting statues.

Examples of his work include:

-the acclaimed “Clough/Taylor” statue at Derby County’s Pride Park

-the Notts County legends Jimmy Sirrel and Jack Wheeler at  Meadow Lane

– the highly regarded sculpture of Stanley Matthews at Stoke City.

You can see more examples of his work at https://www.cornoviiedwards.com

Andy’s work also includes statues of The Beatles, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, and civil rights campaigner and slavery abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Andy works primarily in Liverpool, but he has pledged to use web-cams and social media to document his progress.

This means that supporters of the Crowdfunded statue can watch its progress, wherever they are in the world.

Andy will be visiting Plymouth shortly to look at the location, meet the Campaign Committee and, of course, to take in an Argyle match.  

Andy’s tender for the Jack Leslie statue project was made in partnership with Monumental Icons, https://monumentalicons.com/.

But this is very much a personal project for Andy and one that inspires him greatly.

On hearing the news of his selection, Andy said, ” I am eternally grateful and very excited to have been chosen to work with the devoted members of the Jack Leslie statue group, the proud fans of Plymouth Argyle Football Club and the wider football community in furthering all of our appreciation of a real legend of the game, and a man whose story can still affect change nearly 100 years on. I hope to create a statue of peerless quality celebrating excellence, that will also represent respect, dignity, devotion and invigorate the quest for equal rights for all. To everyone who has given their support and backing to this initiative, I will not let you down.” 

Campaign co-founder Greg Foxsmith said “We are delighted to give Andy this commission, but we would also like to thank all of the shortlisted artists who spent so much time and energy on creating such brilliant proposals. It made it really difficult for us to make the final decision

Jack’s granddaughter Lesley said “We love the range of ideas, and we look forward to working with Andy to see a statue that is an accurate portrayal of Grandad

Campaign co-founder Matt Tiller said “ we have been impressed with Andy’s portfolio, his artistic vision, and his commitment to the project. Together with the team at Monumental Icons, we are confident that Andy will deliver an outstanding statue and a lasting legacy for Jack Leslie”

The campaign will now be reaching out to companies and businesses in the South West, with commercial sponsorship opportunities for an accompanying film of the project, landscaping, lighting, and enhancing the statue’s surroundings. All sponsors will be recognised on the statue plinth.

NOTES

Jack signed for Plymouth Argyle from Barking in 1921 and scored 137 goals in his 13 years with The Pilgrims. The pinnacle of his career should have been in 1925 when Jack was selected to represent England in a game versus Ireland, but his name was removed from the team sheet when officials discovered that he was black. (See Jack’s story)

The Jack Leslie Campaign was set up in 2019 by a couple of Argyle fans (Matt and Greg) who had learned of the story, and they were soon joined by a diverse team of volunteers .

The Aims of the Campaign: 

  1. To raise funds for and build a statue of Jack Leslie at Home Park, Plymouth
  2. To promote and share Jack’s story.
  3. To celebrate diversity and combat racism.

History of the Campaign and Commissioning Process

On 1st July 2020 the Campaign launched a crowd-funded appeal,  eventually raising over £100k. 

In December 2020 we threw out an invitation to prospective sculptors to express an interest.

In February 2021 we began commissioning: https://jackleslie.co.uk/news/statue-competition-started/ 

In March 2021 the committee, together with Jack’s grand-daughters, Lynn Gill and Lesley, reviewed the initial submissions. They were blown away by the quality, imagination and scope of the proposals, before drawing up a long list and eventually a short-list of four finalists https://jackleslie.co.uk/news/statue-sculptor-shortlist-announced/ 

Crowdfunder appeal is still live, and you can support us here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/jack-leslie-campaign