Exeter City FC HLF Exhibition Progress Blog

A blog to document the development for Exeter City Football Club's 2014 exhibition funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Curatorial Process

The blog has been quiet lately as I’ve been writing a lot to prepare the text for the exhibition and its accompanying website, which will both be launched on the 28th November 2013. Writing for a public audience is not as easy as it first appears, and can be quite a long process with many stages.

Firstly, I divided the story I need to tell into stages, which will each be explained though a wall panel with pictures and text. The whole story: the tour arrangements, Exeter City’s experiences in Argentina, the games in Brazil, and the journey home and outbreak of World War 1, is all fascinating, but there is a difference between reading a detailed account and visiting an exhibition. When you go to visit a museum, gallery or exhibition, you’re on your feet, you may be pushed for time, and you want to look at everything and get a sense of the full picture, but you don’t want to read a book stuck up on the wall. If you wanted that much detail, you’d need more time to take it in, and you’d probably do it by reading a book in the comfort of your home with a cup of tea!  So I’m working on the principle that each stage of the story needs to be bite-sized, holding the key information in just 150-200 words. I have divided the story into 11 sections (as there are 11 players on a team – seemed more appropriate than 10!)

Grecian Voices meeting which informs the way the exhibition and website project develops

Grecian Voices meeting which informs the way the exhibition and website project develops

The 11 sections which our story falls into have become:

  • Introduction to ‘Have you ever played Brazil?’
  • The place of football in Exeter in the early 20th century
  • the place of football in Brazilian society in the early 20th century
  • Tour arrangements: Exeter are invited to Argentina
  • People who went on the tour
  • The journey to South America and stop off in Rio where arrangements are made for Brazil games
  • Games and incidents in Argentina
  • The return to Brazil
  • Exeter’s reception in South America
  • The return journey, outbreak of WW1 and what happened to the players
  • Legacy and commemorations of the game
Exhibition panel mock-up

Exhibition panel mock-up

To prepare the text takes considerable time, as it’s easy to go into too much detail, or to reduce the word-count in a way which loses some of the historical accuracy which we have aimed to establish as central to this project. Luckily I have had the help of Alison Styles who has provided a large amount of family history information related to the players and Aidan Hamilton, who is currently writing a book about the tour. Their expertise in checking and re-checking my written text is crucial as I can now be more confident that a reader will probably interpret my writing in the way it was intended, and that facts are presented correctly. What is often the case with exhibitions is that they appear to viewers as undisputed facts, so we don’t always realise that what we are reading was written by an individual or small team, and so it is very difficult to get rid of an individual perspective, and present a story or subject in a way which is absolutely true.

The final version of the text is then placed on a panel with appropriate images to illustrate the story. I am also trying to incorporate some quotes from primary sources to put some first-person voices into the information. The graphic design stage of the process is still something I’m working on, although a rough idea for one of the panels can be seen above.

In the exhibition, these panels will be accompanied by some real and replica objects and documents, and the opportunity to use i-pads to have a closer look at photographs from the match, and to access our new website. For those who want to know more, the web resource allows for a further level of information to be included. Visitors will be able to revisit the text and images from the exhibition, and find further pictures, videos and text to offer further explanation to the story. The search facility will allow fans to find information on former players, managers, grounds and memorabilia, accessing primary sources and published texts.

Of course there have been months of preparation and research which have informed the upcoming exhibition and website. However we know that as these appear in the public eye, we are bound to discover more information which will add to the story we know. Exeter City Supporters Trust are now seeking funding to expand upon the research and web development which has been done for this project, with the aim of eventually creating a resource relating to the entire history of the club. This is part of the larger ‘Grecian Voices’ project, which has a new blog to follow its development.


The war to end all wars

Today is 99 years since the beginning of the First World War, and so it seems right to mention the connection between our project and one of the most important events of the twentieth century.

When war was declared, Exeter City had finished their tour of South America, and were on board the Alcantara on their way back to England.  Due to the hostilities, the ship was fired upon twice as it approached British waters, but only by our own forces. While originally headed for Southampton, it was redirected to Liverpool once it entered the English Channel.

At the beginning of the conflict, several sportsmen, including footballers, were called up to join the forces as they were also members of the army reserves or territorials. However for most, the belief that the war would be ‘over by Christmas’, allowed them to go about their daily lives, starting pre-season training and starting the 1914/15 season as usual. However as the conflict continued with huge casualties, footballers and their supporters came under more and more criticism for not joining up.  The FA offered full cooperation to the War Office, and over the season more and more measures came into place allowing the world of football to support the war effort – footballers began military training on weekdays before travelling to matches at weekends, grounds were made available for use by the War Office and money was raised at games to support relief funds. By the end of the season however, football was in crisis and many players had joined up. League games were then cancelled until after the war.

While it has been reported that Exeter City player Gus Harding died in the war, this is actually not true. Of the players who went on the South American tour, it seems all survived the conflict, although Fred Marshall and Billy Goodwin never played again due to the injuries they had sustained.  Despite the criticism that footballers received for not joining-up early in the conflict, they had much more at stake than many other professionals.  While an injured office clerk could return to work after the war, an injury for a footballer meant retirement.

If you’re interested in more information about footballers and the First World War, a book by Andrew Riddoch and John Kemp “When the Whistle Blows” has been very useful for my contextual research. It mentions Exeter City’s Fred Goodwin and Fred Whittaker, who joined the 17th Middlesex or the ‘Footballers Battalion’.

Connections and contributions

One of the most exciting things about this project has been to meet people who have a family connection to those who went on the 1914 tour, either as players or directors of Exeter City FC. We were extremely fortunate to be contacted in the early stages of the project by Alison Styles, a relative of Jimmy Rigby.  She had got in touch with the club to find out whether they had any information which could help her with her genealogical research, and her nephew Christopher with a school project.  While we had a few team images, we didn’t know nearly as much information as Alison was able to tell us!  Using her fantastic history-detective skills, she’s also been able to track down information about the other players who went on the tour, with lots of interesting stories and contextual information.

Images of Jimmy Rigby from Alison Styles' family history research

This selection of images from Alison’s research show Jimmy Rigby at different stages of his life. After his playing career was over, Jimmy became a director of Exeter City as well as running a shop near St James’ Park.

Thanks to Alison’s research we know that the players who went on the tour were: Dick ‘Pincher’ Pym, Reg Loram, Jack Fort, Sam Strettle, Gus Harding, Jimmy Rigby, Charlie Pratt, Jimmy Lagan, Fred Marshall, Billy Smith, Harry Holt, Fred Whittaker, William Hunter, William Lovett, and Fred Goodwin.  They were accompanied by directors George Middleweek and his wife Florence, Fred Parkhouse and his wife Annie and Michael McGahey.

Martin McGahey with photos of his great-grandfather, Michael John McGahey, former director of Exeter City FC

Martin McGahey with photos of his great-grandfather, Michael John McGahey, former director of Exeter City FC.

This week I also had the opportunity to meet with Martin McGahey, the current owner of McGahey’s Tobacconists on Exeter High Street, and the great-grandson of Michael John McGahey, former director of Exeter City and a well-known solicitor with the firm of Dunn & Baker.  Martin was kind enough to share stories and documents related to his great-grandfather’s history with the club, which will be excellent material for the exhibition and the accompanying website.

Michael McGahey

Michael John McGahey, former director of Exeter City FC

Michael McGahey accompanied the Exeter City players to South America as their manager, Arthur Chadwick, was unwell and not able to take on the journey.  As the Brazil games were not planned before the tour began, it would have been McGahey and the other directors who were responsible for agreeing to play extra matches in Rio de Janeiro on the return leg of the trip.

Do you have a connection to the Exeter City team of 1914?  I’m currently starting to work on organising the photographs and objects which will appear in the exhibition. If any readers know of any pictures, documents, personal letters or mementoes from South America that we might not be aware of I’d love to hear from you.

More to look forward to in 2014

As you may have heard, a press release issued last Friday has revealed that Exeter City will travel to Brazil in 2014, marking the centenary of the first Brazilian national team’s inaugural game, also played against the Grecians.  Rather than taking on the national side, who might be a bit tired at the end of World Cup 2014, the current Exeter City side will play against Fluminense.  The home ground of this spectacular Brazilian team is the Estádio das Laranjeiras, where the 1914 Exeter vs. Brasileiros game was played in Rio de janeiro.  They’re even planning to kick off using the same ball that was used 100 years ago.  To read more about these plans, click here to view the article on Exeter City FC’s official website.

So what about those of us who won’t be able to make it to Brazil 2014? Well there will be plenty going to celebrate here in Exeter.  For one thing you’ll be able to visit the Northcott Theatre on the Exeter University campus where the original play ‘The Day We Played Brazil’ will be performed by no less than 120 local people.  Running for two weeks just after the end of the World Cup, the play will tell the story not only of the 1914 South American Tour, but also the more personal stories of the player’s and their families, set in the context of Exeter City’s history over the last 100 years.

While you’re there, you’ll be able to see part of our exhibition ‘Have you ever played Brazil?’ at the Northcott Theatre, and if you want to see it all you’ll have the opportunity at various venues in the city over the course of 2014.  In addition to that, the Exeter Time Trails project, a partnership between the University of Exeter and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, working in conjunction with Exeter City Supporters Trust, will soon allow you to download a mobile app, giving you the chance to guide yourself around all the important sites in the city with stories to tell about The Grecians. Read more about this project on their blog.

And what if you admire Exeter City FC from afar and won’t even be able to make it to the events in Exeter? Fear not – a new Grecian Voices website will go live to accompany the exhibition, giving access to lots more information about the historic Brazilian tour, as well as access to digitised original documents.

Excited? We certainly are!

Less than a year to go…

Last Sunday, the 21st July, marked the 99th anniversary of Exeter City’s historic match again the first Brazilian team.  Not to spoil the stories which will be revealed by our exhibition, or by the many other exciting commemoration events planned to take place in 2014 to celebrate the centenary year, I thought I would tell a brief version of the story so you all know what the fuss is about…

Exeter City was arguably formed in 1904, when players from Exeter United and St Sidwell’s combined forces.  Football had been growing in popularity throughout Britain, although rugby was probably still the more popular sport in Exeter.  In 1908, the team decided to go professional and joined the Southern League.  In 1910 they ditched their green and white kit, believing the colours to be unlucky, and adopted the red and white vertical striped shirts that we know today.

Exeter City FC squad 1913-14 season

Exeter City FC squad 1913-14 season

In these early years of the twentieth century, there were the beginnings of a trend for teams to go on an tour during the summer months. Swindon Town and Tottenham Hotspur had embarked on tours to South America, playing against teams in Argentina and Uruguay.  However a professional British team had not yet been persuaded to play games in Brazil, so when Exeter’s ship docked into Rio de Janeiro in July 1914, negotiations began immediately to see if they would be willing to add some extra games to their trip which was primarily intended to tour Argentina.  Clearly, Exeter City agreed, although they would only play in Rio de Janeiro, and would not go out of their way to visit the other major football centre of Brazil – Sao Paolo.

While the Grecians continued with their scheduled travel plans, organisers in Rio decided to invite players from Sao Paolo to join them for a match in Rio.  It seemed like the perfect opportunity to experience playing against a ‘great professional team’, and also practise playing together as a combined team were set to visit Argentina themselves in September of that year. The ‘Brasileiros’ team faced Exeter City at Fluminese football club’s ground on 21st July 1914, a grand finish to the tour, although a disappointing loss for Exeter.

21st July 1914: Exeter City vs. Brasileiros XI, Rio de Janeiro

21st July 1914: Exeter City vs. Brasileiros XI, Rio de Janeiro

During the team’s return journey, war broke out in Europe, signalling the beginning of what became known as The Great War.  Their ship was shot at twice, although this turned out to be friendly-fire.  On returning to England, the 1914-15 football season went ahead, but received great criticism as many believed that all young fit men should be fighting for the country.  The league was suspended from 1915, and many footballers joined up for military service, even though in many cases injury in the line of duty ended their professional careers.

So.. a fascinating story isn’t it? If you want to know more you’ll have to wait for the exhibition!!

Drum roll please….

I can now announce a name for our exhibition… it will be called ‘Have you ever played Brazil?’ – bringing in the sound of chants from the terraces at St James’ Park and the pride of the fans and supporters of Exeter City who know about the fascinating history of their club.  For the name I have to thank Adam Henley as he suggested the name via the Exeter City Supporter’s Trust facebook page – thanks Adam!

I especially love that this chant has reached the audience in Brazil via a piece of film made for a Brazilian news item – even if you don’t understand Brazilian Portuguese, watch the film on Youtube and you’re sure to see some familiar sights and hear the fans singing “Have you ever played Brazil?”

Exeter City fans at St James' Park

Exeter City fans at St James’ Park

The exhibition will be launched at St James’ Park in November 2013, but will tour to different venues in Exeter during 2014 as we celebrate the centenary of Exeter City’s match against Brazil.  Details will be posted to this blog as dates and venues are confirmed, so please press ‘follow’ to keep up to date with all our news.

Projects in Partnership

While I’m busily working on gathering information for our exhibition, there are many others also working to develop ways of engaging with Exeter City FC’s history and heritage.  You may be interested to find out more about the Exeter Time Trails project, a collaboration between Gabriella Giannachi and Will Barrett from the Centre for Intermedia at the University of Exeter, Rick Lawrence, Tom Cadbury and Helen Burbage at Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) and Andy Chapman from 1010 media.


The Exeter Time Trails project aim to develop a mobile app allowing users to follow tours within Exeter Museum (RAMM), and around the city of Exeter, visiting sites of interest within themes connected to time periods or particular subjects.  Working in partnership with Exeter City, and Exeter City Supporters Trust, the team have now begun working on an ECFC themed trail.  This will guide users around St. James’ Park and other local sites, telling the stories which reveal their importance in the development of our unique club.

The Exeter Time Trails blog has been recently updated with a full account of the team’s process in building the trail – definitely worth a read.  I’m very much looking forward to meeting some of the team soon, and getting their advice on the web development aspect of the exhibition project.

There will be more news on partner projects in the future – follow this blog to make sure you don’t miss anything!

We need a name!!

Every time I contact anyone regarding this exhibition, I’m still calling it ‘the exhibition about Exeter City’s tour to South America in 1914 where they became the first team to play against the Brazilian national side’ – a little long-winded don’t you think?? I was wondering if any of our blog readers or followers would like to be involved in deciding a name for the exhibition – can you think of something descriptive but snappy?  If so I’d love to hear from you! Image

You can post your ideas in the comments box below, tweet me @KieraRGould or send me an email: kiera.gould@googlemail.com  If you have a great suggestion we can use there will be a prize!

Including technology for a dynamic experience

Working on an exhibition about events which happened in 1914, it might appear that the content of the exhibition would be restricted to text, photographs and perhaps (if we manage to track anything down) some early black and white film.  However, while the fascinating journey by Exeter City players to the exotic shores of South America happened in the early twetieth century, our commemorative exhibition in Exeter is happening in 2013-2014, giving us far more possibilities through the use of contemporary technology. 

When first putting together the funding application for the exhibition, we imagined HD digital photo frames as part of the display which will be open to visitors at St. James’ Park at the end of this year.  However, as the project has developed, discussions have led us to thinking about how we could make the experience more interactive, and incorporate different ways of engaging with the story we have to tell.  Through the use of Apple ipads, we hope to allow visitors to view historic photographs at their own pace, zooming in and out as they wish.  We are also currently looking at apps which would allow the creation of a slide show with sound clips, and thinking about asking people currently working for Exeter City, or former players, to record quotes from their 1914-predecessors to accompany the images.

New ipad 2 just arrived in the post!

We’re also looking at creating a dedicated smartphone app, with additional information about the South American tour which could provide a pocket-guide for those who cannot visit the exhibition itself, or who want to learn more.

A handheld pocket-sized device allowing it’s owner to interact with a worldwide web of information was probably beyond the imagination of Dick Pym, Jimmy Rigby and Reg Loram (our 1914 players) but today, the possibilities are endless!

What we’re up to…

This blog is going to act as a sort of diary to document the process of developing a small exhibition for Exeter City Football Club which will commemorate 100 years since the team made a journey to South America and became the first team to ever play against a Brazilian national side.  Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, this project aims to establish some accurate historical facts about the players who went on tour in 1914, the matches which were played in Argentina and Brazil, and what happened on the return to England amid the outbreak of World War I.

If you are interested in the exhibition and Exeter City FC, please keep an eye on the blog posts and feel free to add comments.  As Project Manager for the exhibition, I will also be ‘tweeting’ about my progress @KieraRGould.  This blog will be part of the digital record we are required to record the process of our project; so I won’t be revealing too much of the stories our exhibition will tell – you’ll just have to wait and see!!

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