Arthur Wharton: Prince of Keepers

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 “Take Up the White Man’s Burden
Send forth the best ye breed
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captive needs
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild
Your new caught sullen peoples
Half devil and half child.”

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 Rudyard Kipling Queen Victoria’s Jubilee 1897

3 Leave a comment on verse 3 0 It was in the Gold Coast (Ghana) 1865,
That this free black spirit came alive,
Raised under a sun of burning fire,
In a tiny corner of the British Empire.

4 Leave a comment on verse 4 0 To follow his father’s respected career,
In 1882 they sent him here,
But arthur longed for laughter and fun,
And the chance to use his talent to run.

5 Leave a comment on verse 5 0 One day he won a race by several feet,
But the man on the line was a cheat.
Proud Arthur would not accept second place,
And smashed the prize bowl in the judge’s face.

6 Leave a comment on verse 6 0 In 1886 to Stamford Bridge he came,
The Hassan (AAA) trophy his aim,
His rival Ritchie he beat by more than a second,
And now life as a sporting star soon beckoned.

7 Leave a comment on verse 7 0 This man of many talents had other strings to his bow,
He held the Preston to Blackburn cycling record did you know?
For Darlington he played football and cricket too,
There was just so many things that Arthur could do.

8 Leave a comment on verse 8 0 Running, cycling and cricket for a token fee,
Could never match the money from P.N.E.
Major Sudell, their Manager, decided his role;
The World’s fastest man would play in goal.

9 Leave a comment on verse 9 0 The F.A. Cup was Preston’s aim,
A chance of gaining national fame,
Our prince felt more like a King,
when he joined his team to sing:

10 Leave a comment on verse 10 0 “We’re the lads
Now you see us comin’
Marching down to the ground
To give yus a pannin’

11 Leave a comment on verse 11 0 All the teams that face us
We batter ‘till they hate us
We’re the PNE we are
The Invincibles here to shame yer.”

12 Leave a comment on verse 12 0 Crouching by the post he would spring to catch the ball,
And punch it clear of forwards some of whom were six feet tall,
Hanging from the cross-bar an entertainer he became,
Arthur, ‘The Prince of Goalkeepers’ had arrived to grace the game.

13 Leave a comment on verse 13 0 Our Prince reached the Cup Semis in 1887,
Aiming for the final and a football kind of heaven,
But West Brom were the team to leave him feeling glum,
When P.N.E. finished losers by a score of three to one.

14 Leave a comment on verse 14 0 When goals flew past him the insults would begin,
His talent couldn’t shield him from the taunts about his skin,
He may have been a ‘Prince’ but there was to be no England cap award,
What Arthur ever made of his there is sadly no record.

15 Leave a comment on verse 15 0 But Arthur wasn’t one to shed a selfish tear,
As he showed them up in Scotland on the first day of New Year,
As a shot flew beyond the reach of P.N.E’s great star,
He reached up to let it over by pulling down the bar.

16 Leave a comment on verse 16 0 But things turned sour and Sudell was left to frown,
When Arthur left to sign as a pro with Rotherham Town,
Many asked why Arthur should choose to join this club,
The answer lay in Town’s gift to him; the license of a pub.

17 Leave a comment on verse 17 0 Friends should have warned him, should have made him think,
Of the dangers to his talent of indulging in the demon drink,
But Arthur couldn’t see this, how could he possibly know,
Like so many before and after, he just drifted with the flow.

18 Leave a comment on verse 18 0 Inthose days the game was often violent,
But Arthur had his ways and means of keeping rivals silent,
Taunting forwards were made aware where greatness lies,
When Arthur jumped up and caught their shots between his thighs!

19 Leave a comment on verse 19 0 Times were hard in Rotherham, and Arthur was dismayed,
That Town could never guarantee his wages would be paid,
Tom Bott, poached him for Sheffield United in 1894,
But Arthur was no longer the keeper he was of years before.

20 Leave a comment on verse 20 0 Drink was was sapping away his speed and athletic grace,
When a young man from Sheffield came along to take his place,
His name was Fatty Foulke, twenty-four stone and that ain’t lies,
A baker’s friend if ever there was, “Cos he ate all the pies.”

21 Leave a comment on verse 21 0 Arthur’s fall was gradual it didn’t happen overnight,
From Stalybridge to Stockport he continued on his fight,
Was it age or was it drink? either could be true,,
When Arthur ‘Prince of Keepers’ retired in 1902.

22 Leave a comment on verse 22 0 In 1930 Arthur passed away, a forgotten legend of his time,
He’d spent his last sad years working down the mine,
He died alone without a penny to his name,
Laid to rest in Pauper’s grave despite his once great fame.

23 Leave a comment on verse 23 0 And that would be the tragic ending of a long forgotten tale
Of a black burning star blinkered by his love for the demon ale
Then sixty years later a wise historian had good reason
To find Arthur’s granddaughter, name of Sheila Leeson.

24 Leave a comment on verse 24 0 They worked to raise a stone above that graveyard floor
So the name of Arthur Wharton would be remembered ever more.

25 Leave a comment on verse 25 0 Peter Daniel


Written in 2006 as part of a project with Charlton Athletic community scheme with primary schools in Charlton and Woolwich. An illustrated copy of this poem forms part of ‘A Century Apart? a publication that compares Wharton to Charlton, Luton, Villa, Chelsea and Celtic star Paul Elliott, who grew up on the borders of Woolwich and Charlton.
Written in 2006 as part of a project wiht Charlton Athletic. this poem was published along a similar poem about Arthur Wharton in a booklet called A Century Apart?

EDITOR NOTE having personally worked alongside Peter and Paul at Chelsea and Charlton , this is a theme and project most close to my heart. So here’s a recent review and details of how to get hold of the book..

‘A Century Apart’ written by Peter Daniel/Illustrations by Ted Smith Orr.
Creative Energy Publications Copies are available at £6.00 each (incl of Postage & Packing) from:Creative Energy Publications, 365 Homesdale Road, London SE25 4PN .
For further enquiries and information contact :

‘A Century Apart’ Wharton & Elliott in verse -Review

It’s always good to come across football poetry publications that involve fellow working poets and contributors to this site whilst
also embracing subjects close to our hearts . So with a moving forward by Phil Vasili, this latest ‘soft back’ from ‘Creative Energy’ (‘Football Pure Poetry 1 & 2’ etc; ) is a worthy and commendable offering .

In poetry form, this book covers and compares the lives of both Arthur Wharton, England’s first black professional footballer in 1886 and Paul Elliott MBE (Charlton, Chelsea etc;) almost a hundred years later in 1981. Set in verse by Daniel and accompanied by trade-make Smith-Orr illustrations, ‘A Century Apart’ offers the reader an insight into the black contribution to football and over a hunded years of black people’s experience of living in Britain.

“When the goals flew past him the insults would begin
His talent couldn’t shield him from the taunts about his skin” P.Daniel.

Peter Daniel of Westminster Archives, was virtually single-handedly responsible for externally launching the Education Through Football programme , now a regular part of life at Stamford Bridge. He championed Chelsea’s first ever black player – Paul Canonville’s story of racist abuse from fans and much more through the delivery of poetry and art workshops to children iin schools and libraries involving myself, Ted S-O top Zimbabwean poet Albert Nyathi , Michael Foreman and the Chelsea pensioners.

As a result, and now with it’s own Hub Study Support Centre, Canonville has been re-discovered and taken back into the Chelsea fold undertaking Anti-Racism workshops regularly for the club . Paul Elliot continues to represent Kick It Out internationally .

Hot on the heels of the harrowing award-winning ‘Black & Blue’
from Canonville, (Headline) this book is another timely reminder of our oft-forgotten and sinister British past, in which Arthur remains a sad but remarkable symbol of stuggle against oppression .

In Vasili’s own introductory words Wharton was ” a metaphor for both excellence and weakness”.’

The Editor – Crispin Thomas

Source: http://footballpoets.org/poems/arthur-wharton-prince-of-keepers/