Richard Forshaw was born on or around 20 August 1895. In Preston. Or was he? Contemporary newspaper reports and other historical documents from his lifetime repeatedly state that he was a native of Widnes. There are maybe half a dozen potential birth certificates listed among the statutory records, one registered in Preston, others in Ormskirk and elsewhere in Lancashire, which could be his. A broader knowledge of Forshaw’s life suggests that even with every possible birth certificate to hand, absolute certainty as to which might be the correct one would still prove elusive.
Upon signing up for national service on 19 August 1911, as a Bombardier with the 93rd Company of the Royal Garrison Artillery, Forshaw was working as a coremaker at a metal foundry and his home address was listed as that of his father, William Forshaw, of 416 Sunderland Road, Gateshead. This helps explain why, around the end of the Great War, Richard, or ‘Dick’ as he became known throughout his playing days, was playing his football in the north east of England, initially with Gateshead and then on amateur terms with Middlesbrough. There are suggestions that he played for Nottingham Forest at some point. There are various hints about him in the archives, certain details committed to print or online, but not much concrete about his early years.
Forshaw’s military record states that, having been awarded the British War and Victory medals, he was formally discharged, after ten years, on 9 April 1921, with the term ‘absence from mobilisation’ and the word ‘deserted’ again adding an enigmatic flourish. What is clear is that, by April 1921, he had left his family’s adopted base on Tyneside and was making quite a name for himself back in the north west.
Middlesbrough appear to have dawdled in securing Forshaw’s services on a professional basis and, much to their disapproval, on 31 July 1919, he signed for Liverpool. Lithe and spindly, Forshaw stood at 5’ 10” and the few images available of him betray a stereotypical-of-the-era George Formby-esque profile and jug-ears. Comfortable on the left or right as an inside forward, Forshaw enjoyed several successful prolific spells for the Reds as a central striker and even served as a member of the half back line when required. A real footballers’ footballer by all accounts. In the years 1919-1927, he would establish himself as one of the early greats among the pantheon of Liverpool strikers, scoring 123 goals in just 288 games in league and cup, and setting a club record of scoring in eight consecutive games in 1924/25 which stood unequalled for over 60 years until John Aldridge matched the feat in October 1987. All the while regularly being shifted to cover for absentees or to accommodate others, excelling wherever he was selected. An enabler of others, comfortable in various guises, elusive to opposition defenders. Adaptable. The old cliché was often applied in press reports, that of a player “suffering” from their inherent versatility. Forshaw’s strike-rate indicates this didn’t really matter. He more than made his mark.
Forshaw playing for Liverpool
Two league titles (1921/22 & 1922/23) came Liverpool’s way in the early part of Forshaw’s Anfield career, he was the only ever-present throughout both campaigns, scoring 36 goals in 84 league fixtures. No international call-up came, somewhat perversely, given that he was clearly a player rated highly by teammates, opposition and press at the time and would go on to achieve his best figures of 27 goals from only 32 league appearances in 1925/26. Somewhat surprisingly, the following season (1926/27), by now into his early 30s and facing competition from the likes of a young Gordon Hodgson, but having already contributed 14 goals to the cause by early spring, Forshaw found himself surplus to requirements.
Where to next? Not long married to a local girl and father to two young children, a third having died in infancy, and a fourth on the way, staying local might well have appealed. Yet nobody could have predicted his search for a new club would end a matter of a few hundred yards from Anfield, across Stanley Park at Everton.
Forshaw had married Florence Robinson, at the parish church of Kirkdale, St. Mary on 10 June 1922, shortly after having helped Liverpool secure their third First Division title and before embarking on a season in which the Reds would defend their championship crown successfully. At the time of the marriage he was resident at 12 Bousfield Street off Walton Road; his father was listed as William Forshaw, dispenser, on his marriage certificate. The young Forshaw family later lived beside Anfield at 7 Sleepers Hill. Florence came from a family of diehard Liverpudlians, which – according to the Liverpool Echo writer ‘Stork’ – presented a problem when Everton came calling in early March 1927, desperate for quality reinforcements:
‘(Forshaw’s) transfer to Goodison had its difficulties, for Mrs. Forshaw was an ardent supporter of the “Reds”, and after the deal had been completed said: “I have never been an Everton supporter, and I don’t know what I will do about it.”’
All jokes about WAGs aside, it wasn’t just Mrs. Forshaw who was taken aback somewhat by her husband’s sudden and clearly unforeseen transfer, which was confirmed in the national press on 4 March 1927. ‘Stork’ reported at the time that the player himself ‘knew absolutely nothing about his transfer until he reached home one night to find the two secretaries waiting for him.’ The Liverpool Echo of 8 March 1927 carried poems from disgruntled Liverpool supporters, dismayed to see an Anfield hero sold, and to their deadly rivals no less, who were struggling at the time to preserve their First Division status.
‘A SUPPORTER’S LAMENT
It’s all very well for directors
To say we shouldn’t cuss;
But, blimey – what price us?
For there isn’t a man in the thousands
That occupy Spion Kop
Who agrees with the transfer of Dickie,
The boy with the twinkling hop.
Supposing you’ve been a supporter
For more years than you care to tell;
And owing to treatment in years gone by
Wished the Everton club in – Division 2;
Would you like to see your favourite sold
Without as much as a wink?
It’s enough to drive us up the pole.
You’ll agree with me. I think.
THE PASSING OF RICHARD FORSHAW
To the immortal memory of Richard Forshaw,
The famous Liverpool inside right.
He looked upon Everton playing see-saw
And planned an idea, bright.
A conference was held, a deal was done,
A good man lost, a good man won.
A Liverpool player, a son of a gun,
Out to find Everton a place in the sun.
‘Stork’ and those irate Liverpool fans were quite right. Everton were in desperate trouble as the 1926/27 season drew to a close. Forshaw slotted in alongside a youthful William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean and co., and it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility to surmise that his experience helped calm a young team and ease them to safety.
‘Strength was needed in the Everton attack, and it was considered that Forshaw was just the man to pull them out of their difficulties. He did, and the “drop” was prevented… Forshaw was a born footballer. He could play anywhere in the forward or half back lines, and his link up with (Bill) Lacey made up one of the best wings Liverpool ever had.’
An interesting footnote in the tale of Forshaw’s move to Everton, may perhaps have provided long-serving Toffees secretary-manager Thomas H. McIntosh with some belated closure. According to an article by the celebrated Merseyside football writer Ernest ‘Bee’ Edwards, writing in the Liverpool Echo on 7 March 1931, McIntosh, a native of the north-east, had discovered Forshaw during his tenure as secretary at Middlesbrough from 1911 to 1919, at which point he joined Everton, and Forshaw signed for Liverpool. There is no direct evidence to suggest Everton were ever in for Forshaw in 1919, but he may well have figured in Tom McIntosh’s thoughts as he settled into his new role at Goodison Park.
Dick Forshaw made his Everton debut in a rip-roaring 7-3 reverse at St. James’s Park versus Newcastle United. Hughie Gallacher completed a hattrick for the Geordies, after Forshaw had marked his debut by pulling a goal back for Everton after 32 minutes to make the score 2-1. Everton sat 21st of 24 teams in the First Division at this point and would not climb any higher than 19th, before ultimately finishing in 20th position. Forshaw’s second and final goal of the ten appearances he had made come season’s end came in a vital 2-0 victory at Goodison over Sheffield United.
During the close season of 1927, another noted Liverpool Echo football correspondent ‘Stud Marks’ reported that Forshaw had holidayed on the Isle of Man and, perhaps with an eye on life after football, was preparing to open a tobacconist shop in Great Crosby.
George Green cartoon featuring Dick Forshaw, Liverpool Echo 24 September 1927
As with much of what became of Dick Forshaw in his life, few could have predicted what would follow in 1927/28. The old head appeared 23 times scoring 5 goals. The majority of those appearances came alongside Dixie Dean, as the great Everton striker achieved immortality, netting 60 league goals in 39 appearances as the Toffeemen were crowned champions for the third time. Forshaw’s influence clearly told. 92 years later, he remains the only man to have won league titles in both the red of Liverpool and blue of Everton. A clipping from the Dundee Evening Telegraph of 15 November 1927, in comparing the great Scot Hughie Gallacher and his English counterpart Dixie, stated ‘(Dean) owes a great debt of gratitude to such unselfish players as Dicky (sic) Forshaw and Tony Weldon for the way they ply him with the ball up the middle’.
By now, age and years of physical exertion was catching up with Forshaw, but his versatility again came to the fore and he made the final two appearances of his Everton career slotting in at centre-half, versus Arsenal, then Manchester United in April 1929, ending a brief but impactful period in the royal blue jersey with a total of eight goals from 42 appearances. Having been linked with a move to Bury in October 1928, Forshaw signed for Wolves in August 1929 having only figured nine times, scoring once in his final Goodison campaign. A knee injury suffered in a game at Cardiff would bring his Molineux career to a premature end and he would drift out of the game, playing briefly for Waterford in Ireland, signing for both Rhyl and Hednesford Town only never to appear for either club owing to an administrative error at the Waterford end holding up release of his registration.
By the end of 1930 Richard Forshaw’s football career was over, barring another passing newspaper reference to a period spent coaching in France in the early 1930s.
And that’s the end of the story. Or is it?
On 13 December 1930, an advertisement appeared in the Liverpool Echo announcing that Dick Forshaw, ‘Everton and Liverpool Football Clubs’, was going into business as a bookmaker. Here, the next phase of Forshaw’s life would commence. In April 1932 Forshaw, until recently resident in Southport was arrested on charges of fraud in Kilburn, North London, where he and Florence had, apparently, been running a fish and chip shop.
Forshaw in 1932
On 27 April, 1932, Dick Forshaw appeared at Liverpool Police Court, charged with ‘feloniously stealing… £100, the property of Richard Green.’ According to the prosecution, in June 1931, Green had ‘engaged (Forshaw) to place bets for him with commission agents throughout the city.’ Green had given Forshaw £100, who claimed to have placed a series of £20 bets on various outcomes at the Royal Hunt Cup and a horse named Grand Salute in particular. The charge was that Forshaw had in fact placed a series of £2 bets, then altered the receipts by adding a zero to the £2 stated on each, returning these to Green and keeping the £18 balance himself. Green had subsequently given Forshaw a further £20 to place more wagers. Grand Salute had triumphed at odds of 33 to one, witnessed in person by Forshaw and Green in attendance together at Royal Ascot, and Green calculated his winnings to have been in the region of £2,000. Forshaw initially stalled on delivering them, then vanished without trace.
A further allegation was that Forshaw had claimed the winnings on each of the £2 bets, before disappearing. It had taken several months to locate Forshaw, at the address in Kilburn, following Green’s reporting of his nefarious antics to police. Forshaw, who upon arrest had initially denied all knowledge, was allowed bail of £20. A guilty verdict was delivered on 19 May 1927 and Forshaw, who pleaded for leniency on the grounds that he had found himself in financial difficulty after injury had ended his football career prematurely, and efforts to go into business had failed, was sentenced to 12 months’ hard labour, the presiding judge labelling the offence ‘one of peculiar meanness. “I should be failing in my duty… if I did not pass a substantial sentence.’
The West London Observer of 27 October, 1933 tells another interesting story, under the headline ‘ALLEGED BOGUS MONEYLENDER’. Richard Forshaw, 37, a fishmonger, of Canterbury Road, Kilburn is committed for trial at Marylebone, charged with stealing two diamond rings, worth £90, belonging to a Mrs. Patricia Moss, a dressing-case and quantity of silver cutlery, worth £70, from Mrs. Joan Reynolds, and, from a locker at the Porchester Hall Turkish Baths, Paddington, a gold cigarette case, gold watch, ring, pocket-book and cash to the value of £50, property of Mr. Philip Barnett.
The diamond rings had been advertised for exchange and Forshaw had called, posing as a valuer, then disappearing with the jewellery while Mrs. Moss took a telephone call. Mrs. Reynolds had advertised seeking a private loan and Forshaw had answered, claiming to be a private moneylender. He requested items of value as security against the funds he would be lending, before handing her a fake cheque to the value of £100, with a false address appended to it. Forshaw was arrested while bathing at the Porchester Hall Turkish Baths and charged with all of these offences. The Liverpool Echo on 7 November 1933, carried the headline ‘Prison For Ex-City Footballer,’ Forshaw having entered a guilty plea and received a sentence of 17 months’ hard labour. As in the betting case, Forshaw’s lawyer played upon the fact that, but for injury, his client – by now in his late-30s – would, he believed, likely still be earning £10 per week as a professional footballer.
Fast-forward 16 months, to 26 March 1935, and a further Liverpool Echo headline would ring out ‘Prison For Ex-Footballer’. Robert Steel, 42, salesman, had appeared at the Old Bailey in London, on charges of theft, mostly of clothing, from four London boarding-houses and of the suitcase belonging to a clergyman, from a railway carriage. The accused had pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 18 months’ hard labour. The accused was also revealed by the Detective Sergeant leading the case to be one Richard Forshaw, former footballer. The article goes on to state that, along with prior convictions for embezzlement and theft, Forshaw had been sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment in Dublin, only three months previously, this time on a charge of acting under false pretences. Robert Steel, the alias he had adopted in the Dublin case, had escaped enduring the full sentence by ‘entering into recognisances to be of good behaviour.’ Again, Forshaw’s crimes were described by the presiding official as ‘mean.’
‘CHASE IN A PARK!
Maid’s Encounter On Stairs!
THEFT AT HOTEL!
Prison For A Former Liverpool Footballer!
HIS £1,500 LOSS!’
Liverpool Echo, 1 September 1936.
‘An exciting chase through Highbury Park, London, between a former well-known Liverpool footballer an hotel chauffer, ended in the capture and subsequent appearance at North London Police Court, today, on reman, of Walter Woods, aged 42, clerk, of no fixed abode.’
Don’t waste your energy thumbing the history books for a former well-known Liverpool footballer by the name of Walter Woods. Police in this case stated that the accused was in fact Richard Forshaw, of 19 Woodhouse Street, Walton, Liverpool. In partnership with an as yet unidentified man, Forshaw was initially charged with breaking and entering the Belmont Hotel, Highbury New Park and stealing articles to the value of £44, with the charges later reduced to theft alone. Forshaw pled guilty. According to a maid at the hotel, upon encountering ‘two strange men on the stairs’, one of them (Forshaw) had informed her he was visiting a friend, before pushing her against a wall and running into the street. Upon arrest, Forshaw claimed that he was ‘only the looker-on. The other fellow did the breaking and entering.’ Forshaw’s defence counsel stated that his client had lost his £1,500 benefit from his football career in a failed business venture. A further charge from July 1936, theft of £125 worth of jewellery at Fleetwood, was reported to the court, Forshaw again having pled guilty. The presiding magistrate sentenced Forshaw to six months’ hard labour on each charge, to run consecutively over the next 12 months and stated his hope that Forshaw would reform upon his release.
‘In Prison Most Of The Time’
The Liverpool Echo for 17 July 1937 reported that, at Clerkenwell, London, motor driver Richard Forshaw, of no fixed abode had pleaded guilty to four counts of theft, stealing suitcases and their contents to the value of over £100 from railway stations, having already stolen £20 worth of silverware from The Edwards Hotel, Euston. He was sentenced to six months’ hard labour. Forshaw, whom it was revealed had committed the crimes within two hours of having been released from his previous sentence, claimed he had been drinking heavily at the time and had every intention of returning the stolen items, at which point he had been arrested. Forshaw was warned that future discrepancies would inevitably lead to a lengthy custodial sentence, and the magistrate implored him ‘can’t you pull yourself up before it is too late?’. Forshaw’s response was to state ‘that’s what I want to do.’
The 1939 England and Wales Register records Dick Forshaw as an inmate at HMP Bedford. Here, the date of birth 20 August 1895 appears. Forshaw’s occupation is listed as shipping office clerk. Florence Forshaw is back home in Liverpool, living at 43 Handfield Street with an Annie Davies and working as a hospital cleaner.
It is not until 1944 that Dick Forshaw appears in the headlines once again. Unfortunately the well-established theme continues. The Liverpool Echo for 28 July 1944 details Richard Forshaw, aged 49 and described as a club manager, of Bernard Street in London and his associate Frank Middleton, aged 51, a theatrical agent, as being charged with the theft of 18 lengths of suit fabric to the value of £100. Forshaw and Middleton had taken up residence at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, and the stolen goods were discovered in their room. Forshaw stated ‘I have been working under the instructions of Mr. Middleton.’ Middleton, meanwhile, said ‘The suit lengths I bought from London. I got them from a friend. It is black market stuff. I was going to sell it here.’
The true story emerged that the pair had in fact established a modus operandi, whereby they would visit tailors’ shops across Liverpool, Forshaw would charm and distract staff, while Middleton stole material and hid it in a suitcase. The Liverpool Echo for 13 October 1944 reported that a nine month custodial sentence was handed down to Richard Forshaw, of Anfield Road, Liverpool and Frank Middleton, of Sloan Terrace, London. Both men had pleaded guilty. Of Forshaw, Inspector W. Culshaw stated ‘it has been said in the past that he is a cunning, plausible and dangerous thief and liar. But I can say this for him: He has not been in trouble for fourteen months and has made some effort to lead an honest life. He has now obtained employment as a clerk.’ Forshaw, meanwhile, promised, ‘if given a chance, never to trouble any court again.’
And there the trail runs dry.
Dick Forshaw passed away in his 60s, in Brighton, on 26 August 1963, just a month after his youngest son Raymond, who had also settled on the south coast, died tragically in an automobile accident in Kent, aged 35. The couple’s only daughter Lilian was married twice and passed away in Norfolk in 2004. In another intriguing aside, she became implicated in a bigamy case during the WWII, appearing at Manchester Assizes, pleading guilty to aiding and abetting by acting as witnesses at the bigamous marriage ceremony, purely out of sympathy for her friend. The last surviving Forshaw sibling was Arnold, who went to sea and eventually settled in Sarpsborg, Norway, where he passed away in 2009. As yet, no records of any grandchildren of Richard and Florence have been traced. Florence Forshaw outlived her once famous, later infamous, husband by a little over 20 years, passing away at her seafront home in Brighton in 1984, aged 82. Whether or not she ever mellowed in her opinion towards Everton Football Club was, sadly, never captured in print or elsewhere.
(A condensed version of this article appeared on the Everton FC Heritage Society page in the official Merseyside Derby matchday programme on 18 October, 2020)
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