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Henry Masterman Mist Diaries and Prisoners Pie Magazine

Diaries of Heny Masterman Mist and a copy of Prisoners’ Pie, the Ruhleben Camp magazine. Learn more.

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BC Archives MS-2570

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Footballers and Christmas.

[Editors] are queer creatures, and have extraordinary ideas. I do not think I ever realised this self-evident truth so clearly as when I was approached for some humorous recollections of past Christmas experiences by the Editors of "Prisoners' Pie". You can imagine the easy way they came up and casually said, "Oh, just write us something light. Tell us some of the funniest incidents that happened to you and your professional comrades here at past Christmas times." They were very nice and persuasive, and had disappeared before I was fully conscious of the fact that I had promised to do as they asked.

After they had gone I remembered all the things I should have said, and all the arguments I should have used to let them know that footballers, as a rule, do not have "funny" Christmas times. If they had known anything about football at all, and had not always thought of books, they would have known that Christmas is just about the hardest period in a football season. All the beautiful traditional Christmas celebrations are practically unknown to footballers, especially under present conditions, when they are packed off to some quiet hotel on a training diet. You cannot feel very Christmas-like on underdone beefsteaks and water, with only the rabbits or the seagulls to play with. But I had promised, and so I began to visit the others to see if they could help me out.

When I asked Steve Bloomer, he looked at me in amazement. "Humorous Christmas experiences!" he said. "Never heard of such things happening to a footballer. Do you think it funny to have to travel and play and play and travel for about a week without a stop, and then at Christmas time? The Christmas I remember best -- one I shall never forget in fact, as long as I live -- was that of 1908, when, on that day, I played for Middlesborough against Birmingham, at home, and then travelled -- and in a slow excursion train!! -- to Birmingham for the return game. The same afternoon after the game in Birmingham I travelled to Blackpool, played there, and then went on, the following day, to meet Boston at Goodison Park. This may sound funny to the people who can sit at home, but it was no joke for us."

I left him and went to John Brearley and Sam Wolstenholme. Brearley merely laughed at me, and said that Christmas was just a little more wearing than the other times. Wolstenholme was of the same opinion, but added, "The toughest Christmas I spent was one year with Blackburn Rovers. You know the rivalry that exists between neighbouring clubs, and the sort of game that it means when they meet. Well, we played Preston North End on two successive days, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, -- it nearly killed us, that little lot! -- and then had to travel down to London the following day to play a league match. We felt like wishing there were no such things as Christmas times".

BC Archives, MS-2570 Box 1 File 6 / MIST, Henry Masterman, Ruhleben magazine, Prisoners' Pie 1916.

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