Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Barrow AFC

Barrow 3-2 Southport

9th October 2012

I am old enough to remember Barrow AFC competing in the Football League, and can even recall reading that they had “failed to gain re-election” in the early 1970s sometime.  I was not quite sure of the exact process (still am not, if truth be told), but recall thinking it seemed quite unfair as the club had not actually finished bottom of the Fourth Division that season.  Yet out they went into, what seemed like back then at least, The Wilderness.

I also remember neighbours Southport and Workington following them in similar circumstances, and thinking it looked suspiciously like some sort of Football League purge of geographically inconvenient clubs, and that Carlisle United had better be careful.  I noted recently that Barrow still played at the same ground as they did during their league tenure, so decided a wee trip to Cumbria was not inappropriate.

I had intended to arrive around lunchtime, and spend the afternoon poking around the town, but the attraction of the Laurel & Hardy Museum in nearby Ulverston proved irresistible.  I am a huge fan, and had long wanted to see the collection (No, don’t laugh – I cannot help it. It is hereditary).  The museum was interesting enough if a little light on real memorabilia, and I spent a diverting hour in the place.  Although one could spend all day in there watching L&H films if one chose.

You will either know immediately what is going on here, or you will not.

As it was a wonderful day, I lugged my tubby little frame and my totally inappropriate footwear up nearby Hoad Hill to have a closer look at the John Barrow Monument: a concrete replica of the Eddystone Lighthouse which overlooks the town.  Regretfully the actual tower was closed, but the views from the top of the hill were breathtaking.

One advantage of the place being closed was that I had it to myself, more or less.  My sole companions were a few languid-eyes cows, and a large flock of birds.  Black coloured ones they were, and they swooped around the tower emitting a distinctive “kwee kwee kwee” cry, which I guessed was some call to arms in preparation for a long trip South.  Not for the first time when out and about in the countryside, I wished I knew a bit more about birds.

In an adjacent field, I noticed an elderly chap in shorts out walking his two dogs.  Looking a good twenty years older than myself, I watched him effortlessly stride out across the fell like Sherpa Tensing on speed, and pondered that there would be worse places on the island to retire to when the NHS tosses me out.

The view from Hoad Hill across towards the River Leven

The John Barrow Monument 

What were them birds ??

The John Barrow Monument atop Hoad Hill, Ulverston, Cumbria

And so to Holker Street.  I am sure there are less prepossessing grounds from the outside than Barrow AFC’s home, but offhand I cannot think of any.  Even the side of the ground housing the stand is just a featureless wall, with the main entrance hidden away in a corner.  Inside though, the place is a delight.  The stand has the club name picked out in club colours, and every paintable surface is either blue or white.  There is a generous sized shed on the opposite side from the stand, with both ends being uncovered.   And in a real throwback to a more enlightened age, home fans are able to wander freely from one end to another during the break.

Bits of the ground are showing their age however, and areas of the terracing were crumbling with all four corners cordoned off for safety reasons.  I came across a wooden bench, in a particularly advanced stage of decomposition.  It had been bought by the friends of Billy Childs; I am guessing a departed fan of some reknown?  

Despite the fact the bench now looked frankly unsafe; the club had chosen not to toss it out.  Which I though was just wonderful.  So, in memory of Billy, I sat on it and read my programme during the break.  And I would suggest if the structure can take my weight, then the seat is good for a few years yet.

As to the game itself, well a 3-2 win with the home side coming back from 2-0 down to get a winner in the 86th minute, sounds the recipe for a real thriller.  But, in truth it was rather less so.  The first hour or so really was rather dull.  Barrow looked slightly the better side and although Louis Almond was a handful and Paul Rutherford looked as though he could play a bit, the home side rarely threatened.  However, defending corner kicks properly proved to be a task beyond their defence, and by the 52nd minute Southport were two up through Chris LYNCH and a Tom ANDERSON own goal

I am not much cop and analysing matches tactically, but it did look to me that Barrow Manager Dave Bayliss’ substitutions turned the tide.  With minutes of his side going two down he threw on a third forward and was rewarded with a brace of goals from Adam BOYES (72 and 84 mins) – both rather scrappy efforts I have to say.  Nothing scrappy about Ritchie BAKER’s winner though, after captain Gavin Skelton had been sacrificed at full back for a midfielder.

Good to see Gavin still doing the business.  A player I know quite well from his days up this side of the Border, where he  rather unfortunately, is best remembered as the unlucky bod who missed the deciding penalty kick in the 2006 Scottish Cup Final.  

The turnstiles leading to The Popular Side covered terracing.

Good old fashioned perimeter wall.

The Main entrance

View of Holker Street Stadium from along Wilkie Road

There cannot be many of these traditional floodlight pylons left these days.

From within the Popular Side terracing.

The stand at Holker Street, Barrow.

Billy Childs' chair - the chips debris was nothing to do with me.

Terracing behind one goal - the 50 or so Southport supporters were housed at the far end.

Club Shop was doing a roaring trade in bags of sweets when I poked my head in.

Panorama of Holker Street, Barrow AFC.

Panorama of Holker Street, Barrow AFC.


  1. great article...well done

  2. Excellent item. Thank you.

    Very embarrassed by the state of the Billy Childs bench - we must do something.

    Come again and this time enjoy some of the delights of the Barrow area itself - the Coast Road, The Islands of Furness, the Dock Museum and Furness Abbey for example.

  3. Thank you for your kind words.

    I did in fact take the coast road from Ullswater to Barrow and what a delight it was. I stopped for an ice cream overlooking Morecambe Bay, and detoured to Roa Island where I came across the arresting sight of the Rampside Tower.

    I did drop in to the Dock Museum in Barrow itself, but it was closed this particular day out of season, so I enjoyed a leisurely drive across to Walney then as for south as I could get. Views were quite superb. Not sure if I like that offshore wind-farm though, but I guess that is progress.

  4. I m Billy Child's niece and I was very upset when I saw the delapidated state of his bench! He was a lovely and very funny man! I m going to get in touch with club members to see if I could have it for my garden! My son said he d love to repair it and bring it back to it s former state! Mr uncle worked most of his life for the club and he deserves better! Thank you for your message or I would never have known about it!

    Barbara Davies