Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Murder of an Aston Villa footballer

On Sunday I mentioned that as a boy Steve Winwood sang in the choir (and illicitly played the organ after choir practice) at St John the Evangelist, Perry Barr.

A visit to the church's website reveals that the churchyard contains "the grave of Aston Villa's Tommy Ball aged 24 murdered by a deranged Police officer in 1924". (This is on the site's History page.)


If you want to know more, this scrappy page from the Northern Echo site is the best place to go:

Settled in Birmingham, he'd married Beatrice Richards - daughter of a well-known pork butcher, pie maker and lard refiner - and swiftly became Villa's first choice centre-half.

England honours were confidently forecast.

Ball's arrival could hardly have been better timed, for Frank Barson - a somewhat abrasive character with the perhaps unique distinction of being sent off in his own testimonial - had been transferred to Manchester United.

Tom and Beattie lived in Brick Kiln Cottages, one of an isolated pair in Perry Barr. George Stagg, their 45- year-old landlord - a former Birmingham policeman who'd been wounded and gassed in the war - occupied the other half.

Stagg shot him in the late evening of Armistice Day 1923, the day after Villa's 1-0 win at Notts County had moved them up to a challenging third in the old first division.

And if you want to know even more you could try to find a copy of Paul Lester's book Murder of Tommy Ball: An Aston Villa Tragedy.

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