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Heritage: Veteran Owls fan was ‘the happiest man in Sheffield’

the 1896 Sheffield Wednesday FA Cup winning team
the 1896 Sheffield Wednesday FA Cup winning team

Wednesday fan Glenn wants to see a headstone on the grave of the club’s early supporter Tom Wharton at Wardsend Cemetery.

Well-known Sheffield Wednesday fan Glenn Poulton is aiming to get a gravestone in Wardsend Cemetery for the one of the club’s earliest enthusiastic supporters.

He has been ill in bed of Saturday mornings and has got up in the afternoon to get to Hillsborough

Here, Glenn tells the story in a slightly shortened version of an article first written for the Friends of Wardsend Cemetery website.

“Having been lucky enough to have been selected by Jason Dickinson to be in The Owls’ 150th anniversary book, WAWAW – Fans’ Memories Through the Generations, I was quite fascinated to read the first person mentioned was Mr Tom Wharton.

It seems fitting that the first supporter profile should actually be a dedicated fan called Tom Wharton, who passed away in 1933 after devoting his life to Wednesday.

The following is an interview with Tom in the Sheffield Mail in 1926:

Surely old Tom Wharton is The Wednesday’s most enthusiastic supporter. And incidentally the happiest man in Sheffield. He is no ordinary supporter, but a supporter who sticks to Wednesday thick and thin.

For 46 years he has attended every home match except one The Wednesday have played. The exception was caused through a somewhat severe illness but Tom will let no ordinary illness interfere with his visits to see his team play.

He has been ill in bed of Saturday mornings and has got up in the afternoon to get to Hillsborough.

He has been on every ground in England except three with The Wednesday. And he has a pile of programmes three feet high at least, issued in connection with the Wednesday club in different towns.

Old Tom lives at 26 Burnt Tree Lane, Sheffield and for many of a great year was a glass cutter.

He has made some thousands of glass tumblers, and decanters, but is now retired and spends most of his time telling tales of derring-do in connection with The Wednesday and at the Sheffield Arms Hotel, Meadow Street, where he is now employed.

He organised a party from the hotel to see the cup final on Saturday. The party went down by the Sheffield mail special train, but old Tom had not got a stadium ticket and did not get to see the match. But he has already seen 27 English Cup Finals.

His first was in 1890 when The Wednesday played Blackburn Rovers and was beaten by six goals to one. It was his first visit to London, and the one he still talks about, in spite of having seen The Wednesday play over 1,500 times, before and since.

His delight in the part played by Hayden Morley, one of The Wednesday backs, has not yet subsided.

He still talks of the enthusiasm with which the crowd carried off Morley shoulder high after the struggle.

In the early days of his support for The Wednesday a party of about 40 or 50 enthusiasts, including himself, always banded together to see the team play.

These enthusiasts have gradually dwindled in number until there are only eight or nine of them left.

Some of them assemble in one corner of the Kop each Saturday when The Wednesday are playing a home match. They stand on the Penistone Road end of the ‘new stand’.

But Mr Wharton is doubtless the most consistent and oldest supporter of the lot.

Mr Wharton is 72 years old. Recently he and two other supporters had their photographs taken. His friends are George Wood, aged 69, and Mr J S Redfern, aged 74.

These three men had followed the fortunes of the team through thick and thin, their ages are total 215 years.

Mr Wood is a lamplighter and Mr Redfern has lived at ‘the old black pudding shop’ in Meadow Street.”

I later found out via Twitter he is buried in an unmarked grave at Wardsend Cemetery which is located at the end of the seemingly never-ending Livesey Street, behind Owlerton Stadium.

As soon as you cross over the river Don via the blue bridge you can see many of the headstones of the people who are buried there, right in front of you. All being overgrown by nature.

Nearly 30,000 men, woman and children have their final resting place here.

The long-term goal of all this is not only to bring publicity to the Wardsend Cemetery and its friends, but also us Wednesdayites can give whatever we can and hopefully get Mr Wharton the headstone or at least the recognition I feel a fellow Wednesdayite deserves.

Hopefully we can maybe start a crowd-funding page?

Up The Owls and Friends of Wardsend.