Cartoon that marked the rise of Headington United

Out to launch: Alan Course’s cartoon in recognition of Headington United becoming a professional club in 1949

Out to launch: Alan Course’s cartoon in recognition of Headington United becoming a professional club in 1949

First published in Memory Lane

AN ALAN Course cartoon summed up a football club’s hopes when it turned professional.

Headington United, the forerunner of today’s Oxford United, had played in amateur leagues.

But in 1949, it was ready to step up to the professional stage and enter the Southern League.

A club handbook marking this historic move included this drawing by the well-known Oxford cartoonist.

It showed a ship called Headington United being launched, with a bottle-smashing ceremony, hats raised and a band playing, with a Doubting Thomas scurrying away.

Alan Course’s work featured regularly in the Oxford Mail and he was in great demand to draw caricatures for other clients.

A copy of the handbook has been sent to Memory Lane by Henry Harris, of Routh Road, Barton, a former club steward.

The club’s roots can be traced back to 1893 when a few ambitious young men got together a scratch team.

One of them was Fred Tolly, who had just left the Army and, having played for his regiment, was keen to start a football club in his home parish.

The first few games were played outside the parish at Quarry recreation ground. Headington at that time was a large, well-populated village and with few other activities on offer, villagers became enthusiastic football fans.

A club moved to a cramped site inside Headington parish, in Manor Road (now Osler Road), then across London Road to a field behind the Britannia Inn.

The team won its first trophy in the 1897-8 season. A large crowd went to Grandpont to see Headington beat St Mary Magdalen Club in the final and the players celebrated by touring the village in a horse-brake with the cup.

In the early days, the club was known as Headington FC, but added United in line with the village cricket team.

It continued to make headway and moved to Manor Park (now part of the John Radcliffe Hospital) and then, in 1922, to Manor Road, its home for the next 80 years.

Oxford Mail:

  • Tie land: Alan and Phyllis Course behind the bar at the Bear Inn, showing their collection of ties to a Pathe News film crew in 1955. The tape was used to measure the distance between the camera and the customer

In between, there was the change from Headington United to Oxford United (no-one outside Oxford knew where Headington was), entry to the Football League, promotions, relegations, the move to the Kassam Stadium and much more to keep fans on their toes.

Many of the club’s ups and downs were recorded in the Oxford Mail by cartoonist Alan Course, who came to Oxford in 1934 to join Oxford City Police.

Afterwards, he led a varied life as an entertainer, landlord of three pubs, fire extinguisher salesman, author of guide books and telephone operator.

He ran the Bear Inn in Blue Boar Street, where he started a collection of hundreds of ties, the White Hart at Wytham and the Star at Woodstock.

He organised many entertainment shows for charity. He died in 1975, the day after his 62nd birthday.

  • Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone’s contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.
  • Memory Lane this week

Mixed expressions on faces of Donnington Primary School pupils in 1952

Oxford Mail:

5:00pm Monday 19th January 2015

SOME look glum but others appear happy to be posing with their classmates. This was a class of second-year pupils at Donnington Junior School in Oxford in 1952.

Oxford City players gave lives for their country in First World War

Oxford Mail:

5:00pm Monday 19th January 2015

OXFORD City Football Club lost 10 players in the First World War, including two who played in the club’s famous triumph in the FA Amateur Cup.

Brutal killers were hanged at Oxford Prison

Oxford Mail:

5:00pm Monday 19th January 2015

SOLDIER George Pople was a second man to hang in Oxford Prison in three months.

Young actors took to stage in Oxford festival

Oxford Mail:

5:00pm Monday 19th January 2015

THESE were some of the young actors and actresses who took part in the 21st City of Oxford Youth Drama Festival.

Final part of Marlborough School panoramic picture

Oxford Mail:

5:00pm Monday 19th January 2015

THIS is the final part of the Marlborough School jigsaw.


Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree