John ‘Jack’ Farrell joined Southampton St Mary’s Football Club from First Division Stoke in May 1895 and he made his Southern League debut in a 1-0 loss to Millwall on the opening day of the 1895/96 season. From that day forward Jack Farrell cemented himself as an important part of the Saints squad, and in 1896/97 he captained the side to their first Southern League title. The club celebrated their title win at the Artillery Drill Hall on St Mary’s Road in May 1897, and the club’s president Dr Russell Bencraft (who was also president of the Southern League) handed Farrell the shield amid a scene of ‘considerable enthusiasm’.
The following season – 1897/98 – saw the Saints retain their Southern League title during a campaign in which they had their most successful FA Cup run to date. It was after an FA Cup tie against Leicester Fosse in January 1898 that Farrell made the news, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Saints won the game 2-1 and Farrell was involved in many of his team’s attacks with ‘neat footwork’ and ‘pretty passing’. He had turned twenty-five just three days before the match and that, combined with the inevitable victory-fuelled adrenaline, clearly put him in the mood to celebrate. On that Saturday evening after the game, he went out for a drink.
It was thought that some Saints supporters had treated Farrell to a few drinks after the game, but things soon got out of hand.
Mary Ann Wareham said that she had been walking with her husband near Southampton West railway station (now called Southampton Central) on that Saturday night when Jack Farrell called out to her and made use of an ‘indecent expression’. Her husband, Joseph, approached Farrell and remonstrated with him, telling him that he would follow him until he found a policeman. The Saints captain apparently did not take kindly to this and he punched Joseph Wareham in the face, giving him a black eye. Three of Farrell’s mates joined the melee, during which Mary Ann Wareham, who had tried to intervene, was knocked to the ground. One of Farrell’s mates kicked her hat and upon seeing this, Joseph Wareham removed his overcoat and undid his belt in order to ‘defend himself and his wife’. Mary Ann, meanwhile, scrambled away and went for the police. Sergeant Frederick Francis Drew soon arrived on the scene and the couple pleaded with him to arrest Farrell. Drew asked Farrell for his name and address but the Saints captain refused to give him the information. Having run the Leicester Fosse defence ragged earlier that day, he perhaps fancied his chances against forty-four-year-old Drew. Farrell decided to run.
Farrell ran on Blechynden Street, which incidentally was the street upon which Sergeant Drew lived, and he turned onto Hill Street. Now long-gone and replaced by Wyndham Court, in 1898 Hill Street was a dead end. A man named Frederick Langmead heard the shout and gave chase, catching Farrell and tripping him up. Farrell was floored but he was not finished. Whilst still on the ground he managed to punch Langmead in the face, and at this moment Sergeant Drew caught up with them and he attempted to arrest the Saints skipper. Farrell allegedly struck Drew several times during a struggle before the police sergeant finally managed to get the footballer in handcuffs.
Jack Farrell would have woken up in a police cell with a sore head on the Sunday morning, and he appeared in court the following day. The charges were read out and the mayor and magistrates listened intently. One of the magistrates that day was Dr Russell Bencraft, the man who had handed Farrell the Southern League shield some eight months earlier. Charged with assaulting the Warehams, Langmead, and Drew, the Saints captain pleaded not guilty.
The evidence was heard. Mr Lamport, defending Farrell, quizzed Mary Ann Wareham on the identity of the person who had knocked her over, and she said that it had been another young man who had pushed against her. Langmead also confirmed that he could not identify the man who had knocked her over. The Hampshire Advertiser reported that ‘Farrell did not say that he had not done anything wrong, but that if he had he would apologise’. One of the magistrates, Robert Chipperfield, said that Jack Farrell was a ‘quarrelsome drunk’.
The newspaper reported on Lamport’s defence of Farrell:
‘Mr Lamport addressed the Court for the defence, and said how deeply the prisoner realised the terrible position he was placed in. Farrell had only that day led his team, the Southampton Football Club, to victory in the English Cup tie with Leicester Fosse, for the preparation for which he had undergone severe training. After the match, which had been so gloriously won, Farrell did a very unwise thing, and took two or three glasses of drink, which, coming after his training, undoubtedly was too much for him. He considered that he had been unjustly accused, and when Wareham said he should follow him, he naturally became very angry, with the regrettable result. He, however, only defended himself against a man who looked as if he was going for him with his belt. With regard to the assault on the lady, Farrell deeply regretted it, and tendered the most ample apology for the assault, which was committed under a misconception. With regard to Langmead, Mr. Lamport contented that Farrell was justified in defending himself, as he was tripped up. He also contented that the sergeant had no right to lock him up, as he had not witnessed any assault. In conclusion, Mr. Lamport asked the magistrates to take into consideration the punishment Farrell had already undergone and the awful degradation of being locked up in the cells all night, and as there was nothing against him in any way, he asked the magistrates to deal leniently with him.’
The magistrates took their time in deciding how to deal with Farrell. The mayor, George John Tilling, said that they were very sorry to see a young man like him in such a position. They decided to fine him £1 and costs for the assault on Mary Ann Wareham, or fourteen days in prison if he failed to pay. The same fine was imposed for the assault on her husband, and for the assault on Langmead he was fined ten shillings. The magistrates said they were determined to protect the police in the execution of their duty and so they fined Farrell £2 and costs for the assault upon Drew. Farrell paid the fines immediately and left the court with his friends.
The Bournemouth Guardian‘s sports reporter had their say on the matter:
‘I was sorry to see that as a corollary to the victory Jack Farrell, the Southampton captain, got into a row the same night, and was heavily fined by the magistrates on Monday. He had foolishly allowed himself to be “treated” after the match to such an extent that he did what he would never have done when sober. I don’t want to preach a sermon or to excuse Farrell, who may consider himself lucky in getting off with a fine, seeing that he assaulted a police constable. Usually that often means gaol without the option, and a few weeks at Winchester just now would be a serious thing for Farrell and his club. At the same time, the supporters of a club are often much to blame, for they will insist on standing drinks to a popular player without thinking of the possible consequences, and an average man wants to be made of stone to resist the temptation to excess.’
Five days after his court appearance, Jack Farrell was back in the starting line-up. He led his team out at Chatham and helped his side to a 1-1 draw.
Later that year, during the 1898 close season, and despite an otherwise successful spell in Southampton, Farrell returned to Stoke. However, by May 1899 he had moved back to the Saints where he embarked upon a second spell on the South Coast. During his short absence the club had settled into their new home, The Dell. The new ground’s first match took place in September 1898 and it was kicked off by George John Tilling, the man who had fined Farrell earlier that year.
Jack Farrell’s last game for the Saints came in April 1900, shortly after he had been part of the side that had lost 4-0 to Bury in the 1900 FA Cup final. During his two spells at the club he had scored forty goals in seventy-three Southern League appearances, and fourteen goals in twenty-three FA Cup appearances. He left for Second Division New Brighton Tower, and after a short spell there he moved to Northampton Town. Farrell returned to the Dell as a Northampton player on 28 December 1901 but he found himself on the wrong side of an 11-0 demolition, with Saints forward Albert Brown scoring seven of the goals. After Northampton, Farrell moved to West Ham United. At the end of the 1902/03 season Farrell returned to the Dell once more, but again it was not a happy return, for Saints thrashed West Ham 6-0. As a few of his former teammates celebrated yet another Southern League title (Southampton’s fifth in seven seasons), Farrell pondered retirement.
After retiring from football, Jack Farrell moved back up to Tunstall in Staffordshire to run a pub on the High Street there. He died in Staffordshire in February 1947, aged seventy-four.
Sources and acknowledgements:
With thanks to Duncan Holley and www.saintsplayers.co.uk for use of the photos.
Jack Farrell’s profile on www.saintsplayers.co.uk
Newspapers, various, 1895-1903, Findmypast.co.uk
Census records, various, Findmypast.co.uk