ROALD DAHL - A BLUEBIRD
Cardiff City tribute to famous supporter in celebration of #RoaldDahl100Wednesday, September 13th was the centenary of the birth of Cardiff-born ROALD DAHL (1916 – 1990), the famous novelist, screenwriter, and creator of many children’s stories including Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, The BFG, Matilda and more.
Last weekend, the magic of Dahl came to life throughout the City of Cardiff under the guise of ‘Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected’. As the Roald Dahl website says, ‘Roald Dahl's City of the Unexpected will see the whole city humming with whispers of Roald Dahl; on street corners and from rooftops, in markets and cafés, on lamp posts and even on your mobile phone. Some of his best-loved stories will be told in the unlikeliest of places by well-known fans.’
On Saturday, Cardiff City Football Club paid its own tribute to one of its most famous of fans with a special write-up in our match-day programme, The Bluebird. Below is that copy...
‘WELL PLAYED SIR, WELL PLAYED!’
The son of Norwegian parents (Roald’s father was in business as a ships chandler, supplying stores and equipment for vessels at Cardiff Docks), Roald spent his early years with his family in Llandaff where he attended the Cathedral School from the age of seven until he was thirteen in 1929.
But while his literary and war-time record (he was a fighter-pilot in the R.A.F.) is well known and will be marked by various events in Cardiff this month, what is not generally known about him is that, as a young schoolboy, he was a keen supporter of Cardiff City Football Club.
Roald regularly watched our home matches in the 1920s, and many years later, in the late 1980s, he wrote about his experiences of seeing us play. He clearly had fond memories of coming to Ninian Park with his family’s gardener/handyman Jones, known to them as Joss Spivis. Below is a recollection of Roald’s from ‘More About Boy’ (Puffin Books, © Roald Dahl Nominee Limited).
One of his [Joss’] favourite subjects was the Cardiff City football team, and I was very quickly swept along by his enthusiasm for those heroes of the turf.
Cardiff City was a fine club in those days, and if I remember rightly, it was high up in the First Division. Throughout the week, as Saturday came closer and closer, so our excitement grew. The reason was simple. Both of us knew that we were actually going to go to the game together. We always did. Every Saturday afternoon, rain or hail or snow or sleet, Joss and I would go to Ninian Park to see the City play.
Oh, it was a great day, Saturday. Joss would work in the garden until noon, then I would emerge from the house neatly dressed in my scarlet school-cap, my blazer, my flannel shorts and possibly a navy-blue overcoat, and I would hand over to him a half-crown and a shilling that my mother had given me to pay for us both.
“Don't forget to thank your mother,” he would say to me every time as he slipped the two coins into his pocket.
As we rode the 20-minute journey from Llandaff to Cardiff in the big red bus, our excitement began to mount, and Joss would tell me about the opposing team for that day and the star players in it who were going to threaten our heroes in Cardiff City. It might be Sheffield Wednesday or West Bromwich Albion or Manchester United or any of the fifteen others, and I would listen and remember every detail of what Joss was saying. The bus took us to within five minutes' walk of Ninian Park Football Ground, where the great matches were always played, and outside the ground we would stop at a whelk-stall that stood near the turnstiles.
Joss would have a dish of jellied eels (sixpence) and I would have baked beans and two sausages on a cardboard plate (also sixpence).
Then, with an almost unbearable sense of thrill and rapture, and holding Joss tightly by the hand, I would enter the hallowed portals and we would make our way through the crowd to the highest point of the terraces, behind one of the goalposts. We had to be high up, otherwise I wouldn't have seen anything.
But oh, it was thrilling to stand there among those thousands of other men cheering our heroes when they did well and groaning when they lost the ball. We knew all the players by name and to this very day I can still remember the names of three of them. The centre-half for Cardiff was a small bald-headed man whom Joss referred to as Little 'Ardy. His name was Hardy. One of the full-backs was Nelson. The goalkeeper was a giant called Farquharson, which my mother told me was pronounced Farkerson, but which Joss pronounced Far-q-harson. Hardy, Nelson and Farquharson. Look up the records and you'll find they were there.
And when Cardiff scored a goal, I would jump up and down and Joss would wave his cap in the air, shouting, “Well played, sir! Well played!” And after it was all over we would take the bus home again, discussing without pause the great spectacle and the famous men we had just been privileged to see.
It was always dark by the time we reached my house, and Joss, standing in the porch with his cap in his hand, would say to my mother, “We're back safe, ma'am. We had a grand time.”
From Roald Dahl’s recollections, he would have been watching Cardiff City from the mid-1920s and for the rest of that decade. He would well have remembered the Club winning the F.A. Cup in 1927 when he was eleven years old, and the City players that he recalled – Hardy, Nelson and Farquharson – who were great names of the era.
What a treat it is to learn how our Football Club touched the hearts of one the all-time greats of children’s literature.
Cardiff City FC would like to thank the Roald Dahl estate, Puffin Books. © Roald Dahl Nominee Limited.