Hull City AFCorigins and early history


Thomas MacManus

Thomas MacManus

In early 2021, I managed to acquire 3 postcards and a couple of player passes relating to Hull City player Thomas MacManus. It’s always satisfying to obtain multiple cards in one transaction, especially when there is a direct connection with the player concerned, as the seller was a local descendant of MacManus.

I’d never heard of MacManus and had to scour the newspapers of the time as well as Hull City player records to find details of his career. It turns out he was a junior, reserve and finally (very occasionally) a first team player during WW1, being selected in Midland Section matches in 1916, 1917 and 1918. City used many local players to pad out their depleted ranks during the conflict and MacManus was used in several positions, both in defence and attack. Son of a Hessle Road seafarer and one of six brothers, he never became a professional player and continued to work as a blacksmith’s striker.

The cards show MacManus at various stages of his footballing career. The first one is a postcard (photographer unknown) of a Hull City boys team pictured in the goalmouth at the northern end of the old Anlaby Road ground. MacManus is seated on the turf directly behind the ball. Founding director John Henry ‘Jack’ Bielby is shown standing moustachioed second from right. Handwritten notes on the back of the card indicate this as ‘1907’ and ‘City Boys’. A Hull Daily Mail article in August 1907 reports:-

The City Juniors, or “Bielby’s pets”, will be continued, and are a team which should prove to be a pattern for the junior clubs of Hull. They are managed by Mr Bielby and except for having the benefit of his advice, they have no better advantages than any other junior players. Their training is done on the Dairycoates ground, and the lads are remarkably keen, even to the extent of stopping their “cigs” between Thursday and Saturday nights. They take their training seriously, and if the other local clubs did the same there would be no necessity for City to go out of Hull for players.

The second card is ‘Hull City Juniors AFC 1910-11’, with the team again pictured at the old Anlaby Road ground with a recently-won trophy. ‘Beware of pickpockets’ notices have been posted on the wooden walls of the Best Stand Well in the background. The bowler-hatted and moustachioed gent standing to the left is again Jack Bielby. Long-serving wartime defender Arthur Wigglesworth is also pictured, seated second right. This card is by Duncan, 15 Anlaby Road, who by now had become City’s official photographer.

The final card is also by Duncan and is a professional studio portrait of a slightly older MacManus, and coincides with his time as an occasional member of the City wartime first XI.

As well as documenting MacManus’ footballing path in black and amber, the cards also give an indication of the sheer quantity of Hull City photographs William ‘Billy’ Duncan took. Juniors, Reserves, Senior squads and occasionally specific match team groups were all captured by his camera to form part of a vast photographic legacy. This does not take into account the far more numerous crowd scene photos or the spontaneous informal pictures he would take when visiting the Anlaby Road ground during the week, which he did for over 30 years. Despite this hefty volume of work, it’s not known if a senior squad photo featuring the versatile Thomas MacManus exists.


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