Almanac Footy History: Doth the moustache maketh the man?



To maintain the Tiger love, I want to share this story about my grandfather Jack Megson who played for the Tigers more than 100 years ago.


Born in 1883 – 1964, Joseph Verner Alexander Megson (or Jack) who lived through the depression and two world wars, was a dedicated family man who loved life and was passionate about footy. He was 5ft 9inches and weighed 10 stone, and even though he was small in stature, he was very quick around the ball and made his mark on the field. Very particular about his appearance, Jack spent many hours perfecting his fine, but manly moustache.



1909 Sniders and Abrahams Card No. 14      1910 Sniders and Abrahams Card No. 46


Jack first played football for the Collingwood Juniors in 1903, but was considered ‘too small’ to be a Magpie. In 1905, Jack played one game for Essendon VFL, from 1905 – 1908 he played for Richmond VFA, and in 1909, when Richmond joined the VFL, he played 20 league games and kicked three goals as a wingman. Jack was a member of the 1905 Richmond VFA Premiership team and was the 14th player on Richmond’s list. He finished his playing career at Sandringham in 1910.


Several newspaper articles mention Jack’s sporting prowess:   “Richmond had Megson, a Collingwood junior; Rigby, late of Carlton;” Australasian 6 May, 1905.   “The pick of the men in Richmond colours were “…Megson in the centre.” The Argus 4 May, 1908. Claude Henry Rigby (Harry), who married Jack’s sister Isabella, also played in the 1905 VFA Premiership team. Harry then played for Carlton and the Melbourne Fuchsias in 1909. At the age of 31, Harry won the 1909 Stawell Gift, only the second Carlton player to achieve this feat.


A popular figure at the Richmond Football Club, Jack married Lily May Hinxman on 29 August 1908, at the Baptist Church in Fitzroy, with Harry as best man. This was followed by a reception for more than 200 at the Collingwood Town Hall, which included a large party from the Richmond Football Club. Apparently it was a lively affair and the alcohol flowed well into the night.


Jack however, was a teetotaler unlike his wife, who occasionally visited her friend for a sherry or two and would then be unable to walk home, so Jack would be summoned to ‘come and collect Lily May’. When my Uncle Verner was born, Jack put him in his Gladstone bag and left him on the side of the Punt Road oval, while he was training, just to keep an eye on him. After a loss at the ground, he spoke of the challenge of walking up the race and trying to avoid the wrath of the angry female Tiger supporters, taking their frustrations out on the players with their umbrellas.


One of seven children, Jack grew up in Northcote and Collingwood until his family moved to Sandringham, where his father, Joseph Henry Megson (founding member of the Sandringham Yacht Club), was offered ‘a free rail pass to the city for a year’ if he built a home in the heart of Sandringham.   The house purchase included a bathing box at Sandringham beach.


A striking man with a slim and wiry frame, what you noticed about Jack, was his well-groomed moustache. I remember his shaving ritual each morning and the time spent, washing, brushing and waxing until he was ready to face the day. This routine was always done using his ornate silver shaving kit; a wedding gift from Lily May and I can still smell the pungent aroma from his shaving soap and his pomade pot. (Made in Movember identified his style as ‘connoisseur’ and gave him a rating of 5 stars. (See below).


A lifelong passion of Jack’s was camping and fishing by the Gellibrand River in the Otway’s, where the catch often included a haul of black fish, trout, bream and eels. His early trips could take up to 18 hours by car, so he would telephone ahead on the old wind up phone, with the call sign ‘long-short-long’ notifying the Devondale Post Office (which is no longer in existence), of the Megson’s impending arrival.   For more than 50 years, he made the long journey as often as he could, driving firstly in his old T-model ford, then the Buick with the family, friends and the dog tied to the running board.


Jack loved ocean swimming and coached my mother and her sister to compete in the Yarra Three Mile-swimming Race in 1934. Louie and Lily would train swimming from the wreck of the Cerberus at Black Rock to Sandringham beach, with Jack keeping time and pacing along the cliff top yelling out instructions. Both on handicaps, and competing against more than 300 competitors, they were placed in the top ten.


An engaging storyteller, Jack often spoke about his grandfather, Joseph Milner Megson, who sailed from Yorkshire in 1842 and arrived in Launceston when he was only 20 years old.   A talented musician, he joined George Coppin’s troupe (who was known as the father of Australian stage), as leader of the orchestra, violinist, organist, and composer. He performed in the music halls and churches around Launceston and Hobart, and later at the Theatre Royal and St James Church, in Melbourne.


I was only 14 when Jack passed away, but I was in awe of him and still miss his knowledge, wit and compassion.   I especially loved to hear him sing, the ‘Rag and Bone Man’ my favourite ditty, because he transported you to another place. From him I learnt the importance of manners, particularly at the dinner table, because if you dared to put your elbow on the table, he would whack you with his stick. My only regret, is that I never saw him play footy.


Recently, I found several Snider and Abraham’s football cards of Jack, and interestingly, they all use the same photograph, revealing his distinctive and well manicured ‘stache. Perhaps that is what made him such a good bloke and a great footballer.


As they say: A man without a moustache is like a cup of tea without sugar. ~English Proverb

Camping trip with Jack first on the right

1905 Richmond VFA Premiership Team with Jack Megson seated first from left and Harry Rigby seated second from right



More information about the history of the Richmond Football Club can be found at:


Made in Movember, the Ultimate Mo Team




About Angela Vary

A passionate cats supporter who flew from Delhi in 2007 to see the cats win the Grand Final, enjoys road cycling, cricket, travelling the sub-continent and taking photos.


  1. Thanks Angela. More than a great read – you may have pointed the way to an acceptable Richmond clash strip — yellow & black vertical stripes. Just like the Tigers of Old, eh?

  2. Lovely family story Angela! Go Tiges!

  3. Angela Vary says

    Thanks Rhett glad you enjoyed it.

  4. bring back the torp says

    Great story, Angela, thank you for sharing it with us.

    A couple of questions:-
    . Did Jack ever speak (to you, or others) much about his playing days? If so, briefly, what football topics did he discuss? Did he ever say who was the best player/s he had seen?
    . Did he leave behind many football mementoes?

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