The death of Simon Shaw, ‘a grand little sportsman’

 

THE DEATH OF SIMON SHAW

‘A GRAND LITTLE SPORTSMAN’

 

By Roger Spaull

 

 

 

 

Simon Shaw: 1923-1953

 

1953 was a season of immense sorrow in the history of Yallourn Football Club.

 

The tragic death of Simon Shaw was long-felt by the club and the people of the town and district. Born at Motherwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland on 2nd September 1923, Simon died in the Yallourn Hospital on the 1st February 1953 as the result of an injury sustained while swimming in the Latrobe River on Monday 26th January.

 

‘The Morwell Advertiser’ carried the full story; and it told of Simon’s brave fight for life in hospital (for six days) following the accident.  As the news spread quietly, but quickly, around Yallourn, the homes, shops, factories and worksites were laid to silence.

 

Young and old were visibly shaken; and all spoke in hushed and reverent tones when discussing the news. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the effect of Simon’s death upon the district was profound; and, it is known,  that numerous townsfolk were grief-stricken on learning of Simon’s demise.

 

Simon was an inimitable character and very much admired; not only for his prowess as a footballer, but as …

 

“…a gentleman on and off the ground.” Source: ‘Morwell Advertiser’ February 5th 1953 Page: 9.

 

His heartrending death received wide publicity in the Gippsland newspapers of those times;  and ‘The Argus’ (a metropolitan daily) also made mention of the fact.

 

The funeral, which was held at the Yallourn Presbyterian Church, was one of the largest ever seen in the town; and more than one hundred cars formed the cavalcade in the procession that day. The players of the Yallourn Football Club formed a guard of honour and stood in silence as the cortege moved from Banksia Crescent into Monash Square and then on towards the Yallourn Cemetery.

 

Among the many messages of condolence and words of comfort at that time, the tribute paid by Morwell’s venerable coach, Denis Quinn, articulated the feelings of the football fraternity of Gippsland…

 

“…to that grand little sportsman…who would be missed throughout the league.” Source: ‘Morwell Advertiser’ February 19th 1953. Page: 3.

 

Having enlisted and served during World War: II, Simon’s burial service included the traditional ritual of the placement of poppies on the coffin by his  former comrades.

 

For the benefit of the reader, Simon had registered for military service at Hernes Oak on the 8th of January 1942 for duty in the Australian Army.  Prior to leaving for basic training, the people of Hernes Oak had given Simon (and another young volunteer named, Vic Melbourne) a special community farewell, which featured ‘lively entertainment’ for all to enjoy.

 

It was quite common in country towns, during wartime, to ‘send-off’ the troops with specially organized concerts and social gatherings. The highlight of such farewell gathering was the presentation of gifts (in this instance, Simon and Vic received  wallets).

 

Simon Shaw rose to the rank of Gunner (GNR: RAA) during his short time in the Army. For reasons unexplained, Simon then enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy on the 12th of   November 1942. His war service record indicates that he was an Able Seaman at the time of his discharge (from HMAS Lonsdale in September 1945).

 

During the build-up to the 1953 football season, the CGFL and the Yallourn FC went to extensive lengths to ensure that Simon’s contribution to local football was duly noted and publicly acknowledged.

 

On March 7th, the delegates to the Annual General Meeting of the CGFL at Trafalgar,  observed two minutes of silence in honour of Simon. Furthermore, it was unanimously agreed by all clubs, affiliated with the CGFL, that they would mark the death of Simon with a minute of silence prior to the first bounce of the opening round of  the 1953 season.

 

As the year unfolded, the Yallourn FC played a central role in conducting an appeal to raise funds to support Simon’s family.  From talking and reading about Simon’s  life, it is apparent that he had been a shining example of all the things that are good about the game of football.  Simon had played sport as he had lived his life i.e. with kindness and generosity of spirit.

 

His impressive record with Yallourn FC included:

 

  • Played with YFC in 1946 until 1952.
  • 126 senior games.
  • Premiership team member~1948.
  • Best Utility Player ~1948.
  • Special YFC Trophy~1951.
  • Best Backman Award ~1952.

 

On September 3rd of the that year (1953) , it was announced that the trophy for the Best & Fairest player in the Third XVIII competition would be named in honour of Simon.

 

Note: The first winner of ‘The Simon Shaw Trophy’ was Peter Allen of the Moe South Colts FC. Other winners of the Simon Shaw Medal included Ted Hopkins (Moe/Carlton) and Bob Baldry (Warragul FC /Victorian cricketer ).

 

There is no doubt that, the opening of the 1953 football season had been the saddest the Blues had ever known. Those readers, who have played team sport, will fully appreciate that people, such as Simon Shaw , can never be replaced in the line-up of the team or in the hearts of the players, officials and supporters.

 

As history shows, by the end of the 1953 season, Simon’s brother (Jimmy) had lifted the spirits of the club and the township by winning the 1953 Rodda Medal for the Best and Fairest player in the CGFL. What a year for the Shaw family and the people of Yallourn.

 

Read other historical pieces by Roger Spaull HERE

 

FOOTNOTES

 

  1. Simon’s Father (Simon Snr) and Mother (Mary) lived in Scotland before migrating to Australia and eventually settling in Hernes Oak. There were six Shaw children: Simon, Jimmy, Bill, Archie, John and Katherine. Only Simon and Jimmy were born in Scotland.
  2. All observers regarded Jim Shaw as the finest rover in Gippsland football in that era. Jim played three games with Melbourne in 1949 (under the existing VFL permit system).

 

  1. Bill Shaw was an able YFC footballer; and was regularly mentioned in the match reports of those times.

 

  1. Simon, Jimmy and Bill were all members of the YFC premiership team of 1948. On that day, Yallourn 7.11.53 defeated Morwell 6.3. 39. Bill kicked two goals in that historic victory;  and both Jimmy and Bill were listed in the Blues’ best players.

 

 

  1. In the match report of the 1948 Grand Final win, as published in ‘The Advertiser’ (September 23rd 1948), it is written that Simon Shaw received a heavy blow, early in the match,  and was forced to leave the field with concussion. The three brothers are all shown in the team photograph for that year.
  2. The 1948 flag was the last premiership to be won by Yallourn Football Club.

 

  1. Simon’s famous number: 9 guernsey was next worn by half-back flanker Jim Watt. Jim Watt wore the jumper with great pride until his retirement from football…

“In 1954, Jim was issued with one of the club’s most famous jumpers (number 9) formerly worn by Simon Shaw. Jim was the first player, following the death of the Blues’ champion Simon Shaw in 1953, to wear the coveted guernsey. On the presentation of the guernsey, Jim was told by club officials that it had ‘a very special meaning to the club.’ Jim, who had been a friend of Simon, was ever-conscious of that statement and he wore the jumper with great pride until his enforced retirement from football in1955.” Source: ‘ Virtualyallourn’ October 2013.

 

  1. The newspaper articles and other mementos of that era reinforce the meaningful and lasting contribution that the Shaw family made to Yallourn FC and Gippsland football.

 

  1. Four of YFC’s greatest players in that era of LVFL football, Kevin Fanning, Bruce Knight, Stan Brown and Jimmy Shaw were key players in forming, building and strengthening the Newborough Football Club. The Fanning and Shaw children gained reputations as keen and capable players in Mid Gippsland football and netball competitions.

 

 

  1. In 2000, the Shaw-Carter (named in honour of local football stalwart and identity Tom Carter) was presented to the Under: 16 Best & Fairest Player in the Gippsland Latrobe Football League. Tom Carter was granted Life Membership of the Latrobe Valley Junior Football League for his long and dedicated service to the development of junior football in the region.

 

  1. Tom Carter is the father of Paul , a well-known Gippsland football historian. Like his father, Paul has a wealth of knowledge regarding football in the Gippsland region.

 

 

  1. Bill Shaw passed away on 9th July 2003. Jimmy died on October 8th

 

  1. Geoff Shaw (Jimmy’s son) has gathered a remarkable collection of press cuttings and memorabilia regarding his family’s involvement with YFC and the Newborough Football Club. Geoff has kindly donated many items to the YYNFC for the history room/museum, at the George Bates Reserve, for public display. Geoff also has, in private storage, numerous medals and trophies won by Jimmy.

 

 

 

A longer version of this story,  which was written in 2013,  can be found on the Virtualyallourn website at :  http://www.virtualyallourn.com/node/24442

 

Other stories about the Shaw family and the Yallourn FC can also be found at that website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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