Shropshire Star

Day legend Billy graced benefit game for Town stalwarts

What occasion brought Wolves legends Billy Wright and Johnny Hancocks to the Gay Meadow?

Billy shakes hands before kick-off with Jackie Butler.

Here they are at the old Shrewsbury Town ground in a photo we carried the other day as part of our 100th birthday tribute to Billy.

And it prompted Mark McIntyre to get in touch with details from the programme for that match, which was a benefit for Town stalwarts Jack Butler and Joe Wheatley which was played on Wednesday, April 26, 1950.

Billy shakes hands before kick-off with Jackie Butler.

It featured a League XI in "red jersey, white knickers," and the Town who played in their familiar blue and white.

"I've never seen the picture before and just recently bought the programme," said Mark, who is formerly from Madeley but now lives in Shrewsbury.

On the left is Ironbridge-born Billy, and he is shaking hands with Jack Butler, commonly known as Jackie Butler, from Dawley. Hancocks, from Oakengates, is centre.

Joe Wheatley is the chap in the overcoat who was unable to play because of tonsillitis, but nevertheless had a minor part in the match, as he kicked it off. The referee was Sam Rogers, Shrewsbury's only league referee at the time.

The League XI won 2-1, with Bobby Barker of West Brom scoring both goals, with Ron Hood getting the Town's goal.

Mark's programme shows that the League XI line-up, or at least that was billed, was: Streten (Luton Town); Farquahar (Arsenal), Wade (Arsenal); Antonio (Mansfield), Foulkes (Walsall), Wright (Wolves); Barker or Inwood (West Brom), James (Arsenal – but the match report says he was a "disappointing absentee"), W Richardson (West Brom), Kelly (Arsenal), and Hancocks (Wolves).

Shrewsbury Town had some guest players, the billed line-up being: H Rowley; Hornby (Crewe), Lewis; Wheatley or Kernick – though as we have seen Wheatley was unable to play; Hodgson (Crewe), Robinson; Griffin, Hood, Jackson, McCall, and Butler.

Attendance was variously given as "not far short of 9,000" and "about 10,000."

Jackie Butler hailed from Dawley and was one of six brothers (together with one sister), three of whom played for Shrewsbury Town. They were himself, Bill – who was dubbed "Battleship Butler" by the press for his defensive qualities and sadly was killed in action in North Africa in 1943 – and Joe, who played just a few games for the Town before injury.

The programme notes described Jackie as "top goal scorer on many occasions, is well liked and loved by all."

Jackie had also won many prizes as a sprinter, and was once attached to Birchfield Harriers.

"He also is above average at tennis and snooker, and at a secret game called 'Find the Lady' – or so Joe Wheatley says."

His great uncle Joe Butler, the programme said, had played in goal for Sunderland against Aston Villa in the 1912/13 FA Cup final held at Crystal Palace.

Jackie said that he hoped that when his playing days finished the Town would keep him on as a trainer or coach, and indeed he was to become assistant trainer to the reserves, and later was a trainer for Wellington Town.

As a youngster Joe Wheatley played for Ellesmere Port teams and, volunteering for the RAF in 1940, found himself billeted in Shrewsbury, and joined Town in 1945.

"Joe is a family man, fond of his garden and washing up," the programme said.

He lived just outside Chester and died in his 90s around 10 years ago. Jackie is known to have been 64 when he passed on, so will have died around 1984.

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