When I saw Dave Shaw’s post on a Nottingham Forest supporter’s group, not only did I look twice, I had to process the information a third time to fully comprehend the magnitude of it all.
He uploaded a picture of his great-grandfather, Walter Shaw, holding aloft the FA Cup in 1959, and there lay the confusion. Without insulting your intelligence, Walter appeared too old to be a teammate of Jack Burkitt and Roy Dwight, more befitting of those such as Arthur Capes and John McPherson in 1898 to be honest. And guess what, that he was! Walter Shaw may be the only player in Nottingham Forest’s epic history to have held both FA Cups.
For those who’ve watched the English Game on Netflix, despite altering factual elements from that period, Julian Fellowes’ portrayal of association football and the early days of the English Cup (currently known as the FA Cup) provides a portal into the foundations of the beautiful game we still watch today. This was Walter Shaw’s era!
So, how on earth did a lad from Hucknall, not only get his hands upon the FA Cup in 1898, but in 1959 too? His great-grandson Dave revealed all as I pounced upon his revelation. Astonishingly, Dave confirmed that I was the only enquirer from a media standpoint. I’m incredibly surprised that those more coveted than I passed up on one of the most remarkable stories from Forest’s 155-year history. Let’s put this into context, the only trophy Brian Clough failed to lift in his time at Forest was indeed the FA Cup.
11 April 1898 Football League Division One – Derby County 5-0 Nottingham Forest
The Reds had been torn apart by the Rams five days before the two sides would meet again at Crystal Palace in the English Cup final, thus making Derby favourites for the cup. However, as Dave Shaw explained, there was a misconception regarding the team selection by Forest that day. “My great-grandfather, Walter Shaw, played in the 5-0 game alongside five others who were excluded from the final six days later.” Dave explained how, despite the fact many perceived the wholesale changes for the final to be a reflection of that loss, the truth was that Walter and co had been drafted in to rest the senior players for the big day on April 16th 1898; sound familiar?
Walter was for all intents and purposes a squad player, but you can only imagine the satisfaction and elation he felt as he lifted Nottingham Forest’s first major trophy with the team as they avenged Derby when it mattered most, winning by three goals to one. Walter Shaw was again selected for the first team a week after the English/FA cup win to face local side Hucknall St John’s, but the national heroes were unceremoniously beaten by the underdogs, providing one of the biggest shocks in Nottingham Forest’s 33-year history. Much was made about the selection of both Walter Shaw and Jack Thornley for the Reds that day because both hailed from Hucknall, living on Byron Street and Orchard Street, respectively. As for Hucknall St John’s, they’d already proved themselves capable of mixing it with the big boys as they gave Liverpool a run for their money in the English/FA cup three months earlier, losing 2-0 in front of 8,000 fans at Anfield. If you google “Forest humbled by minnows” you’ll be able to read Dennis Robinson’s excellent article for the Hucknall Dispatch regarding the events of that era.
So, let us fast forward to 1959 and the aftermath of Nottingham Forest’s second FA cup triumph. The hysteria of their 2-1 victory over Luton Town at Wembley was still very much in the air and several receptions were laid on for the players and their trophy. One of those was held at the Sherwood Rooms, now called Ocean Nightclub, and that’s where the Walter Shaw would grasp the FA cup for a second time, it’s not certain whether Walter was indeed the last surviving member of the 1898 squad but it’s highly likely. His great-grandson Dave explained to me that Walter had been specially invited to the reception in honour of the inaugural victory in 1898. For me, the photo of Walter is one of the most iconic in Nottingham Forest’s 155 year history, here is a player born and raised in our own City who had his hands on both versions of the FA Cup in two different centuries!
As I talked at length with Dave Shaw, he revealed even more fascinating facts about his family and their achievements in the footballing world. Walter Shaw had two sons, Walter, and Thomas (nicknamed Fred) who both followed in his footsteps and played professionally. Walter junior only turned to football as a way to earn a wage at Blackpool FC, “the details are a little sketchy” said Dave, “it’s a possibility that my grandfather (Walter junior) took up football as a result of the UK general strike of 1926.”
Thomas (Fred) Shaw achieved notable success during his own career, he had spells at Birmingham City, Notts County and Mansfield Town prior to the second world war. He made an instant impact at Meadow Lane, scoring a hat-trick on his Notts County debut v Swansea, becoming only the second player to have done so at that time.
The Shaw’s sporting interests continued to flourish throughout the generations, Dave said “My father played water polo and Boxed for the Navy and I work in the sporting industry myself as general manager of HEAD, the Tennis brand, so it’s definitely in the genes.”
Although Dave was born outside of Nottingham, he spent many family Christmases in Bulwell and Hucknall, explaining to me how this, coupled with his Great Grandfather’s involvement with NFFC, became the catalyst for him supporting Forest.
As I alluded to earlier, Walter Shaw’s link to the only two FA Cups ever won by Nottingham Forest is phenomenal and it’s been a pleasure to write about. Fittingly, the last words go to Dave; “when I take my seat at Forest I actually feel like a part of the club through my blood and the strong links within, I’m very proud of my Great Grandfather, it’s an incredible story!”
*Article provided by Steve Corry (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
Main image @NostalgicDave Forest skipper Jack Burkitt with the FA Cup in 1959.