A Football Ballad: The Wellingboro Cup

31 May
A Football Ballad: The Wellingboro Cup

Confusing Victorian newspaper reports make it difficult to know if the Wellingborough Cup was a real cup competition or merely a name for the games that took place between Reading and Swindon in the late 19th Century.

This poem was published in the Reading Observer on the 5th December 1896 and details Reading’s 2-0 victory over Swindon Town at Elm Park. Swindon had beaten Reading 4-1 only a few weeks before so were clearly expecting to turn over their hosts once more.

Like many sports journalists of their era they link Reading to biscuits, their nickname being the Biscuitmen due to the large Huntley & Palmer biscuit factory that dominated the town.

The ballad was signed off M. so the identity of the poet is unknown.


When Swindon journeyed up
For the Wellingborough Cup
The hopes they entertained were far from small
Of a re-invite to sup
On some biscuits broken up,
but they didn’t, didn’t, didn’t, after all

On the splendid Reading ground,
With an eager crowd around,
The Swindon ‘lads’ did face the local men
And each combination found
That the other’s play was sound,
Tho’ they tried, and tried, and tried, and tried.

And the friendly fight was waged
While a chilling caster raged
Which blew and cut such capers with the sphere
That, howe’er the shots were gauged
It was hard to get them “caged,”
And the minders had a lighter task to clear.

When the cheerers-on of Reading,
In some “whispers,” wide and spreading,
Said “Reading, Reading, Reading, show our skill!”
How their forwards, neatly threading
Thro’ the Swindon ranks and heading
Did strive, and try, and struggle, with a will!

Thus in turn each team the other,
Their opponents, tried to smother,
Till Hadley scored for Reading number one,
And “Georgie” got another
Just to match his football brother,
And then, and there, and so, the “Town” were done!

When the Soton cracks arrive
In our busy Berkshire hive,
How the folks will flock to see, from far and near!
For Reading the will strive
To a greater win contrive
And they’ll do it, do it, do it, never fear!

For, when Swindon journeyed up,
In the Wellingborough Cup,
The hopes they entertained were rather tall,
Of a sitting down to sup
On some biscuits broken up,
Yet they didn’t, didn’t, didn’t, after all!

From the excellent British Newspaper Archive.

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Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Poetry/Fiction


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