Ernest Joseph Hyman 1904-1927
North Somerset miners at the beginning of the 1900s were a rugged and a hard grafting lot who took their work and sport seriously. None more so than the Hyman family from Writhlington near Radstock.
The star of the family was undoubtedly William 'Bill' Hyman who was a fine footballer and cricketer in equal measures. A Somerset county cricketer who once scored 359 not out in a minor league match. Hitting an incredible sixty-two in two overs of the bowling of E. M Grace, the brother of W. G Grace. Although in defence of E. M Grace, a former test player himself, he was sixty years old at the time!
William was also a fine footballer, captaining first Radstock and later Bath City, as well as being the Somerset County captain. He knew Yeovil and the Pen Mill stadium well playing there many times. Most notably as captain for Radstock in the infamous Battle of Pen Mill match in 1896!
Also playing football for Radstock, were his brothers including Josiah a fine footballer with an eye for goal.
Josiah and his wife Mary, bore four sons and two daughters. Rasing them in cramped conditions in a small miners cottage. The type that only the poor and hard working lived in a hundred years ago but now the ones being snapped up by Jeremys and Jemimas of the Londonista for a weekend getaway!
Josiah and Mary's third son Ernest , was born at home in December 1904. Like all the children of miners, education would have been very limited for young Ernest and the only career path available after school would have been to follow his Father and Uncle Bill with a primitive lamp, a canary bird and the chance of meeting their maker every day down the pit!
One thing that Ernie excelled at though was sport. Football in particular. Obviously sharing the genes of his Uncle Bill and his Father. At the tender age of seventeen he was enrolled into men's football. A far different game than we see today. Tackles were hard, fierce, and matches full blooded affairs with no quarter given. Very little protection was afforded by the referees. If the miners of North Somerset were hard, then football was their perfect outlet.
Playing for his village team of Writhlington near Radstock, his footballing talents were soon being recognised and in 1922 he was playing for Radstock in the Somerset league a right of passage for the Hyman male family members. Reports of his time at Radstock describe him a 'bustling and busy inside right' the job of winning the ball, and feeding the front men. Something he excelled at. Radstock at the time were a hard team, as previously noted, hard men used to fighting for a result. Pride was everything. Pride of the team, their town and mostly pride in themselves.
In 1924, Jack Gregory Yeovil's first ever manager and a fine judge of talent obviously became impressed with Ernest 's footballing ability . Gregory had witnessed him destroy Yeovil's reserve side 6-0 the previous season, scoring a couple himself. Ernest was a proud North Somerset lad though, still only nineteen. A miner like his Father. It was unlikely he would come 'South'.
However, it is likely Gregory saw an opportunity to entice the talented lad to Huish by using the clubs connection with Petters Ltd. During the previous year a young player called Harry Edwards had been offered a position within the company. One he readily accepted. Also a decent player who had previously played for Welton Rovers. He also had a cousin with far more footballing ability- Ernest Hyman!
One can only use conjecture to guess the events. However, Harry it would seem, was despatched to Radstock to enquire if young Ernest would sign for the club on Amateur forms, with the promise of a job in the machine room at Petters as the carrot. It worked! In the summer of 1924, Ernest signed Amateurs forms and commenced his occupation with Petters. A far cry of working down the pit for hours on end covered in coal dust and coughing up black mucous.
Incidentally, it seemed a common method to attract young talent for Yeovil in those long ago days. Harry Scott, the sixteen year old from Torquay was enticed the same way. Football with a job thrown in.
Ernest, still being nineteen , like the sixteen year old Harry Scott was seen as the future of the club. His early appearances being for the reserve side. Making his reserve team debut at Minehead in a 4-3 win on August 30th 1924.
He stayed in the Reserves all through the 1924-25 season, making thirty-three appearances and scoring fifteen goals. His only faint taste of first team football being in a benefit match against Sherborne. He scored a hat-trick in a 6-3 win.
The 1925-26 season started in the same fashion for Ernest. Reserve team football week in week out. One wonders his feelings and thoughts of when he saw the sixteen year old Harry Scott being picked to play alongside the great Johhny Hayward for the first team, whilst he was in the Reserves playing at Branksome Gas and Axminster Town.
It could be argued that Hyman was chosen for the role of inside right to eventually feed Scott when Hayward had finally retired. An argument that is given validation when you see Scott and Hyman playing together in the Reserves. Time after time the reports of Scott goal assisted by Hyman were on the sporting pages of the Gazette.
Alas, Hyman did make his first team debut in the 25/26 season, somewhere in the abundance of games played across two leagues, Ernest played three matches. Although again it was the Reserves were he mainly learnt his trade, playing thirty-five times scoring eight goals.
The three appearances that Ernest had made had obviously done enough to show he was ready. Although, Gregory saw him as a right half back, using his tackling ability in a more defensive roll. He became a regular in the side from October onwards. Scoring his debut goal against Bath City at home in a 6-3 win. Sadly it would be his only goal for the first team. Gregory trying him at centre forward that day alongside Johhny Hayward.
Ernest gained high praise for his performance in the press, and the local reporters describing his centre forward appearance a success. The experienced and wiley Jack Gregory didn't quite agree though with the boys in the press box. Nonetheless he was suitably impressed to fit Hyman in the side at half back. Only missing one game up until Christmas.
Christmas 1926 must have been a joyous one for now twenty-two year old Ernest. He found himself away from the pits, in a steady job with a good income. He had finally broken into the Glovers first team squad and with it a professional contract with extra money. Money he would obviously need as he had announced his engagement to Miss Laura Singleton a Yeovil girl, he had met since coming to the town. His life and career were on the up!
December 27th 1926, started like all the others for football fans in Yeovil. The excitement of Christmas being replaced by the excitement of a match., a local derby match at that. Today it would be a visit to Huish from Taunton United. A team they had faced on Christmas Day away and returned with a 1-0 victory with Lowes scoring the winner in front of 1200 spectators. The match being described as 'poor with too many fouls to produce good football'. It was a derby game though and with both sides struggling at the lower end of the Western League Div 1, a rough game was to be expected. Almost wished or expected by for some spectators.
On an unseasonally warm day for the time of year , Over 2000, descended on Huish, some sat in the old wooden grandstand, the others dotted around the ground standing on old railway sleepers inbedded into soil and cinder banks. The men all capped, with smoke rising from their moustached faces.
Hyman, lined up at half back, his opposite number for Taunton being Fred Lee, pushed up from his normal full back position into midfield.
Fred Lee, like Ernest was a sporting hero in his town. Born in Chard in 1904, the same age as Ernest. He was also setting out on his sporting career, finally playing first class County cricket for Somerset until 1929.
The match started at a feverish pace, although not described as dirty, the tackles were hard more in the excitement of playing for local pride than a malicious intent. Later the referee Alf Rogers of Parkstone described it as a "a match played with keenness on both sides"
The match reached half time with Yeovil 1-0 up, Lowes again scoring with a close range header as he had against the same team on Christmas Day. The second half started with Yeovil playing towards the Queen's Street End, cheered on voraciously by their supporters
Twenty minutes had expired in the second half, when a long ball was launched high towards the area close to the halfway line six yards from the touch line in front of the Grandstand. Ernest Hyman and Fred Lee both went to contest the ball. Hyman just getting their a split second before Lee and running into him. With both falling to the sloping muddied pitch with their efforts. Lee stood up, however Ernest Hyman was laying motionless yet moaning in agonising pain. Lee, thinking his opponent was winded came behind him put his hands under Ernest 's armpits to haul him to his feet.
Ernest though collapsed again, in obvious major discomfort. He was assisted to the touch line and placed into the hands of the St John's ambulance team on the sideline under the shadow of the old white grandstand.
His pain worsened though. Screaming in agony and discomfort that echoed around the ground. Dr Palmer, the club doctor, luckily attending the match was immediately summoned. The doctor could see that Ernest was going into shock, he immediately administered morphine to kill the horrendous pain that Ernest was suffering. With that he was transfered to Yeovil hospital.
Seen on arrival by Doctor Unwin, Ernest had improved and conversing and in no real pain. Of course as a result of the morphine. A few hours later the incredible pain returned with more intensity . An operation to discover the problem was immediately undertook. It was discovered that Ernest had ruptured his bowel around the duodenum. With the swelling and bruising caused it became impossible to stitch the rupture cleanly and the operation was called unsuccessful. Incidently in these more advanced days, a rupture of that magnitude is mostly seen in road traffic accidents after a major blunt impact. A relatively routine operation would be performed and a few days later the patient would be home and well.
The next day again Ernest showed signs of improvement which came as a shock to the hospital staff. His improvement seemed to be stable for a week as he took visitors. All the time his besotted parents and his beloved fiance Laura by his side. He spoke of the incident to a night nurse and saw it as an accident on the field and he bore no blame at all to Fred Lee.
However ten days later his condition again worsened with fluid in the damaged area building up. Another operation being the only chance of survival.
During the second operation, despite the surgeons best efforts Ernest Joseph Hyman sadly died on the operating table, ten days after the incident. He was twenty-two years of age.
His death, was met with absolute shock and sadness all over Somerset. None more so then in the North and South parts. The following Saturday at home to Bristol City reserves, both teams circled the referee as the Petters works band played 'abide with me'. The crowd of over 2000, "stood and sang accord all bareheaded"
Ernest's funeral took place at the Wesleyan Chapel in his home village of Writhlington. Attended by hundreds. A party of fifty including players, staff and members of the supporters club made the journey from Yeovil to pay their last respects. In following seasons for many years on the anniversary of Ernest Hyman's death a party from Yeovil would travel to Radstock to pray and lay wreaths on his grave.
The club immediately called for donations to fund a suitable memorial and grave stone for their fallen player whose body was layed to rest in the parish cemetery. Within days enough money was given to pay for it and also to donate a sum to his impoverished parents.
The grave stone was erected soon after . The inscription :
Affectionate memory of Ernest Joseph Hyman who died January 7th 1926 from injuries received in a football match.
Yeovil v Taunton on Boxing day 1926
A solitary laced stone football was laid at his feet.
The inquest was held a few weeks later. Witness statements coming from the referee, doctors and even supporters close to the incident. Those that saw the incident mostly recalling the same story. The one witness that people wanted to hear from was Fred Lee, the Taunton player involved.
Fred Lee told the coronor that their was no malice between the two players whatsoever, he considered Hyman an honorable and clean playing opponent. However, Lee's recollection of the incident was slightly different to others that had witnessed it. Including the foreman of the court who was called as a witness himself as he had attended the match.
Lee, explained that the ball came down, As the ball dropped he went to trap the ball and Hyman at speed had ran into him, his knee catching Hyman's stomach. Purely by accident and no attempt by himself to injur Ernest had occurred.
The jury were sent to deliberate, they quickly returned and delivered their verdict of accidental death and totally exonerated Fred Lee of any blame for Ernest Hyman's death.
Life slowly returned to normal, the season now under a cloud was not a successful one for both sides Taunton finishing second from bottom with Yeovil a few places above them. The reserve sides of the two clubs met just before the end of the season, both teams wearing black armbands.
Football and cricket continued for Fred Lee, upon retiring he stayed in Taunton, passing away in November 1977 aged 73 years old.
Unfortunately the memory of Ernest Hyman has slowly been erased over time. A young man who was blessed with an abundance of talent. Right at the start of his footballing career and but more importantly his life in general. He should never be forgotten.
Simply, Ernest Joseph Hyman gave his life for The Glovers.
Rest in peace.