Isaac McGorian of Sunderland, Notts County and Carlisle: a tribute revisited

Isaac McGorian in 1939: captain, front row with ball between his knees, of Griqualand West Team in Kimberley vs England

The story of Isaac Moore (“Ike”) McGorian, who played for Sunderland AFC in the 1920s, first appeared here earlier this month under the headline Isaac ‘Jack’ McGorian: echoes of Bardsley from the Roaring Twenties

Salut! Sunderland’s article drew a heartwarming response from members of his family, who also provided the photographs and much of the detail that enabled me to prepare it. Bill Richardson, a Sunderland supporter long exiled in Africa, was the spur: his comment on an e-mail forum had set the ball rolling.

But Bill also has something to answer for: what bemused his colleague, Lilian Martin, the player’s younger daughter, about my report was the use of Jack as her father’s nickname. He had never been known as such, she said. A daughter, you may well say, ought to know.

Indeed, the reference book mentioned in my report confirms this, giving the name as Isaac Moore (“Ike”) McGorian. his later career included stints at Notts County – whose supporters might find this item on Les Bradd of interest, too – and Carlisle United (their fans will most certainly wish to avoid this story).

So this is an attempt both to set the record straight and bring to wider attention the responses received to the original posting, which now follows …

Not for nothing do we boast of going to the ends of the earth to find interesting snippets about Sunderland AFC. The story, for Salut! Sunderland‘s purposes, began in a coal-fired power station in the Transvaal.

Bill Richardson*, a Seaham lad who has not seen his home town or even country for a long, long time, works there. And this is what he wrote a month or two ago at the Blackcats list, an e-mail loop that brings together SAFC fans wherever they find themselves in the world:

I only found out at the weekend that one of the ladies I work with, father played for Sunderland 1926. His name was Jack McGorian.

Without the aid of a phone-hacking manual or bribes for coppers, Salut! Sunderland sleuths set to work.

Champion of Champions in bowls, at Raylton Sports Club.

First port of call was my bible, Rob Mason’s indispensable Sunderland: The Complete Record (statistics compiled by Mike Gibson and Barry Jackson). There, we learn that – shades of Phil Bardsley – Jack McGorian was a right or left back who played 22 times for the club between 1924 and 1929 and even scored once, joining Bobby Gurney on the scoresheet in a 3-1 win against Notts County in the last game of the 1925-26 season.

If the record seems modest, it should be borne in mind that Sunderland were quite a force in those days.

The daughter mentioned by Bill is Lilian Martin, who – with the help of her sister, Delia – has kindly supplied photographs and details of Jack McGorian’s life and times.

Isaac Moore McGorian, to give him his full name, was born on Oct 19 1901. He was a Sunderland lad, breathing his first in South Bishopwearmouth, in what I am pleased to remind everyone was in County Durham, to Joseph, a coalminer, and Mary Jane McGorian (nee Ashbridge). Lilian calls her father Isaac throughout, never Jack.

He was raised in Sunderland, one of a family of 10 children – six boys and four girls – and left school at the age of 14 to follow his dad down the pit. In fact the family grew to 11 when his parents adopted a neighbour’s orphaned son.

Escape from the mines came at 22, when Isaac became a professional footballer, signing for his home-town club. Here, the family records begin to differ a little from the Rob Mason book, Lilian stating that her father played at right-half for them for five seasons (1922-1927). I will stick for now with her account:

“Sunderland’s First Division record for those five seasons makes interesting reading:

1922-23: Runners-up to Liverpool (6 points behind)
1923-24: Third (53 points) behind Huddersfield (champions, 57) and Cardiff (57)
1924-25: Seventh (48)
1925-26: Third (48) behind Huddersfield (Champs, 57) and Arsenal (52)
1926-27: Third (49) behind Newcastle (Champs, 56) and Huddersfield (51)”

Rob Mason and his statisticians have McGorian’s SAFC career tailing off in 1927-28, when we slipped to 15th (recovering to fourth in the following season, by which time he had left the club).

In the 1925-26 season, Lilian relates, he played against Stan Seymour (England and Newcastle), “one of the most outstanding left wingers of that time who played a major part in Newcastle winning the FA Cup in 1924 when he scored a goal in his club’s 2-0 victory against Aston Villa in the final”.

Having emigrated at the end of his professional playing career, he was reacquainted with Seymour in 1952 in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, when Newcastle toured Southern Africa as the FA Cup holders with Seymour by then the Newcastle team manager.

Manager of the Cranborne Arms in what was Southern Rhodesia.

Isaac – who appears to have been known as Ike as well as Jack – also played in the same Sunderland team as Charlie Buchan, described by Lilian as “the famous inside-right, a prolific goalscorer who scored a club record of 209 goals for the club between 1911 and 1925 when he was transferred to Arsenal”.

She adds that Isaac also represented the North of England XI against a Football Association XI in 1926, playing at right-half. He was transferred from Sunderland to Notts County in 1927 and played for them for four seasons (1927-31) and also played for Carlisle United.

This, from the Notts County transfer, is priceless:

In terms of an “Agreement for hire of a Player” between Isaac McGorian and Horace Henshall representing Notts County FC dated 30th April 1929. It was agreed that “the Club shall pay the said Player the sum of Six Pounds per week from May 6 1929 to August 24 1929 and Seven Pounds per week from August 24 1929 to May 3 1930 at which date the Agreement shall cease and determine. The Club shall pay the Player One Pound per week extra when in the First Team.”

And so, from the contract’s terms, is this:

“If the player shall prove palpably inefficient or shall be guilty of serious misconduct or beach of the disciplinary Rules of the Club, the Club may on giving 14 days;’ notice to the said Player or the Club may on giving 28 days’ notice to the said Player on any reasonable grounds terminante this Agreement and dispense with the services of the Player (without prejudice to the Club’s right for transfer fees) …”

What would Newcastle’s collection of former prisoners, care-in-the-community cases and Bigg Market bruisers make of that?

Lilian, above such tribal banter, resumes the story: “My father emigrated to South Africa in 1937 and settled in Kimberley where he was employed as a miner by De Beers Diamond Mines. He continued to play football for the local club De Beers and captained Griqualand West against the touring England FA team in 1939 in the last game of of their tour which England won 10-1!

Wedding day

“Isaac McGorian met his wife-to-be Mary Emma Engelsman while in Kimberley and was married to her on August 31 1940 in St Mary’s Cathedral in Kimberley and left Kimberley on the same day by train to live and work at the Roan and Antelope copper mine in Luanshya, Northern Rhodesia as a timberman.”

She says he was also a talented billiards and snooker player and once played an exhibition match against the world champion Horace Lendrum in Modderfontein, South Africa. He was also an excellent bowls player and won many tournaments and championships after he retired from football.

While in Luanshya the McGorians had their first child, Delia Mary, born in August 1943. The family moved back to Kimberley for a short time and then returned to Northern Rhodesia, this time to live in Chingola where Isaac worked at the Nchanga Copper Mine where Lilian Marguerite was born in October 1948.

The family decided to relocate to Salisbury Southern Rhodesia in 1951 and McGorian retired from mining and became the manager of the Cranborne Arms Club. Isaac eventually became a security officer based at the Salisbury International Airport.

Lilian adds the sad note that her father died in hospital on October 14 1978, a week after being involved in an accident and five days short of his 77th birthday. His nephew, Joseph McGorian, “was also heavily involved in football in England and was the president and a major force in the early years of the development of Southern League club, Solihull Borough … The club was elected to the Southern League Midland Division in 1991-92 and won the championship at its first attempt.”

* In the Salut! Sunderland “Mackem Diaspora” series,:Bill Richardson wrote: Born in Seaham ’47. Left for Natal, South Africa ’78. Moved up to the Transvaal in ’81 (Mpumalanga now) on the day Reagan was shot. Spent time in Swaziland, Cape Town (nuclear power station) so know what the problem is at Fukushima. Back in the old Transvaal now. Coal fired station. Never been back to Blighty …

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Monsieur Salut

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17 thoughts on “Isaac McGorian of Sunderland, Notts County and Carlisle: a tribute revisited”

  1. Hi, Iam a Notts County supporter and trying to find a picture of Isaac McGorin came across this story, brilliant.
    Would you be able to let me have a photocopy of his picture please.

  2. It was so good to have finally got my Dad’s story of his career as a professional footballer onto the internet. We were always so proud of him, he was always a gentleman and one of the kindest people around, especially to the less fortunate. He had a wonderful singing voice and was a marvellous ballroom dancer who loved music! I am amazed and happy to be connecting with other members of the McGorian Clan. Some of them arranged for a big reunion in Sheffield some years back when Tom (my husband) and I were on holiday in England – I think it was 1999. We live in Durban, South Africa now. I would love to hear from some of the McGorians again. Delia

  3. I have so enjoyed helping put the story of my Dad (Ike) together with my husband (Tommy Ballantyne) and sister (Lilian). I am also fascinated by the responses on this website relating to other branches of the McGorian Clan!
    We were always so proud of our Dad and his career in English First Division football.
    Ike was always a gentleman and a loving husband and father and one of the kindest people imaginable, especially to the less fortunate.
    Our family remain to this day staunch supporters of Sunderland.
    It is amazing how we are catching up with McGorian family news by means of the internet. My email address is Delia Mary McGorian-Ballantyne

  4. Ann, I was named after your Mum and was delighted to meet her when she came out to stay with us many years’ ago, she was such a sweetie. My sister, Delia, has a picture of your Mum and my Dad dancing in the street on New Year’s Eve in the then Salisbury, Rhodesia. I will ask Delia to scan it and I will send it to you. Please E-mail me as it will be great to communicate with another cousin! (
    Kind regards,

  5. I was delighted to read this article about my Uncle Ike, I never met him but felt I knew him as I learnt all about him from my mother his youngest sister Lily. She was so proud of him and loved him so much. Thank you so much for this article

  6. I Must piont out that uncle Ike had a brother called John we called him uncle Jack, don’t think he played football.

  7. in the Football echo Bobby Gurney told of his time at Sunderland, and Im have the echo from the week he mentioned that uncle ike was bset man at bobby’s wedding.

  8. I meant to say I have photograph of unclr Ike in ht=is sunderland days (not the best quality) .


  9. What a wonderfull story, like the reply above my mother was Mary Jane Briggs(nee Mcgorian) and got the same stories how jelous can you get, If Lilian or Delia are reading this I would love to be able to get in touch, as I am doing the family tree. to get more information would be great, and to learn I have relations I did not know about is fantastic. There is many more Mcgorians in Sunderland still. Please try to get in touch.

    Cheers George

  10. My mother Mary Jane Briggs (nee McGorian) used to talk of her Uncle Ike. Of the gifts she would get from him and Bobby Gurney.
    Other Sunderland players would also frequent mum’s house in Silksworh with Ike, as a consequence, mum grew up loving football, loving Sunderland Football Club and loving her ‘Uncle Ike’.

    RIP mum thinking of you right now !

  11. I had a lot of fun researching Isaac’s past as a footballer. Fortunately there was quite a bit of info available to me preserved by his wife Amy and which is publsihed in the article above. I wonder if many Sunderland fans remember the transfer of Charlie Buchan to Arsenal back in Ike’s days? But that’s another story!

  12. These are the responses received to the original posting:

    Jeremy says:

    I have to say that this is one of the best pieces that I’ve ever read on this site. Thanks to Bill for initiating the whole dialogue. How different could the life of a professional footballer have been? Unimaginably different. What a life Jack lived before and after his days with Sunderland.
    Thanks for providing such a fantastic insight into the life of a former player M. Salut. You are commended for it. A really lovely read.

    Anita says:

    What a fantastic and moving tribute to my grandfather. I’m Delia Mary’s youngest daughter and I live in London. I’m always telling my British friends about my grandfather. What special memories. Thank you for documenting all this with the help of my mum and aunt.

    salutsunderland says:

    Anita: it was a pleasure and I am deeply grateful to your mum and Lilian , not to mention Bill Richardson for bringing it to my attention in the first place. Lilian now tells me the nickname Jack was unknown to her – that was how Bill described him, and I think my reference book does too, but I must double check once I have a moment.

    Penny Suttie says:

    What a wonderful story about a wonderful man, Uncle Mac. Often think about the days when I used to spend the weekend with you and Aunty Amy, Delia and Lilian, when Lil and I were best friends at school in Salisbury. Memories linger on, you truly were a special person.

    Lilian Martin says:

    Thank you Colin for a great tribute to my Dad. Thank you Bill Richardson for putting Colin and I in touch. It really is a small world!

    Tracey Pietersen (nee Martin) says:

    That’s My Grandpa!!

    Lilian Martin says:

    I would like to say a very big thank you to my brother-in-law, Tommy Ballantyne (Delia’s husband) for all his hard work doing all the technical research about our Dad. Thanks Tom, it is much appreciated.

    Bruce Martin says:

    What a great tribute to my grandfather! Thank you for publishing this article, it means a lot to our family.

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