In our age of electronic communication, it is quite possible to know other people a little, or even a lot, without ever having met or spoken to them.
So it is with the Blackcats e-mail list, a disparate group of Sunderland fans scattered to assorted corners of the world. When names pop up, I can identify a few fellow supporters I have known for years, a few I am on nodding terms with and many more I have never met.
George Pitcher was in that last category. His name would appear from time to time, with comments on some or other aspect of Sunderland AFC’s activities or on some off-piste topic raised to lighten the tone. I last saw his name there in June, when he joined a discussion about pre-season friendlies.
He signed off with his name followed by (“in his hospital bed”). No further information, certainly nothing to indicate he was gravely ill or about to become so. But last week, his wife, Kathy, added this sad message at Facebook: “I am making this post on behalf of my husband, George, to let his Facebook friends know that he passed away on Sunday 14th in St Colombus Hospice.” George, who had been business development manager for Publishing Technology plc, was only 61.
Salut! Sunderland’s sympathies go out to Kathy and all family and friends. They will be shared by so many others who knew him as I did, as a sort of like-minded modern equivalent of the pen friend.
But let me tell you a little more about George. In a fascinating series here on the Mackem Diaspora in 2011, inspired by memories posted at Blackcats, George wrote of himself:
Well, I’m Newcastle born and bred and the red sheep of my family. First went to Roker Park with my mother’s cousin in 61 or 62 to see the lads against Swansea Town (as they were then). Was an intermittent attendee during the 1960s and joined the RAF in 1970. On escaping in 1974, returned to Newcastle (Heddon on the Wall, actually) until I moved to Edinburgh in 1979.
I have been a season ticket holder while in Edinburgh, prior to getting married, but have not been anything lime as often as I would have liked since then. I have to admit that apart from friendlies in Edinburgh (don’t think I’ve missed one since 79), the last time I saw a home game it was the final league game at Roker Park against Everton.
I am hoping to make my first pilgrimage to the SoL later this year, with my second eldest son, as his treat to return the complement after I took him to Barcelona in December ( not much difference, eh?).
Among facebook messages:
* From Cathie: “George and I worked together on Heron at Stirling University. I remember his dry wit and friendship to all of us with great fondness. I am thinking of you and all his family.”
* Brian Cobb: “I am a friend of George’s from his RAF days. I remember him as an intelligent man with a sharp wit. He was very knowledgeable and passionate about aviation, music and Sunderland Football club … Rest in peace, George. You left us too soon.”