Relatives of Billy Smith – one of Huddersfield Town’s greatest-ever players – have reconnected for the first time in a generation thanks to an article by Huddersfield Hub.
Billy, part of the glorious Town side which won the league championship three years in succession in the 1920s, will forever have legend status at the club.
He sealed his place in the club’s history when he scored the goal which won the 1922 FA Cup, the only time Town have lifted the famous old trophy.
Much is known about Billy’s 21-year football career but much less about his early life growing up in a pit village called Tantobie in County Durham.
A story about Billy published by Huddersfield Hub last year was found on the internet by Steve Graham, Billy’s great-nephew – Steve’s grandmother Barbara was Billy’s sister – and that led to a family being re-connected for the first time in more than 70 years.
Steve’s family still lives in the North East while Billy’s grandson Robert and granddaughter Liz live in West Yorkshire.
Billy was one of seven brothers and sisters but died aged 55 in April 1951.
Steve stumbled across a story we ran in July last year when Robert and Liz were invited to launch the new Town kit. The shirt featured Billy’s name to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1-0 FA Cup Final victory over Preston North End.
Steve contacted Huddersfield Hub and asked us to put him in touch with Robert and Liz and that’s what we did.
Steve said: “It’s an amazing thing that’s happened here. Through the article on the Hub I have managed to reconnect with a part of my family which we haven’t been able to do in a generation.
“We are immensely proud to be connected to Billy and have lots of photos from his time growing up in the North East.
“Billy was one of seven and I only knew two of his siblings Minna and Nora. Both were my great aunties. They introduced me to Billy’s archive and told me about him.
“I have treasured this archive since I was given it and always thought how great it would be to tell Town fans about it.”
Born on May 23 1895 in Tantobie to Mary Jane and Thomas Henry Smith, Billy was destined for a life down the pit as most young lads were back then.
Thomas Henry worked on a farm in the village and, according to family legend, all seven children were born on the farm.
Steve said: “As far as we are aware growing up they were a really happy family.
“As for Billy we don’t exactly know how he went from Tantobie to Huddersfield but we are led to believe he played for a little mining village team called Hobson Welfare and was scouted by Huddersfield from there.
“We do know that Billy’s father was also a local councillor so the Smith family will have been well known in the village.”
Billy went to Huddersfield for a trial in 1913. He impressed the Town management and was invited back.
When it came to contract negotiations Billy kept his nerve and wrote to the board saying he wouldn’t play for less than 50 shillings a week (£2.50 in today’s money). He got his deal and ended up playing 521 matches, scoring 126 goals.
Tragically, Billy’s father was knocked down and killed by a car in 1924 just when his son was at the peak of his powers at Town.
Steve said it was great to be able to keep Billy’s memory alive and share his family archive with others.
“Billy is one of the greatest players in English football but there are lots of people who don’t know about him,” said Steve.
“I have been speaking to the Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association regarding the archive and how best we can present it to the Town fans. Billy feels closer than ever to us because we have now connected to Robert and Liz, who my sister Barbara is also excited to meet.
“The archive includes a wide range of family photos and postcards of the whole family. Covering Billy’s time at Huddersfield it includes framed individual and team pictures, some match programmes, a souvenir blotter and some press cuttings covering both the 1922 FA Cup Final and Billy’s fourth and last benefit match against Sheffield Wednesday in 1933 just before his retirement.
“One especially nice postcard was sent by Billy to his sister Barbara – my grandmother – when he was in the Navy in World War One. Another shows Billy, looking dapper in waistcoat and smoking a cigarette, with his then landlady in Huddersfield who I think was called Ma Meghan, who became a close friend of Billy’s family in the North East.
Robert said he and Liz loved hearing from Steve and they hope to meet up soon.
“We are delighted to reconnect with Steve and find out all about Billy’s life in Tantobie and we hope to meet in person,” he said. “Liz has visited Tantobie before but I never have so it will be great to see where Billy lived.”