This article appeared in the Cambridge United programme for the game against Stevenage on 26 September 2015.
Favourite moment in United history? A certain early summer day at Wembley in 2014, perhaps. A cheeky flick, lob or chip from Dave Kitson? The moment in 1991 when the U’s strode out at Highbury to face the mighty Gunners, roared on by (literally) countless thousands? That unforgettable 5-1 at London Road in 1989? Or perhaps your memory goes back to the day in 1970 when United’s election to the Football League was announced, or further back to the days of Wilf Mannion, the Gallego brothers or even Abbey United’s Wally Wilson and Harvey Cornwell.
The story of the U’s covers a long, long time – 103 years, perhaps even longer – and involves innumerable people, places and events. It’s Coconuts’ aim to cover that entire era and recognise the huge part played by the Cambridge United family in making this the greatest little club in the world.
The first chance to do that in the flesh, as it were, comes next month when a 100 Years of Coconuts display opens at the Museum of Cambridge – the fascinating and inspiring place that used to be known as the Folk Museum. It’s on from October 9 until November 27, and you’ll find the museum at the corner of Castle Hill and Northampton Street.
This will be the first pop-up display in a series enabled by our grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and will be followed by a more permanent mini-museum in the Supporters’ Club. We’re talking to other museums that are keen to welcome similar displays. We’re also talking to the Abbey Stadium landlords, Grosvenor, but that’s a story for another time.
The Museum of Cambridge’s Community Cabinet, on the first floor of the ancient building that was once the White Horse Inn, enables many groups to put on this kind of exhibition. The Coconuts display will take visitors (that includes you) on a journey from 1912 to the present day using photographs, rare documents, memorabilia, other precious artefacts, a pair of ladies’ pants and a little imagination. The Coconuts mannequins, whom we’ve named Julian and Sandy in an act of homage to Round the Horne, will model contrasting football fashions from different eras.
While we’re making every effort to make this little exhibition as good as it can be, we’ll also be using it to learn museum-making lessons that will benefit us in formulating future displays. That’s where you come in. Feedback forms will be available at the museum, and we’d also welcome your thoughts in writing on what you’ve seen: please email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form at 100yearsofcoconuts.co.uk/contact-us.html.
While we contemplate the prospect of huge swarms of U’s fans and football historians queuing all the way down to Magdalene Bridge, we’re also wondering where to put all the stuff we’re accumulating when it’s not on display. We’ve been particularly overwhelmed by donations of programmes. While the Coconuts programme collection is in its infancy, it’s fair to say we’ve more than enough from recent years. But please, if you’re thinking of donating or loaning programmes from between the 1940s and the 1980s, go right ahead. You can contact us via the means above, or perhaps leave small donations at the CFU caravan on match days.
See you at the museum.
Once again, we are mourning the loss of a dearly loved member of the Cambridge United family: Ray Proctor, brother of United’s Fans’ Elected Director Colin and a committed supporter from the late 1940s.
Colin writes: Ray was born in Ditton Fields, right next to his beloved club. He attended Brunswick School and moved on to St George’s at the age of 11.
On leaving school at 15 he became an apprentice panel beater at the bottom of Ditton Walk. He did his three-year apprenticeship and then decided to become a fireman on British Rail. He enjoyed his time working with many friends on the railway and his claim to fame was firing on the Flying Scotsman from Cambridge to Liverpool Street. All his mates were very envious of that trip.
Ray left the railway, like many others, when Dr Richard Beeching and the Conservative government axed much of the country’s rail infrastructure in the 1960s. He then joined CIS Insurance and very quickly moved upwards to become an inspector.
Ray’s selling ability was exceptional, and he was in line to become a manager. Our family business (Proctor Upholstery and Removals) was going from strength to strength and in 1975 we encouraged Ray to become Transport Manager, helping us to become the second largest company of its kind in East Anglia. After many successful years our family business was purchased by a London firm in 1983, and Ray worked as a taxi driver from then until the present day.
Growing up, we all had that desire to support Abbey United. It was a fantastic time. In 1954, Ray and I travelled to Newport in Wales to see the U’s play in the first round of the FA Cup. This was a history-making trip for us as we had never been out of Cambridge, and it was also the first time we had played a Football League club. We supported the club with many of our friends, and it was in our blood never to miss a game.
Ray was married in 1959 and had three sons and a daughter. He, one son and a grandson have been season ticket holders for many years. Ray was a long-term member of the Vice-Presidents’ Club.
He will be sadly missed by all the Proctor family and especially his beloved Cambridge United.
His proud brother Colin. RIP Ray.
Happy Harry's blog
I'm the living embodiment of the spirit of the U's, and I'll be blogging whenever I've got news for you, as long as I don't miss my tea.