Thorpebank Road, Shepherds Bush & The QPR Connection

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If I mention Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, older supporters will immediately think of the quirky BBC series ’Monty Python’s Flying Circus’. Amongst the most famous sketches from the show were the ‘New Gas Cooker’ sketch and the ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ sketch. Both of these were filmed in Thorpebank Road, Shepherds Bush in 1969. So what’s that got to do with Queen’s Park Rangers ? Well nothing, but if you visit the following Site, it will give you an idea of how Thorpebank Road looked in those days:

But we have to go back to the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, to find the connection between Thorpebank Road and Queen’s Park Rangers. Rangers were then in the Third Division. The players were not well paid and often had to live as lodgers in houses close to the ground in Shepherds Bush. For some unknown reason, Thorpebank Road seemed to have more than its fair share of Rangers players living in the road.

In those days, lodgers were a necessity for some families. Mums were housewives and Dads were the breadwinners, usually earning low wages. Most of Shepherds Bush was a working class area. The houses in Thorpebank Road would be described as two up and two down. This meant two bedrooms, a box room and a bathroom/toilet upstairs. Downstairs had a living room, front room and kitchen. Strangely, the houses did have the luxury of both an inside and outside toilet. In those cramped conditions, the lodgers had no choice but to live as part of the family and muck in. My own parents lived in the road and took in lodgers for several reasons. My brother Harry was born in 1945 and I was born in 1950. So as you can imagine with the four of us, and lodgers, our house was pretty full at times.

Famous players that I can remember lodging in the road were Bobby Cameron, a schoolboy Scottish international who joined Rangers in 1950. He scored 59 goals in 256 appearances, before moving to Leeds in 1959. Then there was Clive Clark, who came from Leeds in 1958 and later moved to West Bromwich Albion in 1960. Other players included Peter Angell who played from 1953 to 1965 and made over 400 appearances for Rangers. Bernard Evans, who played from 1960 to 1963 and scored 35 goals in 78 games and George Whitelaw who played from 1958 to 1960 and scored 10 goals in 26 appearances. I also recall Peter Hobbs, but can’t remember much about him. My brother remembers that he came to Rangers from Sittingbourne. The two players that stayed longest at our house were Joe Cini, a Maltese international and Don Tomkins, from Wrexham in North Wales.

Joe played for several clubs in Malta including Hibernians, Sliema Wanderers and Floriana. He was a skilful outfield player and represented Malta at international level. He also captained the National team many times. Joe was the first Maltese player to play in the English League, firstly for Leyton Orient and then the Rangers. Another time I remember Joe taking us to the ground. We changed in the Rangers dressing room before going out onto the pitch. At that time there was only the wooden Ellerslie Road Stand. The rest of the ground was stone terracing, with iron crush barriers and the low perimeter wall. The only other building was the old refreshment hut, which was little more than a garden shed

Don had been in National Service before joining Rangers. He was posted to Cyprus during the troubles of the mid 1950’s. I remember him teaching me survival tips that he had learnt in service. One was how to make a hunting weapon similar to an arrow, but propelled by a piece of string. He was also an accomplished bricklayer and built a coal bunker for us in the back yard. Up until that time the coal was stored under the stairs. I have this funny memory of him helping to rearrange the rooms and beds. He told us to put a mattress on his back and he would carry it downstairs. The weight was too much for him and he ran down the stairs, legs going like a cartoon character. Luckily the front door was closed otherwise he would have ended up in a heap on the pavement !

My brother, who was five years older than me, was a keen supporter. Being a teenager, he relished mixing with the players. He remembers Joe taking him to an expensive Italian hairdresser and also proudly wearing expensive Italian clothing passed on to him by Joe. I must confess that being much younger I was more interested in the presents the players used to give me. One Christmas, my present was a magnetic football game. I seem to remember that Joe and Don enjoyed playing with it as much as I did.

The South African player, Stuart Leary, came to stay for a short time. I think it may have been when he first arrived at Loftus Road. At that time he was playing both football for Rangers and cricket for Kent. He must have been quite wealthy because he used to drive a new Jag. He certainly turned heads in our road, because in those days very few people owned cars and a Jag was quite a rarity.

I remember various people visiting the house including Tony Ingham, the trainer Alec Farmer and the Manager, the great Alec Stock. On one of these occasions, we were asked to accommodate three young lads who had come down for a trial. By rearranging the house we managed to squeeze them all in one bedroom.

By the mid 1960’s, all the players had left the road and Rangers were on the way up. Winning the League Cup on 4th March 1967, the day after my birthday – and yes I was at Wembley. They then went on to gain promotion to the Second and then the First Division. The rest is history. Joe returned to Malta and continued playing football, but became a goalkeeper when his legs started to give up. When he finally retired he started designing and making Sulkies – a cart used in horse trotting races. I’ve been over to Malta twice; once in the 1980’s and again in the 1990’s, and on both occasions meeting up with Joe. On my last visit, my friend and I went out to dinner with Joe and a group of ex-Floriana players. We all ended up very drunk !

As a postscript, in the 2008/09 Malta Football Awards, Joe was given a special Career Award.

Peter Trott

About The Images:
1.The top one shows me with my brother Harry and Don Tomkins
2. Next down is Joe Cini with my brother and that’s me with the hat on !
3. On the hallowed turf with Joe Cini
4. With Mum, Dad, Don Tomkins and the cat
5. Joe Cini in Malta at a Floriana players re-union



32 Responses to Thorpebank Road, Shepherds Bush & The QPR Connection

  1. Brilliant article – fascinating! URR’s

  2. Allan Klo says:

    Very interesting story of bits and pieces I’ve never heard of before.
    Thanks.

  3. paul kennedy says:

    I lived at 84 Thorpebank for 30 years used to see the players park down there when I was growing up. Remember decorating outside of our house for the 82 cup final.
    Its a different place now sadly.

    great memories

  4. Kerrins says:

    Wonderful article Peter.

    I remember those days…You would have been the envy of all us kid R’s Supporters having Rangers players stay at your house.

    Yes Joe Cini..The Bearded wonder at outside right. He never really made it at Loftus Rd and I think scored only the one goal against Bury (Home) in 1960 which I missed because of Chicken Pox….He was though a Star international player for Malta and I reckon subsequently won their Footballer of the year on at Least one occassion.

    I recall that Jag of Stuart Leary it was indeed quite a sensation back then when seen about the ground. A lot of the time he drove it to away matches instead of going on the team coach/Train…Hmm strange. I have often wondered how that went down with the Manager and the other players.

    That particular area of Shepherds Bush must really have been popular as players lodgings back then…Galloway Road was once host to the Springett Brothers.

  5. Stephen says:

    great story and photos. Its what makes this website stand out from the others. Well done to all involved.

  6. Stuart says:

    Hi Peter. I met you on Monday and you said that this was to be posted any minute! A great read, and it was a pleasure meeting you. Cheers

  7. Colin Woodley ESSEXURs says:

    Great article.
    Brings back memories of my early days of travelling from Essex to the R’s in the late 60′s and early 70′s when you could park in the area of Thorpebank Road without fear of 20 years hard labour!
    Sitting in the car before the match you would frequently see Rs players walking to the ground (how times have changed) and I can still remember a very young Phil Parkes strolling past with his trousers struggling to reach his shoes not long after he signed for us.
    Great memories of simple times.

  8. jjcolls says:

    Brilliant article, and how refreshing to hear of down to earth players who lodged with families near the ground.
    Some of it before my time, but I remember most of the players names as my dad would often talk of them.
    A time when LR was classed as home from many in and around the area. A proper club for the proud people of Sheperds Bush.

    Thanks to Peter Trott and Steve Russell.

  9. Martin says:

    Super article, lovely bit of history. I recall a picture of Rodney Marsh parking his Lotus in Ellerslie Rd. All a very far cry from nowadays.

  10. Chris Guy says:

    Brilliant article Peter , great memories and some great photos what a sense of community there must have been then with players and fans living right in amongst it down the bush, a far cry these days where our fan base is so spread out from the traditional areas of Shepherds Bush , Acton ,Ealing etc.
    It would be great if somehow there was a book published of memories like these from the fans I would love to read a book of stories , especially from this era before I statred going, also fans memories of the 75-76 season where I was just to young to experience it.
    Well done also to Steve, articles like this set this website apart from the others.

  11. Steve Zico says:

    A brilliant Article Peter, thanks for sharing the memories.

  12. julia says:

    Great memories, thank you for sharing them!

  13. ZRanger says:

    Fantastic article Peter.

  14. Moreno Ferrari says:

    Excellent article Peter certainly brings to life the era and the area surrounding Rangers.
    I believe that Joe Cini is still alive and well and still living in Malta and working as a blacksmith.
    I’ve seen a couple of pictures of him on the Flickr photo sharing website.

  15. Ian says:

    Fascinating stories!
    I lived at 76 from when I was born in 1957 until 2005.
    I remember stories from my (now sadly deceased neighbour) at no.80 Charlie Turner. He was a long time season ticket holder & used to tell me that his Mum who was incidentally French regularly lodged R’s players in those early days.
    Unfortunately I was not aware of the actual players being too young & only started my life long support of the R’s in 1966.(even though as a Monty P.fan as well it was my claim to fame with my friends that it was filmed in Thorpebank Road.)
    Remeber the great Rodney (Rod-neee!) Marsh presenting 5-a-side trophies at the nearby Wormholt Youth Club & running all the way home & back with a pencil & paper just to get his autograph, making my eldest sister Carol so jealous. Suppose I did not think he or any anyone else there would have a pen or paper! Happy days!

  16. Pamela Bolwerk says:

    I loved reading this article. We lived in Malta from 1966 to 1970 where we spent the happiest times and we were great friends with Joe and Connie Cini. Joe was captain of the Maltese football team at the time.
    Lovely to see the photos of Joe again and to see that he is still celebrating! We lost toouch years ago and if you have an email address for them I would love to get in touch again.
    Pamela Bolwerk

  17. Kerrins says:

    Pamela

    It was a pity Joe did not stay longer at QPR FC.

  18. Michael Sherry says:

    Very interesting piece – I lived with my parents in Thorpebank Road for many years & you can see me outside the newsagents John Cleese emerged from to start his funny walk….the crews trucks etc took over the road – very exciting for a schoolboy!
    We also had many actors lodging in the road due to being close to BBC WOOD LANE & BBC LIME GROVE studios … I remember Rolf Harris there for a short time.

  19. Alex Cini says:

    Pamela Bolwerk,

    I doubt the fact if you come across this. I came across this blog while searching on the internet. I am Joe Cini’s grandson. Both Nanna Connie and Nannu Joe are all right. If you’d like to meet up or contact them, just let me know by emailing me :)

    Alex

  20. Nick says:

    The top photo is at number 105 Thorpebank Road. Our family moved there in 1970 when I was 5 years old.Although I left home when I was 17 it’s still our family home today!!
    Just out of view of the photo is the newsagents which was right next door (number 107). Ironically, the owner of the newsagents, Reg Whitley, was a QPR fanatic and I remember him rounding everyone up to go to the home games.If you didn’t go to a game he’d give you a hard time and refuse to serve you in his shop. Truly great days ! Thanks for a fantastic article.
    Nicholas Aghadiuno

  21. Peter Trott says:

    The house pictured is number 29 Thorpebank Road not 105.

  22. DWofThorpebank says:

    With reply to Nicky Aghadiuno and his comments about Reg Whitley, the newsagent, I will tell you now there was a ‘black book’ of people who were banned just because they didn’t attend QPR home games! And your Dad, god bless him, was in it most weeks!!!!!!!!! Last time I saw your mum, was when I bumped into her a couple of years when I happened to park in Thorpebank, opposite the old shop, got a big hug, as did my daughter, who she had never met before! Hope you are well, and the family.

    David, (Regs youngest son).

    The old man is still going down QPR despite suffering a broken hip, two brain bleeds and a knee operation in the last 12 months!

  23. Nicky Aghadiuno says:

    David, I’m so happy to hear that Reg is still going strong.What a legend that man was!I looked up to him so much.He was harder on me than my old man was. As a kid,I learned more football skills from Reg Whitely outide your shop on the Thorpebank Road than I did from any youth team coach.I remember witnessing him doing 100 keepy-uppies whilst holding a cup of tea in his hand!Hope to bump in to you at some games this season.
    Please pass on my ultimate regards to Reg and your family.

    Nicky Aghadiuno

  24. Nicky Aghadiuno says:

    To Peter Trott,
    I think I could be forgiven for mistaking 29 for 105.From the angle of the photo it’s hard to tell them apart.After all, we have an identical doorbell (still working!), same brick wall and same gate.

    Nicholas Aghadiuno

  25. DWofThorpebank says:

    Nicky, will pass on you kind regards. If you hang around SAR before the first game of the season it will be hard to miss the old man as he makes his way to the ground, with two sticks, flank by myself and my brother and also my daughter. Laughed about the brick wall at 105, if I remember rightly, one d to be knocked down as the builder who built it, lets just say, wasn’t very good! Always remember your dad, nothing ever upset him, always smiling, always joking, life wasn’t serious as far as he was concerned.

  26. Pingback: Wormholt Park – The First Hundred Years | Independent Rs

  27. John McLaughlin says:

    David, Please pass on my best wishes to Reg as well – I was a regular customer of his for many years, from the next street – Galloway – from 1976 until 1993. I lived at 117B – the odd house that faced Dunraven and had like a private alleyway with a roller door behind it. the “alleyway” was very useful for home matches, as I’d leave my car outside until my mate arrived, then move it down the alley for him to park across – and off we’d go to Loftus Road. I rented the house from the Perlins – who ran their business from the front room (Reg knew them well, too) and then bought it from them. I discovered the house used to be where the rent collector lived – he got the rents for Joe Allan, who built many of the houses around there and lived in Wormholt Lodge. An old guy once told me of his memories of Joe Allan sitting in the “alleyway” in his bathchair (with his beyy spilling out either side) to watch his tenants paying their rent through the side window of 117B. When I lived there, you could still see Joe Allan’s name on some of the manhole covers in the local streets. His stables were out the back of 117B and – from Google – look as if they are still there.
    So, best wishes to Reg from John, if he remembers me (and still a season ticket holder in the Upper Loft).

  28. Darren Wragge says:

    Hi Peter,ive just found this post and the memoriers are flooding back to me as you know the wragge’s lived down thorpebank rd (62) from when the houses were first built.
    charlie turner and his mum always gave me toffies when i whent in there house he used to take me to the qpr home games he took me to my very first rs game must of been 1974 ish, the old familes the daycotts,connells, sherrys,mr walker and his son glen ,mr aghadiono such a nice bloke.up your end of the street the verys then the shop reg and his wife ive bumped into david a few times in milton keynes nice to see some old faces.and dont forget the tv stars that lived down there as well.

    • Peter says:

      Hi Darren

      I do remember you but it’s many years since your family left Thorpebank Road.

      My late mother Ivy Trott was a friend of your mother Ivy. Also my mums sister Doll married Reg Wragge and they lived in Lakeside Road.

      Peter

      • darren wragge says:

        Hi ya peter long time no see mate hope you are well I said to larry about your post and he started to recall some of the things that have been posted on here.
        I remember my aunt doll well and uncle reg lol
        how could i forget.its nice to see some old names up here. Ive seen david reg’s son a few times in milton keynes i live in bedford now still miss thorpebank rd though .ill be down soon, as my little girl wants to see were i grew up i was sorry to here of your mums passing…even up here i get the news.ive fond memories of your mum and all the brass she sold my mum lol.and my dad cleaning it all.take care mate Darren.

  29. Charles Aghadiuno says:

    The house in the photo is definitely not number 105! As his older brother, I can state with absolute certainty that the brick wall Nicky refers to wasn’t even built until the early 1970s. We had a ramshackle wooden fence for some years until it became so dilapidated that our dad finally decided to have it replaced.The story of the erection of that brick wall is a sorry tale indeed. Let’s just say that it took more than one attempt and the final result which stands so firm after all these years,was NOT the work of the Nigerian bricklayer originally entrusted with the task!

  30. John McLaughlin says:

    Hi David (DW),
    I posted about your Dad, Reg, earlier in this exchange, as I lived on Galloway Road for 17 years, just round the corner and used to buy my newspaper from Reg (and cigarettes at first, but – sensibly – I gave up!).
    I’m posting as I’m about to move to Milton Keynes in July and it would be good to meet up some time there. I’ll be moving to Two Mile Ash and it would be good to find a fellow Rs supporter in MK. I shall of course remain a season ticket holder (Upper Loft) and will therefore continue to visit W12 regularly (including the Crown & Sceptre before and after matches).
    John


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