Many of you will be familiar with the history of the Robledo brothers George and Ted at United. George played in the 1951 cup winning side and both played in the 1952 FA Cup Final with George scoring the only goal of the game. Despite their Yorkshire accents and inability to speak Spanish both were Chilean nationals and thus the first two South Americans to win the FA Cup. George’s goalscoring record at Newcastle was remarkable, he netted 82 times in 146 games. There’s no doubt that he is a Club legend.
Both brothers left for Colo-Colo in Santiago de Chile in 1953 and went on to have interesting lives for very different reasons. Their lives and what they achieved during their careers were the reason for TF visiting Colo-Colo during July of this year.
It was a meeting with Pavel Piña, a fans liaison at the Chilean giants, that led to TF learning of one man’s attempts to get a blue plaque erected at the former Yorkshire home of the Robledo family. The article below is how and why the project came about and is written by Chris Brook, the driving force behind it.
TF recorded a podcast with Chris which you can listen to by clicking on the link at the bottom of the article.
From Chile to Northern England
Shortly after the war, Elsie Oliver moved from West Melton in South Yorkshire to Argentina to be a governess for a family involved in the mining industry. At some stage, this family relocated to Chile, which is where Elsie met Aristides Robledo.
Together, they had three sons, George, Ted and Walter, before economic instability in Chile contributed to their decision to move to England. One account suggests that Aristides was expected to travel with the family but went to buy some cigarettes and failed to board the ship.
Elsie returned to the mining village of West Melton and lived with her boys above her Uncle Walter’s shop. It is on this property that a blue plaque is set to be unveiled in April 2020.
Sadly, the Robledo brothers are largely unheard of in South Yorkshire, aside the older Barnsley supporters. The idea of a memorial was a result of the approaching centenary of school football competition, the Totty Cup.
That’s where I come in. I am a former teacher although I still organise the Totty Cup, which, in 1939, was won by Brampton Ellis school. The scorers included Turner, Garside and Spencer. However, it was the name of Robledo, scoring 4 goals in the final, that stood out to me as unusual.
The competition takes place Don & Dearne region, named after the rivers and wedged between the towns of Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham. This area was the heart of the miners’ strike of 1984-85. In the village of Goldthorpe, locals burned an effigy of Margaret Thatcher to celebrate her death in 2013. Goldthorpe is where Russell Totty started the Totty Cup back in 1923.
In this area, the pride shown by people who have won the Totty Cup is only matched by those who have won the adult equivalent, the Montagu Cup. This has been running since 1897 to raise funds for the Mexborough Montagu hospital and the final still takes place annually on Easter Monday.
I heard a rumour that George Robledo played in each of the finals of the Totty Cup, Montagu Cup, FA Cup and World Cup. Despite extensive research I could not find proof of the Montagu Cup appearance until, in the programme for the 2019 final, a report in the “75 years ago” section mentions George scoring the winner in the 1944 final.
The 1952 FA Cup final goal for Newcastle against Arsenal is well documented. So, not only had George played in these finals, he had scored in each of them – admittedly it was the World Cup finals of 1950, rather than the final itself.
This goal was immortalised by 11-year-old John Lennon’s sketch, which he later used the image for his album cover “Walls & Bridges”.
Ted himself played in the 1952 FA Cup final as well as representing Chile. The whole family uprooted for the brothers’ transfer from Barnsley to Newcastle in 1949 and then again in 1953 to Colo-Colo in Chile.
In 1970, Ted (aged 42) went missing from a ship, the Al Sahn, sailing out of Dubai. There was said to have been a fight with the ship’s captain, although no one who knew him believed that the introspective Ted could have provoked such a confrontation. The captain was charged with murder, and acquitted.
George retired from football in 1961 and taught PE in Viña del Mar, where he remained leading a quiet life until his death of a heart attack on 1 April 1989, just before his 63rd birthday.
The Blue Plaque project
In May 2019, I decided to put forward the idea of a blue plaque on the former home of the Robledos – 97 Barnsley Road, West Melton.
Firstly, I needed proof. All I had was a claim on Facebook by biographer, David Bret, that he had lived at 97 Barnsley Road immediately after the Robledos. The 1931 census was destroyed by fire and the 1941 census did not take place because of the war. I tracked down Lucy Thorpe through the family history site, My Heritage, where she had included the Robledos in her family tree. Lucy’s father has the original contracts for George and Ted when they signed for Barnsley FC – complete with the address – 97 Barnsley Road.
Now that I had proof, I needed permission. The property is no longer a shop. It has been converted into 4 flats. A search on the Land Registry revealed the owner to be Richard Talbot of Bexhill-on-Sea. Richard was happy to give permission for the blue plaque on his property.
The cost of the plaque would be £350 – raising the money became the next hurdle. The Barnsley Chronicle ran a few articles about the project. Reporter, Ashley Ball, suggested I set up a crowd-funding page to “strike while the iron’s hot”. One week later, when we were half-way to our target, Barnsley FC got wind of the idea and offered to fund the plaque.
Everything was falling into place. I had an urge to contact the Robledo family about the idea. A Chronicle reader helped to trace the surviving non-footballing brother Walter to Richmond in Surrey. Walter, ironically, is not really interested in football and worked in the copper mining industry in Chile and the USA before settling in England with his family.
George’s daughter, Elizabeth, was trickier to find. An article in Spanish by Paulo Molina in 2016 mentioned a few quotes from Elizabeth. I found Paulo on Twitter and she put me in touch with Elizabeth who now lives in Chile.
Between us, we settled on April 14th as an appropriate date for the unveiling – George’s birthday. The downside to this date is that it is Easter Tuesday and the cost of flights from Chile is very expensive at this popular time to travel.
As well as the plaque, I hope to produce an information board to hang in the nearby Westville Club.
Approximately 100 years after Elsie crossed the Atlantic, Elizabeth will hopefully be crossing in the opposite direction to join Walter in witnessing a tribute to the remarkable Robledo family.
Firsts & Records
- George and Ted were the first South Americans to play professional football for a British team.
- George became the first overseas* player to become top scorer in England, scoring 39 goals from inside-forward (previous top-scorers had almost always played centre-forward)
- George held the record for most goals scored by an overseas* player in the top-flight for almost 50 years.
- George was the first South American to play in the FA Cup final 1951
- George and Ted played in the FA Cup final in 1952 – the first time two foreign players had played in one team in a Cup final.
- John Lennon (aged 11) drew Robledo scoring the winning goal in the 1952 FA Cup final – this sketch was later used for Lennon’s album cover, “Walls and Bridges”.
- George played and scored in the 1950 World Cup finals for Chile. Ted joined George in the national team. Appearing together in the side beaten 1-0 by Argentina in the final of the 1955 South American Cup in front of 65,000 people in Santiago’s Estadio Nacional.
- In the early 50’s George introduced lightweight rubber football boots to his Newcastle team-mates, after returning from an international match.
- Locally, George played and scored in the Totty Cup final (1939) and Montagu Cup final (1944), before doing the same in the FA Cup final (1952) and World Cup finals (1950)
- At Brampton Ellis School in the 1938-9 season, George scored 56 goals on the way to helping the team win 5 trophies.
*overseas – non-British (excluding Ireland)
Relevant links are at the bottom of this webpage: https://tinyurl.com/yae389md
Chris Brook – @brookchrisbrook
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