March 14 2017

Recording that Northern League side Middlesbrough Ironopolis reached the FA Cup quarter-final in 1893, yesterday’s blog noted a contemporary newspaper report that Nops defender Bob Chatt had “stuck to his opponent like an American postmaster to his office.”

Thanks to Mr Dan Harden in Kansas, the unique adhesion of American postmasters will be explained shortly: suffice that the drink had a lot to do with it.

Firstly, however, some Chatt lines.

Born in 1870 in Barnard Castle, he was one of three Barney boys in the Aston Villa side which lifted the FA Cup in 1895 and the only man in history to win  FA Cup and FA Amateur Cup medals in that order.

Villa, of course, didn’t hold it for long. A few days after their triumph, the silverware was stolen from a shop window in Birmingham. The FA fined them £25 for their carelessness.

Chatt also helped the Villans, who should not be confused with the smash and grabbers, to three successive league titles – the first, in 1893-94, by six points from Sunderland. His goal in the 1895 FA Cup final was timed, perhaps approximately, at 30 seconds – a record which stood for a century.

After leaving Villa, he was reinstated as an amateur, in the Stockton side which beat Harwich and Parkeston in the 1899 FA Amateur Cup final at Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough. Since it was only March 25, the ground was covered in snow.

Chatt went on to play for South Shields and Willington Athletic and became a trainer for several clubs, including Newport County from 1922-31.

Whatever the authenticity of his amateur status, he and his wife Chrissie are said to have spent some time living in a tent by the River Greta, near Barnard Castle. Greta Griffiths, their daughter, swore that it was the reason for her forename. It is not, I suppose, inconceivable.

And that sticky situation? Before 1971, says Dan, US postmasters were appointed by the president. Typically they were “political hacks”, in a job for life save for some major malfeasance, like refusing to deliver the mail.

“Refusing to deliver the mail was usually the result of some prolonged, alcohol-induced, stupor. During the stupor nothing, including mail delivery, happened. Everywhere, down to the smallest hamlet, had a postmaster.

“It was often the easiest, most long-lasting and best paying job in a rural community. You stuck to your office like a good defender.”

Since 1971, postmasters have been appointed on ability to do the job and are subject to annual appraisal. Most still manage to hang on. That’s the story, and the stamp of the man, anyway.