Retro Sport: The Broadhempston incident – part two

Brian Carter

Brian Carter - Credit: Archant

After an offside decision in a match at Broadhempston, the referee’s clothes were found in a bath of muddy water! Now Collaton United face a disciplinary hearing! They are told that they cannot have legal representation, unless the representative is an active member the club...

At our last committee meeting before the disciplinary hearing, I was nominated as one of the five players to represent the club.

Brian Carter, our chairman, secretary and club captain, told us that the referee, and the Broadhempston club, would appear on the Thursday, and we would present our defence on the following day.

That Friday soon arrived, and we all knew that, unless we found the culprit, the day might end with a season-long suspension for all of us.

South Devon League disciplinary hearings were held at the Liberal Club in Newton Abbot, and as I peered into the bar, I was met by the warm sweet smell of farmhouse cider.

“You’m upstairs, bouy!” shouted the barman, and I climbed the wooden stairs to the spacious room which was to be our ‘Star Chamber’.

Fred Hewings, who would chair the meeting, was sat on a long bench, behind a trestle table, flanked by the three countrymen, who formed his disciplinary committee.

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“Hello Roger!” said Fred, as I found a chair next to my club mates.

We all loved Fred, who had devoted most of his life to nurturing local football, but he looked serious tonight!

“Good evening, gentlemen,” he began. “We have a serious matter to discuss with you tonight. These are the charges you face.”

Just as we were going to ask him to wait for Brian to arrive, we heard heavy footsteps on the stairs.

Suddenly, the door was flung back, and, there, with arms wide open, was Brian Carter. He was dressed all in black, with a cape flowing behind him, and buttoned at the neck!

“Come in, Bri,” said Fred. “We’ve only just begun.”

Brian strode up to the table, and, staring hard at each of the four men, replied: “Your Honours, tonight, please address me by my legal title, Mr. Tulkinghorn.”

The room went silent, and I was aware that my mouth had dropped open.

“Is Carter a solicitor?” whispered one of the countrymen to his neighbour.

“Must be, I s’pose!” was his reply.

Then began 20 minutes of my life that I will never forget.

Brian banged his fist on the trestle table, and pointed towards the five of us, addressing the committee thus...

“Your Honours! You are attempting to lay the blame for this heinous crime upon gentlemen whom I am proud to proclaim as being amongst my most chivalrous, and honourable friends. Fie! Fie! Fie! Gentlemen, you should be ashamed of yourselves!”

No-one was smiling now, and Brian had a face like thunder when Fred responded.

“Well! Mr Tulkinghorn, I’m sorry we have upset you, but can you tell us just who DID put the referee’s clothes into that bath?”

“Of course I can,” said Brian. “I am a Chancery lawyer, trained to be observant!

“As I approached the changing rooms, I spotted them, Your Honour! Two ragamuffins, scurrying like rats from the scene of their crime. Dirty faces, runny noses, and dressed in rags!”

With each sentence, Brian assumed a different pose, sometimes scowling, and sometimes down on one knee, but never with even a hint of a smile. It was pure theatre.

“And were these children alone?” asked Fred.

“No, Your Honour! There was a man skulking in the shadows. As I passed him, he tugged his forelock and spat on the ground in front of me! He had long fingers and a face like the Devil himself!”

For the next 20 minutes, he shouted, he whispered, he knelt, and even beseeched the Gods of football past to protect us from those ‘who peddle falsehoods’!

Fred and his committee looked puzzled, and then amused, but must have been relieved when he ended with...

“Your Honour, your argument is with the children of darkness! I rest my case!”

In the pub afterwards, we laughed together for the first time.

Brian explained that Tulkinghorn was from Dickens’s ‘Bleak House’ and the rest of the cast were from ‘Oliver Twist’!

“At least, we got our solicitor!” he said.

I was worried that we might have been disrespectful, but the others persuaded me that Fred and his men had enjoyed every moment of it... and, anyway, that the end justified the means!

Just one question remained now... would we be reprieved?

Brian told us that he had asked for the decision to be posted to him.

We assembled at the London Inn for our next committee meeting, and Brian began it by holding up a letter.

“We’ve been reprieved!” he announced.

When I glanced down at the envelope, I allowed myself a smile.

It was addressed to Mr. Tulkinghorn, c/o London Inn, Church Street, Paignton!