Stay Safe as We Take a Break

Due to the shutdown as a result of fighting Covid-19 the Spirit of Carlton Past and Present will be pausing activity. Our regular video and social media updates will pause until the club can safely get back to business as normal.  The website will stay online, we will just pause any new articles and information.

Any past players that need help can still contact us, your contact at the club is still Shane O’Sullivan, he can help you out with any concerns.

Stay safe and look after each other. We will see you again soon!

How Ray returned Carlton’s kindness

Ray Gilbert: A Carlton supporter, coterie member and sponsor.

SOMETIME soon, Ray Gilbert will quite literally flick the switch on his business in High Street Armadale.

For the past 47 years, Gilbert has committed his energies to the Custom Lighting showroom – and yet the man’s enduring love for his football club – whether as supporter, coterie member or sponsor – can be sourced to the immediate post-war years in the local Carlton neighbourhood.

For Gilbert, home was an apartment in the gloriously art deco Havana Court buildings on Drummond Street, east of the Princes Park ground, in the days when footy was gloriously territorial.

“I was born in Drummond Street at No. 887 – apartment No.9 I think it was. The apartments are still there, right next door to the church,” Gilbert said.

“Funnily enough, I lived over the road from the residence of Harry Frydenberg – Josh Frydenberg’s father (which is why Josh also follows Carlton) – and I used to play football with Harry in Drummond Street.”

Gilbert also remembered with affection his first forays to the place formerly known as Princes Park.

“I used to go the ground as a seven or eight-year-old. In those days you’d walk to the ground to watch the game and you’d get in at half-time for nothing,” Gilbert said.

“I remember Ollie Grieve, No. 27, and Bruce Comben in the back pocket, as well as Jim Clark and Ken Hands.”

Ray at his office in Armadale.

And yet, it’s another childhood tale that Gilbert, a Life Member of the football club, will take to the grave with him.

“That I was born in Carlton, followed Carlton and love Carlton is true,” Gilbert said . . . “and yet this particular story is not about me and my journey, but more broadly about the important part that players play in helping young people”.

In 1951, Gilbert, then ten, was cut down with a serious kidney infection. The infection left him bedridden for six months, at a time when there was no television to take his mind off his malady.

Then came a knock at the front door to which Gilbert’s father responded – and there to greet him was the Carlton ruckman Ken Hands, the ’47 Brownlow Medallist Bert Deacon and the Premiership half-back flanker Jim Clark.

Hands, Deacon and Clark had all fronted up to pay young Ray a “get well soon visit” – a gesture Gilbert’s never forgotten.

“It was a total surprise, completely out of left field,” Gilbert said.

“My grandfather, who lost a leg in a roadside accident, had a driver – and the brother of the driver was the doorman at Carlton. Now my grandfather must have told the driver that his grandson had been laid up in bed for six months and the driver relayed that to his brother who arranged for Deacon, Hands and Clark to come down and visit me.

“This is a story I often tell the current players . . . at the end of the day, when you’re little and you’re not well it means so much that a player cares enough about you to tap you on the shoulder or shake your hand.”

The kindness afforded him by Clark, Deacon and Hands has been more than reciprocated by Gilbert, who for 27 years served The Carltonians coterie group as secretary, treasurer and president.

It’s also a matter of fact that Gilbert introduced Optus to the Carlton Football Club by way of a chance meeting with Optus’s head honcho.

“Custom Lighting bought a building in City Road, Southbank, at which we managed Commercial Lighting . . . and one day out of left field a very large electrical company Lawrence & Hanson came in and literally took that side of our business over,” Gilbert said.

“In the end the business closed and once that happened I tried to rent out the empty building which we tried to rent out – and lo and behold that’s how I met Ian May the head of Optus.

“I twigged straight away that Optus might be interested in Carlton, so I took Ian and (Chief Executive) Ian Collins out to lunch at an Italian restaurant in Nicholson Street. Ian then took over and had a discussion with one of the Carlton directors George Varlamos who was able to convince the council to agree to change the name from Princes Park to Optus Oval.

“Optus effectively became Carlton’s major sponsor, which probably indirectly saved the club from going belly-up.”

Amid the hovering uncertainties of season 2020, those in high places at the Carlton Football Club take comfort in the knowledge that passionate, loyal people like Ray Gilbert stand with them in the blue corner.

‘Sticks’ busts Bruce myth behind his 10.1 for SA

It’s time for Stephen Kernahan to set the record straight.

IN THE lead-up to the State Of Origin for Bushfire Relief match, it’s rather timely to set the record straight on Stephen Kernahan’s 10-goal haul for South Australia versus Victoria on the night of Tuesday 15 May, 1984.

It’s more than 35 years now since Kernahan, then a fresh-faced 20 year-old, posted that incredible 10.1 from full-forward in a losing team – thereby earning the Fos Williams Medal for best South Australian player afield and offering Carlton supporters a tantalising glimpse of what was to come.

Along the way, urban myth has unfairly dictated that most of ‘Sticks’’ ten were booted on the legendary Bruce Doull.

But in truth:

  1. Kernahan’s first six goals came when Victoria’s Gary Pert was his direct opponent through the entire first and second quarters, and part of the third;
  2. Kernahan’s next two goals were booted on Bruce Doull after Victorian coach Allan Jeans made the switch late in the third; and
  3. Kernahan’s final two goals came on Chris Mew, who replaced Doull as Kernahan’s direct opponent from the first bounce of the final quarter.

This week, Kernahan took the opportunity to go into bat for Bruce, confirming that his greatest haul came on Pert: the former Fitzroy and later Collingwood full-back.

“To tell you the truth, I can’t recall anyone ever asking me over the years, but I’m sure somewhere along the line I’d cleared Bruce’s name… and if I hadn’t I clear him now,” Kernahan said.

“State football was fantastic back then, unfortunately it wasn’t supported when it was wound up a few years ago, but it’s nice to see it back and blokes embracing it.”

For the record, Victoria 16.12 (108) defeated South Australia 16.8 (104) before a partisan Adelaide audience of 52,719, with Kernahan booting 10 of 16 for a South Australian outfit which also included future Carlton footballers Craig Bradley, Mark Naley and Peter Motley.

Conversely, Carlton players Doull, Jim Buckley and Wayne Johnston all flew the flag for Victoria in that famous contest – and despite Ker best efforts the Big V, to quote the late great EJ, “stuck it right up ’em!”.

Though replays of state games like the aforementioned in ’84 are getting a run on FOX Footy at the minute, Kernahan conceded he had not yet had the opportunity to put the feet up and relive a famous performance.

However, he did get the chance to view the replay of the Round 22, 1987 contest between Carlton and North, when his famous goal after the siren gave Carlton the victory and – as a consequence – top spot, the week’s break and ultimately the 1987 flag.

Alby’s book sheds further light on song’s origins

The oldest known version of the club’s famous theme song has surfaced after eight decades.

The oldest known version of the club’s famous theme song, for 85 years buried within the pages of a former Carlton player’s scrapbook of the mid-1930s, has surfaced after eight decades.

The lyrics to the reworked music hall ditty Lily Of Laguna, typed onto a piece of carbon copy paper, are amongst the many and varied clippings contained within an old Rabbit and Hares inventory – which doubled as the scrapbook of Alby De Luca, a 32-game player for the old dark Navy Blues through 1934 and ’35.

Alby’s granddaughter Sue Hiam graciously loaned the scrapbook to the historic football club website The Blueseum, which in turn forwarded digitised copies of the scrapbook’s pages for inclusion in Carlton’s ever-expanding archive.

Significantly, De Luca’s version of the theme song tallies with this author’s theory – first expounded in the book Out Of The Blue in 2009 – that the reworked lyrics were originally penned in the early 1930s by Irene McEldrew and her cousin Agnes Wright – a niece of the then Carlton coach Dan Minogue.

According to Agnes’ half-sister Dorothy O’Riordan, the lyrics were put together by the two ladies in the kitchen of a double-fronted weatherboard at No.17 Liddiard Street Hawthorn – which doubled as a boarding house for Carlton footballers of the day Eric Huxtable, Jack Green and Harry ‘Soapy’ Vallence.

“One night, the players returned from training bemoaning the fact that the team had no theme song – so Agnes and Irene sat down at the kitchen table and wrote the song to the tune of Lily of Laguna, which was a tune they liked,” Dorothy revealed in the 2009 interview.

“I don’t believe they (Agnes and Irene) ever got any acknowledgment for writing the words to the song, but I think it still stands up.”

Alby’s version is noted for a couple of subtle differences to two lines in particular – “We’re the team that never lets them dream” instead of “We’re the team that never lets you down” and “With the famous old dark blues” instead of “Against the famous old Dark Blues”.

Also of note, with regard to the “us” versus “up” controversy associated with the song, is that the De Luca version carries the “up” and “up” rhyme.

Born in Wollongong in November 1908, Albert Edward De Luca first chased the leather for VFA club Sandringham (for whom he booted the club’s first goal in competition) and later Prahran, before attracting Carlton’s interest. In 1936, following his time at Princes Park, De Luca managed a further nine senior appearances for Hawthorn.

Alby Da Luca died in Hampton on June 30, 1978, at the age of 69.

Notwithstanding the theme song lyrics, De Luca’s scrapbook contains a treasure trove of rare newspaper articles and photographs, amongst them a Charles Boyles image of Carlton’s 1935 team and another of the man himself, proudly decked out in his playing gear in front of the Ald. Gardiner Stand. Also included on club letterhead, dated March 11, 1935, is Secretary Newtown Chandler’s invitation to Alby to resume training with the club on the 19th . . . “and kindly bring your Football kit”.

Alby De Luca’s scrapbook, in its entirety, can be browsed at The Carlton Football Club and The Blueseum would welcome anyone in possession of a pre-World War II player’s scrapbook to consider lending the item to the club (and/or The Blueseum) so that it can be digitised for posterity.

Join Carlton Legends at Ikon Park

Tickets for the Spirit of Carlton Legends Dinner are now on sale.

Bluebaggers will have the rare opportunity to interact with some famous Carlton names when the Spirit of Carlton Legends Dinner takes place on Sunday 8 March.

This is your chance to meet the likes of Geoff Southby, David Rhys-Jones, Alex Marcou and Kevin Hall before Carlton takes on Brisbane in Week three of the 2020 Marsh Community Series.

The event will be located in the George Harris Room at Ikon Park, with proceedings kicking off at 5pm.

The on-field action will then commence at 6.30pm.

For just $115 per person, you will have access to delicious canapes, beverages and a reserved seat to the coveted event.

You will also get the unique opportunity to meet and interact with some of Carlton’s former players and hear some famous stories from the past.

Raffle and auction items will also be available on the night.

Featured past players in attendance include:

  • Geoff Southby
  • David Rhys-Jones
  • Alex Marcou
  • Kevin Hall
  • Anthony Francina
  • Sam Rowe
  • Simon White

Secure your ticket today | Click here to purchase your ticket for the Spirit of Carlton Legends Dinner 

Spirit of Carlton Legends Dinner:

Date: Sunday 8 March

Time: 5pm onwards

Location: George Harris room, Ikon Park

Tickets: $115 p/p

Inclusions: Canapes, beverages and reserved seat for Carlton’s Marsh Community Series game against the Brisbane Lions

Blue diamond Dick Merton passes away

by Tony De Bolfo

Lifelong Carlton supporter ‘Dick’ Merton has passed away.

LIFELONG Carlton supporter ‘Dick’ Merton, the former President of the Blue Diamonds coterie group and a father figure to the likes of Carlton Premiership players Jim Buckley and Wayne Harmes, has died after a long illness in The Northern Hospital in Epping. He was 76.

Born in Richmond, Richard Arthur Merton’s lifelong love for the old dark Navy Blues was forged through his relationship with one of his uncles – a rabid supporter who for years ferried the impressionable kid to Carlton contests.Traditional Saturday games, particularly at Princes Park, must have brought welcome escape to Dick, who was only a lad of 11 when his mother died.

In the wake of his profound personal loss, Dick relocated to Preston, where he was raised by his maternal aunt in a house in Tierney Street. The house still stands, not far from the Olympic Hotel where Dick’s wake is to be held.

At Tierney Street, Dick got on with his life – aided and abetted by his aunt’s children who, according to Dick’s son Brent, “were like brothers and sisters to him”. He pursued his studies at Northcote High School, but was forced into the workforce sooner rather than later to support his newly-inherited kinfolk.

Dick first found work at the Huttons Bacon Factory off High Street. Not long after, he and a mate established their own meat business, first in Kingsbury and later Fairfield, where he took on aspiring young Carlton players like Buckley, Harmes, Greg Towns and Russell Ohlsen. To quote Brent: “Those boys of 1979, ’81 and ’82 had a very special bond with him”.

In 1967, after meeting his lifelong beau at a local Preston dance, Dick exchanged marital vows with Kath Symons. A daughter Leanne and son Brent followed as the family found their new digs at No.7 The Fairway in Kingsbury – the place Jim Buckley also called home from 1976 when he came down from Kyneton to try his luck in the big time. As Brent remembered: “Jimmy and I slept in the same bedroom”.

This week, Buckley, the three-time Premiership player and 1982 club Best and Fairest, remembered with affection his years at The Fairway.

“It was a great place to be,” Jimmy remembered.

“Kath looked after me with her home cooked meals, Dick got me work in the meat game and the Mertons gave me a place to live. They were exciting times, a lot of things were going down back then, because Dick was well-known,” he said.

“Dick was a big Carlton man who gave a lot of people a start. he had a heart as big as himself.”

In 1981, Dick resolved to further his support for his beloved Blues by committing his energies to a recently-established club coterie he remembered as the ‘Blue Chips’, but was formally known as the ‘Blue Sapphires’.

On the eve of the ’81 year, the Blue Sapphires morphed into the Blue Diamonds – so named after Caulfield’s famed Group 1 race for two year-olds – and prominent amongst the coterie was the jockey Normie Waymouth, who in the Carlton Premiership year of 1982 rode Rancher to victory in the famous race.

Assuming the Presidency of the Blue Diamonds, Dick hosted matchday Carlton functions with fellow coterie members including Colin De Lutis, Eric Salter and the late Sam Smorgon. Throughout the period, the Blue Diamonds contributed to the cause by assisting players with job placements or vocational advice.

In the aftermath of the Premiership season of 1987 the Blue Diamonds drifted into oblivion, but Dick’s love for the club never waned.

Two years ago, Dick was front and centre with former players and officials who gathered on Ikon Park following a training session involving the current group.

Then in August last year, he completed his final Carlton appearance when he joined mourners at the funeral of the club’s long-serving Property Steward Ken Kleiman in Doncaster.

Dick was recently admitted to The Northern Hospital as his health steadily deteriorated. He died last Friday (January 24) with Kath, his wife of 53 years, by his side. Together with Kath, Dick’s daughter Leanne, son Brent and six grandchildren survive him.

It’s fair and reasonable to assume that Richmond’s St Ignatius’ Catholic Church will be packed to the rafters when the Diamond in the rough who was Dick Merton is farewelled at ten o’clock this Thursday morning (January 30).

As Brent said: “I’ve had poor people and rich people ring me to say ‘Your Dad helped so many’. He always wanted to do someone a good turn, particularly those who needed it most, and that’s because he grew up that way”.