Falmouth: Death of local hero from history-making cup team

By Guest

14th Jul 2022 | Local Sport

John Garwood, who moved to Falmouth from London in 1962 and became one of the town's best-known sporting and business figures, has died after a long illness. He was 87.

Just seven months after his move, he found himself propelled into the national media spotlight as the only local amateur in the Falmouth Town football side that made history as the first Cornish team to reach the FA Cup First Round Proper.

John, who took pride in "never having taken a penny from the game," played left-back in the otherwise Plymouth-based team of part-time professionals that lost 2-1 to Oxford United before a crowd of 6,000 at the club's Bickland Park ground.

The build-up included an iconic photo in the Daily Express, showing him training alone at Bickland as part of the lead feature on the back page.

Long before the present social club was built beside the ground entrance, he had to climb over the eight-foot wall to get in and out of the ground for his solo training, with the rest of the team training in Devon. The Express described him as "the loneliest footballer in the Cup."

He quit the club on a matter of principle at the end of that season, following a South Western League Cup Final victory achieved with the help of local players from the reserves with several first-choice players injured.

 The club recruited more players from the Plymouth area in an unsuccessful late bid to retain the League championship, and John argued that the local players should have been given an extended opportunity in the team after their cup triumph.

John, a Falmouth newsagent for some 50 years, later played for Falmouth Docks and was also a keen golfer.

While still in London, the young John was called up for two years' National Service and emulated his father (killed in action) by being accepted into the elite Coldstream Guards.

At 22, he came out of the Army in 1957 and returned to his former employers, A Lewis & Co, who owned a chain of tobacconists' shops, and he became office manager in charge of 23 staff.  

Later that year, however, he was encouraged by some friends to seek work with Associated Newspapers (Daily Mail) and he got a job in advertising accounts.

One of these friends was Bill Berks, in whose footsteps he again followed when he moved to Falmouth. 

The pair went into business together, acquiring a newsagents in Arwenack Street run by an elderly couple, Mr and Mrs Gaunt, and now renamed Garwood and Berks. The business later became Robbins and Garwood when he re-partnered with David Robbins.

In 1979, fancying a change in his working life, John moved to Tintagel with the acquisition of the eight-bedroom Atlanta Hotel there. He ran the hotel for two years before selling it to a Boscastle buyer. 

For his other great sporting love, he and Bill Berks joined Falmouth Golf Club circa 1965 and by 1968 he was a well-established player, collecting no fewer than six cups at a club dinner dance.

In 1972 he won the Harold Ryder Cup, donated by the well-known local businessman who was a former owner of the club. This competition, which he won at the first attempt, was played over 36 holes instead of the standard 18, which meant participants had to play morning and afternoon.

John and great friend Harold Jefferies reached the last 32 in the Daily Mail Foursomes Tournament, regarded as one of the world's greatest amateur golfing events.

John's working life included a switch of newsagents in Falmouth in 1964, when he chose to branch out on his own. He took over the lease of the long-established Dancey's in Berkely Vale, where he stayed until the early 1970s.

A move to Truro saw him take over a sub-post office in Daniel Street, during which time he also joined the Truro City football club, serving first as secretary and then as treasurer.

He sold his Daniel Street business in 1987 and returned to Falmouth, where he took over the Arwenack Street shop following Bill Berks' acquisition of the nearby Globe Inn, later renamed Quayside Inn. 

He ran the shop on his own for two years until, with the addition of a sub-post office on the premises, he was joined by David Robbins, a lifelong friend. 

David died in 2003. His widow Elizabeth took over as John's business partner, with their son Steve, too, subsequently becoming a partner.  John relinquished his partnership in 2010, but he continued to work for the business on a part-time basis up to and beyond his 80th birthday. 

John died at Tregenna Nursing Home, Camborne. He leaves four children, Alan, David, Hayley and Rachel; nine grandchildren, Ellen, Barney, Poppy, Jordan, Morwenna, Patrick, Maddi, Jayden and Evie; and two great-grandchildren, Chester and Franklin. The funeral will take place at Penmount at 10 am on Friday, July 22.

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