Arthur Wharton, A Black Star Shines in Space - David Urion

Arthur sailed to Britain from a land afar; Accra, Ghana.

Where Empire enclaves handed debuts to many captive slaves.

Lucky this cruel trade had ended before his swift-footed body descended.

His father was a Wesleyan, forgiver of sins wreaked by inhumane fellow men.

Arthur was ruled by varied task-masters, wouldn’t follow in footprints of Celtic ancestors.


Goalie for Sheffield, Stockport, Darlington… Rotherham, Stalybridge, Preston…

They shouted “Darkie!” because of his skin, judged only the surface, not what was within.

Hard-hearted bigots had blinkered eyes, as a true sprint champion won prize after prize.

His brave displays earned him plenty of plaudits, a majestic prince in this land of coal pits.

Victorian Britain, ruled by colonialist gentry; foolish manners, backs starch-stiff like sentries.


Had a `family affair´, was it for love or just the love of a dare?

Survived personal repression; endured hunger of The Great Depression.

Where once his reputation ensured a good gate, disowned, he was left to his fate.

Womanising Arthur with his still good-looking face, attracted problems and brought disgrace.

Proved time and again was of sterner stuff; packed his kit; withdrew his labour; usually left in a huff.


Why, oh why did this charitable bloke finish up unnoticed, broken, and broke?

Proud Arthur didn’t bow to pressured threats, yet stubbornness left insurmountable debts.

Flamboyant manner, stylish poise, clowning grace, Arthur effortlessly ran his rebellious race.

A radical working class hero of sporting renown was quickly forgotten, even in Rotherham Town.

Where once roared on to fame and glory, hauling coal trucks at Yorkshire Main Pit a sad end to his story.


In a pauper’s grave cold Arthur lay, nigh on 70 year almost to the day.

To add to this sad, sorry shame, his body was covered in soil bearing no name.

Coffin laid out in a steep-walled trench, another ex-miner tainted by poverty´s stench.

A black man with attitude many whites thought rude. Records erased for obstinate gratitude.

Until by chance his dusty mementos were found, and the search began for the now hallowed ground.


Mould breaker, Heart-taker, Convention-shaker, Record-maker.

Football Unites helped recover his past; no longer unknown, a hero at last.

Vociferous Arthur never toed the line. Wrong place. Wrong race. Wrong time.

New Edlington Cemetery; tranquil resting spot, a still shiny headstone sits on its well-kept plot

Where the Gold Coast Showman lies with his tomb engraved. Did he die a freeman, or an unshackled slave?


Unknown said...

I love the poem and its celebration of the life of an unsung soccer hero. It is truly gratifying to read such a poem, in these glorious days of association football. Historicity is this poem's central allure.

"Arthur Wharton, A Black Star Shines in Space" deserves to be featured in soccer magazines as well. There is a poetic (and intelligible) essence in sports that has been allowed to lay latent for far too long. Perhaps, this poem about Wharton can help break the ice.

Thank you, David, for pointing to the fact that all of us (black, white, brown and yellow) add an equal share to the palette of human existence.


LS said...

Thanks David,

Never knew, never heard of Arthur Wharton. October is Black History Month in Britain. Despite the fact that football is not my thing, (no offense meant to football lovers), he's from Accra.

I don't think the history of mixed race Africans has been fully explored by either side. So much happened to them. They had a glimpse of life from both sides, even enjoyed privileges, and yet for each side, they through no fault of their own, represented the excesses of the other. Long before the modern African experienced alienation, the mixed race African knew what it was.

Also thanks for writing about him warts and all. Like Prince's poem last week, you send us back to some of the craft's core principles; that poetry about people, need not dwell only on their positives.