It was just after 2pm on Wednesday 6th February, 1958, when news start to filter through the school, on a cold Newcastle day, that the plane carrying the successful Manchester United side with Matt Busby, Bobby Charlton and the great Duncan Edwards and other players and journalists on board, may have crashed.
Remembrance Plaque at Old Trafford for the Munich air disaster
On the way home from Heaton Technical School back to Evistones Gardens â€“ just off Walker road, was a young 13 year old Newcastle supporter, who seemed devastated that the news could be true. Not Manchester United â€“ not all the great players that had only recently played at St. James Park.
In that game the previous year Newcastle had taken a 2-0 lead against Manchester United, and it looked like the Magpies, in front of a packed St. James’ Park, would inflict a rare defeat on the Busby Babes. But it was well known that Manchester United were always lucky and kept scoring late goals to win games.
Then with just 25 minutes to go a 20 year old Duncan Edwards got the ball in his own half, powered his way through the midfield and hit a wonderful shot into the Gallowgate end goal giving goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson no chance. 2-1 but we could still win but would you believe it that Duncan Edwards scored again with just minutes remaining, to give Manchester a very undeserved 2-2 draw.
Newcastle should have won that game but the young 13 year old had to grudgingly admit to his Dad, on their way home, that young Duncan Edwards looked like an unstoppable tank in Manchester’s midfield â€“ what a player!
When he arrived home that February day, he went down Walker Road to get the Evening Chronicle and splashed across the front page were huge headlines with the news that the plane carrying the Manchester United side, who had just reached the semi finals of the European Cup, with a win over Red Star Belgrade, had crashed and there were victims. Did that mean some were dead?
Yes â€“ there was a list of some of the dead in the Chronicle and they included Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam ‘Billy’ Whelan. How could this be?
And the youngster couldnâ€™t help but cry openly as he walked the 80 yards back home. But boys don’t cry – as his mother had constantly told him, so he held it all in – well as best as he could.
Then the full tragedy became known and although Duncan Edwards wasnâ€™t an early casualty, he died 15 days later after he had punctured his lung, but Matt Busby, who was also badly injured, survived as did the 20 year old Ashington youngster Bobby Charlton. We had also heard that Bobby had an older brother who played for Leeds United who we think was called Jack, but he wasn’t very good.
This youngster never really got over that tragedy, and he still thinks back today to Duncan Edwards, who was the greatest player he saw play – ever. And itâ€™s still hard thinking back to it today, when his thoughts go back to that very bleak and very sad day in Englandâ€™s football history. And the tears are still there, all covered up, wanting to come out.
That boy was me â€“ and Iâ€™m still as sad today thinking back to it – as I was then.