Respect given at last to Everton great Sandy Young

Alex Young (no relation) and Graeme Sharp attended yesterday's ceremony at Seafield cemetery. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Alex Young (no relation) and Graeme Sharp attended yesterday's ceremony at Seafield cemetery. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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NO-ONE was pretending he had lived an unblemished life. But, when you are the person whose goal helped Everton lift the FA Cup for the first time, who scored the first hat-trick in a Merseyside derby and who represented Scotland on two occasions, you should not be buried in an unmarked grave.

This, though, was the fate of Alexander Simpson “Sandy” Young. Until yesterday, that is. For 55 years, since his death in 1959, Young had lain anonymously in the ground near the Edinburgh seafront at Seafield cemetery, known – if he was known at all – for his deeds at the start of the last century that were recorded in fraying newspapers.

These achievements included striking the aforementioned FA Cup winning goal for Everton over Newcastle in 1906 which brought the trophy to the city of Liverpool for the first time ever. Indeed, Everton defeated Liverpool in the semi-final on the way to the Crystal Palace stadium, where finals were then held. Thirty minutes into the second-half of the final, and having already seen an effort ruled out for offside, Young struck the only goal of the game.

“As sweet as toffee to the tongue/Was that one splendid goal by Young”, to quote a line from the back of the order of service sheet. These were handed out to a crowd of around 100 who gathered at Seafield cemetery yesterday, after the erection of a long-overdue headstone funded by the excellent Everton Heritage Society. Included in the assembled group were members of Sandy’s extended family, with one having travelled from Australia to be present.

Catherine Yarham arrived in Scotland on the eve of yesterday’s service and admitted she was suffering from “mixed emotions”. What injects Sandy’s life with the notoriety that perhaps accounts for the absence of fuss when he passed away is a dreadful episode in which he killed his brother John – Catherine’s great grandfather – in Australia, just ten years after making history for Everton.

“We went to the records office in Victoria and found the prison records,” Catherine recalled. “If you read the court inquest the two brothers sound like the town drunks, but the newspaper articles make it sound like they were more respected members of the community,” she added. “It sounds like Sandy was running football clinics in Victoria.”

The brothers quarrelled over money. Sandy, it has now been established, shot John, who was a dairy farmer, dead, before turning the gun on himself. He survived and was set to be tried for murder. However, he was saved from the death penalty because of the intervention of Everton officials. On the prompting of two of Sandy’s sisters, who travelled from Edinburgh to Liverpool to let the club know of his plight, Everton wrote to explain that he had been receiving treatment for mental health issues during his time at Goodison Park. Rather than murder, he was charged instead with manslaughter and given a three-year sentence, returning to Scotland in 1920.

These details were all recently discovered when Lorna Conaghan, a great great niece from Ayrshire, set the ball rolling after being inspired by the growing interest in genealogy. Previously, it had been thought that Sandy was hanged in Australia for sheep rustling. The breakthrough arrived when Lorna found a record of his death in Edinburgh. After so much misinformation, she not only now had a plot number in Seafield cemetery, but also that he had been buried “five feet deep”.

It was there that yesterday’s gathering took place. It was there that some family members met for the first time. And it was there where, following a burst of Flower of Scotland from piper Dan McIntosh, Everton Heritage Society chairman Paul Wharton spoke of the long connection that exists between the Goodison Park club and Scotland.

In total 173 Scots have played for the club, including the latest, the in-form Steven Naismith.

With 127 goals, including 12 versus Liverpool, in 314 games, Sandy Young joins the legendary Dixie Dean and Graeme Sharp, who was present yesterday, atop the club’s scoring charts. He deserves to be remembered as fondly as Goodison legend and namesake Alex “The Golden Vision” Young, who was also at Seafield to pay his respects.

Perhaps the most poignant presence, though, was 87-year-old Cyril Cleeton, Sandy’s nephew from Musselburgh. He remembers shaving his uncle with a single-edged razor in the little cottage in Westfield in West Lothian, where Sandy lived as a near recluse after returning from Australia. He had been brought low by guilt about his brother’s death and lack of funds – twice he was forced to write to Everton seeking financial assistance – as well as mental ill-health.

“I had no idea he was such a good footballer,” said Cyril. “I knew he had once played for Falkirk and Everton, but Everton played in a different country – we had no idea he was held in such great esteem. He didn’t talk about it.”

There was something else he didn’t want to talk about. “While I was shaving him I noticed a gouge on his right cheek. ‘What happened there?’ He just said: ‘We don’t mention that’. Of course, it was the mark left when he tried to shoot himself after he had killed his brother.”