Football Unites, Racism Divides is very sad to learn of the passing of long-time supporter of the project, Sheila Leeson, who died on Monday 25th October in Moorgate Hollow care home, Rotherham. She was 90 years old.
In 1996 Sheila played a key role in the uncovering of the forgotten story of Arthur Wharton, the first black professional footballer and holder of the world record for the 100 yards sprint in 1886. A former teacher, Sheila came across some pictures of her late great uncle Arthur in a shoe box whilst going through some family photographs.
One of the old photos showed a young athlete stood next to a giant trophy – the Prince Hassan Cup - and writing on the back revealed it was of Sheila’s uncle Arthur, who had died in 1930 at the age of 65, a year before Sheila was born.
Intrigued by the photo, first stop was a visit to the public record office in Rotherham, before Sheila drove over to Edlington Cemetery near Doncaster, where the caretaker took her to the unmarked grave of Arthur, the Forgotten Hero, who was buried 66 years earlier.
A year later Football Unites, Racism Divides had raised money from the PFA, English FA and football fans to finally place a headstone on the grave. Arthur’s amazing story was about to be told.
More tributes to Sheila will follow here. Meanwhile, FURD sends its sincerest condolences to Sheila’s family, including daughters Dorothy and Nancy.