Whites to honour the first Wanderer

11:32am Friday 3rd August 2007

By Angela Kelly

HE may lie in an anonymous grave in a forgotten section of a churchyard, but the man whose dream started Bolton Wanderers Football Club is finally about to get recognition.

The club wants to talk to relatives of the Rev Joseph Farrall Wright about how to acknowledge the work of the modest cleric who wanted to improve the lives of local lads.

Danny Reuben, Wanderers' communications manager, said: "We would like to get together with them so that we can improve Mr Wright's grave as befits such an important but modest man."

This search is the latest saga in a fascinating story that goes back to the poor parish of Deane in the middle of the 19th century.

The Rev Wright, who had formerly been at the richer parish of St Peter's Church (now Bolton Parish Church) in the town centre, opted to live and work among the poor at Christ Church in Deane Road.

Here, sport offered hope and rare opportunity to impoverished young men, so Mr Wright persuaded Tom Ogden, the headmaster of Christ Church Boys School, to start a football club at the Sunday School.

In June, 1874, Christ Church FC was formed, playing to the new Football Association rules pioneered locally by Turton FC.

The club never had a ground of its own and the team played where it could.

When the club changed its name three years later, it became Bolton Wanderers to reflect its nomadic status.

All that might have just become a line in the illustrious history of the famous football club if it had not been for a best-selling author, a computer, and some sharp detective work by a Bolton church official.

Merseyside author Peter Lupson decided to write a book, Thank God For Football, tracing the Christian roots of many of the country's best-known football clubs.

He found Tom Ogden's grave in an unmarked plot in Heaton Cemetery, and that Mr Wright was buried at another Christ Church, in Walmsley, 124 years ago.

He contacted that church's present vicar, the Rev John McGrath, who offered his help. But he faced a problem.

The parishioner who had created a computer programme of all the thousands of graves at the large churchyard had recently died, and no-one could crack his code.

Reader and churchwarden Judith Page got to work. With the help of a computer firm and armed with church registers and other parish paperwork, she spent weeks searching the churchyard.

Then one day, at a moss-covered grave - Plot 549 - just feet from the chancel, she scraped back the dirt to discover the final resting place of the Rev Joseph Farrall Wright.

Now the club wants to make it easier for relatives and Wanderers' fans to find the influential cleric's grave by improving the gravestone, and possibly adding a plaque honouring him.

"We would love to hear from any of the Rev Wright's existing relatives," said Mr Reuben.

Family members can contact Mr Reuben at Bolton Wanderers on 01204 673711.

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