The club had a very special visitor today when life-long United fan Jack McDowall came down to Brunton Park as part of his 105th birthday celebrations.
Jack, who started watching United as a boy when the club was still in the north-eastern league, was met by current players Nicky Adams and Mike Jones, and by club legend Hugh McIlmoyle, a player he described as ‘the best to ever play for Carlisle by a long, long way.’
He was presented with a CUFC crested cake to mark the special occasion, and he quickly became the centre of attention as local journalists queued to talk to him about his memories of his time as a Carlisle United supporter.
“I was a season ticket holder in the old wooden main stand for many years,” Jack told us. “I used to sit my son Don on my knee in there, but it burned down in 1953, which was a shame. I remember we sold a wonderful player called Geoff Twentyman to Liverpool to help to pay for the new one.
“I actually started following the club before we made it into the Football League, so when we were finally elected to join Division Three North in 1928 it was an extremely exciting time. We’d tried a few times before to get the votes, so we were all really pleased when we made it.
“I was at the first ever home league game in August that year. It was against Bradford City, who went on to win the division, and it was a night game. We played really well. We drew 2-2 and we had a player called Jimmy McConnell, who went on to score a lot of goals for us.
“He actually missed a lot of good chances during games, when I think about it, but he was always there to get on the end of things.”
As for his favourite player of all time, there was a smile on his face as he looked across to give a gentle nod in the direction of Hugh McIlmoyle.
“It has to be him,” he said. “He was a great player to watch. I actually followed his career, because I thought so much of him, and I remember taking my boy Don down to Burnley to watch them play Wolves, just because Hugh was at Wolverhampton at the time.
“We couldn’t believe it when the teams were announced, and we found out that Hugh wasn’t even playing! It’s an honour for me that he’s taken time to come along to wish me a happy birthday.”
“Over the years we’ve had some good times and we’ve had some bad times, but it’s my club and I still follow the results every time they play,” he commented. “Obviously getting into Division One is a really nice memory and that was a season where we were never really played off the park, other than by Stoke City.
“We played some good football and we didn’t look out of place at all. Mostly, for me, it’s just been about coming along to watch the team, whatever division we’ve been in.”
Speaking about the birthday surprise, son Don said: “It’s been really good of the club and everybody to do this for my dad. He’s been saying for a few days that he didn’t want any fuss made then, when he woke up this morning, he had a card from the Queen and I think that’s when he realised that it maybe was a little bit special.
“Everyone has made a fuss of him and he loves to talk about Carlisle United. Meeting Hugh was really nice, he’s a player who dad has always admired, so thank you to the club and his friends once again for making this happen.”
Happy Birthday to Jack from everybody at Carlisle United Football Club.