To mark the 76 years since the death on 14 February 1940 of Henry Clement Francis, the man who gave the land on which the Abbey Stadium stands, we're publishing here an article that appeared in the United club programme on April 11 last year.
If the dark day ever dawns when U’s fans are faced with the terrible task of choosing a successor to I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts as the Abbey’s victory anthem, which song will get your vote? Tiptoe Through the Tulips by the Crooning Troubadour Nick Lucas, perhaps? On the Good Ship Lollipop by Shirley Temple? I bet your finger won’t be hovering anywhere near the Waltzing Matilda button.
Yet that bush ballad about a swagman who prefers topping himself in a billabong to facing justice for nicking a jumbuck has a reasonable claim to the status of United’s hymn. It has a U’s connection, which is more than Coconuts had when it was first dropped on the Tannoy man’s turntable.
Pffffft, you sneer. Justify that ridiculous claim, you demand. I will. Hear and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was, O my Best Beloved. This is the sort of story that emerges when you start digging around in gloomy archives and little-known corners of the internet. This is the story of Henry Clement Francis.
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