Ted Harper

Thursday, 26th August 2010


The Kent Schools FA is saddened to announce the death of one its Vice-Presidents, Ted Harper. Ted’s long teaching career at Bromley Grammar School (now Ravensbourne) not only saw him establish the school as one of the strongest in schools’ football in the South-East, but gave him the platform from which he organised the Kent teams at the Under 19 age group. He was instrumental in the setting-up of the inter-county festivals, initially at Bognor and subsequently at Skegness and also acted as an international selector for the English Grammar Schools representative team.

Ted grew up in Blackburn as the son of his famous father, also Ted Harper, who played for England , Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham, and who in the 1925-26 set the then record high of 43 league goals in 37 games. In 1932-33, playing for Preston alongside the legendary Bill Shankly, he scored 37 goals, which remains a club record. Ted Harper senior was born in Sheerness in 1901 and played for Whitstable Town and Sheppey United prior to joining Blackburn – it is fitting that his son contributed so much to schools’ football in the county of his father’s birth. More details of his father’s career can be found here: http://www.sheppeyunited.com/EddieHarper.htm

As a player, Ted performed with great distinction at amateur level. Whilst doing National Service in the Army and stationed at Bodmin Barracks in Cornwall , he played football for Saltash United, the County and in various Army and FA representative XIs. Many considered him unlucky not to have been selected for the England Amateur team. Following National Service, having turned down approaches from several Football League clubs because he wished to retain his amateur status, Ted taught at Dartford Technical High School and then became Head of PE at Bromley Grammar School where he built the school’s reputation as one of the most successful in the South-East, with several of his formers players going on to gain Blues at Oxford and Cambridge. He also encouraged pupils to take up refereeing and formed what was believed to be the first Referees’ Society in a school. At the same time, he continued his playing career at the top level of the amateur game, representing Walthamstow Avenue , one of the strongest amateur clubs at the time, and later Bromley – just across the road from his school. His time at Walthamstow was marked by their famous FA Cup run and their fourth-round games in 1952-53 against Manchester United – the first match at Old Trafford ended in a 1-1 draw before a replay at Highbury (Walthamstow’s Green Pond Lane ground, which had accommodated 16,000 for the previous round game against Stockport County, was considered too small for the replay), which resulted in United winning 5-2 in front of a crowd of 46,000.

Ted took over the Kent Grammar Schools FA in the early 1960’s and was instrumental in the successful amalgamation of the organisation with the Kent Schools FA, which hitherto had been responsible for schools’ football in the county up to the age of 15. In many counties, similar amalgamations were not immediately successful, but in Kent was amicable and straightforward and to the benefit of all concerned, providing representative football and well-organised competitions for all age groups.

Kent took part in the annual ESFA Festivals of Football during the Easter holiday period – always keenly anticipated events – where Ted many long-lasting friendships. He also established the annual Ravensbourne Sixes competition which attracted entries from many of the strong football-playing schools in the South-East.

On retirement from teaching Ted ran the village Post Office at Shepherdswell near Dover for several years, rapidly becoming a well-respected and popular member of the local community. He continued his interest in music, notably as an accomplished double-bass player but also as a pianist. He then entered full retirement and moved the short distance to another local village, Staple, where he lived with his wife Jean until her death from cancer. After several years on his own, Ted met and married a lady from Rotherham, also named Jean, and they shared some thirteen happy and caring years at their home in Wickersley before his health and mobility deteriorated, culminating in his death on 2 nd August.

Ted was a remarkably talented man, with a marvellous sense of humour, and an ability to engage with people of all ages. His achievements will long be remembered - his legacy in schools’ football in Kent is something we will treasure and maintain.

(Material for this tribute to Ted was kindly provided by his KSFA colleague and close friend for over fifty years, Alan Philpott)