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Dick 'Pincher' Pym - Exeter and England goalkeeper

Page updated 6th May 2020

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If you research the families of Topsham, a name that keeps cropping up is Pym. Richard Henry Pym was born into a branch of the Pym's on 3rd February 1893. A fishing family, that lived in Ferry Road, the 15 year old Richard initially followed the family profession, which probably accounts for one of his three nicknames, the 'Fisherman', the others being 'Scissors' and 'Pincher'.

Dick Pym joined a local club as a centre-forward and then transferred to Exeter City to play his first game in the reserves in December 1911, followed on 23rd March 1912, when he replaced the clubs regular goalkeeper, in the first team - he would appear in 186 consecutive appearances for Exeter in the League, without injury. He toured South America in 1914 with the Grecians, but unfortunately he broke two ribs in the first game against Argentine North, which Exeter won 1-0. Ironically he suffered on the outward voyage to South America from sea sickness. He recalled many years later, that he brought a parrot back to England from Brazil, which happily settled in at St James' Park. When it died, it was buried under the goal, to be hurriedly dug up again, to break Exeter's losing streak that had commenced at the parrots internment. So the dead parrot was replaced by Dido the seagull! See Exeter City FC for more on Dido.

In 1920, the club joined the Football League and had to find a way of financing the purchase of their ground, St James' Park. At the end of the 1920/21 season Dick Pym was sold to Bolton Wanderers for the then astronomical fee of £5,000, and the Grecians bought their ground.

In 1923, Bolton Wanderers were finalists in the so called 'White Horse' final at the newly finished Wembley Stadium. This first ever final at Wembley, was attended by 200,000, in a stadium built for 127,000. The crowd spilled onto the pitch and mounted police including PC George Scorey on his white horse 'Billie' were brought in to push the crowd back so play could commence. The match against West Ham finished with the score 2-0 to Bolton, and goalkeeper Dick Pym keeping a clean sheet. Pym played in two more winning cup finals in 1926 and 1929, again keeping a clean sheet. He was said to be unflappable, and had big hands, a useful attribute for a goalkeeper. During his time with Bolton, Dick Pym was capped for England three times. In 1930 he left Bolton to go into non-league football with Yeovil. He hung up his boots the following year.

He was a nationally known figure and young boys across the country would avidly read stories and articles about him in the Magnet comic and the Boy's Friend magazine. After he retired back to Topsham in 1934, Dick Pym became a well known figure in the town. He returned to fishing once again, and in the 1930's would take the Imps, or the Junior Imperial League of Topsham on their annual summer trip down the river to Dawlish Warren in his motor launch.

In July 1984, to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the South American tour, a Brazilian TV company made a documentary about the visit. They interviewed the 91 year old Dick Pym, who entertained them for an hour and a half with stories of the Grecians on tour. In his last years he was made President of Topsham Town FC. When he reached his 95th birthday in 1988, Dick Pym became the longest lived England footballer ever - he was already the only surviving player from the White Horse Final. He died on 16th September 1988. The Grecians held a minutes silence in Dick Pym's honour at their first home game after his death, and Exeter City Council have named a close, off Grecian Way, Dick Pym Close.

Dick Pym

Dick Pym when at Bolton Wanderers.

Dick Pym, left on the Wembley pitch.

Dick Pym, left waiting for the crowd to be pushed back at the 1923 Wembley Cup Final.

Police horses pushing back the crowd.

The famous white horse pushing back the crowd.

Aerial view of Wembley, 1923.

A rural Wembley with the crowd on the pitch.


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