Frank Boulton: details are sketchy but he was a league winner

By Tony Attwood

Frank Boulton is one of those players whose football life seems difficult to track exactly.  Indeed as I search for details of his personal life I find contradictions in report, for he was born in either Chipping Sodbury or Yate, depending on the source you read.

But we do have a definitive on his dates: he was born on 12 August 1917 and died 20 June 1987.

He started out with Bristol City, before moving on to Bath City, from where he was transferred to Arsenal for £700 in October 1936.

He made his league debut in a 4-1 win over Preston North End on 25 December 1936 (not 3-1 as noted in some sources – the goals were scored by Drake (2) Kirchen and Milne).

Prior to his arrival Wilson and Swindin had also been used as goal keepers (although Wilson only had a couple of games all season).  Frank kept goal for the rest of the season and got 21 games that year as Arsenal finished 3rd.

The following season Wilson started in goal again in the first match and this time got 10 games. Boulton came in next and got 15, while Swindin played the final part of the season and played 17 games.

This was thus not exactly a rotation of keepers, as some sources mention for from February 2 Swindin played each and every game – it was a replacement of Frank Boulton, possibly due to injury.   The injured player loses his place, the replacement comes in, does particularly well, and then holds onto his place.

However from the club point of view it was all for the best.  That season Arsenal won the league for the 5th time in the decade.

It does look like Frank Boulton had dropped down the order of choice at Arsenal however because he then joined Derby in August 1938, but of course after a year his career was interrupted by the war so only made 46 appearances before leaving for Swindon in July 1946. Derby did make the cup final while Frank was there but he missed out on the final win due to injury.  But he did play 39 league games, plus 7 FA Cup games for Derby that season (the Cup being played on a home and away basis).

From 1946 he moved to Swindon Town and I have found these records…

  • 1946/7 30 games
  • 1947/8 30 games
  • 1948/9 21 games
  • 1949/50 16 games

He then in 1950 moved on to Crystal Palace, and ended his career at Bedford Town.   One source says he moved to Palace in May 1959 but by then he would have been 42, which seems highly unlikely.

I am sorry to say I have no details of his life beyond his time at Bedford.  As always, if you know, please do write in.

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7 Replies to “Frank Boulton: details are sketchy but he was a league winner”

  1. I found that he broke his leg playing against Notts County when playing for Swindon Town, and that his middle name is Preece. More or less nothing beyond what you already have here.

  2. After football he was a butcher in Swindon and played cricket for Swindon Cricket Club

  3. I’m Frank’s great-granddaughter. His family settled in Swindon, he married Audrey and had 2 children, a boy and a girl. He had 4 grandchildren and owned a butchers in Swindon. Unfortunately, I never knew him but it has been a pleasure to research his life.

  4. He joined Bedford late in the 50/51 season soon after Ronnie Rooke (also ex Arsenal of course) became player manager there. Rooke’s previous club had been Palace and as far as I can discover he signed Boulton on trial at Selhurst Park shortly before being sacked in October 1950, so Boulton never played for the club. At Bedford he was second choice for most of the three and a bit seasons he was there, but still managed 40 first team appearances before leaving in summer 1954-I imagine that was the end of his career. Om Easter Monday 1953, he played for Bedford Reserves at home in the morning and then for the first team at nearby Kettering in the afternoon, keeping a clean sheet for the 180 minutes. For more details see
    David Williams
    Curator, Bedford Town history site

  5. David I am very grateful to you for your extra information. Thank you for taking the time to write in.

  6. Tony.
    Having browsed eBay I have found a couple of Palace Reserve programmes from autumn 1950 with Frank Boulton in goal, so it would appear that he did have a trial period there which presumably ended around the time that Ronnie Rooke was sacked, but he is not recorded as having made any first team appearances.

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