Reginald Horace Cumner: the player historians trip over

When I write about 19th and early 20th century players I expect to have difficulties in finding much out about them.  Sometimes even the name can be a problem, such as John George Coleman (known as Tim).  Sometimes we know nothing beyond the dates he played for Arsenal.

Reginald Horace Cumner however causes all sorts of problems.  Not just because he was known both as Reg and as Horace, but also because even the books that I treat as impeccable in their reporting (such as Lerman and Brown’s masterpiece, The Gunners) can make a mistake when it comes to Reg (as I shall call him Cumner).

But his ability to cause false trails goes even further for I was pondering his career in Fred Ollier’s “Arsenal a complete record” when I the Boy Bastin transmuted into Baston.  Only one letter, but Ollier, like Lerman and Brown, doesn’t make mistakes).

So I have tried to sort my way through Reg Cumner’s life, and get it right.  If what I have written is different from a source you have – then please let me know, but on this occasion I am not as ready as normal to admit that I am wrong.  With Reg, everyone can make mistakes.

Reg Cumner was born on 31 March 1918 .  He was one of the players who came through the Margate academy to play for Arsenal – and indeed went on to be a international for Wales before his career was interrupted by the war.

I’ve dealt before with the issue of the Margate nursery club; Reg Lewis was the most famous player to have made his name there, while Mal Griffiths and Reg Cumner (who I refer to as Horace in that article written some time ago)  also came through the ranks and later played for their countries.

Reg Cumner started out with Aberaman Athletic of the Southern League – although they have spent quite a bit of their history merging with and then separating from Aberdare Town FC.   The name Aberaman has been used at least until 2009, but as far as I can make out currently (2014) they use the Aberdare name.

He joined Arsenal as an outside left in May 1935, and undertook loan periods with Margate and Hull City before returning to Arsenal in 1938.  (Even these dates are open to debate).

Reg made his debut in the Football Combination against Portsmouth in May 1938 and then in the 1938/9 season he graduated to the first team.

His first match with the first team was on 17 September 1938, away to Wolverhampton taking over from Bastin who had occupied the position thus far in the season.   Having won the league the previous season, Arsenal had made a miserable start to the 1938/9 season, winning one, drawing one and losing three of the first five – including three defeats in a row.

However Arsenal beat Wolverhampton 1-0 and Cumnor scored on his debut.  No wonder he kept his place.

In fact he kept his place for five games, but results were patchy, to say the least and after a 4-2 away defeat to Chelsea in which Cumnor scored again.  But he wasn’t dropped despite the fact that by this stage after 10 games Arsenal had won 3, drawn 3, and lost four.  Hardly the form of champions.

In fact Reg didn’t play the next game because his rise to fame was rapid that on 22 October 1938 Reg played his first of his three matches for Wales in a 4-2 victory over England.  At the same time on the same day Arsenal beat Preston 1-0.

Cumnor returned for three games in November – but all were drawn and apart from playing in a defeat to Man U on 10 December that was it apart from three more games in the spring.  Arsenal’s form gradually picked up and a run of five wins in the last six lifted them to fifth in the league.  During the season he picked up three international caps for Wales.

His final league game was a 0-1 away defeat to Stoke on 22 April 1939.  He was not picked for any of the three games played in the aborted 1939/40 season.

During the war he served with the Royal Marines and guested for Cardiff City, Fulham, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Swansea Town, Aberaman Athletic, Port Vale, Clapton Orient and Plymouth Argyle.   

The 1945/6 season did not have a formal league campaign, but it continued with the war time leagues (as so many players were still on service for their country),  It did however have an FA Cup competition played on a home and away basis.

During this final wartime season Reg guested 12 times for Arsenal, and he also played in the second of the two legs against West Ham on 9 January 1946.  Arsenal won 1-0, but having lost the first leg 6-0 the result hardly mattered.  It was Reg’s last official Arsenal game.  Reg was still undertaking military work at the time, and apart from his games for Arsenal he also played on 16 March and 30 March 1946 for Plymouth Argyle.

The Football League South, in which Arsenal played at the time, was a slightly odd affair, in that clubs in the league did not always play each other – and indeed although Plymouth Argyle also played in the Football League South that season, Arsenal and Plymouth in fact didn’t face each other.

With the resumption of the traditional Football League programme, Reg Cumner signed for Notts County in 1946, in exchange for Ian McPherson, playing 66 times and scoring 11 over two years.

In 1948 he returned south to sign for Watford, where he played a further 62 games, scoring 7 goals,  At the start of the 1950s he moved to Scunthorpe United, no doubt selected because Les Jones was also there, as the club’s first ever league manager.  Les Jones was born in Aberdare and played for Aberdare Athletic, and for Arsenal at the same time as Reg Cumnor.  Indeed the FA Cup match against WHU which was Reg’s final game for Arsenal was also Les’ final game for the club.  I suspect they must have been pals for much of their lives.  But pals or no, when Les Jones fell out with the board in 1951, Reg stayed at the club for two more years.

After Scunthorpe Reg moved to Bradford City but didn’t play for them, not least because of his age by then.  He moved to Poole Town, (a team I often saw in my teens after my family inexplicably moved from north London to Dorset), Bridport and then Swanage.  He obviously enjoyed life by the sea.

Here’s the chart of his movements…

Season Club League Games League Goals
1937/46 Arsenal 14 3
1937/8 Margate (loan)
1937/8 Hull City (loan) 12 4
1946–8 Notts County 66 11
1948/50 Watford 62 7
1950/3 Scunthorpe United 102 21
1953/4 Bradford City 0 0
Poole Town
Swanage Town

After the conclusion of his playing career in the mid 1950s (he was 40 in March 1958 so must have stopped by then!) I have no record of him.  Maybe he enjoyed life in Dorset enough to stay there, maybe he went back to Wales.  If you know, please do tell.

Reg died on 18 January 1999 at the age of 80.


The anniversary file for October is here, and the complete index to the Anniversary file is here

The books


6 Replies to “Reginald Horace Cumner: the player historians trip over”

  1. I am pretty sure Horace Cumnor was still playing for Swanage in 1959/60 and maybe later. (We called him Horace) The fact that he was an international was a huge thing for us!

  2. Yes, he was player-manage and established a youth team. He was very popular and made training sessions enjoyable. I never reached the heights of playing in a team with him but as a schoolboy it was quite something to be on the training pitch with an international.

  3. Horace was my dads cousin. I only met him once when I visited him at his home in Poole with my parents, approx 1985. As far as I am aware he remained in Poole until his death.

  4. I worked with Horace in the eighties he was then a welder we worked for a local company he was there until he retired

  5. Roy Shearstone

    I played and trained with Horace in his later years with Swanage in 1958/59 I understood he had left the Poole club with whom he had previously played.
    Although he was known to be a left-winger with Arsenal He played left-half for the club in the newly formed “Dorset Combination League” He brought with him several other “old Pro’s” to make up the Swanage Team and this attracted other good amateurs to join the club from the Poole & Bournemouth areas. I think the club won several titles during his time at the club.
    Horace took the training sessions on Tuesdays & Thursdays, as well as playing on the weekend. He was a tremendous influence on the youth team players and still a very good player himself. He also had a great way with youth and he made arduous training fun!
    I was an apprentice at Poole Power Station after leaving school and Horace turned up there as a welder. No matter if on the football field or Power Station welding he was always one of the lads and great company to be in.

  6. Roy, I’m so grateful for that input, especially because of my own connections with Poole, having lived in Broadstone and indeed gone to watch Swanage on a couple of occasions.

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