By Tony Attwood
Ian Snelling, also known in the blog world as Gf60, passed away in June this year.
Ian was very much a contributor to this site, in that from the moment I started the anniversary files he began to email me on issues concerning various dates and details that we were publishing.
At first I assumed Ian had a huge library of Arsenal reference books, programmes and the like, all (very much unlike mine) properly filed away and ready for him to select at a moment’s notice so that he could pick me up on misprints, slips and downright mistakes in our recording of Arsenal history through the anniversaires.
It was only when, about 18 months ago, I questioned a point from Ian about the score and scorer in a particular match from the 1950s that I discovered that all his challenges of the data I was producing came from his memory.
As each one came in I had checked it again, and invariably found he was right, and thus I corrected the anniversary file concerned, cursing myself for my error, and trying to excuse myself on the grounds of the enormity of the task that had been undertaking in building the anniversary files of 6000+ events.
But then one day one of his corrections came in, as usual, a short while after the anniversaries for the day were published, and I looked at it, and for once wondered if Ian was right. He was always right of course, but still this correction of this particular game and scorers from the 1960s made me feel a little nervous. I just felt sure that this time, I had got it right, and he was wrong.
So I went to my books, dug out the programmes and found that yes, they confirmed what I had written. But that then only made me doubt the reference books, because Ian was never wrong.
I tried another source, and that confirmed my thought. In the end I emailed Ian and wrote, with some temerity, that I wondered if he could check again.
Ian emailed me back saying he was quite sure, and with sweaty palms I wrote again pointing out that these two august reference works said otherwise, and asking which reference book he was using so I could double check.
“I’m not using a reference book,” he wrote back. “I’m doing it from memory.”
And so he had been, each day for several years, checking the Arsenal Anniversary Files from his memory, telling me when I had got it wrong, and always getting it right on every occasion, save this one.
Ian and I never met, and we never spoke, but through our emails I like to think a certain bond emerged. When, earlier this year his regular challenges to the daily list of Arsenal Anniversaries ceased I wondered for a moment if my accuracy levels had increased, and he was no longer finding mistakes in the files.
But I knew in my heart that was not true and guessed what must have happened. And sadly, I have to admit, I could not think of what to do in this situation. I had no contact with his family or friends, and it seemed crass to write to his email address and ask if he was ok, when I knew perfectly well that if he was, he’d be telling me of information missed, or dates confused.
Apart from his corrections to the Anniversary Files Ian also supplied a number of articles reviewing Arsenal matches which he had written, and some of which are published on this site. They are in his singular style and carry forward some of his passion and feeling for Arsenal. I’m glad he gave me a chance to publish some of them so that in this small way his memory lives on, on this site.
I’ve missed his emails since they stopped and I wish I’d had a chance to meet Ian. But his presence is still here with his contribution to Arsenal’s history.
Look down on us, Ian, and had a good chuckle every time I get it wrong. Oh what I would give for a memory as good as the one you had.
Thanks for all the help you gave this site. I’m sorry I never had the chance to thank you in person.