John Hawley’s name won’t resonate with most Arsenal supporters; he played for the club 20 times between 1981 and 1983.
But I want to reproduce part of an article on John that appears on this site, because his name crops up in the anniversaries as a goal scorer against Tottenham in 1982. You can read much more about him here.
But what John Hawley did or didn’t do as a player for Arsenal is however irrelevant in the broader scheme of things for his life is defined by what happened when he was playing for Bradford City on the day when the stand caught fire and 56 people lost their lives.
A ludicrous barrier that should never have been there stopped people getting away from the fire onto the pitch. John saved many lives by putting his own life in danger and hauling people out of the fire.
As the Yorkshire Post put it afterwards, but for his bravery and the similar actions of others, the death toll on May 11, 1985, would have been much higher.
Interestingly in his comments on the fire John said, “I didn’t think it was anything major. It just looked like some idiot had let off a smoke bomb. Even when the referee stopped things, it still looked to be innocuous. I even went to the crowd and said, ‘Calm down, calm down’. But just 30 seconds later, I was picking the first person up and throwing him over my shoulder.”
He added, “I got a few letters afterwards saying ‘thank you’. But I was reading them and thinking, ‘I just don’t remember that’. All I have is bits of memories. One of those is a guy who walked across the stand on fire. I tried to shout at him to come towards the pitch. A policeman, who could get a bit closer by this stage because he had a big coat on, was doing the same. But this guy was walking down the middle of the stand, obviously disorientated. We couldn’t get him.
“All I had on was my kit and it was just so hot. The shirt melted a bit on to me. And a lot of tar also dropped on to me from the roof. I remained in shock for days afterwards, even as we visited the injured in hospital and did loads of fund-raising. Now, there would be counselling, I’m sure. But that wasn’t the way then. People just got on with things.”
An amazingly brave and most self-effacing man. Many people owe their lives to him and those like him.
Details of all the series on this site can be found on the home page. Here are the anniversaires…
12 April 1895: Arsenal beat Walsall TS 6-1 to make it 13 goals in two games. Buchanan made it 4 goals scored in 3 games, but Mortimer’s two goals made him top league scorer for the season with 14.
12 April 1910: After Arsenal had played out their (previously abandoned) match of 6 September against Aston Villa George Leavey met with the group Dr Clarke had put together to buyout the company from the liquidators.
12 April 1913 – Woolwich Arsenal 1 Derby 2, and so Arsenal were relegated for the only time in their entire history in front of a crowd of 4,000. In fact they drew their final two games (including one away to Tottenham) but by then it was too late. However the news was overshadowed by the allegations of match fixing.
12 April 1919: With Leslie Knighton now the manager he had his first chance to watch his new club as Clapton Orient drew 2-2 with Arsenal in front of 10,000. Meanwhile at Highbury Tottenham played QPR (losing 2-3) while the result Brentford 5 Fulham 0 secured the last London Combination of the war era for Brentford.
12 April 1920: Despite having 7 league games to play in the month Arsenal also fitted in two friendlies – one on this day against near neighbours Clapton Orient. Arsenal lost 5-1 but Tom Whittaker scored his first goal for Arsenal.
12 April 1930: Arsenal played eight games in April 1930 and ended up a poor 14th in the league, but had the compensation of winning the FA cup. On this day however they beat Sheffield U 8-1. Lambert got a hat trick
12 April 1937: Frank Whittle ground-tested the world’s first jet engine designed to power an aircraft, at Rugby.
12 April 1941:Tottenham 1 Arsenal 1 (Football World Cup). Arsenal played 10 games to get them through to the final (against Preston), and won each one except this game. 25,258 were in the ground, Leslie Compton scored his 9th game in the competition thus far.
12 April 1947: Alexander Rooney Forbes got his first Scotland cap. He went on to play 217 league games for Arsenal between 1948 and 1956.
12 April 1948: Arthur Shaw signed from Brentford. He was involved in the cigarette allegation story, and played 57 league games for Arsenal. Despite being a league winner with Arsenal little is known of him other than that he also played for Watford and later for Southall, Hayes and Gravesend & Northfleet.
12 April 1980: Arsenal 0 Liverpool 0; FA Cup Semifinal number 15. It was the second season running that Arsenal needed four or more games to win an FA Cup tie, but after this it didn’t happen again until Leeds in 1991.
12 April 1982: Arsenal 1 Tottenham 3. This came in a run of just one win in 6 as Arsenal slipped to 10th, the club’s worst position since 1976. Hawley got the goal, 48,897 were in the crowd.
12 April 1994: Arsenal reached the final of the Cup Winners Cup by beating PSG 1-0 in the semi-final 2nd leg at Highbury, having drawn the first match 1-1. Campbell got the goal on seven minutes.
12 April 1995: Arsenal 0 Liverpool 1 made it one win and six defeats in seven in the league as Arsenal sank to 12th in the table, after 37 matches. They were at this moment 39 points behind the league leaders and five points off relegation.
12 April 2013: Ex-Arsenal man Brian McDermott took over as manager of Leeds United, but the chaotic nature of the ownership of the club eventually saw him leave and return to the more stable Arsenal.
12 April 2014: In beating Wigan 4-2 on penalties in the FA Cup semi-final Arsenal equalled the all time record for Cup semi success. One year later they beat the record. Mertesacker got the goal in normal time, Arteta, Kallstrom, Giroud and Cazorla scored their penalties.
12 April 2018: Arsenal drew 2-2 away with CSKA Moscow to go through to the semi-final of the Europa League.