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Episodes 1 – 5


Episode One of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard August 25th 1973


When he was eleven, Bernard Briggs already had the sturdy build and quick eye that were to help him to become Britain’s most famous amateur goalkeeper in later years.


But fame seemed a long way off during Bernard’s boyhood. Both his parents were dead, and he lived with his uncle, George Soovley, who was a scrap metal dealer in the industrial town of Manningham. Bernard had to work hard in his spare time, doing odd jobs for his uncle, and he had little to show for it. His jersey was ragged, his trousers patched, and most of the time he was short of food. One day, Bernard was working in his uncle’s yard after school, as usual. He got the sort of encouragement he was used to from his uncle. “Get a move on, you lazy young tyke, or I’ll thump your ear!” growled Uncle George. Bernard was splitting up logs with an axe to make firewood. He tied the firewood into bundles, and stacked the bundles in the carrier on the front of an old bike. Bernard’s next job was to go from door to door selling the firewood. “You’re putting too many sticks in each bundle,” complained Uncle George. “I ain’t giving the wood away!” “I’ve made the bundles the same size as usual,” said Bernard. “That’s the size the customers expect. If we start cutting down, they won’t buy.” “Well just see you sell that lot, then,” said Uncle George, “and then go to Fred’s warehouse and collect some stuff he’s got for me.” “I’ll be hungry when I’ve done all that,” said Bernard. “What’s for supper?” “The left-overs from yesterday,” said Uncle George. “Nothing warmed up!” He went into his hut, sniggering. Bernard put out his tongue and rode away. Some boys were kicking a football about in the street, and one of them called to him. “Hey, Bernie, come and keep goal!” “My name’s Bernard! Besides I’ve got a job to do, Alf,” Bernard answered. “I’ll be back soon.” He hurried on, eager to get back to the game of football and his load of firewood was soon sold.


STARTS TODAY—Everything was a struggle for Bernard Briggs,

but when the odds were greatest that was the way Bernard liked it.

Bernard didn’t let his hard life get him down. He was popular with the customers, who liked his impudent grin. One lady gave Bernard a chunk of bread pudding, and he smacked his lips over it as he rode on. It made a welcome addition to the slice of bread and jam, which was all that he had had for his tea. Fred, Uncle George’s crony, was waiting for Bernard at the warehouse. “There it is,” said Fred, who looked as grimy as his surroundings. He pointed to a bulging sack on the floor. “Tell Soovley that I want top price. It’s good stuff!” Bernard struggled to lift the sack into the carrier of his bike, without any help from Fred. “Must be gold bars!” thought Bernard. “It’s heavy!” He rode away with the sack. Watching him, Fred was startled when a policeman called to Bernard. “Blimey, what does the law want?” muttered Fred. He had his own reasons for not wanting the police to get too interested in the sack. The policeman had only stopped Bernard to tell him that his front wheel needed tightening. “O.K. I’ll fix it,” said Bernard. “By the way, you get around, Bernard,” the constable went on. “If you see any lead on your trips to the junkyards, let us know.” “Thieves stripped the roof of St Gregory’s Church last night. “I’ll keep my eyes open mister,” promised Bernard. He tightened the wheel and rode on. His pals were still playing football, with a goal chalked against a high wall. They yelled to him to take over in goal. “Reckon I’ve got a few minutes to spare,” said Bernard.

He was kept busy in goal. All the boys wanted to put one past Bernard. Alf slammed in a header but Bernard jumped and tipped it away. “You’ll have to hit ‘em harder than that, Alf,” he grinned. He bounced about his goal as if he had springs in his legs. Shots came in from all angles, and he stopped every one of them. Dave Evans tried a low one, and Bernard dived flat to take it. “Bernard’s fearless!” exclaimed Alf. “Fancy diving on a concrete pavement.” Lew Cotter came swaggering up. He was two or three years older than Bernard and several inches taller. “I’ll show you how to do it,” he shouted. He belted the ball in. Bernard moved across, positioned his body behind the ball and took it cleanly. Cotter rushed at him, trying to hustle him into dropping it, but Bernard turned a shoulder, and Cotter bounced off. “You want to read the rules, mate!” said Bernard. Cotter got his breath back, and swung a fist. “You rag-and-bone clown, I’ll flatten you!” he snarled. Bernard ducked under the punch. He came up again and his fist shot out. Cotter took it on the chin and went down with a thud. “You’re no good at boxing, either!” jeered Bernard. Cotter went slinking away. Bernard decided it was time he went home—if Uncle George’s scrapyard could be called home. Alf called after him as he pedaled away. “See you at school tomorrow, Bernard. Maybe you’ll be picked for the team. “Not a chance,” answered Bernard. “The teacher likes his keepers to be little gents! Besides I got work to do at home. As he turned the corner, there was a bang, and his front tyre went flat. The patched rubber had given way at last. Taken by surprise, Bernard skidded. He ended up in the gutter, and the sack fell from the carrier. It took more than a toss from his bike to upset Bernard, but he got a surprise when he jumped to his feet. The sack had burst open, and strips of lead were poking out. “Lead!” he muttered. He examined the contents of the sack and scowled. “This must be stuff from St Gregory’s roof! I knew Fred was a crook, but my Uncle George must be in on the racket as well!”


Uncle George was waiting in the yard when Bernard rode in. Bernard had mended the puncture, but the carrier of his bike was empty. “Where’s that stuff from Fred?” demanded Uncle George. “I took it back!” said Bernard. “You took it back to Fred?” snapped Uncle George. “What are you playing at?” “Not to Fred,” said Bernard. “I took it back to St Gregory’s Church! I left it in the porch with a note saying, ‘This is yours!” Then I rang the bell. “I hung about until I saw the vicar come out and collect it, then I pushed off.” Uncle George’s mouth sagged open. He struggled to speak. “You—you interfering little brat!” he spluttered. “What did you do that for?” “The stuff was pinched, Uncle George,” said Bernard, solemnly. “I’m sure you wouldn’t want to handle stolen goods!” Uncle George’s face went red to match his nose. Bernard dodged as a grubby fist swung at him. “I’ll kill you, you little rat!” roared Uncle George. “After all I’ve done for you! I don’t want anybody with your soft ideas around here!” Bernard jumped on his bike and pedaled for the gates. “O.K, I get the message!” he called. “I’m off!” And so, at the age of eleven, Bernard was on his own. He pedaled round the streets until he came to a demolition site where an old hut stood. “That’ll do me for tonight,” he decided. I’ll get some sleep and decide in the morning what to do next.” He found some old sacking in the hut, and settled down. He slept well, but got a rude awakening the next morning, for the hut began to collapse about him. Bernard sat up and through a gap in the wall he saw a bulldozer. Bernard scrambled out as the driver of the bulldozer stared at him. “Crikey!” said the driver. “I had orders to fetch that place down. I didn’t know there was anybody inside. I might have run over you, son!” “Glad you missed me!” said Bernard. “But now I’ll have to find a new home after school.” Bernard had a wash in an old horse trough, and hurried away to school where Mr Moult, his class teacher, was waiting at the door. Mr Moult was in charge of the school football team, but Bernard’s skill as a goalkeeper didn’t make him teacher’s pet. “You get scruffier every day, Briggs!” blared Mr Moult. “Your clothes are a disgrace! Did you sleep in a dustbin?” Bernard didn’t try to explain. He knew from past experience that if he said anything, Mr Moult would be on at him again for answering back. Lessons started, and Bernard was in trouble again. He was a bright lad, and there was little wrong with his school work, but Mr Moult could always find something. Prowling round the class as the boys worked on some arithmetic problems, Mr Moult gave Bernard a jab with a ruler. “Am I expected to read this scrawl?” he demanded. There was a snigger from Cyril Dallow, who liked to keep in the teacher’s good books. Bernard scowled. “I ain’t likely to write copperplate if you nudge me!” he said. That earned him a clout on the head with the ruler. “I don’t want to hear another word from you, Briggs!” snapped Mr Moult. The next lesson was history in which Mr Moult asked questions about Napoleon. Bernard sat quiet and let the other boys answer. “Please, sir, ‘ know, sir!” said Cyril Dallow, waving his hand in the air. “I’m sure you do, Dallow,” said Mr Moult, his voice becoming heavily sarcastic. “But suppose we ask Briggs to join us? Would you like to contribute something from your vast store of knowledge, Briggs?” “You said you didn’t want to hear another word from me,” said Bernard. That didn’t please Mr Moult, either and Bernard had a sore head by the end of the day. Bernard decided he had had enough of school for one day. Hurrying off, he saw some of the boys kicking a ball about. “Want a game, Bernard?” one of them called. “Sorry, Charlie,” Bernard answered. “I’ve got to find something to eat and a place to sleep. I ain’t had a bite since yesterday.” The boy pushed a hunk of bread and cheese into Bernard’s hand. “Here, have this, Bernard. I brought it for the break, but I didn’t eat it.” “Cor, ta!” mumbled Bernard, gulping the sandwich down. “Smashing! I feel better now. Where’s that football?” Once again the goal was chalked on a wall and Bernard took up his position as Charlie ran in and shot. Bernard leapt across the goal and clawed the ball down. “This is the life!” he grinned. He slung the ball away and a shot came hurtling back. Bernard went down on one knee on the hard stone flags, gathered the ball and slung it away high. One of the players rushed in and hit it back hard with a header. Bernard went up like a rocket and punched it away. The ball rose high and soared over the wall. “O.K, I’ll get it,” grinned Bernard.


He ran at the wall, jumped, and caught the top. Scrabbling the toes of his battered shoes against the bricks, he hauled himself up. On the other side of the wall was a canal, with the towpath running under the wall. The ball was floating in the canal.


Bernard saw something else that made him scowl. A mongrel pup was struggling in the canal. Two guffawing young louts stood on the towpath, throwing stones at the dog. “Hey, leave that pup alone!” yelled Bernard. He dropped on the towpath as one of the louts turned. “Want to join the pup, kid?” he sneered. Bernard went at him head down. The tough doubled up with a gasp as Bernard’s hard head hit him in the middle. Staggering back, the lout fell into the canal with a yell. The other tough went at Bernard, fists swinging. Bernard swayed and a fist grazed the side of his head, but he did not even blink. He hit out, and the tough joined his pal in the canal. They looked at Bernard standing on the towpath with his hands on his hips, and decided to find a safer place to land. They splashed away, and Bernard called to the pup. “Come on, pal! Over here!” The pup struggled to the side. Bernard knelt on the towpath and hooked it out. The dog squirmed in his arms, wagging its tail, then it licked Bernard’s face. “You’re all right, pup!” grinned Bernard. “A bath never hurt any dog. Coo, you’re a funny-looking mutt, ain’t you?” The pup seemed to be a mixture of breeds, with big paws and a comical black patch over one eye. But its expression was alert, and its bright eyes were intelligent. “Reckon we’re in the same boat, as you might say,” Bernard went on. “Here hang on while I get the ball.” He put the dog down. It stayed close to him while he found a stick and pulled the ball in to the side. Bernard fished the ball out and slung it over the wall. He walked along the towpath with the dog trotting at his heels. He had noticed an old barge moored further along the canal. “This might suit us, pal,” he told the pup. The barge had a neglected look about it. Some of its timbers were rotting and it was obviously a long time since it had last left its moorings. “Seems to be abandoned,” said Bernard. “I don’t reckon anybody would object if we moved in.” He climbed aboard, and the dog jumped after him. Bernard peered into the dark cabin, where there was a smell of bilge water. He heard squeaks and scurryings. “This’ll be home, sweet home, when I’ve tidied it up and got rid of the rats,” he said. The dog slipped past him, and plunged into the cabin. Bernard gave a shout. “Hey, come out of there, pup! Those rats will eat you for supper!” He heard the pup give one quick growl. There was a sudden scuffle in the shadows, and a medley of squeaks. The pup trotted out again with something in its jaws then dropped a dead rat at Bernard’s feet. “Well, blow me down!” gasped Bernard. “You’ve killed one of the rats! We’re going to be a proper team, pup! I think I’ll call you ‘Tiger’!” “This is all right, Tiger!” grinned Bernard. “We’ve got a home, and I’ve got a bit of cash from that firewood I sold yesterday. We’re going into business, pal, you and me!”


NEXT WEEKBernard sets

out to find himself a job.



Episode Two of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard September 1st 1973


A slice of dry bread and a raw onion might not be everybody’s idea of a good breakfast, but Bernard Briggs made the best of it. “Cor, that’s strong!” he mumbled, his eyes watering, as he bit into the onion.

He was sitting on the deck of the derelict old barge that was his home. At the age of eleven he was on his own. His parents were dead, and his Uncle George, a shady scrap dealer, had turned him out. It was not a promising beginning for the boy who, in later years, would be Britain’s most famous goalkeeper. “Eat up, Tiger!” said Bernard. “It’s time for school.” Tiger was Bernard’s new pal, a pup that he had saved from the canal. The dog looked up from chewing on a bone, and wagged its tail. Tiger would never win any prizes at a dog show, but its manner was alert, its eyes bright and intelligent. Bernard and his dog made a lively pair. Bernard washed down his breakfast with water from a tap on the wharf—he used an old baked-beans can as a cup. He stuck his head under the tap and gave himself a cold-water wash. His spiky hair sprang up again in all directions, like an untrimmed hedge, as he rode away on his bike. Tiger sat in the carrier on the front of the bike and Bernard broke into a cheerful whistling that made Tiger cock an ear up. A notice in the window of a general store caught Bernard’s eye and he stopped. The notice said. “Smart Youth Wanted.” Bernard propped his bike against the kerb and marched into the shop. Tiger jumped from the carrier and followed him. Mr Smith, the owner of the shop, was arranging a display. His wife was attending to an early customer. Bernard went up to Mr Smith. “Hey, mister, I’d like that job,” said Bernard. “When can I start?” Mr Smith looked Bernard over, and raised his eyebrows. Bernard’s clothes supplied by his Uncle George, had been second-hand to begin with, and hard wear had not improved them. “The advertisement says a smart youth!” exclaimed Mr Smith. “You don’t look very smart to me, son! Anyway, it’s a full-time job.”

The skidding car’s wheels are only inches away as Bernard Briggs risks his life to save Tiger.

An excited yapping made Bernard look round. Tiger had caught sight of a passing cat and the pup shot out of the shop in pursuit. The cat swerved across the road, and Tiger followed. “They’ll be run over!” gasped Bernard. “Tiger, come back.” He plunged out of the shop as the cat leapt in front of a lorry and reached the opposite pavement. Bernard hurled himself into the roadway in a full-length dive. His outstretched hands grabbed his pup and pulled Tiger back from the wheels of the lorry. A taxi swerved to miss Bernard, and there was a crash as the taxi hit Bernard’s bicycle. Mrs Smith and the woman customer screamed. Mr Smith went pale. Bernard got to his feet, still clutching the dog. The cat had escaped, and the lorry rolled on. Bernard hurried back to the pavement outside the shop. “The boy’s all right!” gasped Mrs Smith. “He risked his life to save his dog! That was brave!” “Tiger needs some training!” said Bernard. The taxi stopped. Bernard’s bike had been flung on to the pavement, a twisted wreck. The taxi driver hurried across. “Sorry son,” he said. “But it was you or your bike, when you did that bit of goalkeeping in the road.” “I reckon you picked the right one, mister!” said Bernard. Mr Smith mopped his brow, then handed Bernard a hunk of fresh cheese and a couple of apples. “Here have this, son,” he said. “That’s taught me not to judge by appearances! I’d like to have you work for me, but you’re too young. The law wouldn’t allow it. “This grub’ll come in handy,” said Bernard. “Thanks, mister!”

He pointed to an errand boy’s bike that leaned against the shop wall. A plate fitted to its frame under the crossbar had the words, “L. Smith. Grocer,” and there was a basket in the carrier. “I’d like to have you work for me.” “I’ll work for you before school and after four o’clock, delivering orders, in return for the hire of that bike.” “Done!” said Mr Smith. “Dump your bike in my yard. It’s fit only for junk now.” Bernard rode to school on Mr Smith’s bike, with Tiger sitting in the carrier. Bernard had taken the precaution of tethering his pup with a length of cord and an old collar that Mr Smith had given him. “We’ve done all right Tiger!” said Bernard. “We’ve got a roof over our heads and transport. “Dinner’s taken care of, with the stuff Mr Smith gave me. He threw in a tin of dog food for you, chum!” A familiar voice rasped at him, for Mr Moult, Bernard’s teacher was on the prowl. “You get scruffier every day, Briggs!” snapped Mr Moult. “You’re not coming into school looking like that! And get rid of that mongrel!” “I forgot I was diving about in the road a while back,” said Bernard. “I’ll get tidied up a bit.” He left the bike in the bicycle shed and went round to the back of the school. Steps led down to the cellar where Mr Robinson, the school janitor, was attending to the boiler. Bernard hurried down, carrying his pup. “Mr Robinson, I’ll shovel coke for you at the interval, if you’ll let me have a wash and leave my dog here,” said Bernard. “All right, Bernard,” said the janitor, who was no longer a young man, but still lean and fit-looking. Bernard looked more or less presentable when he arrived in the classroom, but he didn’t get any congratulations from Mr Moult. Mr Moult’s idea of a schoolboy was a respectful fellow in a neat school uniform who spoke when he was spoken to. Bernard certainly didn’t fit that description. But school ended at last, and Bernard hurried away to collect his dog and his bike. Oily Potter, one of his classmates, called to him. “Hey, Bernard, Mr Robinson, the janitor, is taking a bunch of us for a scratch game with St Joseph’s tonight. Can you come?” “I’ve got a job to do first,” said Bernard. “But I’ll be along later. I never say no to a game of football, mate!”


Mrs Smith had a big mug of tea and beans on toast waiting for Bernard. He gulped it down and set to work, leaving Tiger with a bone in Mr Smith’s shed. Bernard was kept busy for a couple of hours, pedalling about the district, the carrier on the bike was piled high with grocery orders.


He had plans for the bike, and he started putting them into operation when he had finished the errands. “That’s all for tonight, Bernard,” said Mr Smith. “Just throw those old jamjars in the bin, then you can push off home. Here are some left-overs, that’ll only go stale if you don’t have them.” Thanks, Mr Smith,” said Bernard. I’ll just finish this sign for the bike before I leave.” Bernard had two pieces of cardboard, the sides of an old cardboard box that Mr Smith had thrown out. On each piece Bernard wrote: “B. Briggs. Dealer.” He fixed the signs on the bike, over the signs that carried Mr Smith’s name. Bernard rode away with Tiger in the carrier basket. His pals were gathering at a football pitch in the park, and Mr Robinson was with them. “Glad you could get here, Bernard,” said Mr Robinson. “I’ve dug out some gear for you.” “Hallo, what’s that sign on your bike? I didn’t know you were a dealer!” “I’m starting my own scrap business,” said Bernard. “It runs in the family, you might say. I’ve picked up a few ideas from helping my Uncle George. The only difference is, I’m going to run my business honest!” The goalkeeping jersey that Bernard put on came down almost to his knees, and he stuffed it inside his shorts. His hands were lost to sight in the sleeves until he rolled them up. Leaving Tiger tied up outside the hut that served as a dressing-room. Bernard trotted out with the scratch side from his school. The team from St Joseph’s were waiting. They were a big bunch, and they looked workmanlike in their neat strip. “Who arranged a match with this lot of scarecrows?” asked one of them. “It’ll do as a workout, a spot of practice, until we start our real games,” drawled another. “Lot of toffee noses!” growled Bernard. “Come on. Mates, we’ll see they get a real game here and now!” St Joseph’s kicked off. They came down with a rush, slinging the ball about. The centre-forward banged in a shot, but Bernard pounded across his goal and collected it. “You need more than a spot of practice, mate!” Bernard jeered. He ran a couple of paces and booted the ball away. Mr Robinson watched the ball soaring towards the centre of the field. “Bernard’s got a powerful kick for a young ‘un!” thought Mr Robinson. The opposition defence had moved up to follow the attack and Bernard’s long ball caught them out of position. Oily Potter collected the ball swerved round a defender, and raced down the middle. His shot was flashing between the posts while the goalkeeper was still diving. “Goal!” roared Bernard. “Haw, haw! That’ll teach ‘em!” That early goal shook St Joseph’s. They had been expecting an easy time, but now they really got stuck in. They came swarming into the opposing half, shoving Bernard’s team back and Bernard hopped about on his line as the defenders crowded in. “Let the dog see the rabbit!” bawled Bernard. As the ball came soaring over from the wing, Bernard leapt out. He shot into the air and punched the ball away from the head of the St Joseph’s centre-forward. St Joseph’s came back again and shots rained in. Bernard bounced about like a fire-cracker. He tipped a high one over the bar. He dived at a forward’s feet to smother the ball. He plunged into a ruck of players and came out the other side clutching the ball. He seemed to be in three places at once as he hurled himself about his goal. St Joseph’s kept breaking through, but they couldn’t get past Bernard, the last line of defence. “This is great!” panted Bernard, a wide grin on his face. “Keep it up, mates!” He leapt to gather another shot as the ball hurtled towards the top corner of the goal. Bernard’s long sleeves came unrolled, and the ends flopped down over his hands. “Cor!” said Bernard. He seemed to stretch out in mid-air. His head met the ball, and slammed it away outside the post. Bernard was back on his feet, sleeves firmly rolled up, before St Joseph’s had moved up for the corner and the ball came curling in. Bernard stood watching it as the centre-half made a rush. Bernard stepped aside and did not attempt to go for the ball. The centre-half went staggering into the goal, and the ball floated over the crossbar. “Phew!” said Oily Potter. “I thought you were beaten there, Bernie!” “Naw!” said Bernard. “I could see the ball was going outside, and that big giraffe hadn’t got a hope of reaching it.” The centre-half was not pleased by Bernard’s remarks. He came pounding in the next time Bernard collected the ball. Bernard planted his feet firmly and turned his shoulder. The centre-half bounced off and sat down. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall!” said Bernard. St Joseph’s kept up the pressure and all their team except the goalkeeper were in the opposition half. They hammered their way through time after time, but Bernard was always there to stop them. The defenders in front of him often found themselves beaten, but Bernard stood firm as a rock. He plucked a shot down from under the crossbar. The next came hard at him. He collected it cleanly, his body behind the ball. Down on one knee he went to the next one, then a dive that took him rolling clear of jabbing feet, the ball hugged to him. St Joseph’s came in again. The centre-forward slammed in a shot and Bernard leapt across. However, his left-back stuck out a foot, and just got a touch to the ball which shot away at an angle, heading for the goal. Bernard seemed to change direction in the middle of his dive. He twisted round, stuck out a hand, and turned the ball round the post. St Joseph’s were already yelling for a goal, and their shouts died away in astonished gasps. “I’m watching something special here today,” thought Mr Robinson. Bernard Briggs is a great goalkeeper in the making.” The opposition came crowding round Bernard for the corner. He plunged out as the ball came over, rose above the scrum, and scooped the ball down. He dodged a charge, and lifted the ball away in an overarm throw. “Shift, Oily!” he bellowed. Oily Potter was standing back from the scrimmage round the goal, on his own. Bernard’s throw landed the ball at his feet. Oily whipped round and galloped away, the ball at his feet. “Offside!” yelled the St Joseph’s centre-half. “Come off it!” scoffed Bernard. “You can’t be offside in your own half!” Oily raced on with defenders racing after him, but he was out by himself. The goalkeeper hopped about, then ran out. “Keep it low!” roared Bernard. Oily fired off a shot. It skimmed along the ground. The goalkeeper stuck out a foot and missed. Bernard capered as the ball ran on into the goal. “I knew he wouldn’t get down to it!” crowed Bernard. That second goal against the run of play took all the steam out of St Joseph’s. Five minutes later the game ended with Bernard’s scratch team the winners by 2-0. “I scored the goals, but you won the game, Bernard,” said Oily. “I’d sooner win than lose, but I reckon the important thing is to enjoy the game, Oily,” said Bernard. Mr Harrison invited Bernard to join the team in a fish-and-chips supper, but Bernard refused. He still had work to do. Mr Robinson offered him money. “Buy yourself some chips then, Bernard,” he said. “No, thanks, Mr Robinson,” said Bernard. “I don’t take money for playing. Football’s my sport.” That was to be Bernard’s rule all through his football career. He made his mind up early, and stuck to it. Changing quickly, Bernard cycled away with Tiger in the carrier. He headed for the yard behind Mr Smith’s shop. The jam jars he had put out earlier were stacked by the dustbin. Bernard loaded them on his bike. “Mr Smith said he wanted them thrown out, so I reckon they’re scrap,” he told Tiger. Bernard rode on with Tiger sharing the carrier with the jingling jars. The lights were still on at Ridley’s Pickles Factory, and the foreman came out when Bernard rang the bell. “Want any jars, mister?” asked Bernard. “Aye, I can use ‘em, son,” said the foreman. When Bernard rode on, there were no jars jingling in the carrier, but he had money jingling in his pocket. “Not a bad day, Tiger!” he grinned. “A fair old game of football, and enough money to buy us a good breakfast! I’m in business as a dealer!”


NEXT WEEKBernard clashes

with Mr Moult again but this

time on the football field.

Episode Three of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard September 8th 1973

Bernard Briggs followed the postman and the milkman into Laburnum Avenue. Bernard was up and about early because he hoped to do a bit of business before going to school. He rode an errand-boy’s bike with his mongrel pup, Tiger, sitting in the basket up front.


Fastened under the crossbar of the bike was a sign which said, “B. Briggs. Dealer.” The bike belonged to Mr Smith, a local grocer. Bernard had the loan of it in return for making deliveries for Mr Smith after school. At the age of eleven, Bernard was on his own, trying to make enough to keep himself and his dog in food. After being turned out by his Uncle George, a scrap dealer who was Bernard’s only living relative, the youngster had made his home on an old barge abandoned on the canal. It was not a promising start for the lad who was to become Britain’s most famous goalkeeper, but Bernard was cheerful enough as he pedaled along Laburnum Avenue. Some of the houses still had curtains closed, the milk on the doorstep. Bernard knew that getting people out of bed wouldn’t please them, so he rode on. At one house, a plump, friendly-looking woman was collecting the milk from outside the front door. Bernard hopped off his bike and approached her. “Morning, lady,” he chirped. “Got any junk I could buy?” “You’re starting young, son,” the woman smiled. “Well, my husband’s gone to work, but you could come back tonight and see him. He’s got a heap of junk in the back yard.” “Ta!” said Bernard. “That sounds promising!” He moved on to the next house. Sitting up in the basket of the bike, Tiger barked. “What’s up with you, pal?” said Bernard. “Hang on, I’ve got time to try this place before school.” A man answered his knock, and Bernard started to prepare his speech. “Morning, mister,” said Bernard. “Have you got—oh, Crikey!” Glaring out at him was Mr Moult, his teacher, and Bernard was a long way from being teacher’s pet.

Mister Moult was laying down the law to Bernard until Tiger made his own mark on the game.

“Briggs!” snapped Mr Moult. “What are you doing here?” “Er-sorry!” said Bernard, retreating. “Wrong house!” “Clear off, you scruff!” Mr Moult called after him. “This is a respectable neighbourhood! We don’t want your sort round here!” Tiger yapped angrily. Bernard swung into the saddle and pedaled away. “Cor!” he said. “I didn’t know old Moult lived there! Never mind, Tiger, maybe we’ll be able to do business with that neighbour of his tonight.” Reaching school, Bernard left Tiger in the cellar, an arrangement he had made with Mr Robinson, the friendly janitor who was encouraging Bernard’s interest in football. Bernard went into the classroom to face another day with Mr Moult. “Pay attention, Briggs!” said Mr Moult. “You won’t be able to spend your whole life cadging! Try to learn something to fit yourself to make an honest living!” Mr Moult began droning on and Bernard’s attention wandered. Trying to make a living on his own gave him plenty to think about. “Mr Harvey gives me bones from the butcher’s shop cheap for Tiger,” pondered Bernard. “I reckon I can get by on ten bob a week for the two of us. Well, better say a quid—” He sat up as he heard Mr Moult rasp out his name. “Briggs!” ordered Mr Moult. “Repeat what I’ve just said!” Bernard’s pals looked at him sympathetically. Mr Moult had a triumphant expression on his face. He thought he had caught Bernard day-dreaming and it seemed that another punishment was coming Bernard’s way.

Bernard thought fast. Mr Moult had written the word ‘Bronze’ on the blackboard. “Er—you were talking about bronze,” said Bernard. “It’s a metal made from tin and copper. Used a lot after the Stone Age. Hence the expression, the Bronze Age!” The disappointed look on Mr Moult’s face showed that Bernard had picked up the clue correctly. Bernard was a lot brighter than Mr Moult would admit. Baffled Mr Moult gave a grunt and went back to his lecture. Mr Moult could have made the adventures of Morgyn the Mighty sound dull, but from then on Bernard paid careful attention. Classes ended at last and Bernard and his pals lost no time in getting out. A new notice had been pinned to the noticeboard. “Hey, look at this, Bernard!” called Oily Potter. “You’ve been picked to play in goal for the Possibles against the Probables in a trial to pick the school team.” “Wonders will never cease!” said Bernard. “I bet Mr Robinson had something to do with that. He’s talked Mr Moult into it somehow.”

SENT OFF!                                       

Mr Robinson was standing on the touchline when Bernard trotted out on to the school pitch with the Possibles. Bernard stopped to speak to him. “Thanks, Mr Robinson,” said Bernard. “What for, son?” asked Mr Robinson. “For getting me a game,” said Bernard.

“Well, yes, I did mention your name to Mr Moult,” said the janitor. “Between you and me, Bernard, I think he only agreed because he hopes you’ll be a complete flop! You show him, son!” Mr Moult trotted out. He was dapper in the gear of a referee, and he gave an impressive toot on his whistle. Bernard took up position in goal, with Tiger sitting near. “We’re going to have a solo performance on the whistle, Tiger!” said Bernard. “Never mind, it’s worth putting up with Mr Moult to get a game of football!” From the kick-off, the Probables attacked strongly and worked the ball along the left wing. Bernard watched the winger get his toe under the ball and loft it over into the middle. Peter Green, the centre-forward for the Probables, ran in to take it. “That cross is too high,” thought Bernard. “Pete will never get it under control.” The ball came down and Pete lashed out. The ball shot past Bernard into the goal. Mr Moult gave a blast on the whistle. “You were slow there, Briggs!” he smirked. “You were slow on the whistle!” Bernard retorted. He ran out and grabbed Pete’s wrist. There was a muddy mark on Pete’s palm. “Look at this!” said Bernard. “Pete brought the ball under control with his hand! That was no goal!” “He’s right, sir,” muttered Pete. “I’m sorry, but I did handle!” Mr Moult scowled, but he had to give the free kick. Bernard dabbed the ball down. “Get upfield, mates!” he shouted. “I’ll shift it!” He took a couple of paces and booted the ball. Mr Robinson watched the ball soaring away into the opposing half. “For a lad, Bernard’s a terrific kicker of a dead ball,” muttered Mr Robinson. Bernard’s forwards scrambled round the goal area, but the Probables had a tight defence. The ball came out, and the left-back cleared. The Probables were away again. Bernard’s defenders crowded back towards him. “Out of my way!” bellowed Bernard. “Give me a bit of room in the six-yard box!” The ball came over and Bernard plunged out into a tangle of players. “Shift!” he roared to his backs. Leaping into the air, he scooped the ball down. He dodged a charge from one forward, and stood firm as another of the Probables rushed at him. They met shoulder to shoulder. The other lad bounced off and sat down. “You could get hurt doing that, mate!” grinned Bernard. He was about to boot the ball away, when the whistle shrilled. Bernard looked at Mr Moult in surprise. “What was that for?” he asked. “Cut out the chat, Briggs!” snapped Mr Moult. “Keep your mouth shut, or you’ll be booked for ungentlemanly conduct!” “Cor!” said Bernard. He prepared to take the kick again, but Mr Moult held up his hand. “Play has been halted,” he said. “I’m giving a dropped ball!” There was a flurry of flailing feet as Mr Moult dropped the ball and Peter Green broke clear. As Bernard moved out to narrow the angle, the right-back of the Possibles hurled himself across. He slammed into Pete and brought him down. Mr Moult whistled, and pointed to the penalty spot. “You nut!” Bernard told the back. “No need to give away a penalty! I was all set to stop his shot!” Pete put the ball on the spot, and it rolled forward. “Ho!” said Bernard. “Put it back, mate!” “I’ve warned you Briggs!” said Mr Moult. “All right, Green, put the ball on the spot!” Pete positioned the ball correctly. He ran up and hit it. The ball whirled to Bernard’s right so that he had to dive at full length. His hands clamped on the ball and stopped it on the line. “Great save, Bernard!” shouted Mr Robinson. Bernard sat up to see Mr Moult was pointing to the centre. “Hey, that was no goal!” said Bernard, scrambling to his feet. “The ball was over the line!” snapped Mr Moult. “I stopped it dead on the line!” said Bernard. “All the ball has to cross the line for a goal! You want to read the rules, Mr Moult!” Mr Moult went red, and he marched towards Bernard. “How dare you speak to me like that!” he fumed. Yapping angrily, Tiger ran on to the pitch. The pup jumped, and its teeth closed on the seat of Mr Moult’s shorts. “He though you were going to attack me!” exclaimed Bernard. “Down, boy!” “Ow!” shrieked Mr Moult. “Get the brute off me!” Although Bernard grabbed Tiger and pulled him away, Mr Moult was not grateful. “Get off the field, Briggs, and take that mongrel with you!” he shouted. Bernard trudged away, carrying Tiger. Mr Robinson watched him go. “Mr Moult doesn’t know a football from a Christmas pudding!” muttered Mr Robinson. “There goes the best goalkeeper the school has ever had!”

BIG DEAL                                        

Later that evening, Bernard cycled into Laburnum Avenue, with Tiger sitting in the basket. Bernard had spent a busy couple of hours delivering groceries for Mr Smith, and now he was back in the junk business. He kept a wary eye open, but there was no sign of Mr Moult.

The woman he had spoken to that morning opened the door to him, and called her husband, Ted Foster. “My wife said you were in business in a small way, and she was right!” grinned Mr Foster, looking down at Bernard. “Everybody’s got to start somewhere, mister,” said Bernard. “Come on then, son,” said Mr Foster, leading the way to the back yard. “I like your spirit. You can have this, if you can take it away.” Bernard stared, for Mr Foster was pointing at an old car. It was a model of the 1920’s, with scratched paintwork and tears in its canvas hood. “For years I’ve been planning to get this old chariot roadworthy, but I’ve never had the time,” explained Mr Foster. “It’s just cluttering the place up. It’s yours!” “I don’t want something for nothing,” said Bernard. “Tell you what, mister, I’ll try to sell it, and I’ll give you half of what I get.” Mr Foster gave him a hand to push the car into the road. “You won’t get this to a buyer on your own,” said Mr Foster. “You said I could have it, if I could take it away,” answered Bernard. “I’ll manage somehow.” He looked along the road and gave a shout. Oily Potter and two more of Bernard’s pals were strolling along. “Give us a push, mates!” Bernard yelled. His pals hurried to him and put their shoulders to the car. It trundled away, with Bernard reaching inside to steer it, and Tiger sitting in the passenger seat and enjoying the ride. A curtain twitched in the front room of Mr Moult’s house, then Mr Moult appeared on the step, and spoke over the fence to his neighbour. “About time you got rid of that junk, Foster!” he said. “It’s been an eyesore for far too long! But, whatever deal you struck with Briggs. I’ll wager he’s got the best of it! I know that young ruffian!” “He struck me as a nice lad,” said Mr Foster. “A bit rough and ready, but straightforward. He’s promised to give me half of what he gets for the car.” “That’s a likely story!” scoffed Mr Moult. “You’ll never see him again!” Bernard and his pals turned the corner into Holly Grove, and stopped for a rest. A large, glossy car came gliding by. The man sitting in the back gave them a casual glance, then shouted to his chauffeur. “Henry, I believe that’s a 1924 Lance, one of our first! Stop!” The car halted and the man jumped out and hurried across to Bernard. “Who owns this car, lads?” he asked. “I do,” said Bernard. “At least, I’ve got permission to sell it. I’m B. Briggs. Dealer! And I’m open for offers, mister!” “And I’ll make you one!” the man smiled. He walked round the car, studying it. “Yes, all it needs is a bit of attention. I’m the managing director of the Lance Motor Company, and this is one of our earliest models. Just what we need for our museum! What do you say to one hundred and fifty pounds, B. Briggs?” “I thought we’d have to push the thing all over town to get ten quid! You’re on, mister!” Meanwhile, Mr Moult was still talking to his neighbour, Mr Foster, who had tried yawning and looking at his watch, but it made no difference. Bernard came strolling up with his mates. Mr Moult’s eyes bulged as Bernard waved a wad of notes. “That scrap of yours was dead valuable, Mr Foster!” said Bernard. “Look, the Lance Motor Company gave me one hundred and fifty pounds for it!” “Crikey!” said Mr Foster. “That’s a nice little windfall for both of us, Bernard!” “Not me, mister,” said Bernard. “I couldn’t keep seventy-five quid!” “But if you’ll let me have a fiver, I can give my pals a quid each for helping me push it!” Mr Foster started to protest but Bernard peeled off five pounds and pushed the rest of the money into Mr Foster’s hand. “Ta!” he said. “Nice doing business with you, Mr Foster! Let me know if there’s anything else I can shift!” The boys walked away as Mr Foster turned to Mr Moult and held up the money. “And that’s the lad you said couldn’t be trusted!” he grinned. “If you can sum up character, you seem to be getting a few of your sums wrong, Moult!” Mr Moult scowled and began muttering to himself as he slammed into his house. When Bernard got back to the barge that was his home, he was carrying a couple tins of paint and a paintbrush. “That money will help us smarten up the old home, Tiger,” he said. He began slapping paint on the walls of the cabin. “It’s looking better already!” he said. The door opened, and a man in a dark suit looked in. “Bernard Briggs?” he said. “I’m the Welfare Officer. Your teacher told me about you. He’s quite right, this isn’t a suitable place for you to live! I’m sorry, my boy, but you can’s stay here. You’ll have to come with me to the Children’s Home!”

Is this the end of Bernard’s

independence? Will he be

separated from Tiger? Find

out the answers in NEXT

WEEK’S exciting story.

Episode Four of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard September 15th 1973

The Children’s home was an old, rambling building with a forbidding look about it. Bernard Briggs paused in the gateway, leaning on his bike while he studied the place. “I ain’t going to like it here, mister,” he said. “Now, now, Bernard,” said Mr Ganley, the Welfare Officer. “This is for your own good. You’ll be better off here than in that old barge of yours.”


Tiger, Bernard’s mongrel pup, frisked round them and gave a yap that seemed to suggest he disagreed with Mr Ganley. The Welfare Officer put a hand on Bernard’s shoulder and conducted him to the massive front door. At the age of eleven, Bernard was on his own. His only relative, his Uncle George, had turned him out, and Bernard had set up home in an old abandoned barge on the canal. Fending for himself, Bernard had found work making deliveries for Mr Smith, a local grocer, outside school hours. In return, Mr Smith had loaned the delivery bike to Bernard, who had set himself up as a dealer, ready to buy and sell anything. But Bernard was not popular with Mr Moult, his teacher, who had reported Bernard’s way of life to the authorities. As a result, the Welfare Officer had arrived to take Bernard to the Children’s Home. It was not a promising beginning for the boy who was later to become Britain’s most famous goalkeeper. A stout woman with a bad-tempered expression opened the door. This was Mrs Sprott, the matron of the Home, and the look she gave Bernard was not welcoming. “Another grubby urchin!” she sniffed. “Well, he’ll soon learn to be clean and respectable here!” Bernard was certainly not the smartest-looking boy in town. His sweater had holes in it, and his trousers were patched. His hair stood up like a brush. “Well, don’t stand there gawping!” snapped Mrs Sprott. “Come inside! I haven’t got time to waste!” She reached out. Apparently she thought that Bernard’s ear would make a suitable handle by which to haul him inside. Bernard ducked. Tiger rushed at Mrs Sprott, yapping angrily. The pup had to dodge a kick from her big foot. “Get rid of that flea-infested mongrel!” she shouted. “Have the nasty little brute put down!” “Tiger ain’t got fleas!” retorted Bernard. “And nobody’s going to touch him! You leave him alone!” Mrs Sprott raised her hand. She seemed about to give Bernard a clip on the ear, but Mr Ganley was watching, so she waved Bernard inside instead. “Don’t answer me back!” she said. “Inside!” “Go home, Tiger!” said Bernard. “This place ain’t fit for a dog!” “Watch your language, Bernard!” warned Mr Ganley. “You go with Mrs Sprott. I’ll put your bike in the shed.” Bernard found himself in an entrance hall where wafts of carbolic and furniture polish failed to hide the smell of stale cooking. The only decoration was a long list of rules and regulations pinned to the wall. Mrs Sprott slammed the door, shutting Tiger and Mr Ganley outside. Putting a heavy hand on Bernard’s back, she shoved him towards the stairs. “You’re a trouble-maker!” she said. “I know your sort! And I know how to tame you, too! You’re going to bed without any supper!”

Supperless and locked in a cold room, Bernard learns it will be a hard life for him in his new home.

The room Bernard was taken to had a cot with one blanket. There were bars to the windows. “What’s this, solitary confinement?” said Bernard. “Ain’t there any more kids in this place?” “You’re a bad influence!” said Mrs Sprott. “You’ll be allowed to mix with the other boys when you’ve learned some manners.” She slammed out, banging the door behind her. Bernard put out his tongue. He had landed in a pretty cheerless place, but he wasn’t going to start moping. People like Mrs Sprott didn’t frighten him. He was used to making his own way in a hard world. “Might as well do my homework,” he decided. It was cold in the room, and he rolled himself up in the blanket without taking his clothes off. Bernard worked steadily at his work, but soon dozed off. About midnight a mournful howling aroused him. Looking out, he saw Tiger sitting under his window. “Quiet, pup!” called Bernard. “Go back to the barge! They won’t keep me long in this prison, boy!” Nearby, another window opened and Mrs Sprott leaned out. She flung a bucket of water over Tiger. “Clear off before I shoot you!” she screeched. Tiger yelped and scuttled away, Bernard scowled. “Cor, that Mrs Sprott is an old witch!” he muttered. “I’ve got to get out of here before all this welfare kills Tiger and me.”



Bernard was allowed out early the next morning. He had a quick wash in cold water, and made for the main door. “I’ve got work to do,” he told himself. “I’ll have to skip breakfast.” He was slipping outside when Mrs Sprott came flapping down the stairs in down-at-heel slippers, her hair in curlers. “Where are you sneaking of too, Briggs?” she called.  

“Mr Smith, the grocer, is expecting me,” said Bernard. “I’ve got some deliveries to make for him.” He fetched his bike from the shed and jumped on. Mrs Sprott stood on the step and yelled at him. “I haven’t given you permission to go out! Come back you little ruffian! I’ll keep you in for a week!” Bernard pedaled away without looking back. “I don’t know who Mr Sprott was, but he’s got my sympathy!” thought Bernard. Down at Mr Smith’s shop, there was work waiting. Bernard swept the shop out, then pedalled round with some early-morning deliveries. His good turn had taken time, and the bell was ringing as he pedalled into the school playground. “Hey Bernard!” called Mr Robinson, the school janitor. “Can you play against the Welfare Home tonight? I’ve fixed up a friendly.” Mr Moult, Bernard’s teacher, was in charge of the school football team, but Mr Robinson arranged games for lads like Bernard who were not the teacher’s pets. “I’ll be there, Mr Robinson,” said Bernard, jumping off his bike. “Can’t stop! It’s all go this morning!” Bernard slid into his desk as the bell stopped ringing. Mr Moult frowned at him. “Just in time, Briggs!” he said. “They haven’t taught you punctuality at the Home yet! But we’ll lick you into shape between us!” Mr Moult’s method for licking Bernard into shape was to flick him on the head with a ruler. Bernard got several flicks during the day. He was a bright lad, and there was nothing wrong with his work, but Mr Moult could always find an excuse for a bit of ruler work. “Let’s see what you know about geography, Briggs,” said Mr Moult, unrolling a wall map. He pointed to a large island off the coast of China. “What’s the name of this island?” “Taiwan,” said Bernard. The ruler cracked down on his skull. “Wake up you dolt!” snapped Mr Moult. “That island is called Formosa!” The headmaster came in. He had been passing in the corridor, and he had seen the incident through the glass panel of the door. “Anything wrong, Mr Moult?” he asked. “Just trying to get some learning into Briggs’ thick head, sir!” said Mr Moult. “He doesn’t know the difference between Taiwan and Formosa.” “Neither do I!” said the headmaster. “The island is sometimes called Formosa, but the Chinese name for it is Taiwan!” Bernard kept his face straight, but there were some muffled sniggers from the back and Mr Moult went red. After the head had left, Mr Moult kept his ruler to himself, but the looks he gave Bernard showed that the episode hadn’t helped to make a friend of Mr Moult. Bernard wasn’t bothered. As soon as school was over, he rushed out. He pedaled briskly round the district, delivering Mr Smith’s groceries, then he rushed to the old barge where he had made his home. Tiger was sitting on deck, chewing at a bone. “Just thought I’d look in and make sure you were all right, mate!” grinned Bernard, as the pup pranced round him. “I can see you’re managing all right for grub. No, you can’t come with me! Stay, boy! Don’t worry, I’ll find some way to get us teamed up again.” Leaving Tiger aboard the barge, Bernard cycled away to the park pitch where his pals were to meet the team from the Home. The teams were already lining up as Bernard rushed towards the goal. “Thought you weren’t coming, Bernard,” called Mr Robinson, from the touchline. “I wouldn’t miss a game of football, Mr Robinson,” said Bernard. “But I told you, it’s all go!” The referee was a Mr Owen, an official Bernard had not met before. There was a sharp toot on the whistle, and the game was under way. The boys from the Home made progress. Bernard watched them advancing on him, slinging the ball from man to man. “So these are my fellow inmates!” thought Bernard. “We slept under the same roof last night, but we ain’t met yet! Well, they look pretty handy! Big, too!” The boys from the Home were a bigger lot than Bernard’s team. Their hefty, red-haired striker came barging through and slammed in a shot. Bernard dived and pounced on the ball. “Not this time, Ginger!” he grinned. He bounced to his feet and hurled the ball away. It landed at the feet of Olly Potter. “Shift your big bats, Olly!” bawled Bernard. Olly made ground. A defender raced across and slid the ball into touch. Bernard’s team tried to get through from the throw-in, but the defence held. The stocky left-back booted the ball out of his half. “Here they come again!” muttered Bernard. The winger brought the ball along. Bernard’s defenders fell back towards him. “Get at him!” yelled Bernard. His right-back pounded across, but the winger put on a spurt and outpaced him. The ball came floating across the goal area. Bernard bounded out, made a leap, and collected the cross. He dodged aside as the red-haired centre-forward plunged at him, and booted clear. The opposition came back again and Bernard’s goal came under constant pressure. At half-time there was still no score. “That’s a promising lad you’ve got in goal,” the referee remarked to Mr Robinson. “Why isn’t he in the school team?” “Between you and me, his face doesn’t fit!” said Mr Robinson. Bernard’s forwards tried to break through from the kick-off, but the defence held. With all the team crowding up for the attack, Bernard saw a defender boot the ball away. The red-haired striker was standing unmarked at the edge of his own half. He hooked the ball away and picked up speed. Only the opposing centre-half was between him and Bernard. The striker danced the ball round the centre-half, leaving him floundering as Bernard came running out. The striker strode towards him, took a quick glance at the goal, and steadied himself to shoot. Bernard rushed in. He did not use his hands. He went into a fierce tackle using his feet. He pulled the ball away, swerved aside with it, then slowed down, calmly studying the field to find a good place to put it. The striker plunged at him. They met shoulder to shoulder. Bernard stood firm, and the red-haired lad staggered back. “I ain’t made of marshmallow, chum!” said Bernard. All his team-mates were marked. Bernard started to run with the ball. He crossed the halfway line, and kept going. The defence woke up and a player came racing to intercept Bernard. That left Olly Potter unmarked. Bernard waited until the defender was almost on him, then lifted the ball across. “Yours, Olly!” he yelled. Olly his the ball on the bounce and it hurled towards the goal. The goalkeeper hurled himself across and tipped the ball over the bar. Bernard banged his hands together. “Bad luck, Olly!” he said. “Nice save, mate!” Bernard did not wait for the corner, but raced back to his own goal. The corner was cleared, and it was the turn of the opposition to attack. They came swarming round Bernard’s goal. Once more Bernard seemed to be in three places at once. He clawed balls out of the air, smothered shots on the ground. The pressure was on, but Bernard was enjoying himself. The boys from the Home kept up the attacks. Trying to get that elusive goal. Bernard’s team were running out of steam – all except Bernard. He was still the barrier that the opposition could not pass. He punched out another shot. The referee glanced at his watch. Time was running short. Back came the opposition in a final all-out drive to score. The ball came over from the wing. The red-haired striker raced in. Bernard’s left-back jumped and pulled the ball down with his hand. The whistle shrilled. “Clot!” said Bernard. “I had that covered! Now you’ve given away a penalty!” He positioned himself on the line and hitched up his shorts. The red-haired striker positioned the ball and backed away, then he paused and carefully rubbed the toe of his boot on his stocking. The striker broke into a run and hit the ball. Bernard did not move. He watched the ball hit the post and bounce back. The striker ran on to it and slammed it between the posts. Bernard still had not moved. “Goal!” yelled the striker, leaping off the ground and punching the air. Mr Owen, the referee shook his head. “No goal!” he said. “And time’s up! It’s a goalless draw!” He blew a long blast on his whistle. Bernard grinned at the expression on the striker’s face. “A player taking a penalty can’t play the ball twice in succession, Ginger!” guffawed Bernard. “Didn’t you know that?” He turned to go off, but the referee spoke to him. “You played a great game, son,” said Mr Owen. “The scoresheet would have looked different if you hadn’t been in goal.” “Thanks, mister,” said Bernard, “And thanks for a nice bit of whistling! Not many refs in this sort of game would know the rules as well as you do.” A screech louder than Mr Owen’s whistle made him look round. Mrs Sprott was marching on to the pitch, followed by Mr Ganley, the Welfare Officer. “There he is!” shrilled Mrs Sprott. “He runs away from the home, then has the cheek to come and play football against us! I told you he was a trouble-maker, Mr Ganley!” “You’re in trouble, Briggs,” said Mr Ganley. “This disobedience will have to be reported to the committee. It may be that you need stronger discipline than the Children’s Home can provide!” “Cor!” muttered Bernard. “All I want is to run my own life! Why can’t they leave me alone?”


NEXT WEEKBernard and

Mr Smith, the grocer, are in

trouble for breaking the law.



Episode Five of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard September 22nd 1973


At the age of eleven, young Bernard Briggs found himself behind bars. He was locked in a small room at the top of the Children’s Home in Manningham, and the bars were at the grimy window. The furniture consisted of a cot with one blanket, and a small, rickety table. For company he had two or three spiders, and several dead flies.


Bernard had no family, and he had been fending for himself. With his pup, Tiger, he had set up home in an old barge. Mr Moult, Bernard’s teacher, had reported this to the authorities, and Bernard had been taken to the Children’s Home. He soon left again, because he had promised to make some deliveries for a local grocer. The Welfare Officer and Mrs Sprott, the matron of the Home, had finally caught up with Bernard at a football match he had been playing in. Bernard had been hauled back, and here he was, locked up in solitary confinement. It was not a promising start for the lad who was later to become Britain’s most famous goalkeeper. But it took a lot to get Bernard down, as he proved when a jangling of keys announced the arrival of Mrs Sprott. The matron marched in, carrying a tray that held a plate of dry bread and a glass of water. She banged the tray down on the table. “Your supper, Briggs!” she snapped. “Ta!” said Bernard. “I’d better start on it before it gets cold!” “We’ll take the grin off your face!” said Mrs Sprott. “You’ll be going before the committee. They’ll see you get the discipline you need.”

It looks a certain goal—but Bernard doesn’t bother about it!

She slapped an exercise-book down. “And you needn’t think you can just idle your time away in here. Mr Moult has sent you some homework to do. You’re lucky to have a teacher who takes so much interest in you.” She went out, locking the door behind her, leaving Bernard to wolf down the bread and a swig of water. He was still hungry, but it wasn’t the first time he had been short of food. His policy was to keep busy and take his mind off his hunger, so he started on his homework. Mr Moult had set an essay, and Bernard scribbled away. There was no light in the room, and Bernard just managed to finish as darkness came down. After that, there was nothing left to do but to go to bed. Lying on a lumpy mattress with only one blanket wrapped round him, Bernard spent an uncomfortable night. He got up once or twice to flap his arms and touch his toes, trying to warm himself up. Morning seemed a long time coming, but at last it grew light. Bernard heard the rattle of Mrs Sprott’s keys outside. “The Goddess of Dawn came shyly peeping in!” muttered Bernard, remembering a poem he had read at school. Mrs Sprott didn’t look much like a shy goddess as she clumped in with another helping of bread and water. She put it down and went out without a word. Bernard was kept locked up until it was almost time to leave for school. As he set off on the bike loaned to him by Mr Smith, the grocer, the matron had a final farewell for him. “Straight to school, Briggs!” she ordered. “The committee will be sending for you, so don’t you try to run away again.” “I told you, missus. I didn’t run away,” said Bernard. “I ain’t afraid of your committee!” Bernard made two calls on his way to school. First he stopped at the barge where he had been living. His dog was still there. Tiger frisked round him, tail wagging. Satisfied that the pup was all right, Bernard pedalled on to Mr Smith’s shop. “Sorry I couldn’t get away to work for you this morning, Mr Smith,” said Bernard. “I’ll do extra tonight, after school.” “Sorry, Bernard, you’re finished here,” said Mr Smith. “I’m in enough trouble already because of you! I’ve got to appear before the Welfare Committee!” “I didn’t mean to land you in trouble, mister,” said Bernard. “Don’t you worry, we’ll sort it out somehow. If I ain’t working for you any longer, you’d better have the bike back.” Bernard raced away on foot. The school bell was ringing as he reached the gates. The toot of a horn made him look round. Driving by was a man who had refereed the match that Bernard had played in the day before. Bernard returned Mr Owen’s wave. He approved of the way Mr Owen controlled a game. Bernard ran on into the classroom, where the other boys were sitting down. Mr Moult was at his desk. “Scruffy as ever, Briggs!” said Mr Moult. “They haven’t been able to improve your appearance at that place. And I suppose you’ve got some excuse for not doing your homework, Briggs?” “No need for an excuse,” said Bernard. “Here’s the homework!” He put the exercise-book on the teachers desk. Mr Moult opened the book and glanced at it. “Hm’!” he said. “I’m sure the Welfare Committee will be interested in what you’ve written here! All right, go to your desk. And you were late, so you’ll stay in during the lunch hour!” With Mr Moult, Bernard just couldn’t win. When his pals rushed off at the end of the morning’s grind, Bernard was left alone in the class to work out some sums that Mr Moult had left him. Bernard was slogging away at the work when Mr Robinson, the school janitor, looked in. “I’ve been searching for you, Bernard,” said the janitor. “Come on lad, I’ve fixed up a practice for the school team, and I want you to keep goal against them.” “I’m supposed to be in detention, Mr Robinson,” said Bernard. He hesitated, but not for long. “Okay, I’ll be there! Just give me a couple of minutes to finish off these sums,” Bernard rushed through the rest of the work, slapped his papers on Mr Moult’s desk, and raced out. Down on the pitch, the two teams were loosening up. Mr Robinson was watching them. “You’ve got time to change, Bernard,” said Mr Robinson. “Mr Owen’s agreed to referee, and he’s not here yet.” “I’ll play as I am, Mr Robinson,” said Bernard. “I ain’t got a strip of my own, and I reckon I’d spoil Mr Moult’s lunch if I asked him to loan me one from the school store.” “Hello, mister,” said Bernard. “Glad to see you again! Good refs don’t grow on trees!” “Hallo, Bernard,” replied Mr Owen. “I expected to see you keeping goal for the school team.” “You get a game of football at either end,” grinned Bernard. The practice started. The school team came swarming down, eager to prove themselves. The centre-forward broke through and shot, but Bernard dived and clamped his hands on the ball. “You’ll have to hit ‘em harder than that!” he said. Bouncing to his feet, he cleared with an overarm throw. His team made ground, but the defence closed up. A big boot landed the ball back in Bernard’s goal area. A forward strode to collect it. Bernard got there first. Racing out, he hurled himself on to the ball. Clutching the ball to him he went over to a complete somersault, came to his feet again, and kicked a long one out to the wing. “Move it, Bill!” he yelled. The winger picked up speed, running the ball along the touchline. “Over here!” roared a familiar voice. Bernard was sprinting down the middle. He had taken the defence by surprise, and he was unmarked. The winger was surprised as well when he saw his goalkeeper up level with him, but he lifted the ball across. Bernard trapped the ball as a defender lunged at him, and Bernard dodged the ball round him. The winger was cutting in. Bernard slid the ball to him along the ground. The winger hit it, and it shot between the posts, leaving the school goalkeeper flat-footed. “Goal!!” yelled Bernard. “Nice one, Bill!” “Bernard’s certainly unorthodox,” Mr Owen remarked to Mr Robinson, as the teams walked back. “But he’s a great lad! A really whole-hearted player.” Bernard had no more opportunities for surprise sorties as he was kept busy defending his own goal. He clawed shots out of the air, punched shots clear, dived at the feet of rampaging forwards. Nothing got past him. The school team was beginning to get desperate. The ball came sailing over again. The school centre-forward turned his back on the referee and swung a fist. He punched the ball into the goal, with Bernard standing and watching it fly inside the post. The triumphant yells of the school team were stopped by the shrilling of Mr Owen’s whistle as he signalled for a foul. Bernard gave a thumbs up sign to the referee. “I knew you wouldn’t miss that one, mister!” grinned Bernard, and booted the ball away. Bernard’s forwards were not quick enough to make anything of it, and back surged the attackers round Bernard’s goal. This time a school forward curved the ball towards the far post. His winger came rushing in and Bernard dived. He fell on the ball, and the winger fell over him. Bernard was pinned down with the winger lying on top of him. Two of the school forwards rushed in. Boots swung at Bernard as they tried to prod the ball out from underneath him. Mr Owen’s whistle shrilled out. “Are you trying to kick his ribs in?” shouted Mr Owen. The forwards drew back. Bernard gave a heave, and shoved the winger off. “I’m O.K. ref!” he grinned, bouncing to his feet. “How much time left?” “Thirty seconds!” said Mr Owen. “Crikey, the lads will have to hold on without me!” said Bernard. “Look who’s here!” Mr Moult marched on to the pitch and grabbed Bernard by the arm. “So this is where you are, Briggs!” he snapped. “I left you in detention! That’s something else the Welfare Committee will hear about! Come on, you ragamuffin, they’re waiting for you!”

REF TO THE RESCUE                   

Bernard stood in the committee room with Mr Moult at his side. Behind a table sat the committee, two men and two women. “This is the boy, ladies and gentlemen,” said Mr Moult. “As you can see, he’s dirty and unkempt.   

“He ran away from the Home yesterday. He was late for school this morning, and he broke detention during the lunch hour. “I’d finished the work you set me,” said Bernard. “You’ll have a chance to state your case later, Briggs,” said the chairman of the committee. “But first we’ll examine these charges in detail. “One of our members has not yet arrived, but there are enough of us to arrive at a decision. Mr Moult please asks Mr Smith to come in.” “Mr Smith entered. The grocer looked nervous as he faced the committee. “Mr Smith, we’ve been told Briggs worked for you,” said the chairman. “Don’t you know you require a permit to employ a boy of school age?” “Well, yes,” mumbled Mr Smith. “But it’s like this—” There was an interruption as the door opened and the missing member of the committee hurried in. Bernard stared. “Cor!” said Bernard. “Mr Owen!” Mr Owen had changed out of his referee’s strip. He went quickly to his seat. Mr Owen studied the paper he was handed, then got to his feet. “I know Bernard Briggs,” he said. “He’s dirty because he’s been playing football. For his age he’s brilliant and absolutely fearless. You don’t end up looking like a tailor’s dummy if you keep goal the way Bernard does! He only left the Home yesterday because he wanted to keep faith with Mr Smith. The grocer doesn’t employ him, Bernard works for nothing.” “What Mr Owen says about Bernard working for nothing is quite true,” declared Mr Smith. “That’s what I was trying to explain. He takes deliveries for me, and in return I let him use the bike. He doesn’t get paid. He’s a good lad.” “Then there seems no reason to detain you, Mr Smith,” said the chairman. “You have done nothing illegal. Thank you for helping us to clear up that point.” Mr Moult hadn’t finished yet. He flourished Bernard’s exercise-book. “I’d like the committee to see this,” he yapped. “An essay written by Briggs on the subject, ‘How I Spent Last Night.’ “It’ll show you that you can’t believe a word Briggs says!” “Dear me!” said one of the ladies. “In this essay the boy says he was locked in solitary confinement with bread and water! But we knew he spent the night at the Home! What’s this at the end? It goes off into a scribble I can’t read!” “It says I can’t see to write any more because it’s getting dark, and there’s no light in my cell, lady!” explained Bernard. “The boy’s impossible!” snapped Mr Moult. “Suppose we ask the matron?” suggested Mr Owen. He opened the door and Mrs Sprott strutted in. She smirked at the committee and gave a little bob like somebody being presented at court. “Mrs Sprott, was Bernard Briggs locked up last night in a barred room with only bread and water?” said Mr Owen. The abrupt question took the smirk off Mrs Sprott’s face. “I – er – I had to make sure he didn’t run away again,” she spluttered. “Really?” said Mr Owen. “I suggest the committee visits the Home and sees the conditions in which Bernard Briggs was detained last night.” “The boy’s a trouble-maker!” Mrs Sprott burst out. “Everybody knows that! Mr Moult warned me against him! I had to use a firm hand. “He was living rough on an old barge,” said Mrs Sprott. “That’ll show you the kind of boy he is.” “I’d got the barge done up all right,” said Bernard. “I’d painted it and everything! I’d have made a go of it on my own, honest!” “That’s the barge down by Pembroke Street, Isn’t it?” said Mr Owen. “I ought to explain to the committee that Bernard is there by my permission!” Bernard stared. “First I’ve heard of it,” he thought. “What’s Mr Owen up to?” “As you know, I own the Pembroke Street Engineering Works, and the canal wharf alongside,” Mr Owen went on. “Vandals cause damage down there, so Bernard is allowed to use the barge in return for helping the night watchman keep an eye on things!” Five minutes later, Bernard was outside the room with Mr Owen. “Discharged without a stain on my character!” he chortled. “And a raspberry for Mr Moult! Thanks, Mr Owen, you really stood up for me in there!” “I don’t like injustice, Bernard,” said Mr Owen. “And I’ll make sure the committee investigates the running of that Home. Mrs Sprott isn’t going to treat anybody else the way she treated you.” “I won’t let you down, mister,” said Bernard. “I know that Bernard,” smiled Mr Owen. “Well let’s get you back to your barge. Don’t forget you’re my assistant night watchman!”


Bernard’s boots land him in

a bit of bother in goal, NEXT




The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs 20 episodes appeared in The Wizard August 25th 1973January 5th 1974

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2006