1910-1936 Michael McGahey

Birth Date

27th May 1873


Portsea, Hampshire

Biographical Text

Michael’s father James was born in Monaghan, Ireland. In 1855, aged 17 he left for Colchester to join the British Army.
In the late 1870’s he moved with his wife and first son Michael John McGahey to Stepcote Hill Exeter.

Michael went to Blue Boy School then Hele’s, and at 17 became a solictor’s clerk in the firm of Dunn & Baker in Castle Street. One of the senior partners took an interest in him and helped Michael through night school and later made him a partner.

"M J McGahey was a well known advocate in the City and together with T J W Templeman took an active part in the City’s interests. Mr McGahey with his then Managing Clerk, Sidney Herbert Thomas, assisted in the formation of the Exeter City Football and Athletic Club. Mr T J W Templeman a local Councillor and also Mayor and Alderman of the Exeter City Council. S H Thomas eventually being appointed Life President of the Exeter City Football Club."
From the History of Dunn & Baker.

Michael married Isabella and had six children.

He became involved in the life of the city, serving as a local councillor, an Alderman and Freeman of the City.

He had always enjoyed watching football at St James Park. He later joined the board and became Chair in 1910.

In 1912 the FA conducted an enquiry into the affairs of Exeter City following complaints made by three Directors. The enquiry took place at the Great Western Hotel, St David's Station on June 1st. The club had to provide their account books. It had been no secret that there was a boardroom split among the Directors.
The charges against some Directors concerned illegal bonuses paid to players for winning games. This was reported by Mr T Oliver with further statements being signed by Mr WH Cook and Mr W Fenwick, the alleged payments were said to have been paid in the seasons, 08/09, 10/11 and 11/12.
The result of the enquiry was the club were found to be producing incomplete cash books were found to be incomplete and unsatisfactory. The former Chairman, Captain Harvey had admitted that the bonuses had been paid. And it was further admitted that further payments had been made to players after the FA Cup tie against Reading in 1910/11. And that a fraction of the gate receipts from the match against New Brompton played on 11th September 1911 had not shown in the accounts. The enquiry concluded that this had happened with the knowledge of some Directors, Cook, Fenwick, Thomas, Parkhouse and Oliver without the knowledge of the others. The charge against Oliver was that this was done to pay bonuses. As soon as McGahey was made aware of this he bought it to the club board meeting and the practice was stopped.
The FA approved of the actions that McGahey had taken and censured Cook, Parkhouse, Fenwick, Oliver and Thomas for their improper action. They ordered the club to update its accounts and fined the Grecians £20.

In the summer of 1914 Exeter City were invited to represent the FA on a tour of Argentina.
As part of an extension to the tour, agreed by Michael, the Grecians became the first side to play Brazil.

On 4 August 1914 as Britain declared war on Germany, an English football team was in the middle of its return voyage from a tour of South America. Their journey back would involve narrow misses with warships - and their lives as footballers would never be the same again.
The 15 players in Exeter City's touring squad were on their way back from a tour of Argentina and Brazil, during which they suffered a 2-0 defeat to the first-ever Brazilian national team, when news reached them about discord back in Europe.
The assassination of Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand was escalating into something that would become known as World War One.
"The news of declaration of war between Germany and France caused great excitement between the mixed body of passengers," wrote club chairman Michael McGahey in a letter published by the Exeter Express and Echo newspaper shortly after the team's return.
" about 12 midnight when the wireless message was received as to the declaration of war between England and Germany... the news had the most sobering effect.
"Everybody felt the world was fated with a terrible ordeal, the end of which no man could foresee."
Alone on the ocean, the fate of the ship, its passengers and crew depended on which nations' ships they encounter first. If it was an enemy nation those on board, especially young fit men of military age, could spend the war in internment camps.
Mr McGahey said it was a "startling adventure" as the team's ship was twice fired on by warships - once near the English Channel - as they put warning shots across its bow.

Luckily for the players, on both occasions the ships were French - Britain's allies. The ship was allowed to continue its journey although the crew had been told to stay away from Southampton and landed in Liverpool instead.
'Up-and-coming team'
Mr McGahey said as the players headed back to Exeter by train, "they were looking forward to the start of the 1914-1915 season, which was in a few days' time"

With all things Exeter City it was not as simple as the chair thought.

In between dispatches from the Western Front and a review of the game of golf in 1915, the Western Morning News printed on the third page of their New Years Day Edition (1916) the 'Questions Asked at Annual Meeting Last Evening', in relation to the Exeter City Football Club and Athletic Company AGM 1915.

Transcript and Image below:

The annual meeting of the Exeter City Football Club and Athletic Company, Ltd., was held at the Bude Hotel last evening, under the chairmanship of Mr. M. J. McGahey.

The Directors' report and a summary of the balance sheet has already appeared.

The chairman, in moving their adoption, said that everyone new what a struggle the Board had to make the financial side of professional football in Exeter a success. They had had their worries, but resolved to stick to their task.

Save for the War, they would, he was firmly convinced, have been able now to show that they had cleared off all debts and were in a sound financial position - (hear, hear).

The result of the war, however, had led to their not being in such a satisfactory position. The accounts now presented were fairly clear, but it was an error in the report where it was said that the gross income was £3,000 less than last season. The figure should have been £2,000 less.

In regard to the £317 15s 10d shown as receipts for "friendlies," he should explain that £317 of this was received in connection with the Argentine tour, so that if it had not been for that trip the receipts from "friendlies" would have been only 15s 10d.

The Argentine tour also affected the wages and salaries figure. In the year before, namely 2013-14, that figure was £2,162. and in 1914-15, £1,975 6s 7d. It would, however, have been much less (£200 or so less) but for the fact that having arranged the Argentine tour they were bound to pay more summer wages than usual.

They had, in fact, to keep a team going all season.

The amount received in players transfer fees was £595, as against £533 the year before. The £595 concerned mainly, if not entirely, the transfer of Fort and F. Whittaker to Millwall. There was a balance of £350 still owing on that transfer, but it was not shown on the balance sheet.

If it were recovered after the war, there being some money owing to the late manager and one of the directors, the sum would be devoted to paying those amounts off.

The Chairman went on to deal with smaller items, and expressed the club's deep thanks to the Lady Ann Clifford's Charity Trustees in regard to the rent of the ground, to Mr. H. E. Duke. K.C., M.P., and others. He concluded by remarking that Exeter City had lost much less in 1914-15 than most clubs, and there was reason to that extent to be thankful, instead of being doleful.

In answer to a shareholder, Mr. Thomas, the secretary, said that the item of £92 7s 3d appearing as gates of Plymouth and District League matches should read "Plymouth and District team's matches," or really friendlies.

The Chairman, in answers to questions from the same shareholder, said that the arrangement made with the Argentine authorities was that they (Argentine) should pay the travelling and hotel expenses, and also pay £20 per man to cover the player's incidentals.

The tour showed a profit, fi it could be so called, of £311 1s 11d, which went in the summer wages, the players not receiving the £20 each in a lump sum, but as part of the sum they agreed to to sign on for for the summer.

If it had not been for the three extra Rio matches there would have been a loss, for these games brought in the £300 odd which was the gain on the tour.

Mr. R. Davey: Then but for those three matches the tour would have been a loss?

The Chairman: Yes, that is so. Every Club, I believe, which has gone to the Argentine before has shown a loss.

Mr Davey: Then there is a big risk in undertaking it?

Mr. J. T. Pengelley: Yes, but we considered the fact that we should be keeping our team together. That in itself was an asset.

Other questions were asked, and the Chairman pointed out that the particulars were not given as to actual amounts paid out in transfer fees or received.

The amounts he mentioned in connection with Fort and Whittaker were not the net sums agreed upon with Millwall.

In regard to the amount owing to the manager, the Directors wished to deal perfectly fair with him, and believed they had done so in the past.

Mr. O. F. Passmore said he was glad to hear that, because Mr. Chadwick had been a very good servant at the club.

The Chairman remarked that so far as he knew there was no breach between the club and the manager. Matters would heal themselves undoubtably, the same as the finances generally.

The report and balance sheet were adopted, Mr. Passmore remarking that he considered the Chairman has showed everything to be perfectly fair, above board, and satisfactory.

Messrs. McGahey, F. Parkhouse and F. G. Hill were re-elected Directors, and Messrs. Martin, Ball and Co. auditors.

In 1919, his wife Isabella died during a widespread flu epidemic.

Michael spent over 20 years as Chair, fighting constant financial and other battles, in 1926 the club faced severe financial problems after the stand burnt down.
Michael made an appeal to the public for support.

In 1935 the club faced a winding up order, which it fought and won.

Michael resigned as chair in July 1936 and was elected the club's first honorary President.

He died in August 1944.



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