When the Exeter City Football Club Museum was established in 2018, there were people to thank for paving the way. One of them was Dave Fisher. Among his many other ‘Grecian hats’ he was, as he described himself in the late 1990s, ‘unofficial historian’ of Exeter City. He was just as happy delving into matters relating to the club’s history as he was collecting City-related memorabilia. It’s the latter, especially, that is his legacy.
Dave was well known at St James’ Park, selling programmes in all weathers outside the Old Grandstand. He followed the Grecians from 1963 and was a programme seller from 1971. He also served on the Supporters’ Club Committee and penned a regular column in the matchday programme. His final piece was contributed just one week before his death in 2002. During a long illness, writing, he said, ‘acts as a lot of therapy for me’.
An unassuming character, Dave loved folk music and Morris dancing and could be regularly seen at the Sidmouth Folk Festival. But what few knew was that at the same time he was building up a collection of priceless items relating to Exeter City’s history. And pride of place among these is a sensational set of dozens of photographs of the crowds at games before World War One. Often on postcards, the content nourishes both social as well as football history. For those interested in hats, they provide a fabulous resource from flat caps to elaborate female headwear. There are rare glimpses, too, of the church from which the ground takes its name, a building that was reduced to rubble during the 1942 Blitz.
Writing in the matchday programme after Dave’s death, his great friend and the programme editor, Mike Blackstone, said: ‘I shall always remember Dave as being a kind and gentle person, but most of all an irreplaceable friend. We both had a strong interest in the history of the Club, Dave through his collection of photographs, whilst I collected written history. We worked closely together, each finding useful leads for one another, thus expanding not only our own knowledge of City’s rich past, but also preserving an important historical record of the Grecians for the future. We even became authors in our own right as we wrote about the Club.’
Dave compiled two books with local writer Gerald Gosling – Exeter City Football Club 1904-1994 (1998) and Grecian Voices (2000) and both these made great use of his photographs and other memorabilia collected over the years.
Following his untimely death, Dave’s collection was donated to the then Westcountry Studies Library and is now held at the Devon Heritage Centre. In a recent blog, the Heritage Centre said: ‘Dave Fisher was a life-long supporter of the club, whose vast collection of programmes, books, magazines and photographs now forms the Dave Fisher Collection. Over the last few years, student volunteers from Exeter University have digitised many of the older photographs in the collection.’ These photographs can be seen on the Grecian Archive at: grecianarchive.exeter.ac.uk.
Dave’s collection inspired the Exeter City Museum to deposit written records relating to the club at the Heritage Centre where they now sit alongside the Fisher Collection. And the Museum itself is continuing his passion for collecting items. Dave would be delighted.
Trustees, Exeter City Football Club Museum Trust