Jeffrey (Jeff) Hall was born in Scunthorpe, but at just three days old he came, with his parents Percy and Minnie and older sister, Joan, to live in Wilsden, near Bradford, and help Percy’s sister run the New Inn where they lived during Jeff’s earliest years.
Jeff grew up in the village, went to Wilsden School then Bingley Secondary Modern and trained in joinery at Bingley Technical School. He played for the village football team, then Keighley St Anne’s, and Bradford Park Avenue as an amateur. He was a talented musician, playing euphonium and could have made a career of it, as his father advocated. Jeff, however, was determined that he was going to play football and, to emphasise his point, had his two front teeth removed. He did National Service with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers where he was spotted playing in a match by a scout from Birmingham City who signed him up. Jeff made his debut, switching from right-half to right-back, in 1951 and moved to the first team two years later, as they worked their way back into the first division and to their highest ever finish, sixth, and the FA Cup final, both in the 1955-56 season, although the Blues lost the FA Cup to Manchester City, 3-1. He also scored his only senior goal for his club when he played outside right against Stoke City in 1953 because regular Jackie Stewart was injured.
Jeff is still fondly remembered by Birmingham City as much for his likeable character and polite demeanour as his considerable ability, and a clock in his memory has been a feature of their St Andrew’s ground since shortly after his death. As well as making 227 appearances for his club, Jeff played 17 times for England.
The first time he brought home his England cap and placed it into Percy’s and Minnie’s hands, his father wept. Even though Jeff was now a household name across the country, he was still helping to deliver the newspapers for the family business on his visits home.
On March 21st 1959 Birmingham City played Portsmouth away. Jeff complained of a sore throat after the match and travelled back to Birmingham by car with friends to get him home sooner. He became worse over the next 48 hours and was diagnosed with polio, hospitalised and placed in an iron lung to help him breathe. The Press reported that he was critically ill but giving cause for hope, but he died on April 4th, two weeks after what turned out to be his final match. His funeral was held in Wilsden and he is buried in the Wilsden cemetery at Shay Lane.
In the midst of her grief his wife of less than two years, Dawn, made public pleas to the nation, and the world, to take up the vaccination against polio. Such was the shock that a young, supremely fit footballer could fall victim to this disease, that uptake of the injectable vaccine (first introduced to the UK in 1956) immediately leapt to a level where emergency supplies had to be flown in from the USA and queues formed at the clinics.
Polio causes spinal and respiratory paralysis, but due to mass vaccination programmes (using oral drops) it is now only endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. The WHO Global Polio Eradication Initiative believes that the whole world is close to being free from polio. For further information see http://polioeradication.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/GPEI-Fact-Sheet-March-2019-20190315.pdf
Dawn’s campaign for polio vaccination has saved countless lives and she heard she was to be honoured with the British Empire Medal shortly before her death in 2016. It was presented posthumously to members of her family from her second marriage.
Please note that the amount we are trying to raise via crowfunder.co.uk is to cover the cost of the blue plaque and the cleaning of Jeff’s grave. If we should raise more than the total needed with donations both via crowdfunder and direct, then the surplus will be donated to The British Polio Fellowship which works with people in the UK who suffer from Post-Polio Syndrome (long-lasting neurological effects which can occur many years after having had the disease). Find out more about them here: https://britishpolio.org.uk/
Please help us to make this happen. Thank you.