Being part a footy club's heritage committee can take its members to weird and wonderful places at times.
For club historian Darren Arthur and his Heritage team at the Western Bulldogs, the well-worn paths of online newspaper archives, the corridors of the State Library and online enquiries can sometimes open up unexpected detours.
One recent detour involved the outer eastern Melbourne suburb of North Croydon. In 2016 Darren was contacted by Nicole Maher, the granddaughter of Footscray life member Harry Dagg, a long-standing committee member who served as president and vice-president and selector for the Bulldogs' Second Eighteen from the 1920s through to the 1940s and beyond. Nicole enquired if it was possible to get a replica made up of Harry's original membership documentation. It took three years, but eventually Darren was able to do better than that!
Darren was initially able to provide Nicole with some details but getting a replica membership medallion or certificate was not possible. But a few weeks ago, he hit the jackpot when trawling through the club's heritage archives. In among the mountains of correspondence Darren found a letter with a medallion attached.
The letter read in part, "I purchased a property ... in North Croydon and during renovations found the attached medallion belonging to H. Dagg. I'm not sure if you can trace the owner but thought I'd return it to the club in case."
Exactly where the medallion was found is unclear. Perhaps it had slid behind a mantle above an old fireplace. Whatever the case, Darren was delighted to be able to contact Nicole and advise her of his find.
On Friday November 29, Nicole and Harry Dagg's son, also Harry — along with several other family members — attended Whitten Oval where they were presented with Harry's original Life Membership Medal, awarded in 1943.
The younger Harry, now in his eighties but still full of life, shared memories of his dad as he gratefully accepted the medallion along with his proud family.
While old newspapers reveal Harry's many contributions to the club, as well as the Footscray Junior Football Club over almost two decades, there is no mention of him having played the game at any level. The younger Harry was able to explain why — his father had only one leg.
While Harry's talents lay in administration, reports from the 1920s also indicate he excelled musically, more than once "rendering most enjoyable musical items" at club social functions. Harry junior revealed that his dad was indeed a talented singer. He was apparently also a good card player, as he claimed second prize at one of the club's Euchre Party and Dance nights in 1922.
Harry's contribution to the club was immense. He was Vice President of the Second Eighteen which claimed the 1936 premiership, the Dogs' first piece of silverware in the VFL and, according to Harry junior, he played an important part in getting Ted Whitten back from Puckapunyal, where he was on National Service, back to Melbourne so he could play in the 1951 Second Semi-Final against Essendon.
Thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of Steve Priestly, the North Croydon renovator who contacted the club, the Life Membership medallion of Harry Dagg, who passed away in 1966, is back where it belongs, with his family.
Harry's tale is one of several unusual ones involving Footscray Football Club memorabilia. A premiership medallion belonging to VFA captain Johnny Craddock was found on a street in Brisbane, and a 1913 membership medallion turned up in a suburban garden. Perhaps the most bizarre discovery of all came in 2012 when a best and fairest trophy awarded to Harry Hickey, who played 174 games for the Dogs from 1937 to 1948, turned up buried in a back yard in Seaford!
Happy that Harry Dagg's medallion is now home, Darren Arthur and the Bulldogs Heritage Committee are looking forward to finding out which strange path their historical research work takes them down next.