A Life in a Year – 29th April, Lonnie Donegan and World Cup Willie

In 1966 England won the Jules Rimet Football World Cup and the official mascot for the team was a Lion called World Cup Willie who wore a Union Flag shirt of red, white and blue, which was strange because this was England that were playing and not the United Kingdom, but as none of the other home nations were in the finals I suppose England generously believed that they were representing Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.

 Embarrassingly England’s first defeat after the World Cup was against Scotland at Wembley in 1967 and the Scottish team that included the footballing legends, Denis Law, Jim Baxter and Billy Bremner promptly declared themselves the new World Champions.  Sadly for them it didn’t work like that, it still doesn’t  and let’s face it they never will be.

World Cup Willie had a World Cup song that was not unsurprisingly called World Cup Willie that made number one in the hit parade and was sung by Lonnie Donegan (born 29th April 1931) who was the first person to become famous playing skiffle music in the UK.  He was a guitar and banjo player who also played the washboard and the tea-chest bass and who had a lot of chart success in the 1950s and early 1960s.  Anecdotally it was Lonnie who inspired John Lennon to learn guitar and form his first group, The Quarrymen. 

What is strange about Lonnie singing the English World Cup song however is that although he was brought up in East Ham he was in fact born in Scotland.  I wonder where his loyalties were when Scotland beat England in 1967?  Apart from ‘World Cup Willie’, Lonnie is probably best remembered for another number one hit called ‘My old man’s a dustman’.

There’s a football fellah, you all know his name
And the papers tell us he’s in the Hall of Fame
Wherever he goes, he’ll be all the rage
‘Cause he’s the new sensation of the age

Dressed in red, white and blue, he’s World Cup Willie
We all love him too, World Cup Willie
He’s tough as a lion and never will give up
That’s why Willie is fav’rite for the Cup
Willie, Willie, he’s evry’body’s fav’rite for the Cup

Well, we’re all football crazy and it’s plain to see
That we’re all so happy, like one big family
Now we’ve found someone who makes the rafters ring
Welcome to a brand new soccer King

All dressed in red, white and blue, that’s World Cup Willie
We all love him too, World Cup Willie
He’s tough as a lion and never will give up
That’s why Willie is fav’rite for the Cup
Yes! Willie, Willie, he’s evry’body’s fav’rite for the Cup

All the fans are waiting, how they’ll spur him on
And those sixty nations will soon know Willie’s song
Wherever he goes, he’ll be all the rage
‘Cause he’s the new sensation of the age

All dressed in red, white and blue, that’s World Cup Willie
We all love him too, World Cup Willie
He’s tough as a lion and never will give up
That’s why Willie is fav’rite for the Cup
Ev’rybody!
Willie, yes Willie, he’s evry’body’s fav’rite for the Cup
One more time!
Willie, Willie, he’s evry’body’s fav’rite for the Cup

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