Scor­ing a Cen­te­nary! . . . . . . . .

Evergreen - - Contents Summer 2015 -

Bri­tain’s old­est fe­male football fan has been re­warded for her loy­alty with her own cor­po­rate box — at the age of 100. Sprightly Kitty Thorne has at­tended nearly ev­ery Bristol Rovers home game since 1954, when she trav­elled to her first match by steam train. At the time Win­ston Churchill was Prime Min­is­ter and meat ra­tioning had just ended.

Since then she has made the 52- mile round trip from her home in Trow­bridge, Wilt­shire, on around 1,500 oc­ca­sions to see her team in ac­tion. She says her love of Rovers keeps her alive along with strong cof­fee and corned beef sand­wiches. Now Kitty’s loy­alty has been recog­nised with a cor­po­rate box at the club’s Me­mo­rial Sta­dium un­til the end of the sea­son.

Kitty said: “Football is my life, and Rovers is my club. I love com­ing here. It’s what I look for­ward to. I’ll keep com­ing to games as long as I can. The first game I went to had me hooked. I fell in love with the noise and the at­mos­phere. The whole ex­pe­ri­ence was amaz­ing.”

Kitty was born in Wok­ing, Sur­rey, but was evac­u­ated from Lon­don to Trow­bridge in 1939 along with her hus­band Les. On 23rd Oc­to­ber 1954 Kitty and Les took their son Peter, then aged nine, to watch their first ever Rovers game. Board­ing a steam train from Trow­bridge, the fam­ily trav­elled to Sta­ple­ton Road sta­tion in Bristol, be­fore mak­ing the short walk to the Eastville ground, the club’s spir­i­tual home. Rovers beat Leeds United 5- 1 in front of 24,000 fans and Kitty fell in love with the game.

The fam­ily be­gan driv­ing to games in 1957 when Les, an air­craft fit­ter, bought a 1939 Ford Pop­u­lar. Even af­ter Les died from a stroke in 1959, aged just 46, Kitty con­tin­ued trav­el­ling to Rovers matches by train, al­ways tak­ing Peter with her.

Her claim to fame is she was once “on the bench ver­sus Manch­ester United”, dur­ing a League Cup match in 1972. Af­ter she fell ill dur­ing the game, po­lice of­fi­cers es­corted her from the packed stands and al­lowed her to sit pitch- side on a bench with the St. John Am­bu­lance staff while she re­cov­ered.

Kitty, who worked at a dairy fac­tory in Trow­bridge, first be­came a sea­son ticket holder in 1975 when Rovers still played their home games at Eastville. She stayed loyal when the club moved to Bath City’s Tw­er­ton Park ground in 1986, and fol­lowed them back to Bristol when they re­turned in 1996 to share the Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Hor­field with Bristol Rugby Club.

Kitty has re­mained a sea­son ticket holder in the West Stand, rarely miss­ing a Satur­day home game, and un­til re­cently al­ways en­joyed a corned beef sand­wich and flask of cof­fee at half time. The ded­i­cated pen­sioner, who has no grand­chil­dren and turned 100 on 2nd Jan­uary, has stuck with Rovers through thick and thin. She has seen them play in fi­nals at Cardiff’s Mil­len­nium Sta­dium and at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium. She was at the game at home to Mans­field in May last year when the club lost its league sta­tus for the first time since 1920. “I shed a tear that day,” she said. “It was so sad. I love this club. It’s a friendly warm club, a fam­ily club and for that to hap­pen was aw­ful.” When asked how mod­ern football dif­fers from the game she fell in love with six decades ago, she said: “It’s very dif­fer­ent now. Back then you could get to know the play­ers, they were all lo­cal boys, you could chat to them.”

Kitty pulled no punches about the state of English football at the mo­ment. “We have a poor na­tional team, be­cause there are too many over­seas play­ers in our league. We need to give our lads more of a chance,” she said.

Her son Peter, 70, a re­tired post­man, said: “Mum is Rovers through and through. Noth­ing will stop her com­ing to games. She is as pas­sion­ate about the team now as she ever has been and she isn’t afraid to tear them off a strip if they aren’t play­ing well.”

Rovers chair­man Nick Higgs said: “Our fans are in­cred­i­bly loyal and Kitty epit­o­mises this. To have been to the num­ber of games she has is a re­mark­able achieve­ment, and we hope she will keep com­ing along to watch the team for a long time to come. Huge num­bers of our sup­port­ers travel long dis­tances on match days, but not many can say they have trav­elled by steam train to get to a game.”

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