A day’s filming in North Wales recaptured a dramatic event in Dixie Dean’s life 92 years ago.
In June 1926 the rising teenage star, who had joined Everton from Tranmere Rovers little more than a year earlier, was taking his girlfriend and tennis partner Evelyn Jones for a spin in North Wales on his New Imperial motor bike.
They were heading down the road near St Asaph when a motor cycle combination travelling in the opposite direction hit them head on, throwing Dixie and Evelyn off their machine.
Evelyn, fortunately, escaped serious injury and was discharged from Lluesty Infirmary the next day. But there was alarm about the boy wonder Dixie who sustained a fractured skull, a jaw bone broken in three places and several less serious injuries.
As he lay unconscious doctors feared for his life let alone his burgeoning football career. But they reckoned without the physical strength and mental resolve of the 19-year-old.
Dixie regained consciousness after 36 hours and a week later was moved to the Sir Robert Davis Nursing Home in Eaton Road, West Derby where a silver plate was inserted in his head to aid the healing process and later removed. His jaw was also strengthened.
But Everton and their fans were still haunted by anxieties about Dixie’s career. Would the crash have an affect on him ? Would he suffer long term effects ? Dixie, too, was worried.
Later that summer, however, came the moment when all the fears began to evaporate, thanks to Everton secretary manager Tom McIntosh, the man who had gone to Birkenhead to sign Dixie from Tranmere for £3,000 on transfer deadline day, March 16, 1925.
Dixie recalled: “I was up a tree in the nursing home grounds when I heard a shout from below: ‘If you can climb a tree to pick apples then you can come back and start playing again! ‘ It was Mr McIntosh. So, good enough, I came down and it was really a new start for me.”
Remarkably, just 15 weeks after the crash he confounded medical opinion by returning to action in a reserve game at Huddersfield Town on October 9, 1926 and celebrated by scoring with a header from a Ted Critchley cross. A fortnight later he was back in League combat and again scored in a 3-1 win at Leeds.
Fast forward almost a century and I am with colleagues Michael Wishart and Gill Beattie in North Wales re-creating the day of Dixie’s accident.
We located the same model of bike, the New Imperial, that Dixie was riding that day. The machine was brought from Oxford by its owner Chris Green who agreed to ride it as Dixie had done all those years ago, with Geraldine Ireland acting as Chris's pillion passenger.
Geraldine’s husband Steve, the UK’s leading dirt bike event organiser, rode a Steve McQueen "Great Escape" style Triumph Bonneville Scrambler, with cameraman Wishart on reverse pillion filming Chris riding the New Imperial. You will see the exciting results in the film.
That’s me pictured standing between the two machines with Chris and Geraldine (left) and Steve and Michael.
Special thanks go to Laurence Lee at Tudor Cottages, Wales for allowing us to film on his land.