Meeting Sir Bobby Charlton

One of the burning desires of Insurance Museum is to encourage young people to think of Insurance as career of choice, rather than, like most of us, a career of chance. The recent death of Sir Bobbly Charlton reminded me of the time I met the great man himself.

Before explaining that however, let me take you back to the 1st of February 1958. My mate and I went to Hackney Marshes to play a game of football. Nobody had told us that the game had been postponed. So, there we were on the Marshes, kit and all, wondering what to do next. Then we remembered that there was a game on at Highbury and Arsenal were playing Manchester United. We immediately set off for the ground knowing that in those days all you needed to do was pay the cash at the turnstile and you got in. None of today’s ticket only nonsense and in the case of the Emirates’ Stadium you only get in if your ticket is on your mobile phone!

The first half was a display of supreme skill by United and by half time they were 3-0 up, after Bobby Charlton scored United’s second goal. It was the first time for me to witness the standing ovation of an opposing side as the players left the field. You can imagine the noise when shortly after kicking off for the second half Arsenal levelled the scores at 3-3. The Arsenal joy lasted until the 64th minute when United took the lead again. A goal apiece thereafter left United 5-4 winners.

It was to be the last game the Busby Babes played before the Munich Air Disaster and the death of so many great players. The following week I was in tears as I sold my evening newspapers with that awful black and white picture of the snow falling on the wreckage on the front page of all three newspapers.

I never knew then that I would start work as a junior clerk in an insurance office and my career would bring me into contact with Bobby Charlton. As I rose up the ranks of the Chartered Insurance Institute, I got to love the Local Institutes and spent many a Friday evening somewhere in the country or Ireland attending a Dinner/Dance as representative of CII HQ. On this very special occasion I was a guest of the Insurance Institute of Luton and St Albans (now Luton and Hertfordshire).  After I got married in 1966 my wife and I bought a house in Luton and lived there for 13 years. Both of our children are Lutonians. So, as you can imagine I have a soft spot for this Institute. I suspect they knew of my love of football when they invited me and when they told me that Bobby Charlton was the other guest speaker I jumped at the chance.

My CII prepared speech found its way to the bin quite quickly. I apologised to those present who were not interested in football as I could not resist the temptation of sticking to the football theme. I suggested there ‘there are none so loyal as football folk’ saying that we tend to remain supporters of our first club, often for the rest of our lives.

I asked the question “if there is one game you’ve seen in your time as a spectator you could see again what game would it be?” I knew there would be at least one wag in the audience who would say the recent League Cup Final when Luton Town beat Arsenal. I was there at Wembley, and it wasn’t a great game. Certainly not as good as the one I witnessed on the 1st of February 1958 which remains the best game I’ve ever seen.

Unbeknown to Bobby Charlton I had my Arsenal bobble hat in the waistband of my DJ. As I sat down, I took it out and put on the table in front of him and challenged him to put it on. He resisted my challenge, but I did see him stroking it as he went through his repertoire of stories. The one I remember best was his answer to the question ‘what was it like playing against big brother Jack at Leeds United?” Leeds United were a tough (some would say rough) side and had Norman ‘bite your legs Hunter’ in their team. In their first encounter Bobby was in possession of the ball as Hunter approached to tackle. Bobby then heard big Jack say – ‘kick the little bugger, Norman!’

At the end of Dinner, Bobby told me he was driving back to Manchester that night as he had to take his wife to Nottingham the next day. I thought perhaps, it was for a medical appointment. But then the penny dropped! United were playing at Nottingham Forest the next day. What a supporter! And what a man!

Aah such memories and which youngster looking for a job would be aware that a career in Insurance can give you such experiences?’.


Reg Brown, Insurance Museum Chairman

November 2023

Meeting Sir Bobby Charlton

November 2nd 2023

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