Pearson Gill Twist and Daughter

An undated early team picture, thought to date from around 1900

This article tells the story of the Prescot Football Club’s first President, and the exploits of his daughter during the First World War. It was published in the Prescot Cables v Ramsbottom programme on 6th November 2018 – this being the closest home game to Armistice Day.

One of the founding fathers of organised football in Prescot was Pearson Gill Twist. He was the original President of the Prescot club and played centre half for the team in those early matches. By today’s standards, he would be considered to be relatively old, to be starting a football career as part of that pioneering team!

He later served the club as a valued Committee member and often acted as the home umpire (linesman) after his playing days were over. He also served on the Committee of the Prescot Cricket Club and the Liverpool and District Football Association.

Born in Roby in 1849, Pearson Gill Twist was the first of 5 children.  His unusual first name was the family name from his Mother’s side. His father ran a Pottery and joinery business. In 1871 Pearson became a Partner in the family Pottery business. Pearson married Julia Payne, 10 years his junior, in Ruabon in 1877 and she bore him 5 children. He went on to be a prominent member of the Prescot community and had a varied business career in the town. In the 1891 census he is described as an earthenware manufacturer, living in Pottery Place. By 1901 he was listed as a Woolen manufacturer’s Agent and the family had moved to 15 Station Road. In the 1911 census he is listed as a House Agent, still living in Station Road.

Alongside his footballing exploits, Twist was a well-known amongst the cycling fraternity and was President of the Prescot Cycling Club. He was also the founding secretary of a new business venture, the Prescot Cycle Company, established in the town in 1891 to manufacture bicycles.

The Twist family emigrated to Canada in 1912 (when Pearson would have been 63 years old!) to Shawnigan Lake, British Colombia, where Pearson Gill Twist worked as a realty clerk (estate agent).

During the Great War, Pearson’s second daughter, Dorothy signed up as a Canadian VAD and was sent overseas. Of the 2000 Canadian VADs who served in during the Great War, 500 served overseas. (There were 23,000 British VADs.) “VAD” stands for Voluntary Aid Detachment. These were groups of voluntary nurses (usually with very limited training) who worked for the Red Cross during the Great War. These nurses came to be known individually as “VADs.”

However, not all voluntary nurses actually carried out nursing duties.  Many did clerical work as well. That was the case for Dorothy. The clerical work she did was in an area of tremendous importance to many soldiers, in particular, to prisoners of war. Beginning in May 1916, VADL268 as she was known, was secretary to Lady Evelyn Grant Duff, head of the “Berne Bread Bureau,” a voluntary organisation providing much needed bread to prisoners of war in Germany. As John Lewis-Stempel noted in his book “The War behind the Wire: The Life, Death and Glory of British Prisoners of War”:

“The blessedly white bread in the Red Cross ration was mainly courtesy of the redoubtable Lady Evelyn Grant Duff, who arranged shipments of flour from Marseilles to Switzerland, where it was baked into loaves. Known to POWs as ‘Swiss Dodgers’, Lady Evelyn’s moist, white loaves were delivered into Germany by road and rail. By 1917 her “Berne Bread Bureau’ was packing 15,000 loaves a day and had been supplemented by a Copenhagen Bureau to supply camps in the north of Germany. In summer, when bread tended to go mouldy quickly, the bakeries substituted hard biscuits or rusks for Lady Evelyn’s baps.”

Dorothy Pearson Twist went on to work with the Prisoner of War Committee until August 1917. At that point, perhaps out of the growing need for nurses to care for flu victims, she was transferred back to the UK, to the Frensham Hill Military Hospital, Farnham, Surrey. Sadly, she contracted pneumonia, herself, and died at the Cambridge Hospital on September 26, 1918, aged 33. She was buried with full military honours at Aldershot.

Pearson Gill Twist died on 19th February 1930 at Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia, aged 82.

Roy McDonald