The sad fate of Essendon's first best and fairest
Although there was an earlier Essendon team, today’s club started in 1874
Perhaps someone had a vision of just how significant the club would become, and the Museum boasts amongst their collection the Essendon Football Club cup presented to the player voted their best in their first season, Archibald Graham.
Along with the trophy, the Museum has an original letter from Graham to the club advising them of his retirement, and in turn, from the club to him expressing their reluctance to let him go.
Thankfully over the years, a member of the Graham family passed these unique mementos to the club and they remain as perhaps the earliest memento of Australian football on display today.
Following an Australian Football Heritage Group meeting at the Museum some years ago, one of the staff mentioned that there was a belief that Graham had died as the result of some sort of accident returning from an Omeo race meeting.
After a little research (passed on to the Museum at the time), I can confirm that sadly, Archie Graham, who was just 18 years of age when he collected his trophy in October, 1874 did go to an early grave.
Two Raceday Accidents (Omeo Standard, Friday, March 19 1897)
Two accidents, one of which had an immediate fatal result happened on Wednesday evening.
By the first, Mr. A. Graham, brother-in-law of Mr. Kittson, who has been spending a few days in Omeo was killed. In company with Messrs Lyght and Lowenhardt, he left the racecourse directly the Shire Handicap had been run and they traveled together for some distance beyond Hinnomunje. Then Mr. Lyght, whose horse could not keep up with the others dropped behind.
Messrs Lowenhardt and Graham went on together till nearing Shady Cutting where the former pulled up to speak to one of the Kings of the Gibbo.
Graham went slowly ahead when his horse suddenly bolted. Lowenhardt called out to him to pull up but as he did not, trotted after him. About a quarter of a mile on the Omeo side of the cutting, he came up to Graham, who was lying on the ground apparently thrown from his horse.
There were two distinct marks on the road for a distance of about 15 yards or 20 yards as if he had been dragged on his shoulders. Mr. Lowenhardt dismounted but found the man dead. Shortly after, Mr. Lyght came in view and Lowenhardt coo-ed to him to hurry up. When he arrived it was decided that Lowenhardt having the faster horse should go back to the racecourse for the police and a doctor.
This he did, Mr. Lyght staying by the body. In the meantime, Mr. W. J. McCoy came up with his van and also stayed. Three quarters of an hour later, Dr. Fenton and Trooper Strain arrived, but finding nothing could be done, the body was lifted into the van and taken into Omeo where an inquest will be held this afternoon.
Archie Graham was buried the following Saturday in the Omeo Cemetery, the service conducted by the Rev. R. McLean.
A magisterial inquiry was conducted by the acting coroner, Mr. T. Easton the day before the funeral and received a deposition from Dr. Fenton stating that Graham’s skull had been fractured and his neck broken. Lyght and Lowenhardt also gave evidence and a verdict of accidental death officially recorded.
Given Essendon’s role as a new and junior club in 1874, there was no acknowledgment of Graham’s demise in any of the Melbourne newspapers.In this article: