Steve Plowes: a tribute

Cod Almighty | Article

by None

15 February 2018

Steve Plowes, the prolific and ebullient Sing When We're Fishing writer and editor, has died. Here are some memories of a man who did so much to make special the experience of supporting Town.

 Steve Plowes holds court in the Rutland

Steven J Plowes

It is with sadness for all those involved with Sing When We're Fishing that we announce that Steve passed away on 13 February with his family by his side in Blackpool. He fell ill in January.

He was educated at Barcroft, Wellholme and Wintringham followed by Lampeter University and Southampton. He taught at Harold Street and Clee Grammar before moving to St Annes, Lancashire. While at Wintringham as a sixth former, he was put in charge of the first XI football team and dropped Duncan McKenzie for missing training. The team lost and Steve's tenure as coach ended.

Steve had been a Town fan since the 1950s. He became editor of SWWF in the early 1990s and remained at the helm until 1997. A vociferous critic of events at Blundell Park, he will be remembered for his letters to the Telegraph.

He liked to rub managers up the wrong way. He once asked Brian Laws what credentials he had for the job live on Radio Humberside. When Alan Buckley left for West Brom, he claimed he had applied for the job. He would have been overjoyed at the eventual departure of Russell Slade.

Steve attended games in the north west until quite recently. He loved Paul Futcher so much that he incorporated 'Futchfan' in his email address.

So long Steve, and thanks for the memories.

Jim Connor

All the attributes a Town fan needs, and more

Supporting Grimsby Town can be at once a joy and an affliction. To survive the experience requires possession of a number of attributes: a crazy optimism largely unjustified by events; an unwavering stoicism in the face of repeated defeats snatched from the jaws of victory; acceptance of the often ridiculous antics of the players, management and board; and most important of all, a self-deprecating sense of humour.

Steve Plowes had all these attributes in spades. He was a droll guy with a truly dry sense of humour. Conversations with him would invariably feature some pithy comment from him that would take a moment to sink in but then hit the funny bone like a sledge hammer. I never had the pleasure of meeting him face to face, but we had many lengthy telephone conversations and we exchanged correspondence regularly for several years during his SWWF heyday.

I remember he was particularly animated on the subject of Brian Laws, whose foibles fuelled many a tirade. On one occasion, after the Ivano Bonetti incident, Radio Humberside had a phone in with the beleaguered manager. It was too good an opportunity for Steve to miss. I was waiting for the sting to come at any moment and Steve duly delivered. After one particularly bizarre response from Laws, a bemused Steve said "Blimey Brian, you are a fanzine writer's dream!"

I am so very sad to hear of Steve’s passing. Tonight the world seems just a little colder.

Ron Counte

An atmosphere of friendship

One of Steve's talents was to make both SWWF contributors and readers feel that they were his friends.

My own interactions with Steve were those of an occasional contributor and regular subscriber. I moved to Torquay and with the next edition of SWWF I got a note: "You really are out on a limb aren't you. Even if Town draw Mousehole in the cup, you are still struggling." A year later I was back in Aberystwyth: "I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the postmark on your letter. That town and I do not get on."

Back in London, he rang me to discuss a letter I had submitted. He told me he was looking forward to a trip with a colleague to watch Droylesden. His colleague supported Droylesden but Steve had already told him they had no chance when they were up against Paul Futcher's Southport.

I met him just once. It is a tribute to Jim Connor's cartoons that he was instantly recognisable, selling SWWF on the corner by the Imperial. And it is a tribute to the atmosphere Steve had created that I had no hesitation in introducing myself.

Many years later, we exchanged emails when I was compiling the book We are Town. Part of Steve's legacy is that so much of his own writing and the writing he inspired was still worth putting in print a quarter of a century after it was first written.

Pat Bell

A good man and a good fan

I just wanted to express my sadness at the news of Steve's passing. We never met face to face, but in the 1990s when I was living in darkest Cumbria and submitting the odd thing to SWWF in my atrocious handwriting, he took the time to (a) struggle through it and publish it and (b) ring me up a couple of times for a chat about Brian Laws or Steve Livingstone. The world has lost a good man and the Mariners a good fan.

Chris Beeley

SWWF always brightened my day 

I was sorry to hear of Steve's passing.

I contributed to SWWF a couple of times and he very kindly printed what I'd submitted.

I was more of a subscriber than a contributor really. I was in the forces for a few years and whenever I received my copy of SWWF it always brightened my day. You forgot you were serving in one of the armpits of the world for a couple of hours. Bliss.

GTFC has lost a great supporter, the rest of us have lost a friend and kindred spirit, whether we actually met him or not.

May he rest in peace, at least until Brian Laws joins him up there so they can have an animated chat.

Andrew Greenfield

Bouncing ideas until midnight

Editorial meetings with Steve consisted of marathon phone calls that began after 10pm and opened with "Jim I've got a great idea." Along with Richard Plowes' imput we would bounce ideas off each other until midnight.

Storylines would develop and cartoon characters would emerge to become regular features. Steve loved old fashioned footballers with strong names like Sid, Billy, Tommy and Matt but his idol was simply known as Futch. We both agreed that he wasn't just born but he had to be created in a lab. Futchenstein was born on a stormy night in Cleethorpes

Similarly the fans were just as important to Steve and one character rose out of the Humber mist to become a cult hero. Nobby Atkins' status grew as each issue hit the streets and how did he enjoy the adulation. Nobby was chosen to represent town in a penalty competition to celebrate the centenary of the Blades league origin during their match with Town. When Nobby prepared to take his penalty the Town fans were chanting his name .Steve turned to me and said, "Jim we've created a monster!"

More characters followed. Gallonmore, Oysterboy, Hastie Baldicoot and Steve the steward were born out of our phone editorials.

Then life imitated art when a certain Italian joined the Mariners and lit the town up. A plate of chicken and a broken jaw ended all that, prompting Steve to utter "You couldn't make it up!" to anyone in earshot.

Alan Buckley was memorably upset following the fanzine's criticism of Rhys Wilmot. "And as for them bloody students criticising our keeper" brought a wry smile to Steve.

Thanks for the laughs!

Jim Connor

Without Steve, Alan Buckley's book wouldn't have happened

I have a lot to thank Steve for. He toughened me up. I appreciate my football club. Without him, Alan Buckley's book wouldn't have happened.

Early 1990s and I was a prolific writer of Telegraph letters and other banal musings. I wrote a couple of pieces for SWWF, mainly 'Top Tens' and other jokey bits. But Steve encouraged me to write, to explore and I found my voice and style in those pages 25 years ago.

He toughened me up because I became a SWWF seller. This would involve him proudly dumping 40 copies at my house (my recollection is this was on a Thursday before a Saturday game - amazing if so given his home on the opposite coast), booming about how tiresome Tony Rees' backheel was, and paying my admission fee (£6.50).

Selling fanzines outside the Main Stand was tough. Primarily because you would often get the away fans down there and for a nerdy 17 year old in glasses and covered in acne I was fair game. But it was hard because not many in the Main Stand would be that interested. Don't get me wrong, there would be regulars; but it was a tough sell and memorably I refused to reimburse an older gentleman who bpouight two thinking they were the official programme.

And then it got tougher when the price changed. It was easy at 50p, straightforward with the change but when the price rose 10p nobody had the correct money and it was an extremely flustering experience.

By encouraging me to write at more length Steve encouraged me to see the games I was watching differently; to analyse and reflect; to affect other people with words. And it gave me a focus when I left home for Cardiff - a literary link to home and I became profuse if not profound.

I realise now that the sheer amount of work Steve did - he would either decipher our written scrawl or retype our word-processed mutterings - enabled a generation of Town fans to read and react at a time when we really didn't have anything to moan about.

And then the book. One of my proudest achievements, borne out of John Tondeur recognizing me from my name in an issue of SWWF and subsequently passing it on to Alan Buckley. When I wrote a quite disparaging article when he departed for WBA, I didn't envisage I'd write his actual account of why he left in 1994.

So, thank you Steve. For empowerment, for assuaging my creativity and for getting me to develop a system of using your back pocket of your jeans for 20p coins whilst taking the quid with a hand full of fanzines.

Thank you.

Paul Thundercliffe

Great delight in upsetting managers

I have a vague recollection of being taken to see the Town for the first time in the late 1950s by a friend of our father; the old man had no liking for, or understanding of, the beautiful game, but that's another story for another day. Steve was three years older than me and had already become hooked. He possessed an amazing memory for detail, and could not only tell you what his first match was, but the result, the scorers and probably the name of the ref. Not so me.

Fast forward to the early 1990s and his passion for his home Town club was as strong as ever. He had long since moved to the Fylde coast, met and married Mary, and had two children, Marina and Michael. He found an outlet for his passion and humour when he found SWWF, and when it looked as though the zine might fail, he took it on, despite the trials and tribulations such a task entailed. I was roped in, as sometime writer and full-time head of distribution (Cons Corner seller!) and so it went.

He took great delight in upsetting the managers as part of his editorial duty. After one clash with Alan Buckley over the selection of one player, Steve Harrison from Harrison News in Freeman Street, who used to sell SWWF in the shop, asked if we could do it again in the next issue, as it did wonders for sales.

Steve fell ill in late January, and passed away on 13 February with his family by his side. Tributes on both this site and The Fishy have been many and glowing, to a man I am proud to call brother, and who will be missed by many.

RIP Steve. I miss you.

Rich Plowes

Unseen influence?

As a young lad attending Town games, I initially bought the SWWF fanzine instead of the official Town programme because I couldn't afford two programmes and I was curious about what was in the fanzine. Well as soon as I started reading the 'zine, I was quickly hooked. I was too young and naïve to really appreciate all of its qualities, but enjoy it I did.

And now, one of it's main protagonists has sadly left us for higher climes.

These days I am older. I like to sometimes put pen to paper and try to explain my experiences of life watching Grimsby Town. I try to write with humour.

I never spoke to Steve Plowes, although I must have said "thanks" or "cheers mate" a few times when he was selling on the corner. But one look at Steve's photo leads me to the type of character that others have said that he was: crackers and a fun-loving, full-of-life guy. I bet attending a game with Steve was an experience.

I just wonder what influence he had on countless people who only knew him through SWWF.

Tony Barker

Humour and bloody-mindedness

Steve taught English at Clee Grammar. As a 14-year old in 1970 I recall one whole 50 minute lesson was fully taken over by Steve regaling a class of 30 boys with a long and heavily embroidered joke he had just heard and found so funny he had to share it with us.

It was about the animals playing football against the insects in the jungle. It’s a droll joke but was made fantastic by Steve’s loud enthusiasm and vivid descriptions of the various animals and insects, with monkeys as skinheads behind the animals’ goal and mosquitoes biting the referee to distract him. The thrust of the story was that the animals were thrashing the insects by 6-0 at half-time when a centipede joined the match as a substitute for the insects and played brilliantly, scoring seven goals to win the game for the insects. When asked why he hadn’t played in the first half, the centipede replied that he'd simply been tying up his boots! It seems banal now but for anyone who knew Steve’s spirit, vocabulary and fiery enthusiasm, they’ll know what a great experience that 'lesson', and his teaching generally were.

In 1972, the grammar school was being merged into a comprehensive school. Steve was not in favour of that change and for a whole Governors Meeting, held in the school library to discuss the merger, he sat outside the library window, on his big motorbike and revved it endlessly to disrupt the meeting and show his disapproval. The rebellious stuff of boyhood legends.

I haven’t seen him for the 47-ish years since then, but I was aware of his SWWF work and recognised the unique combination of humour and bloody-mindedness which jumped off the pages and was Steve Plowes. Thanks for the memories Steve. RIP.

Tim Gifford

A tremendous legacy

I only met Steve once but had corresponded with him a number of times as an occasional contributor to Sing When We're Fishing.

In those pre-internet days, SWWF was a leading fanzine and was extremely well regarded by fans of other clubs. Steve was the driving force behind it and would also be out on Grimsby Road selling copies. I know of non-Town fans just buying it because it was so funny and insightful.

That Grimsby fans have a good reputation for sound football writing today has much to do with Steve’s pioneering work in those early days. He has left a tremendous legacy.

Mike Worden

Funny man

I just discovered Steve Plowes has died. Sad news. He taught me and I have many good memories about him

- his yellow Only fools and horses car
- his ability to throw exercise books accurately across the classroom
- introducing me to the Hobbit and Jennings
- the only person I've ever met from Grimsby

Funny man

Adam Castleton

See also the Cod Almighty diary of 14 February:

"Under Steve the fanzine not only reminded us that we were Town, but explored and defined what it meant to be Town. Our club was the one that had few fans and no money but with a fluent, fearless team which faced the game's fallen giants and ran rings round them. Somehow this expressed the underdog mentality of the Grimbarian in the wider world. It gave us a narrative, and a way of negotiating our way around and beyond our browbeaten hometown. It gave us a sense of self and it gave us pride."

Send in your own memories of Steve and we will add them to this tribute.