It was not particularly easy for Carlisle United’s only previous FA Cup meeting with Leyton Orient to dominate the headlines – nor many other events in 1936, for that matter.

The local news, as well as the national talk, was led by one topic: the abdication of King Edward VIII. This led the Cumberland Evening News for days in December, the small matter of the Football Association Challenge Cup taking understandably lower billing to the country's constitutional crisis.

Carlisle were never likely to be crowned themselves in the cup but in that turbulent year they did produce an event to remember as winter enveloped Cumbria. It was United’s ninth season as a Football League club and they occupied a mid-table position in Division Three North as December arrived.

News and Star: King Edward VIII's abdication dominated the headlines in December 1936King Edward VIII's abdication dominated the headlines in December 1936 (Image: News & Star)

The Blues’ earliest days in the League, fuelled by the record goalscoring of Jimmy McConnell, had passed. Coming off a 13th-placed finish in 1935/36, United began the new campaign with their line led by the prolific Wearsider, Joe Mantle and other notable players including the Durham-born outside-left Peter McArdle and Scottish inside-left Davie Galloway, who would go on to play for 1936’s cup visitors – then known as Clapton Orient.

Among mixed league results, United’s autumn saw a 2-1 victory over Stockport County in the FA Cup first round. An excited Brunton Park crowd of 12,490 had watched the home side prevail, in spite of the pre-match news which reported that Carlisle manager Bob Kelly was joining their opponents.

Fred Westgarth, the former Stockport trainer, moved the other way and a second round tie pitted United against a Clapton Orient side operating in Division Three South.

The Londoners had endured a chequered recent history, cited as a “Cinderella” club as, in the 1930s, they moved through periods of financial crisis. There was even a spell when they played at Wembley Stadium as, after leaving their Millfields ground for the Speedway Stadium in Lea Bridge Road, they were informed its fencing was too close to the pitch and it had to be closed for alterations.

The Os did, though, have a certain cup pedigree, having reached the quarter-finals in 1926, while they had longer Football League history than United's, having been elected to the League in 1905. Their squad in 1936 boasted England international inside-right Jack Smith as well as a defender in David Affleck who had been the subject of £3,000 bids from Sunderland.

Speaking ahead of their first-ever meeting with Carlisle, manager Peter Proudfoot said: “We realise we have a stiff proposition in front of us. Carlisle have ground advantage, which counts a very great deal. Naturally we hope to win. If not, draw. Anyway, we are looking forward to a great match.”

News and Star: The Cumberland Evening News sets the scene for Carlisle United v Clapton Orient in the FA Cup second round in 1936The Cumberland Evening News sets the scene for Carlisle United v Clapton Orient in the FA Cup second round in 1936 (Image: News & Star)

The enthusiasm for the tie was shared in Cumberland, with a crowd of 12,000 anticipated even though our correspondent, ‘The Traveller’, lamented some changing times on the terraces. “We have missed at Brunton Park in recent years the old Cup-tie fever of big blue and white favours, rattles, bugles and mascots," he wrote. "Are these relics of a past football age? I do not remember seeing a yard of blue ribbon at the Stockport match!”

All the same, United were not without backing – or confidence. A creditable draw at New Brighton preceded the cup tie whilst Orient, it was said, declined any “special” preparation for the game, opting for “long walks in their native Epping Forest” as Proudfoot’s players limbered up for the trip.

It shaped up to be a pre-Christmas cracker at a time rival entertainment included the musical drama 'Shipmates O'Mine' at the Palace Theatre or 'Petticoat Fever' at Botchergate Picture House, while Binns' Guide to Xmas Shopping recommended that 'slippers make useful and acceptable gifts' ranging from 5/11 to 9/11 a pair. Carlisle coal merchant John Moffat, meanwhile, offered his wares at £1/18s a ton as the cold weather gathered.

United, for their part, went into the cup tie with a different kind of fuel – on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday players knocked back sherry, and on Friday they consumed oysters and stout as pre-match sustenance.

And so, with their stomachs duly fortified, battle began on December 12. With 15 minutes until kick-off, 10,000 fans were on the ground with many more still streaming in, and the atmosphere rose as the players came out to the strains of ‘John Peel’.

Orient won the toss and attacked from the Warwick Road End, and an end-to-end start on a soft, heavy pitch gave way to some pleasing Carlisle dominance. After eight minutes, the home side took the lead with a well-worked goal, as Mantle made his escape down the right wing and, although Clapton’s Baden Herod tried to kill the infant attack with a rough challenge, the United man battled on and eventually saw his cross turned into the net by McArdle.

Carlisle were given a scare when Orient’s Jack Smith drove a shot against the crossbar, but the home side swiftly responded with another cutting move. Mantle was at the heart of it again and, after the visiting goalkeeper Charlie Hillam failed to hold McArdle’s shot, Wilf James dashed in to score.

News and Star: Wilf James, left, scores Carlisle's second goal against Clapton OrientWilf James, left, scores Carlisle's second goal against Clapton Orient (Image: News & Star)

This gave United protection against some vigorous Orient attempts, with Smith and Edmund Crawford going close and home keeper Sleight having to be alert. Yet the hosts remained dangerous, the tricky Galloway seeing a shot saved and Joe Taylor hitting the post before, in the second half, Carlisle cut loose again.

Three minutes into the second half, McArdle rifled home from the edge of the area and from there victory seemed assured. Galloway brought cheers from the crowd with some intelligent tricks and, though Crawford diverted a shot into United’s net to pull one back for the visitors, Carlisle went on to get a fourth when the nomadic inside-forward Henry O’Grady beat Orient keeper Hillam with what our reporter described as a “hot shot” and a “capital goal” from fully 40 yards.

A 4-1 victory secured an emphatic route to the third round. It had also, through an eventual 13,317 attendance, secured healthy receipts of £683 12s 9d. United’s display was hailed in our pages as a combination of “sheer good football and whole-hearted team spirit” which rather “rattled” their opponents.

News and Star: Carlisle United goalkeeper Sleight in action during the FA Cup tie against Clapton Orient at Brunton ParkCarlisle United goalkeeper Sleight in action during the FA Cup tie against Clapton Orient at Brunton Park (Image: News & Star)

The visitors, amid their frustration, adopted an increasingly physical approach in the tackle yet Carlisle negotiated this aspect fairly too. They had also, observers reckoned, given one in the eye to those who felt the southern section of the third tier was stronger than the north.

United looked forward to the third round draw – yet it did not particularly reward them. A trip to Second Division side Swansea Town was their prize, the south Welsh club seventh from bottom in their division; a fixture that offered a degree of hope, if not overwhelming confidence, to Carlisle.

News and Star: Our correspondent reflects with satisfaction on United's cup victoryOur correspondent reflects with satisfaction on United's cup victory (Image: News & Star)

In the event, the January meeting proved narrowly too much for United. A muddy occasion saw the visitors go down to a 1-0 defeat thanks to Ronnie Williams’ goal, a raucous travelling support offering their appreciation towards a valiant effort after making a “day trip” to Swansea which exceeds even some of this season’s away-day marathons.

In order to watch the tie, Carlisle fans had to board a train at 8.34pm on Friday, reaching Swansea at 7.46 on Saturday morning, before departing after the game at 6.45pm and eventually returning to the Great Border City at 4.50am.

“Carlisle United Go Down With Colours Flying,” reflected our headline after the epic mission, and from there it was back to a league campaign United negotiated creditably, coming up to tenth by the end of the campaign in May.

After that December day at Brunton Park, it was not until 1965 that Carlisle again met Orient – who changed their name to Leyton Orient in 1946. That, and 61 more encounters, have all been in the league, meaning this Saturday’s game at Brisbane Road finally adds a chapter to 87-year-old cup history.

Here’s hoping, from a Cumbrian perspective, those old heroes McArdle, Mantle, James, Galloway and O’Grady are joined in the pantheon this weekend. The King, meanwhile, ought to be unmoved.


Carlisle United: Sleight, Kerr, Adey, O’Grady, Johnston, Taylor, Cliffe, Galloway, Mantle, James, McArdle.

Clapton Orient: Hillam, Hearty, Herod, Taylor, Affleck, Heinemann, McCombe, J Smith, Crawford, H Smith, Miles.

Referee: T Bentley (Lancashire).

Attendance: 13,317.