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Great Pompey Myths Debunked - No 1 The Origin of Scummers
Great Pompey Myths Debunked - No 1 The Origin of Scummers
Wednesday, 22nd Feb 2012 08:40 by Stevedore

In this series "Stevedore" takes a look at all those legends & myths that have grown around Portsmouth Football Club and seperates fact from fiction.

In researching this series I came to one conclusion, that most of the images that pompey fans like to portray of themselves and indeed of Southampton and its supporters are based on nothing more than shouting out something with no actual factual foundations, long enough and loud enough to make people think that they must actually be true.

This is certainly the case when Pompey tell the World why they call Saints fans Scummers, they refer back to a Docks strike somewhere back in the mists of time when the working class inhabitants of Pompey were stood picketting the gates of Pompey Dockyard, union men all, only to see scabs from Southampton cross the picket lines and keep the docks working.

The truth of the situation is actually a lot different, Pompey as we know is mainly a Naval base, its commercial port (More of this later) is still relatively small nowadays and up to the last few decades barely existed, home only to a few small freighters.

Being a Naval Base, back in the first half of the 20th century Portsmouth dockyard workers were not legally able to strike, they had no union for one thing and they came under the rules and regulations governing militarly establishments and employees, rule one is they did not have the right to withdraw their labour, the upside though of course was that they were employed and effectively had jobs for life. Google Pompey Dock Strike and you will not find one article telling you of an actual event, but on the contary, literally hundreds telling of why Pompey fans call Saints scummers.

At the same time in Southampton things were much different, Dockers were not employees like their counterparts in Pompey, but were casual labour, every morning hundreds of men would gather outside the dock gates for what was called the tally system, the lucky ones would get work, the unlucky would go home with no pay for that day.

In 1890 Southampton had a Dock strike, google Southampton Dock Strike and its the first thing that comes up and not the last, Portsmouth Football Club had not even been formed at this time, however newspaper reports tell of "Blacklegs from Portsmouth being attacked as they arrived at the railway station"

The tally system continued right into the 1950's until the National Dock Labour Board was formed and dockers not just in Southampton but the other major commercial ports were finally given basic wages and employment rights, the system continued right up until the mid 1980's when after the dock strike of 1984/85 the system was again changed.

In the 70's Pompey had expanded its commercial port activity and was now starting to get a foothold in short sea traffic to France, both coommercial and passenger, it had one distinct advantage over its neighbour Southampton though, the unions in Southampton were strong and therefore rigid shift patterns were adhered to, and this made it difficult for the short sea quick turnaround traffic which needed an adaptable workforce, Southampton didnt have this, but Pompeys ferry port with its non union labour did, with every dock dispute in Southampton, Pompey looked to capitalise, they didnt need to send men to Southampton, the ships came to Portsmouth, Southampton Dockers called for their Pompey counterparts to refuse to handle the ships diverted and to back their strike, being non union men, Pompey werent interested and despite picketing from Southampton Dockers crossed those picket lines time and time again.

In 1984 this came to a head, this strike was going to be long, again initially the cross channel ferries that used Southampton went to Pompey, but the ferry owners had had enough, Pompey welcomed them with open arms despite outcry from trade unions across the country and the ferry's moved to Portsmouth permanently never to return.

So what this brief history lesson shows is that the "Scummers" myth is total fabrication on the part of Pompey supporters, is has actually no foundations of truth, in fact the complete opposite, over a period of 122 years, longer than Portsmouth Football Club has been in existence, it has been Southampton Dockers who have had to fight for their rights whilst time and time again Pompey dockers have refused to back them, seeking their own preferment over that of others and with a long record of scab and blackleg behaviour to help weaken the strikes and of time and time again handling diverted ships which the Dockers of the major ports like Liverpool and London refused to do.

What this shows is that the term Scummers is nothing other than an invention in a pub outside of Fratton Park, its not that original even, many other clubs use it to refer to their rivals, perhaps the difference being, they dont shout it long and loud at every opportunity, they dont have a strange preoccupation bordering on the psycotic about "scummers" they havent let it take over their lives, they dont feel the need to scream "Scummer" till they are blue in the face at any opposing player that might at one time have been a youth team player at Saintsa and then tell their friendsand family how they gave him a "good scumming"

So Saints fans can hold their heads up high, our forefathers have a history of standing up for what is right, but not only that, but of standing up for others round us and refusing to make their plight worse as the Pompey Dockers did in 1890 and again in 1984 with all points in between, Pompey fans can call us scum, but back in those daysthey try to tell us are true, Southampton and indeed much the rest of the country had a far stronger word than scum to use to refer to them, Scab & Blackleg were perhaps two of the politer terms used.

In the next installment of Great Pompey Myths Debunked, Stevedore will show how the team with all the history and tradition is actually not the 1895 johnny come lately team from Portsmouth

Photo: Action Images

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

pompeytillidie added 11:02 - Feb 22
A bigger load of t0ss u will go a long way to find
You're scummers and u know it - and stevedore doesn't like it
And you're fans don't hurl abuse either?

exferryman added 11:04 - Feb 22
I worked in the ferry industry during the time the ferries moved from Southampton to Portsmouth and there were 3 main reasons for the move
1 Portsmouth is closer to France saving time and fuel wasted sailing up Southampton Water.
2 The harbour charges were cheaper at Portsmouth and the facilities were better with a brand new purpose built ferry terminal.
3 The road connections with the M275 going straight to the port are much better.

I can assure you the ferry port workers were unionised but they had the good sense to welcome the jobs the new ferry port provided. I do not recall Southampton dockers picketing the port so there was no crossing of picket lines. There was no outcry from unions throughout the country, why should there have been? The move was a sensible commercial decision as the years have proved.


pompeytillidie added 11:08 - Feb 22
Asensible reply from a knowledgable guy- stevedore you spent weeks writing and researching and all you dribbled was dribble
Typical SCUMmer

st_bangkok added 11:16 - Feb 22
Bitter bitter skates, as ever.

itoldyouso added 11:17 - Feb 22
Great article,shows up the bull and makes the important point that the strikers were fighting for others unlike their selfish tory voting skate bulls~~tters

Angelic_Saint added 11:29 - Feb 22
It is good see that our articulate well educated and reasoned neighbours haven't responded to this but have left it to a bunch of skate retards without the brains of a gnat between to make their imbecile comments. The sooner their bankrupt and very nasty little club goes to the wall the safer small businesses will be in South EastHhampshire.

SaintNick added 11:51 - Feb 22
The last comment from exferryman says it all, the pompey dockworkers were unionised, but preferred to feather their own nests than recognise a legitimate strike, its called scabbing and is exactly what Pompey have been saying we did hence the scummers name

"Throughout the strike there were virtually no picketing initiatives taken. This was not something that could simply be put down to the dockers' reluctance to participate in the strike, or even to bureaucratic union control of the strike. The simple fact was that there had been traditionally very little reason for dockers to picket out other dockers. Until the few years previously, they had tended to "strike first and ask questions later" when their mates in other ports were in trouble, and strikes had been completely solid. "

Jesus_02 added 12:07 - Feb 22
The only thing that id disagree with in the article is putting the word Great before Pompey. Pompeys hatred of Southampton is purely based on little man syndrome... end of

exferryman added 12:32 - Feb 22

I am not going to get involved with silly petty insults but having worked in both Southampton and then Portsmouth docks at the time the ferries moved I am telling it as it was, if you don't want to believe me so be it.

There was no legitimate strike in Southampton against the ferries moving and there was no picketing, in fact the ferries and small cargo ships for that matter moved to Portsmouth over a period of years for the commercial reasons I've already mentioned.

No doubt the appalling labour relations, strikes and generally poor reputation of Southampton dock workers at the time also played its part in the decisions.

Chesham_Saint added 12:47 - Feb 22
Itoldyouso refers "selfish tory voting skate bulls~~tters" . Guess what matey there are lots of Tory voting Saints fans and a shed load of labour voting skates. Cheap shots like that just detract from the overall argument. That said, all skates are of course coonts. Fact.

SaintNick added 12:51 - Feb 22
I too worked in southampton docks at the time the ferries moved 80-84, the strike wasnt about the ferries, it was wider reaching with its roots buried in the miners strike, Southampton and other ports under the dock labour scheme came out on strike late summer 84 but non dock labour scheme ports mainly the newer or minor ports such as harwich & felixstowe(newer)& Pompey & newcastle (minor) did not back their colleagues and chose to handle freight and ships diverted from the strike bound ports.

At the time many in Southampton thought this was a very cynical ploy on behalf of pompey who had been trying to get the cross channel traffic for well over a decade, from 1984 Southampton had no cross channel ferries until a short lived route in about 1996

Yes there were some good economic reasons why Pompey was better suited to the cross channel, but that wasnt the full story, but the main upshot was that pompey dockers chose to help crus the dock labour scheme and as union men refused to recognise a strike that had been legitamately called

Your right the southampton dock workers as all the other dock labour scheme workers had appalling reputations but you then have to take that in context, the dock workers had spent 75 years of poor conditions etc and earned the regualtions of the dls, in practice it was inflexible and that allowed pompey to get in and profit

But the author of the story didnt talk of whose fault the short sea traffic loss was, but of how the Scummers myth is complete rubbbish, you as someone with a good working knowledge of both ports will perhaps be able to clarify that his version of events is fairly accurate, that there has never been a docks strike in Pompey etc etc

exferryman added 13:18 - Feb 22

I don't know what legitimate strike you are talking about, the ferries and small cargo ships didn't all up and leave Southampton on the same day it was a gradual process over the years. When Portsmouth ferry port opened it was a small 1 berth operation with only 1 ship operated by Brittany Ferries who to my knowledge never sailed from Southampton employing a handful of dockers who were hardly in a position to "crush the dock labour scheme", the other ferries moved over a period of time.

You seem to be trying to defend the dock labour scheme which was one of the worst examples of restrictive practices and needed to be abolished. I can't remember a strike in Portsmouth docks but I left the industry and the area some 20 years ago so can't be sure, but surely no strikes are a good thing.

I still maintain the reason the ferries moved was purely commercial, if you want to believe otherwise that's your choice.

pompeytillidie added 13:32 - Feb 22
W@**ers. All of you
A bloke who has experience close up and who was there at the f**kin time is classed as a skate retard
Who are the REAL bitter c**ts

SaintNick added 13:53 - Feb 22

The strike in southampton was in laate 84 and was part of the national dock strike called by the TGWU, but it esculated into something a lot more, Im not defending the dls, its restrictive practices were killing the port and enabled pompey over a period of time to syphon off the cross chanel stuff from southampton, the final nail was the dock strike of 84 that gave the ferry owners the excuse they needed to break their contracts with southampton and pull out completely

part of it was commercial ie shorter crossings, but this wasnt the full story, portsmouth was undercutting southampton and their dockers were working for less, free trade maybe, but surely against the grain of the "you are scum because you broke the strike myth

pompey as you say was a small operation and had no restrictive practices etc being only a handful of dockers and could build from scratch

Again you didnt answer my question about history, you are knowledgable about pompey docks and as you say the ferryport was only small, you are confirming stevedore's claim that the scummer myth is absolute fabrication

saintash1964 added 14:08 - Feb 22
Not sure about the strike in the 80's, from memory, wasnt everybody on strike at that time!
One thing for sure, Southampton Dockies have never ever crossed a picket line in Portsmouth Docks, FACT!
The only record of a picket line being broken was in the late 19th century at Southampton No 4 gate, Broken by The Royal Artillery who was based at Portsmouth Naval Dock yard.
There is however another slant on why the skates(normal term for a Naval City/Port) call the very fine people from the posh end of the M27 Scummers, and that is in the 1920/30's Cargo & Passenger ships heading to Southampton would flush the er, poo tanks out off of the I O W, before entering Southampton water, hence they would leave a trail of "scum" of off Spit head.

Capt_Koons added 14:17 - Feb 22
A great Article and about time the Portsmyth nonsense was exposed. Looking forward to the next installment.

dirk_doone added 14:26 - Feb 22
That myth was actually created as recently as the early 1990s by a spoof story in a Pompey fanzine called Frattonize in which Southampton Corporation Union Men broke a strike by the Portsmouth Fish Corporation. This quickly got elaborated upon by Pompey fans to portray themselves as working class heroes. Then their spokesmen, especially Colin Farmery, started pushing this myth to the media before recent derby games.

London football fans, especially Millwall started calling rivals Scum in the 1970s and Saints and Pompey fans, amongst others, copied this. Contrary to what people might say, you really never heard it before then.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, Scummers is an old word for pirates or buccaneers, and its first recorded use was in 1585. So, there is some history attached to the word which might explain its use in a naval port.

exferryman added 14:26 - Feb 22

I don't know or particularly care whether or not the so called scummer myth is fabrication or not, it probably is. What I am saying is that this part of his article is not true and therefore if this is not true how much of the rest of his article is true. I'm too old to care about being called a scummer anymore, living miles away it hasn't happened for years anyway.

Stevedore must have spent ages compiling this article perhaps his next project could be a similar article on why we call them skates, oh maybe not!

Happy_Jack added 14:36 - Feb 22
We call them Skates due to a competition held in a well known fanzine many years ago. That will be a very short article exferryman.

exferryman added 14:45 - Feb 22
Thanks happy Jack always wondered where it started. Looks like it was about the time scummers started then if dirk doone is right. Sounds about right because I don't remember being called a scummer back in the 80s when I worked with pompey fans.

Happy_Jack added 14:56 - Feb 22
You seem a very fair minded chap sir. Entirely the wrong sort of person to take part in these types of debate lol

SaintDavo added 14:59 - Feb 22
Oh well, in the not too distant future we will have forums posts like..."does anyone remember the name of that sad bunch of tossers who used to call us scummers" ???
Once the blue few disappear they wont be remembered or missed !!!
Yours and sadly our "dodgy" old boss may have got away with it but hopefully you lot will get what you deserve...VERY SOON !!! :-)

veracity added 15:59 - Feb 22
The earliest recollection I have of the SCUMMERS handle was actually in 1976, just after the Saints won the Cup and pre dates the Thoresen/P&O Ferry move to Pompey in 1983/4 which, to my mind had little to do with the SCUMMER story.

As mentioned in one of the earlier posts Southampton had a very unionised and large Dockers contingent
Portsmouth's commercial port was smaller than it is now but had begun to expand from the Albert Johnson quay area into what is now the Ferry Terminal.
Meanwhile Brittany Ferries (which had been started by French farmers to get their produce to the UK market) had commenced a largely freight only service into Plymouth
The Soton Shop stewards ran a South Coast Dockers Steering Group (all TGWU members) led by Ritchie Pierce which included the ports of Soton, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Poole and Weymouth.
There was an agreement that the fledgling Brittany Ferry service would not move out of Plymouth to Portsmouth, which was not part of the highly unionised National Dock labour Board
The Portsmouth men initially agreed to this then, for some reason, reneged on the agreement and agreed to take the Brittany ship.
To support Plymouth the Soton Dockers picketted the Portsmouth Commercial port towards the end of November 1976
This can be verified by looking in the archives of the Soton Daily Echo and the Pompey News.
So this is fact not conjecture and was fairly high profile news in both papers
The picketing went on for 3-4 days and the police had to be called in to rescue the Pompey Dockers as the Soton men turned up in force.
There were several arrests including the brother of Bob Charles who played in goal for Saints in the 1960's.
As I say the story of strike breaking by the mythical Soton Company of Union Men seems to have started from this time.
I once spoke to a journalist at the Pompey News about this particular event and he reckoned the accusation of strike breaking by Soton Union members was fabricated by a Pompey FC fan by the name of Hughes (who was working in Pompey Docks at the time and was known as 'Docker' Hughes) to overcome the embarrassment of having to call the police for protection against Soton Dockers on 'home soil'
Certainly the facts about the Ppmpey Dockers strike breaking is a matter of public record if anyone wants to research the story
Unlike, of course, the Pompey 'Scummers' story which is pure fantasy and fabrication.
Hopefully someone will have the time to visit the Soton/Pompey libraries where copies of the local papers are kept on mico filche to verify this

pompeytillidie added 16:39 - Feb 22
I was interested enough to look this up, my findings suggest stevedore has missed the possible truth totally so let's just say that you are always scum to us

gartan added 16:39 - Feb 22
Errrm well.... I remember being called 'Scum' as a teenager by skinhead lads from Pompey back in 1982 when on me holidays in Dorset. It was in a sort of good natured joke way and we became mates over the 2 weeks but they definately refered to us as scum.... I had no idea what it was all about until later during the casual days 83 onwards for me.... I don't think it has anything to do with docks strikes .... That's just fitted in to give it history and legitimacy... I can't see the point in getting upset... It just gets a bit tiresome sometimes...and highlights their insecurity more than anything

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