14th February 2016 marks the twentieth anniversary of the death of Bob Paisley, the most successful manager in Liverpool Football Club’s history. The former bricklayer from Hetton-le-hole in county Durham came to Liverpool as player in 1939 and never left. After retiring from playing in 1954 he took up various backroom roles before being appointed manager in 1974 following the retirement of Bill Shankly.
In just nine seasons as manager Paisley won six league titles, three European Cups, one UEFA Cup and three League Cups. His achievement in winning Europe’s highest prize on three occasions was not matched until Carlo Ancelotti in 2014, although Paisley remains the only manager to do it with the same club.
Despite such successes, Paisley wasn’t comfortable in the limelight and liked nothing more than to play with his grandchildren or call into a garage on the way to training for a cup of tea and pick some horses from the betting pages of the papers.
After handing over the managerial reins to Joe Fagan in 1983, Paisley enjoyed a spell of retirement but was persuaded to return for a season in 1985 to help newly appointed Kenny Dalglish, who was still playing as well. He then took up a boardroom role until ill health forced him to leave the club altogether in 1992.
Paisley spent the last year of his life battling Alzheimer’s Disease at Arncliffe Court nursing home in Halewood, where he was regularly visited by his beloved wife Jessie, two sons and one daughter. His death at the age of 77 was greeted with sadness beyond Merseyside, with stars past and present attending his funeral at St Peter’s Church in Woolton. He was buried in the churchyard, his grave marked by a suitably modest headstone with the words ‘He remained an ordinary man amidst extraordinary achievements.’
Paisley shares the churchyard with some graves of the Earle family of Allerton Tower, who were not so humble. They moved there in the early nineteenth century after selling their Spekelands estate in Edge Hill. In 1869 Hardman Earle was made a baronet, a peerage that could be passed down through the generations. He died in 1877 and his son Sir Thomas Earle, who died in 1900, described himself as a ‘baronet and merchant’ in the census of 1891. They decamped to Cheshire in the early twentieth century and Allerton Tower was demolished in the 1930s, the land being one of Liverpool’s lesser known parks.
It is fair to say that the vast majority of visitors to St Peter’spass the Earle graves without giving them a second glance. Many Liverpool fans come to see Paisley’s graves but the church welcomes many more Beatles fans, the graveyard being the final resting place of somebody immortalised in one of their songs, Eleanor Rigby.