New picture of Duncan Edwards – in bible class
They sit or stand in their Sunday best – smiling, confident and optimistic that the future will be good to them.
For one of the group, the years to come were particularly bright but his happiness was to be short-lived.
Seated on the far right in the middle row is former Busby Babe and England legend Duncan Edwards, aged around 14, a couple of years before he signed for Manchester United.
The never-before published photograph was taken at a bible class run by another famous son of Dudley, Bert Bissell, mountain climber and peace campaigner.
The grainy black-and-white picture was shown to Rose Cook-Monk as she researched material for a book on Bissell, who founded the Young Men's Bible Class at Vicar Street Methodist Church in 1925.
The local history enthusiast, who has produced an hour-long documentary on Edwards and set up a foundation in his memory, recognised the player immediately.
"Bert's son Colin Bissell showed me the photograph, and it was lovely because it showed another side of Duncan. We all know about the footballer but he had a family life too, and that's what I'm interested in finding out more about."
She hopes the image will help in her search for two wartime evacuees – boys around the same age as Duncan – who lived with the Edwards family for at least three years from 1941.
The discovery of the boys' existence was major step forward in her ongoing investigation into the footballer's life. If the pair can be traced it could spread new light on the boy wonder's early years.
She is appealing for information about the boys – not even knowing their names at this stage – and where they were from and is hoping they can be traced in time for a reunion in June for former pupils of Duncan's old schools, Priory Primary, where the event will take place, and Wolverhampton Street School.
The evacuees went to Priory School with Duncan and it is possible that they also went to Bert Bissell's bible class and are featured in the photograph as well.
Rose, who interviewed the player's mother Sarah Edwards many times before her death in 2003, has tried to trace the pair through the British Evacuees Association but has so far drawn a blank.
She said: "Sarah never mentioned the boys – I found out about them through Duncan's former dancing partner just a few weeks ago. It's very likely that they were brothers as the authorities tried to keep families together as much as possible but I need to know where they would have come from.
"It would be great to get them, even one of them, to the reunion. It would help us fill in the gaps of that aspect of Duncan's life that we know little about."
Edwards attended Priory Primary School from 1941 to 1948, and Wolverhampton Street Secondary School from 1948 to 1952. Anyone who went to either school with Duncan is invited to the reunion at Priory Primary, Limes Road, Dudley, on Saturday, June 9. For more information, call Rose on 07701 092994 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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