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West Brom's Psalm 23: We found a hymn book on a bus!

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

Another story surrounding the genesis of Albion anthem The Lord’s My Shepherd has come to light.

John Bishop with his grandson George.

In yesterday’s Express & Star, we detailed Keith White’s claim that he started singing ‘Giles Is My Shepherd’ in the early months of 1976 about then-manager Johnny Giles before the words reverted back to the original.

But John Bishop, a 60-year-old season-ticket holder in the East Stand who has been going to The Hawthorns since he was 11, tells a different tale from the same year.

“I lived this event, so it’s accurate,” he says. “Apart from I can’t remember who I was with!

“We used to travel from Brownhills which is a nice little trip when you don’t have a car and you’re a teenager so it involved catching a couple of buses.

“We used to get to the ground early and have a drink which you did when you were 18.

“Three or four lads which we used to see at away matches jumped off the bus and one of them was clutching a book of Psalms and Hymns. I thought he’d just throw it away but he kept it.

“It wasn’t your usual blue Collins hymn book, it was quite a nice one. He tucked it away and we forgot about it.

“There used to be a bar under the Birmingham Road End, and we did what all 18-year-olds do, consume as much alcohol as we could.

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“In the bar, the book came out and we started singing songs. The two I can remember were All Things Bright and Beautiful and The Lord’s My Shepherd.

“We didn’t know the tune to half of them. We carried our beers up to the terraces and we continued to what to us was just hilarious drunken antics.

“But when we started singing The Lord’s My Shepherd - which was much slower than it was today – people just started to join in. We didn’t think it would catch on, but it did."

The earliest record of Psalm 23 being sung at The Hawthorns is a video from October 31, 1976, when Albion were home to West Ham United.

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31/10/1976 WBA v West Ham United

“I’m thinking it may well have been that West Ham match," said John. “The reason for that is I joined the Navy on November, 16, 1976 and I don’t think I attended another match from the drunken hymn book match until then.

“When I joined the Navy, I forgot all about our drunken hymn book episode.

"I came back a year or so later having missed a season and half and was shocked to hear it still being sung. ‘Oh my god, that was us’.”

For years it has been assumed Psalm 23 was first sung away at Goodison Park in 1974 when Albion played their first ever Sunday game.

But John was at that match, and like Keith, he doesn’t recall it being sung then.

“I was at that game up at Goodison Park in 1974 and I didn’t hear it then,” he confirmed. “But I’ve spoken to other fans who do remember singing All Things Bright and Beautiful at The Hawthorns.”

John is adamant that his story his correct, but he’s never come across the person who found the hymn book on the bus since.

And he doesn't dispute that other versions like Keith's may also be true, but he believes they must somehow be connected.

“The lads we used to meet up at the ground, we knew their nicknames but very little about them,” he said.

“Other people are equally convinced of other episodes which is mind-boggling to me. They must be all connected in some way or there was knock on effect, I’m sure.

“No-one can claim any credit for coming up with it, because it was abstract and random. I just happened to be there.

“I’ll stand by my story to the day I die. I will tell it to my grandchildren as truth.”

Were you the Albion fan who found a hymn book on the back of a bus in 1976? Contact Matt Wilson at Express & Star on 01902 313131.

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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