Updated: May 10
Hy on Palace tells the tale of Hy Money, one of the first women to work succesfully in the male-dominated world of football sports photography. At nearly 400 pages long it’s an extensive pictorial record of 35 years of following Crystal Palace, a club with a history arguably more colourful than most.
Published in 2005 by the Crystal Palace Fans Centenary Publishing project, it’s an engrossing, mostly monochrome record of an age of muddy pitches and crumbling stadiums, dodgy sideburns and dodgier-still glamour shoots – and one which reminds readers of the rich pedigree of players and characters who have passed through the Palace. In here you’ll find Geoff Thomas, Vince Hilaire, Malcolm Allison, Terry Venables, Ian Wright, Mark Bright, Peter Taylor, Gerry Francis, Kenny Sansom, Dave Swindlehurst… The list goes on, and all recorded by a woman who was a pretty remarkable character in her own right.
In the introduction, Hy Money writes of her upbringing in India amidst an English community still, just, basking in the afterglow of the Raj, and of a return to a flat suburban life in Purley as a housewife and mum. “Right from the beginning,” she writes, “I was told (and hence believed it to be true) that photography was man’s work.” But she tired of waiting for her husband to take the photographs of their young children she’d promised her family, so dug out an old Box Brownie her mum had given her when she left India and did it herself. “Nothing could equal the magic of opening the package to see for the first time if what you saw in your mind’s eye matched the photograph,” she says. She was hooked on photography and, before long, found another passion.
When, in 1971, her seven-year-old son announced he wanted to go to the Palace for his seventh birthday, she thought he meant Buck House. When she found out he meant Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, she wasn’t keen. This was another male ritual, and her husband’s obsession with sport hadn’t endeared her to it. But Mr M’s devotion to playing cricket meant Hy had to drive to Selhurst with her young sons.
It was a journey into a completely alien world. But Hy got stuck in and, approaching the ground, began to get caught up in the currents of the crowd, feeling the community in a commotion she likens to “the hubble and bubble of Bangalore” she remembered from her childhood. Once inside the ground, was enthralled. Her description of this first glimpse will stir the memories of many readers – the green of the grass, the noise, the colour of the scarves and flags in the crowd (“Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, my world had exploded from black and white into glorious technicolour,” she writes). The arrival of the players – to the tune, of course, of Glad All Over, completed the job. “the stage was set for a duel,” she writes, “and I was in thrall of what lay ahead.” Spotting the press photographers, so close to the action while she sat so frustratingly far away, she knew what she wanted to do.
She badgered Bert Head, the manager who had taken Palace into the top flight for the first time in the club;s history, for the best part of a week. her calls were not returned, so she went to the ground and found him. “Are you a press photographer?’ he asked. She said, no, but she badly wanted to take photographs from the pitch.
“Well,” he said, “with a name like Hy Money and a cheek like yours… give this woman a pass and get rid of her.” It’s an extraordinary story, one that seems utterly improbable today. No doubt today’s club executives would shake their heads at the amateurism of it all, but the story makes you reflect on what the slick corporate operations of the modern football club are missing out on.
Hy started snapping and sent her pictures to a national Sunday newspaper. She got published, with a byline, at the first attempt. This was a time when women were not allowed on the pitch to take pictures, and Hy faced a battle to do what she did, even fighting for two years to be accepted as a member by the National Union of Journalists. My friend Julie Welch was also just starting to establish herself in the equally male-dominated world of football reporting at the time. I asked her if she remembered Hy. “Yes,” she said, “she was very glamorous”, adding in typical style, “It was hard for me not to notice her as she was the only other reporter who had lady bits”.
The book contains plenty of action photography spanning 35 years of reporting Palace, and a scan through provides a reminder of the many great players who have passed through the ranks at the club. But there’s much more. The fans feature large, with the jubilant pitch invasion at Selhurst after the play-off final victory over Blackburn Rovers in 1989 vividly among the stand-out images. There’s a set of pictures at a training session in which Malcolm Allison watches Terry Venables, then his coaching prodigy, set out an exercise – a certain George Graham also features.
There are many images of the fans, some capturing the long gone days of the terraces with fans packed on the vast expanse of the Holmesdale End, others where Hy picks out the characters in a crowd noticeable for its mix of ages in comparison to modern times. Perhaps because of her own first experience, she regularly picks out the kids in the crowd, silk scarves around their wrists and engrossed in the action. Back then they didn’t need club membership and the commitment to spend half an hour on the phone a month in advance – you just turned up.
Here too are some signs of the times. Those expecting a feminist tract from a woman described as “the Emily Pankhurst of sports photography” may be startled by the chapter which details Fiona Richmond’s visit to a Palace training session in 1976. Back in the day, Richmond was as hot a sex symbol as Britain had produced, and somewhat inevitably Malcolm Allison has agreed for her to come along and generate some publicity for the club. She turned up in porn baron Paul Raymond’s Rolls Royce clad in a Palace shirt, a pair of knickers and some thigh high boots; cavorted in the mud with the players, and finished off in a squad photo flashing her breasts at the camera.
The chapter is finished off with some shots of the Palace Dollies, a kind of Palace-supporting Pan’s People who sold raffle tickets, did some cheerleading and started the Palace Ladies football team which went on to be quite successful. Top that off with pictures of a velvet blazer-clad Charlie Cooke signing on stage with a big band and, ladies and gentlemen, you have the 1970s.
The depth of the coverage here is quite incredible, although the full-colour shots of Mark Bright and Ian Wright in the shower clad only in soap and strategically-placed hands were more alarming than incredible! As far as I can gather, the book is out of print now. It’s unashamedly a Palace fans’ book, but as I said at the beginning of this piece, there’s much here to savour for any football fan who has the game in their blood.
I enjoyed it because of that and because Palace have always, along with Nottingham Forest, been a club I have a bit of a soft spot for. I know fans hate it when you say that about their club, but I don’t mean it to be patronising. Palace always seemed to have some excitement about them, there was the whole “team of the 80s” thing under Terry Venables, the white kit with the blue and burgundy stripe was eye-catching, and there were games such as the thrilling FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool in 1990 that will live long in the memory.
I can also remember the kindness shown to me and fellow Spurs fan Bruce Lee when we took a wreath on behalf of the Tottenham Independent Supporters Association to lay at Selhurst Park before our match there in 1995 after a Palace fan died at another FA Cup semi-final.
Hy on Money is a gem of a book. Palace fans may still be able to get hold of it through the club, but if not, a visit to Hy’s website may provide some flavour. And thanks to @AlexSegger for lending me the book