Cornishman Harley Lawer was first taken to Home Park in the early 1950s as a 13 year-old. This was the start of a lifelong love affair with Plymouth Argyle which is still going strong over 70 years later.
In 1964, Harley’s boyhood dreams were realised when he became Argyle correspondent on the Western Independent, later the Sunday Independent. He wrote about the Pilgrims’ fortunes for the paper over the next 34 years and published two books on the club in the 1980s: Dave Smith’s Promotion Diary and Harley Lawer’s Argyle Classics. For the last ten years of his career he was also the Sports Editor on the Independent.
Now a patron of the Argyle Archive, Harley still has a magnificent memory for games, dates and events.
This interview, recorded by Argyle Archive Trustee John Eales in February 2023, covers Harley’s memories of the Greens from his first match in 1952 through to his retirement in 1998.
PAHA would like to record their grateful thanks to Trustee John Eales, and Callum Forwood, a second year BA (Hons) History student and Argyle season ticket holder, for all their valuable help with this project.
Part 1: Early Days
Harley recounts his early days, including his first Argyle match, and football in the 1950s. ‘Jumbo’ Jack Chisholm is one player of this era for whom he has particularly strong and happy memories.
He goes on to recall his early career as a junior reporter on the Cornish Guardian and, following National Service with the Army in Aldershot, his days as Sports Editor with the Salisbury Times. Then, in 1964, he landed his dream job as Argyle Correspondent on the Western Independent.
Part 2: Living the Dream
Harley remembers his first coup on the Independent: the signing of Tony Book from Bath City. He goes on to talk about his career as Argyle Correspondent, including introducing the five star player rating system, the introduction of the start of season Soccer Special supplement in 1970 and the I HEAR column.
Part 3: Covering Argyle in the 1960s
Starting with the arrival of the charismatic Malcolm Allison as manager in 1964, Harley recounts some of the big Argyle stories that he covered in the 1960s. These include the win at Millwall in January 1967, thereby ending the Londoner’s 59 game unbeaten home run; the QPR match on Boxing Day, 1967 and the referee scoring the winner for Barrow in November 1968.
Part 4: Covering Argyle in the 1970s
Harley remembers some of the important events that he reported on in the 1970s, including the run to the League Cup semi-final in 1973-4 and promotion to Division Two in 1974-5. He also discusses the key signings of Jim Furnell, Paul Mariner and Billy Rafferty.
Part 5: The Eighties, Nineties and Retirement
Harley discusses the signing of Tommy Tynan, the near signing of John Aldridge and the run to the F.A. Cup semi-final in 1983-4. He fondly recalls the arrival of the uniquely charismatic Dave Smith as Argyle manager and the 1985-6 promotion season.
From the 1990s, Harley discusses Dan
McCauley’s arrival as Chairman of the club and Peter Shilton’s time as manager. He remembers some of Shilton’s key signings such as Steve McCall, Steve Castle and Paul Dalton. He goes on to talk about relegation to the fourth tier for the first time, the appointment of Neil Warnock and Argyle’s first appearance at Wembley.