June 9: On this day in Arsenal history…
1984: John “Alex” Mackie died. Mackie was best known for buying a monkey with his first week’s wages when joining Arsenal – after then chairman Sir Henry Norris ‘obtained’ a simian for the Northern Irishman.
Born in Monkstown, County Antrim, Mackie impressed on trial in 1921, but also turned heads by his unusual request – which was facilitated by Norris.
Upon joining Arsenal from Belfast United, the Ulsterman asked for the Gunners to satisfy his lifetime’s ambition as he had always wanted to own a monkey.
Norris – the club’s chairman at the time, thought nothing of Mackie’s demands and procured a monkey from his wealth of contacts.
Norris was the same man whose machinations allowed Arsenal to start the first season after World War One in the top flight despite finishing fifth in Division Two before the outbreak of hostilities – so the procurement of a pet monkey wouldn’t have presented too many problems to the arch wheeler-dealer.
In Bernard Joy’s iconic ‘Forward Arsenal’ book, he mentions Mackie joining the club, explaining in deliciously dry prose: ‘A professional engagement in England starting at possibly £5 a week, was wealth indeed. With his first week’s salary he bought a pet monkey to satisfy a lifetime’s ambition…’
Mackie made his Gunners debut in 1922 and soon became a regular in the side over the next two seasons, before a serious injury ruled him out of most of the 1924/25 campaign.
He returned the next season to make 35 appearances but was eventually replaced by future Arsenal captain Tom Parker.
He played for Portsmouth in two cup finals after leaving Arsenal, and later for Northampton and Sittingbourne before retiring from football at the outbreak of the Second World War.
In other news on this day…
1986: Martin Keown sold to Aston Villa after incurring the wrath of George Graham following his demand for an extra £50 a week.
1993: Lee Dixon and Ian Wright play for England in the 2-0 defeat by the USA
1999: Remi Garde announced his retirement. The Frenchman was Arsene Wenger’s first signing along with Patrick Vieria
1999: Fabian Caballero, who had been on loan with the Gunners from Cerro Porteño returned to his club. Caballero only made a single league appearance for Arsenal but returned to the UK to play for Dundee
2008: Gary Lewin agreed to leave Arsenal as the head of their medical team to work with England