Harold Trevenen Hall

The founder of Latvian football

Harold Trevenen Hall


Harold Trevenen Hall

In Latvian football periodicals, the year 1906 is most often considered to be the beginning of football in our country, but the first origins should be sought as early as the 19th century. This is how the Hall family came to live in Latvia in the mid-19th century, and soon Harold Trevenen Hall - the “The father of Latvian Football”!


The Fateful meeting

What were the British people looking for in Latvia in the 19th century? It wasn't football, of course. The British were interested in trade, or - as we would say nowadays - business. In the 19th century, Riga was the region's metropolis and citadel. In other words, a desirable centre for many businessmen and world travellers of the time. And the Hall family was no exception. Although the family's roots ran deep and firmly in England, the urge to be active beyond the British Isles prevailed. And that passion brought them to Riga. The Hall family was involved in the manufacturing industry here for several generations.

Harold as a child, Riga.

The Iļģuciems Manufactory was originally run by George Frederick Hutton Hall, born in Kent, England, who was also a general in the British army. At the end of World War I, his energetic son Harold Trevenen Hall, or Trevy as he was known to family and friends, took the reins.

Harold was one of five brothers born to George and Cordelia Frenda Gryls. Henry, Frank, Harold, and Jeffrey came into the family one by one. Four of his sons were born in Riga, and one of them was Harold, who was born on 30 September 1884.

In his teenage years, Harold was sent to England to be educated at an elite boarding school for boys in Redhill, near Oxford. Founded in 1847, the school was mainly attended by sons of upper-class parents. After acquiring his education and confidence, Harold returned to Riga and started working as a factory manager at Iļģuciems Manufactory.

Harold as a child, Riga.

And then started football...

The Union team, also founded by Hall.

The Union team, also founded by Hall.

Harold's parents chose Strazdumuiža next to Lake Jugla as their residence, where they raised their dashing sons. Right next door was the Strazdumuiža cotton manufactory, which was sold to an English joint-stock company. Nearby was the Salamander steelworks, also run by British businessmen and workers. It is where the first football club in Latvia was founded, initiated by Harold Trevenen Hall. The name of the club was ‘British Football Club’. It was mainly played by British workers who competed against sailors from ships arriving in Riga. Harold was not only the founder of the team, but also a coach and a player. In general, Harold was a very active organiser of sports life in Riga and its surroundings, and also a strong athlete. The fact that he was the Baltic long jump champion in 1908 is proof of this!

In 1907, Harold founded the first two football clubs in Latvia. First, the ‘British Football Club’, which later became ‘Britannia’ in which British workers mainly played, and secondly ‘Union’, in which Baltic Germans were predominant, including the founder himself, Hall. In the first years after they were founded, they were both also the leading clubs in Riga, winning almost all the trophies of the time - the Riga Champions title, the Riga Cup and also the Hutton-Hall Cup.

In 1921, Harold and his companions founded the Latvian Football Union, which was the first officially registered sports association in Latvia. Later Harold was Honorary President of the Union and continued to be active in the Football Union, as well as actively supporting football organisations with equipment. Already in 1922, 12 associations with 22 teams and 479 players took part in the Latvian Football Championship organised by the Latvian Football Union at all levels. In 1921, the first football regulations in the Latvian language were published, and in May 1923, Latvia was admitted to the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).

Harold was also an active sailor - he owned a yacht at Lielupe river Yacht Club. He had also won several wrestling fights and boxing competitions. In February 1909, during the winter, when opportunities to play team sports were limited, Harold and his companions played the first known ice hockey game in Latvia.

One of his brothers, Walter, was also very active in sport. In particular, Walter was a board member of the Latvian Winter Sports Union, as well as the best ice hockey referee in Latvia and a masterful banjo player. In his everyday life, Walter worked for the British diplomatic service. From 1931 to 1940 he was Vice-Consul at the British Embassy in Latvia. Meanwhile, he was an officer in the British Intelligence Corps during World War II. His brother Harold was also active on a similar front...


Secret service

Alongside sports life and running factories, Harold was passionate about army affairs. It was a huge secret at the time, but many years later it was revealed that the founder of Latvian football was a member of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). The Service was founded in 1909 and quickly began to grow its worldwide network.

In 1912, Father George passed away at the age of 70. The first football cup was organised in his honour in Riga, named after Hutton-Hall. This cup can be considered the first real football tournament in Latvia and Riga at the beginning of the century.

In 1911, Harold tied the knot with Yves Frances Addison, daughter of Lucy and William Addison, and they had two beautiful daughters, Lorna and Rhona. The family spent a lot of time at the summer residence in Bulduri. Unfortunately, after six years of being together, Yves fell seriously ill with diphtheria and passed away in 1917.

There was a large British community in Jūrmala, mainly in Bulduri, with British families building summer houses. Social life was centred around the Hall and Addison families, but it was also the home of all of British society known in Riga at the time - the Woodhouses, Carrolls, Corries, Pollocks, Poskitts, Smoils, Cecils, Wagstaffs, Websters, Burkes, Ellises, Lawsons, Whishaws and other influential families.

Harold, as a true gentleman and a man of strong physique, for a long time was the Honorary Chief of the Riga, Jūrmala and Bulduri Firefighters' Associations, strengthening Harold’s status in society, but - especially - in the Jūrmala area. Harold's residence was located at 29 Vienibas Avenue (Vienības prospekts). Today, the house is still inhabited - it was recently renovated and slightly rebuilt.

Harold with his Union teammates playing ice-hockey in 1909.

Harold with his Union teammates playing ice-hockey in 1909.

After his wife's death, in 1918, Harold was appointed Vice-Consul in Terijoki, Finland, today known as Zelenogorsk, a city on the shores of the Gulf of Finland in Russia. He regularly took part in Intelligence operations in Petrograd (today St Petersburg) and in the Finnish territory. An assignment to go to Kronstadt in May 1919, a small island near St Petersburg, can be considered a special mission. There was a specially guarded military base of the Russian Baltic Fleet, guarding the sea approach to St Petersburg. At the time, another mission in Kronstadt was carried out by a British scout, Paul Duke, one of Harold's friends, who got into a lot of trouble, because Paul was captured by the Bolsheviks. Paul previously worked in Riga as an English teacher, and later, thanks to his knowledge of the Russian language, ended up in St Petersburg, where he was literally caught in the eye of the revolution and carried out several secret agent missions. But in Kronstadt he needed a major rescue operation, which can be read about today in the popular book “Operation Kronstadt” by Harry Ferguson.

For a relatively short period - from 1919 to 1921 - Harold also worked in Latvia as an employee of the British Passport Service. We can only guess the nature of these works.

At the outbreak of World War II, Harold continued to work for MI6 and maintained close contacts with agents in Sweden and Finland. He may also have established close contact with the Latvian resistance movement, but no direct evidence of this has been found.

As tensions rose in Riga, Harold was arrested by the Gestapo, most likely on suspicion of MI6 connections, and was imprisoned in Riga Central Prison for nearly a year. During this time, he was extremely weakened after suffering brutal torture, and his health was severely damaged as a result.


The mysterious passing

At the outbreak of World War II, many of the British people who had settled in Riga at that time already left Latvia in 1939. In October of that year, Lucy Addison, the mother of Harold's wife, wrote in her memoirs: '...in that case the diplomatic missions and embassies would also have to go away, and the British Minister would see that we, the British people, were stalling for time'. It was a letter from Latvia. Harold, who with his family was closely connected to both the British Embassy and the Secret Service, should have been fully aware of the political and economic consequences that came with the Soviet occupation.

Harold's family ties in Latvia had already been significantly severed, as his daughters had already left the country in the summer of 1939 and his parents and wife were dead. The first wife's parents, Lucy and William Addison, were still in Latvia, and did not want to take the long journey back to the UK. At that time, it would have meant crossing the vast country of Russia, then across the ocean to the USA, and only then to the UK. For people of respectable age, such a journey would have been too difficult.

Harold in his Jūrmala summer house with his mother Cordelia and daughter Rhona in 1920s.

The only source that raises thoughts about Harold remaining in Latvia is Lucy's diary. In it, she said that Harold was on an assignment and was far away from home. Harold was very familiar with both the Soviet nationalisation policy and the Red Terror. Thus, he should have been clearly aware of what awaited him if he did not leave Latvia. From this it can be concluded that Harold was either following orders to stay in Latvia, or he was waiting for an official order to leave Latvia, but he never did.

We may never know the reasons that led Harold to stay in Latvia. He was a very reliable employee and a true perfectionist. Perhaps he was waiting until the last minute for another important task, which never happened. And the stay in Riga was already prolonged...

In 1940, the new director of the Iļģuciems factory, Mayland - a former factory handyman - moved into Harold's house in Jūrmala.

During the first years of the Nazi German occupation, Harold and his wife Lina were still living in Jūrmala, but then all British people were ordered by the German commandant to leave Jūrmala within 24 hours. It was the beginning of July 1941. The Halls complied with this order and moved into the house of the Iļģuciems Manufactory director, which had previously belonged to the Hall family. A month later, William and Lucy, the parents of his first wife, Yves, and his sister-in-law, Joan, moved there too.

On 10 February 1942, the German Security Police (‘The Sicherheitspolizei’) entered Hall's home and carried out a search. Firearms and compromising documents were sought. Although they were not found, Harold was arrested. He spent four days in prison with other British nationals. Harold was later transferred to Riga Central Prison. With the help of a family friend, Krommer, a Baltic German serving in the Secret Police, the relatives managed to provide Harold with clothes and food.

Harold was released on 16 June 1942. His mother-in-law mentioned in her diaries that on 30 January 1943 Harold fell seriously ill and doctors diagnosed meningitis, as a result of which he was transferred from Iļģuciems to a hospital. When Lucy Addison and Lina came to see Harold on 2 February, the medical staff pronounced him dead.

However, Harold's granddaughter Iona remembers her mother talking about the real reasons for his death, which were most likely related to his occupation. Harold was “released” from the prison very ill and after being brutalized and tortured, he was thrown on the street. At the time, Lucy may have been afraid to tell the truth in her diary because it was written during the war.

Hall death notice on newspaper.
Harold in his Jūrmala summer house with his mother Cordelia and daughter Rhona in 1920s.

Harold in his Jūrmala summer house with his mother Cordelia and daughter Rhona in 1920s.


Trails lead to Canada

Harold with his second latvian wife Līna and mother Cordelia.

Harold with his second latvian wife Līna and mother Cordelia.

Harold was laid to rest in Bulduri Church and buried in Lielupe Cemetery. More than 70 years later, his and his family graves were found overgrown and abandoned...

Harold's descendants have not disappeared - they have settled in Canada, where Harold's grandchildren live with their families and children. Harold's granddaughter, Iona Whishaw, is a writer, has raised a son, and has two grandchildren. Tyson, the youngest one is currently attending university on a football scholarship. Tyson inherited his great-grandfather Harold's athleticism. All family are rooting for Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Harold's grandson, Ian Quentin Whishaw, is a prominent Canadian neuropsychologist who has studied the effects of the brain on stroke and Parkinson's disease. Whishaw has published more than 400 scientific papers and several books in the field of neuroscience. Meanwhile, his sons work in the video game industry.

100 years later, the Latvian Football Federation, the Union's successor, in honour of Harold's contribution to Latvian football, has found and restored the grave site so that the story of a brave and strong British man who opened the door to football - a game that the British had known for decades but was new and unprecedented for us - will be preserved for future generations! In honour of these 100 years, in December 2021, LFF representatives had their first meeting with the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Latvia to discuss his contribution to Latvian football and to honour his contribution not only to sport, but also to the economy of Riga and Latvia.

Harold is buried in Lielupe Cemetery together with his second wife Lina. A memorial plaque has been installed to his first wife, Yves, who died in Sofiyovsk, Ukraine. The prematurely departed baby of Harold and Yves is buried nearby.

The first wife's family - Yves' parents William and Lucy, with their children Harry and Una, and William's mother Frances - are also buried nearby.

May this article serve as an everlasting memorial to Harold and his family for the time when football was introduced to Latvia and promoted as the leading and most influential sport for decades to come.

On September 15, 2022, the opening of the memorial took place, attended by Harold's granddaughter Iona with her son Biski. The ceremony was also attended by LFF representatives and British Ambassador Paul Brammel. -