Lorraine Wilson was the son of Lorraine and Margaret Wilson, both Scots.. His father had been the owner of the Port Eglington Spinning Company, the oldest and largest carpet mill in Glasgow before moving to Manchester where Lorraine was born in 1865. After his father’s death in 1876 the family moved to Dulwich, where his mother had relatives. They moved in to Lynton Lodge in Alleyn Road where they had a cook and a housemaid and which had just been refurbished following a fire which gutted the house. In 1879 Lorraine went to Dulwich College with his cousins Harold and Reginald Jellicorse. He enjoyed his time at school, winning prizes for his German and French and doing well in maths. He left Dulwich College in 1883 and studied under a private tutor in Lausanne for a year before returning to Dulwich and becoming a chartered accountant.
While at Dulwich College he was not involved in any team sports but, like many Victorians, his Christian faith and social conscience led him to see games as a force for good, especially for less privileged young people. He became an active supporter (and later trustee) of the Dulwich College Mission in Walworth, a highly deprived area which had been founded by A H Gilkes, Master of the College during Wilson’s time at the school. At first it mainly focussed on boxing, gymnastics, cricket and football, so chiming with Wilson’s own aims to help young people through sport. Later it branched out into performing arts and other leisure activities and still exists today as the Hollington Club.
Wilson was very much involved in Dulwich sporting affairs and gave his hobby as ‘working for the boys of Dulwich Hamlet’. He helped set up a cricket team and gymnastics classes at Dulwich Hamlet School and regularly used the St Barnabas parish magazine to appeal for sports equipment and clothing. In 1893 he founded Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. There are two stories as to how this came about. In one, he was treasurer of the Dulwich Hamlet School old boys’ cricket club when he was approached by James Ross Williamson and Teddy Booker, two young cricketers, who asked him to start a football team. They even had their inaugural subs ready: one shilling and eightpence.
In the other version, given in an interview to the Sporting Life in 1911, Wilson confesses to having been a rugby man all his life and knowing nothing about the ‘dribbling code’ as he called association football.. In the absence of any rugby Wilson says he was ‘driven to the Association code’ and set up a football team, learning on the job and broadening his own interests at the same time. In the interview Wilson articulates his belief that sport should be educational as well as physically beneficial and talks of asking his players for ‘strict adherence to truth’ and ‘the cultivation of high ideals’. He came to believe that football provided the best way of instilling these ideals as he said the London FA was ‘democratic’ and catered for all classes of player ‘in every possible way’.
However it started, Wilson agreed to take on the job of setting up Dulwich Hamlet Football Club and also became its treasurer, in which post he often had recourse to his own funds to keep the newly-founded club afloat. Such was his inclusive spirit that not only old boys but current pupils and Dulwich College boys who played for the club and after three seasons the club was opened to anyone who wanted to play. He gave his footballers a motto “Stick to your club”. As well as being founder and treasurer, he and George Wheeler, assistant head of Dulwich Hamlet School, virtually ran the club in its early years.
After Wheeler’s death in 1921 Wilson proudly became president of the club too. On top of this he was a founder of the Southern Suburban Football League, a member of the Surrey FA and treasurer of the London FA for 25 years where he started midweek competitions for shop assistants and others unable to play on Saturdays. Right from the start he was valued, praised in the national press for his ‘whole-souled’ work, his ‘temperate and thoughtful’ contributions and his ‘eminently practical’ suggestions. It is unclear when he got his nickname of ‘Pa’ but from 1898 the paternal concern he took in his players was obvious even to outsiders. The South London Press reported that ‘he must have been a proud man to witness the success of his boys, as he takes an almost fatherly interest in their weekly triumphs’. As Wilson was also treasurer of the Working Men’s Reading Room housed in the Old Grammar School on the corner of Burbage Road and Gallery Road he arranged for the ‘bemudded footballers’ to use it as a changing room in the early years since their Woodwarde Road pitch (near the junction with Calton Avenue) had no facilities.. After a couple of years they moved to a pitch in Sunray Avenue, described as “part swamp, part jungle” and also played for a season at what is now Dulwich Sports Club, alongside the viaduct on Giant Arches Road, off Burbage Road, before settling in their current incarnation on Champion Hill in 1902
By 1907 they had done their founder proud by reaching the Isthmian League where they are still play and are now the longest serving member. Wilson used the club’s success to invest in facilities on Champion Hill for both players and spectators. No doubt his financial acumen as an accountant stood the club in good stead during these times, enabling them to match their success on the pitch with a well-appointed club off the pitch. During World War One he edited the Pink & Blue, a quarterly magazine sent to the 60 or so club members on active service, 22 of whom gave their lives for their country - Pa Wilson placed a plaque in their memory above the players’ tunnel. In 1915 he told the Daily Express that the club was proud to say it had no players left to form a team but that its ground was available for military and naval personnel: ‘No charge whatever will be made for ground and dressing rooms and the ball will also be provided’. He also used the club facilities to entertain troops and those waiting to be called up. After the war the club raised funds to sponsor a hospital bed in Lonsdale Ward at Kings College Hospital.
Wilson was a member the congregation of Christ’s Chapel where due to his position of treasurer and his deafness he was known as the ‘deaf adder’; his very loud ‘Amen’ being heard halfway through the next prayer. He was a longstanding member of the chapel committee and great friends with the College chaplain, Canon George Daniell who, Wilson said, taught him ‘the mainspring of right action’. Daniell became the first president of the football club. Lorraine Wilson was also an active public servant, serving as a Moderate (conservative) councillor for the new borough of Camberwell between 1900 and 1906. In 1906 he was appointed a school governor for Goodrich, Heber, Friern and Dulwich Hamlet schools,
Wilson never married and lived with his mother and his older sister, Annette, at Lynton Lodge in Alleyn Road until his mother’s death in 1903 and then with Annette at Birchwood in Alleyn Park. He and Annette were the only family members who seemed to stay put - the other siblings roamed the world, living in India, New Zealand and South Africa. He retired in 1922 at the age of 56 and in December 1923 he fell and was badly injured. By the following March he required the attentions of a nurse and died on 29th April 1924 at the age of 58. A Lorraine Wilson Memorial Scholarship was established at Dulwich College which now funds several places at the school.