History is the study of the past.
However, it’s Ray Simpson’s study at home that could be consigned to history after relinquishing a role with the club that he proudly held for almost 30 years.
Ray has now retired from his post as club historian, ending a career with the Clarets which began with an introduction to the club that came along by pure chance as a programme contributor back in 1987, at the invitation of former defender and then commercial manager Jim Thomson.
It’s an adventure that has shaped both Ray and his wife Glenys’s life from that moment on… for better and worse!
Ray laughed: “I always wanted to be surrounded by my research material, in terms of books, records, documents and files.
“Mrs Simpson is rather pleased that it is being slowly weeded out from my study now though, because we’ve been looking to downsize for 10 years and we’re still not quite there!”
The house of records that Ray built comes from a lifetime of devotion, first as a supporter in the days before we were kings, and from 1991 as a valued member of staff, painstakingly collating information and statistics, willingly collecting and displaying valuable memorabilia and generally being a first point of contact for all things Burnley.
“I was always interested in football history from a young age, but I remember becoming galvanised into the history of the Clarets when I found out that Burnley were founder members of the Football League,” he added.
“It was really only a hobby, and I could never have imagined being involved in the club for almost 30 years.
“When I became involved, in the days when we were Fourth Division strugglers, there were only a few people behind the scenes and even fewer involved in contributing to matchday programmes.
“The role has changed dramatically since then. I used to get sent a pile of letters to respond to, whereas most of the correspondence nowadays is by email.
“In terms of displaying our wares, we had very little of note to show in the trophy cabinets at that time, but over the years I have been fortunate to acquire items presented to and loaned to us and helped to purchase some valuable memorabilia on behalf of the club, many at auctions.”
The age of the Internet has, naturally, opened the floodgates for anyone wanting to research the minutiae of, well, pretty much anything!
But Ray, who has handed over the role to another lifelong fan, Shaun Borman, is adamant that in the modern world there is still room for the good old club historian.
“I think the perception that people have is that details of any club can be looked up online,” said Ray.
“That’s true to a certain degree, but it’s about the devil in the detail and I don’t think you can count on there being as much research material as I could gather, certainly not in as much accurate detail as I would like.
“I may use the Internet as a base, but I would certainly do more research within the sphere I am researching, so I think there is still a definite role for football club historians.
“Equally, I have been fortunate enough in my time to work on the inside, whereas many football historians work on the outside and perhaps don’t really feel a part of the fabric of a club.
“They do their best because they are keen fans and want to assist the club, but they are at arms’ length and some are not really accepted by the club hierarchy either, which is strange because you would think they would want any information out there to fairly represent them.”
Ray, however, is not about to skulk quietly into the shadows following his well-earned retirement.
A renowned author of many books documenting the club’s history; the latest must-have instalment is about to be released next month.
Co-written with lifelong friend and fellow football historian Wallace Chadwick, The Complete Clarets Collection aims to plug a significant hole by bringing supporters bang-up-to-date with the full biographies of anyone who has pulled on the famous claret and blue in over 130 years of existence.
“I’ve worked with Wallace on several books but this will probably our last,” explained Ray.
“It will profile every Burnley player in our entire history, so this is probably our most comprehensive book on the club’s history, other than perhaps The Clarets Chronicles, dating back to 2007.
“I’d like to think we’ve done the club’s history proud and told the world about our illustrious past.”
Ray, who was recently presented with a special award by manager Sean Dyche to mark his valuable contribution, added: “I’d like to place on record what a pleasure and an absolute privilege it has been to be involved with this wonderful club, first purely as a supporter, then to serve from the inside as part of the team behind the team.
“All of us can take great pride and huge satisfaction in the tremendous progress which the club has made in recent years and I would like to think that I have made my own modest contribution to that progress and to the successes which the club has enjoyed.”
Downsizing may be the future, but the solid foundations that Ray laid will always remain strong in the library of books that nestle comfortably on many a Clarets’ fan’s bookshelf.
Although we suspect the long-suffering Glenys may want to hold off on the house-hunting for a little while yet!
Ray insisted: “Things are changing and I’m liaising with my successor, Shaun, and my research material will get handed over gradually, although I will still keep my own records to some degree.
“Well, you can’t ever let it go, can you?”
The Complete Clarets Collection is officially launched at Turf Moor on Wednesday, 24 October, from 7.15pm. Pre-publication subscribers, together with guests, are invited to come along and collect their special numbered copies. Non-subscribers will also be welcome to come along and have the opportunity to purchase copies of the book.