It’s football time, and again in the media we are hearing the word “hooligan” to describe rowdy and violent fans. Where does this word come from?
No one knows for sure. There are several theories regarding the origin of the word “hooligan”. The Compact Oxford English Dictionary writes that the word comes from the surname of a rowdy Irish family in a music hall song of the 1890s. But there are other theories.
Writer Clarence Rook wrote in his 1899 book, Hooligan Nights, that the word came from Patrick Hoolihan (or Hooligan), an Irish bouncer and thief who lived in the slums of London. The book wrote of a young criminal who told his story in his own words. In the book, Rook wrote that Patrick Hooligan robbed and beat up people. Hooligan was a professional tough guy. He had a gang around him and they operated as small time crooks. They mugged people in the street. Hooligan himself was often in street fights, and he vandalised and damaged property.
He and his fellow gang members often gathered and drank at a public house in Southwark called the Lamb and Flag. The pub is first found in public records in 1772 when it was called the Coopers Arms. Later it became known as The Bucket of Blood because of numerous fist fights there. The Southwark’s Lamb and Flag was probably located in Borough High Street. It does not exist today.
The word “hooligan” first appeared in London police-court reports in 1894 for the name of a gang in the Lambeth area of London—the Hooligan Boys. In August 1898 a member of the Hooligan gang murdered a person and “Hooligan” became popular in the London press.
Patrick’s end came when he killed a policeman during a street fight. He was sentenced to life in prison, where he died. Hooligan’s name became so notorious that English newspapers began calling rowdy troublemakers “hooligans” and acts of violence “hooliganism”.
The London newspaper The Daily Graphic used the word “hooliganism” in an article on 22 August 1898. Soon violent and destructive behaviour was called hooliganism. Famous writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells used the word “hooligan” or “hooliganism” in their works in the early 20th century.
Today the word is used worldwide in many languages to describe rowdy and violent football fans – or street rowdies and violent protesters.
In 1987 German amateur pilot Matthias Rust, 17, flew a small plane into the Soviet Union and landed near the Kremlin. Soviet authorities charged and convicted Rust of the crime of “hooliganism”, among others.