George Gapper was a consistent follower who cut his football teeth with Essendon and Adelaide before joining Norwood for three seasons. Born at Bowden on 28 July 1870, George was named after his father and a brother who had died at 15 months. He was one of nine new men recruited by the Adelaide club in 1890, The Adelaide Observer noting that "Gapper was formerly identified with the second twenty of the Essendons."
George played a strong opening game as Adelaide crushed Medindie and he gained selection in a South Australian team from the lesser clubs which played Geelong at Adelaide Oval on 8 July. It was a debacle before a small crowd in wet weather. Gawler players chosen could not get to Adelaide because of transport problems and a scratch team was humiliated 11.19 to nil.
George switched to Norwood in 1892 and quickly earned recognition as an energetic follower. In his first match with his new club, at Adelaide Oval on the Monday holiday of 20 June, Norwood unluckily lost to Port Adelaide by a goal, 3.4 to 2.11 - behinds not counting. He was one of Norwood's best players in the 7.7 to 3.5 defeat of a Broken Hill side at Adelaide Oval and also in the 8.7 to 5.9 win over South Adelaide in September - the first defeat for the premier team. At the end of the season, The Express and Telegraph said: "Gapper has worked hard in the ruck."
In Norwood's last match, however, George was one of four players reported by umpire A. McIntyre. He was suspended until 30 June 1893 for use of bad language. Today it seems a harsh sentence. South Adelaide's Jack Reedman received the same penalty for rough play, plus a second charge of striking 'Bunny' Daly, while South's Fred Fischer was merely reprimanded for bad language.
George was still playing good football at the start of the 1894 season but was not part of Norwood's successful premiership push that year. He later played with West Hindmarsh.
George Gapper lived in a tough environment. He was the son of an itinerant sawyer whose life ended in the Destitute Asylum in 1889. George senior, born in Somerset, had married Annie Cummins two months after she arrived in the colony from Ireland in 1854. As the family matriarch, she not only raised three sons and four daughters but also strongly supported progressive causes such as women's suffrage and workers' rights.
True to their heritage, her children George, Daniel, Richard and Fanny became active members of the infant United Labor Party. Daniel and George were brickmakers at Hindmarsh. In 1904, Chief Justice Sir Samuel Way ruled somewhat equivocally in their favour when they applied for an injunction and damages against John William King for wrongful seizure of their brickyard and plant under a bill of sale.
George married Harriet Rose Watkins on 24 June 1902 and their daughter Caroline Annie was born in 1903. A resident of Hindmarsh, he was only 38 when he died at Parkside on 18 December 1908.
P Robins Feb 2018
*Essential information for this article was generously provided by Gapper family historian Christine Christopoulos
* Family resemblance suggests that George Gapper is the Adelaide FC player indicated in the photo