Portsmouth expert explains history behind Southampton 'scummers' insult ahead of south coast derby

Pompey are set to face fierce rivals Southampton for the first time in seven years after being drawn against each other in the Carabao Cup.

By Matthew Mohan-Hickson
Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 12:12 pm
Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler
Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

Fratton Park will host the south coast derby on Tuesday night under the lights. 

The last time the two teams played was in April 2012 in the Championship, when David Norris rescued a point with a late strike deep in injury time. 

Pompey fans are known to refer to Southampton supporters by the insult ‘scummers’ – but where does this term come from? 

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Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

Does it come from strikes? 

The origins of the term ‘scummers’ is a bit of mystery – however one of the origins widely believed is that it is thought to have arose in the 1890s following a dispute over a strike at the dockyard in Portsmouth. 

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It is said that dockers from Southampton came down to the city and broke the strike. 

But Colin Farmery, author of 17 Miles From Paradise, has described that as ‘urban myth’. 

So why do Pompey fans call them ‘scummers’? 

Well according to Mr Farmery it is likely that the term became adopted in the 1960s as tensions between the two local rivals began to increase. 

He said: ‘There is no documentation evidence of the origins (of scummers) particularly. 

‘I think the most likely explanation is that it was a term invented in the 60s or 70s as a term for Southampton supporters and people from the city in general and it caught on. 

‘There is no evidence that it originates from dockyards and shipping. It very much seems to be an urban myth. 

‘The story that dockers were coming down from Southampton to Portsmouth to break strikes is very unlikely. 

‘Dockers in Southampton were some of the most militant in the country.' 

Discussing the rivalry with Southampton as a whole, Mr Farmery said: ‘Portsmouth and Southampton have been rival cities and that went to back more than a hundred years. 

'Southampton was a commercial port and Portsmouth was a naval port. 

‘But the more harsh side of the rivalry evolved in the 1960s.

‘We actually have Pompey today because of Southampton. They saw that Southampton had a successful professional club in the 19th Century and decided that they wanted a piece of that.'