“DO not go gentle into that good night.”

So goes the opening line to a Dylan Thomas poem, which could just as easily have been written in elegy to Bootham Crescent.

The floodlights at York City’s home ground of almost 89 years have been extinguished for the final time, and but the smallest fraction of those wishing to pay their respects were allowed in. Outside, a score of supporters had gathered in silent vigil.

Such is the nature of ceremonies under the restrictions imposed to battle the coronavirus pandemic. There was no moment of delirious catharsis as a packed Longhurst erupted at one final goal; nor was there the gut-wrench of a last-minute defeat.

Simply, starting with the lights at the Shipton Road end of the Main Stand, each tower faded into darkness. 

“There we are.”

A hush, and the mourners filed away.

It is possible to find imagery in anything. The wooden seats uprooted in the Main Stand and Pop Stand are the supporters who can barely stand to tear themselves away; the crush barriers now tipped down flat to the concrete steps of the Shipton Road End have been laid to rest.

Yet there was something distinctly final and symbolic in the floodlights being switched off for the final time. Yes, they will remain there until they are removed - the “not-too distant future” says Ian McAndrew - but they have gone out and they are not coming back on at Bootham Crescent.

Of all the ‘farewell’ events so far, this has felt perhaps the most immediate. The removal and sale of seats and memorabilia is ongoing, but extinguishing the floodlights took less than a minute - and provided the starkest reminder yet that York City are moving from their home since 1932.

And the most salient tragedy of all is that so few people were able to be present.

Millions of people across the globe have lost loved ones as a result of the ongoing pandemic and not been permitted to bid farewell. Those who hold Bootham Crescent dear are no different in that respect. Though a football ground cannot be thought of on a par with a human life, there is no doubting the sentimental significance of what took place at 8.52pm on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.

A football ground is an emotional time-capsule. The wisps of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and nearly everything in between, hang in the air around every corner. Generations of families have passed through the same turnstiles and stood in the same spot at every home game, feet freezing or jackets in hand, shielding their eyes from the sun. Couples have fallen in love, new friends have met and old ones reunited. Ashes are interred under the turf. It is a place of pilgrimage and the place you can’t get away from fast enough after a bad defeat. 

To see the outpouring of fondness across social media for Bootham Crescent from fans of myriad other clubs confirms that it is not just York exceptionalism, either: it was - and will continue to be, thanks to the upcoming preservation work between the club and Historic England - a special place.

Stripped of its advertising hoardings, the wooden picket fencing in front of the Popular Stand serves as reminder of the history the place holds. Behind the stand lies the tunnel which allowed fans to swap ends at half-time, and which was used as a bomb shelter.

Each such curiosity conjures its own image, of swelling crowds cheering on the Happy Wanderers FA Cup side and of supporters revelling in the Second Division campaigns of the 1970s. 

Giant-killings, promotion-winning seasons and relegations have all been witnessed from the terraces of this most characterful of traditional English stadia.

Even amid the rawest of occasions on Tuesday evening, there were moments to truly raise a smile. Most heartwarming was James ‘Trigger’ Abraham receiving the honour of switching off the lights. 

The club had held a raffle to win the chance to flick the switch, and Ann Laing’s name was pulled out of the hat. Despite being a season ticket holder of more than half a century, Ann selflessly requested that the opportunity be given to someone “more deserving”.

James, a club volunteer who could always be seen at the front of the David Longhurst Stand, took on his job with pride.

After the front gates were locked up around 9pm, three young men stood looking up at the back of the empty Main Stand. 

Jack’s grandfather was a regular at Bootham Crescent and after he passed away, Jack went “to see what it was all about”. He soon bought himself a season ticket. 

“I’ve been coming back ever since,” he said. “This is one of the last connecting things. That’s the toughest part.”

“The way it’s given us so many memories and, all of a sudden without a big send-off, it’s gone,” added Patrick. “I think that’s the biggest shame of it all.”

No one else was left in the area as the trio grappled with the idea of walking away from the ground. Doubtless they would not have been alone in different times.