Before Westford Academy was known as the Grey Ghosts or later as simply the Ghosts, they were known as the Black Knights. The Academy was only called the Black Knights from 1956 to 1959. They had black and white uniforms and there is no explanation on where the name Black Knights came from. It may have been taken from the West Point football team which also had the same name. Prior to being called the Black Knights, the school did not have a nickname. Before the 1956 season, the Academy was sometimes referred to as the Academicians.
During their first two football seasons as the Black Knights, Westford played its home football games at what was known at the time as the Abbot Field in Forge Village. The field at the new (now known as the Abbot School, 25 Depot Street) Westford Academy was not yet ready to host games. Vic Archambault was the coach of the Black Knights during its first two years.
The first reference to Westford Academy being called the Black Knights emerged in an article that appeared in the Lowell Sun on September 15, 1956. The article simply referred to W.A. as the Black Knights “as they will be called from now on.” There was no mention of where the nickname may have originated from.
Although the Academy was only named the Black Knights for three short years, there were some colorful stories during its brief history. One occasion occurred on October 27, 1956 during a football game between Westford Academy and St. Anthony’s from Manchester, New Hampshire that was played at the Abbot Field in Forge Village.
During that game, the Black Knights were leading St. Anthony’s 21-0 in the second quarter when the St Anthony’s coach felt there was a bad call against his team. After complaining to the officials, Manchester’s coach had his squad line up on their own forty-three yard line and then march in perfect formation to their waiting team bus and left the field and headed for home. Under regulations, the officials then waited two full minutes before declaring the game a forfeit. Westford officially won the game by a score of 1-0. It is probably the only time in Westford’s history where the football team won by a score of 1-0.
On another occasion, a young Ralph Symmes donned a Black Knight costume carrying a Westford Academy banner, rode around the Westford Academy football field on a black and white horse before an Academy football game. *Ralph Symmes and his black and white steed became the unofficial mascot for the Westford Academy sports teams.
In the fall of ’58, Coach Chet Steele replaced Vic Archambault as football coach and athletic director. The 1958-59 school year would also be the last year the school would be called the Black Knights. The ’58 football season would also be the first year the football team would play at the field at the new (now known as the Abbot School, 25 Depot Street) Westford Academy field.
In 1959, the school got new grey and maroon uniforms and changed their name to the Grey Ghosts. The Grey Ghosts nickname most likely came from the television show “The Gray Ghost” which was about a Confederate officer named Major Mosby who evaded Union troops during the American Civil War. The ’59 football season would also be the last year when Westford did not play a Thanksgiving Day football game. In 1960, the school would start a long Thanksgiving Day rivalry against Ayer High School.
Although the Black Knight mascot only lasted three years, it will long be remembered in the history of Westford Academy. Today, it is hard to imagine a school without a mascot. But since the Black Knights were the first mascot in the school’s history, it must be given credit for being the first and will be remembered as an important part of Westford Academy history and folklore. (By James VanBever, 2022)
*The Symmes Family lived at 246 Concord Rd.
Lowell Sun, “Mulligan Looms as Top Man in Westford”, by Joe McGarry, September 15, 1956, p. 10.
Ibid. “Dracut at Burlington for Big Conference Lid-Lifter”, September 21, 1956, p. 33.
Ibid. “Westford in 26-6 Win Over Leicester”, September 30, 1956, p. 25.
Ibid, “Westford in Forfeit Win, Manchester Eleven Quits”, by Russ Lynch, October 28, 1956, p. 55.
Ibid. “New Westford Grid Coach Had Undefeated Season Last Year, September 22, 1958, p. 16.