James Gordon
James Gordon
James Gordon
● James Gordon, c1916 (JAS)

probably born in Scotland

James Gordon was born on Thursday, 27th April, 1893, in Leith, Edinburgh.

The forward appeared for George Easton's Thistle in November, 1912.

Aged 19, he made his only appearance on Tuesday, 5th November, 1912, in a 2-0 win at home to Morton in the Glasgow & District Mid-Week League.

There were no goals for James in his one-off appearance for Thistle.

His club-list included Partick Thistle and St Mirren.

James died on Wednesday, 4th January, 1967, in Rochester, Kent, aged 73.

Bio Extra

Thanks to granddaughter Jackie, we're delighted to have been able to rescue this First World War hero from obscurity…

James was never signed to terms as a Jag, nor can we find any reserve appearances. In fact, his only appearance, in late 1912, came in a low-key Glasgow & District Mid-Week League game on a Tuesday afternoon at Firhill. This league was especially set up to oblige shopkeepers and such like who normally had to work on Saturdays! Clubs didn't take the league too seriously, and would often use the games to try out junior trialists and fringe players. 1,500 were there for the visit of Morton on the 5th November, 1912. The 19-year-old James lined up at outside left. After some early Morton pressure Thistle took over and trialist (then new signing) Grant from Forres Mechanics scored after a fine run. Steel then converted a penalty (43). Thistle were mostly seen on the defensive after half-time but good defending and poor finishing meant there were no further goals; Thistle 2 Morton 0.

So how did this youngster land for a try out in Maryhill? Although Leith-born, there are two good reasons which may have drawn James to Glasgow. In March, 1910, he signed up for the army, despite only being 16 years of age. What was the legal age we wonder? It's widely known that many young men exaggerated their birth dates, and often the signing officers weren't too fussed or turned a blind-eye. His papers show that he served for 8½ years half "in the colours" and half as "a reserve", so from that we can assume that he was often flexible / part-time, which would explain why he was also able to work in the docks. James lived in the Plantation district at Tower Street, and was employed in the Govan docks as a labourer in a Ships Salvage Company. Jackie recalls that he was known as a very good footballer, but no-one in the family took exact notice of his movements and stories within the game, but it was handed down that he'd played with Partick Thistle and St Mirren. James wasn't prominent at the first class level, but perhaps he played at junior or amateur level when he was in Scotland.

It's the army which seems to have dominated his early life, and when war came in August 1914, that involvement naturally deepened. Private Gordon fought in the conflict, a brave man. Documents show that he served in both the Highland Light Infantry and the Scottish Rifles. He was injured in battle in 1916, and was then unfit to return to fight, transferring to the Royal Defence Corps and went to Belfast. As can be seen in the 'Gallery' tab, it seems that James was fairly well involved in army football, and his lads proudly had a trophy on show in one of their line-ups. This may well be the 'General Hacket-Pain Cup' (named after the donor) for which we found a report in the Northern Whig. At Cliftonville on 14th April 1917, a match was played which raised funds for the Ulster Limbless Soldiers Hospital. The Scottish Command team defeated the 17th Battalion R.I.R. by two goals to one to lift the cup. Brilliantly, James, playing at centre forward, scored the opening goal. See the 'Scrapbook' tab above for more info on the game.

We get a sense in the midst of it all that he craved normalcy from the reported news that he did actually sign as a St Mirren player on the 21st April, 1917. Having his name in the papers as a crack army player may have helped his cause! Whilst the exact circumstances are not known, we can speculate that he was looking ahead for something to focus on, something to return for. It's not known how many, if any, games he actually played for St Mirren, but for sure he didn't play in any of the league games. Just 4 weeks later, Private Gordon (St Mirren) was back in Belfast, where he played at centre forward for the Scottish Command Army team against a Distillery Select. Brilliantly, James put the Army team one up after 30 minutes, but the home team came back for a 2-1 win. Again, see the 'Scrapbook' tab above for more info on the game.

Although he continued to play football, we think James's career was limited due to his knee and (we think) head injury and we think his fitness would have precluded him from playing at a high level going forward. Jackie recalls him mentioning playing for a local team during his time in Ireland; Ranaldstown and Cookstown ring a bell, albeit their geographic locations in relation to an army station do pose a question.

In December 1918, No. 92457 Private James Gordon (listed as Highland Light Infantry) was granted an honourable discharge from the army, after having been disabled in the “Great War” (see 'Scrapbook' tab for certificate) as previously mentioned. An honorable discharge is given to service members who have met or exceeded the standards of conduct and performance expected of them during their time in the military. It is the highest form of discharge a service member can receive and is considered a recognition of honorable and faithful service. That aforementioned craving for normalcy was soon met on the 29th August 1919 when the 25-year-old James married Ellen McGinlay (1893-1959) in his home district on the south side of Glasgow. He and Ellen then set up in a new home at 103 Govan Road, Govan, and raised four children; Matilda, Helen, James and John. Your co-author of this piece is the daughter of Matilda, the first-born!

After the war, James Gordon continued to work at the docks in Glasgow, mainly George V dock, but during the Great Depression of the 1930s he found work where he could at other dockyards to keep an income coming in for the family. As indicated by the children's birth certificates, he continued to work as a dock labourer all the while. Sadly, James became a widower in 1959 and, when Matilda and her family moved down to live in Gillingham in 1966, James went along with them. Sadly, it wasn't long after that when James passed away - in January 1967 - at St Bartholomew's Hospital in Rochester, Kent.

It's our great honour to salute the old boy today. Clearly there was much more to James Gordon than an appearance for Thistle in the Glasgow & District Mid-Week League, and we're proud that he'll always be a Jag!

(WS/JAS/AFK/ANB)



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