James Maxwell
James Maxwell
James Maxwell
● James Maxwell, c1908 (ARS)

born in Scotland

James Morton Maxwell was born on Tuesday, 26th July, 1887, in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire.

The 5' 8 (11st 0lbs) forward appeared as a trialist for George Easton's Thistle in August, 1904, whilst a Petershill player.

Aged 17, he made his only appearance on Monday, 15th August, 1904, in a 2-1 friendly defeat at home to Port Glasgow Athletic.

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

His club-list included Kilmarnock Shawbank, Petershill, Partick Thistle, Newcastle United, Kilmarnock, The Wednesday, Woolwich Arsenal, Hurlford, Galston, Carlisle United, Lanemark and Nithsdale Wanderers.

James died on Saturday, 21st April, 1917, in Istabulat, Şalāḩ ad Dīn, aged 29.

Bio Extra

Born at 22, West Shaw Street, Kilmarnock, the youngest of eleven children in the John Maxwell (c1839-1908) and Mary Beaton (c1843-1916) family. The youngster got serious with his football with his hometown team, Kilmarnock Shawburn, with whom he played in in the Kilmarnock & District Junior League. Marking his ambitions early, his stature was improved just before he turned 17, when he signed for Petershill in June, 1904. Even greater ambitions were soon apparent within several weeks when he tried for Partick Thistle of the Scottish top-flight.

It was the season opener, and 2,500 were at Meadowside on the 15th August, for a pleasant Monday evening enagagement with Port Glasgow Athletic. Port went one up within a few minutes with a shot off the bar. They were the better team, had a goal disallowed for off-side and went 2-up with a penalty but McIlvenny made it 2-1 at h-t. Thistle (with 6 new faces) missed a penalty. Due to the late start the 2nd half ended on 35 mins (darkness).

James was known as a right winger whose speed and flair stood him apart, and that is where he played for Thistle in his one-off game. Newcastle United historian Paul Joannou confirms that he tried at St James' Park shortly after this but, again, no meaningful arrangement was forthcoming and it was back to Petershill. His restless quest for a big move paid off in December 1904 when he signed for Kilmarnock, most likely the club he'd wanted to play for as a boy. His first engagement? Away to Partick Thistle! Once again he was in the losing team at Meadowside, Thistle running out victors by 2 goals to nil. James netted a brace against Rangers the following month, but it was merely a consolation prize as Killie lost the game by 6 goals to 2. All in though, he did well for the First Division side, appearing around 30 times in first class action during his first spell, scoring one in three.

In March 1907, the 19-year-old's form was such that he was called up to represent the Scottish League team who earned a creditable 0-0 with their heavily favoured English counterparts. 55,000 were at Ibrox for the big game! His stock was high at this point and Kilmarnock reportedly had many offers for the player. In March 1907, £500 from The Wednesday of Sheffield was enough to turn the talk into reality.

James went straight into the first team in the problematic outside right position, making his debut on Friday, 29th March in Wednesday's away match against Woolwich Arsenal. 20,000 were at Plumstead to see it; Wednesday had their chances but the points went to the home side, one nil to the Arsenal. Wednesday won the FA Cup that season, defeating Everton by 2 goals to 1, but James wasn't selected to play, although he'd done enough to warrant inclusion in the commemorative photos which were produced to mark the occasion.

In May 1908, £350 secured his transfer to Woolwich Arsenal. Despite criticism from some quarters, there were Wednesday fans surprised and a little upset to see him leave. On his game Maxwell was quick and nimble footed with a explosive burst of pace. He showed no fear in taking on and going past defenders, had good ball control and could deliver a clever cross as well as go for goal himself. Maxwell was probably the last signing of assistant manager Phil Kelso, who left within weeks. Arsenal had appointed a new manager (George Morrell) who took up the post in late January, 1908, with the outgoing Phil Kelso assisting him as he settled into post. The story goes that Kelso signed Maxwell unbeknownst to Morrell who was in Glasgow signing another winger, David Greenaway, whom he had "discovered" at a cost of "next to nothing". The deals were done quite independently within hours of each other. Kelso had been unable to contact Morrell about Maxwell, and proceeded on his own initiative. When Morrell found out he must have been raging. So Maxwell was to play under a manager who never signed him. There would be consequences.

James made his league début against Everton on 2nd September 1908; a 0-4 home defeat, and was promptly dropped. Six demoralising months of not playing passed by; not only was James not being played, Woolwich Arsenal, who were being financially mis-managed, owed him money. Disappointment and frustration for Maxwell turned into anger and bitter resentment. He made but one more appearance for Woolwich; a 1-0 home win against Sunderland in March 1909, but at this point he had already decided to act. He took his chance after the match and promptly returned to Ayrshire, determined to pursue Woolwich for cash owed. He approached the football Player's Union for assistance in progressing his claim against the increasingly financially stricken London club. In 1909-10 he played with Hurlford (Scottish Combination League) and Galston (Scottish Union League) in a bid to try and keep his career alive. Numerous letters were written to Arsenal all the while, but to no avail. It was to be a long process stretching out over a number of years but at least he was out of the nightmare that had been Arsenal - he was playing again.

James signed for Carlisle United of the North Eastern League on 8th July, 1910. He received some good news in January 1912 when the Football League finally forced Arsenal to pay Wednesday a reduced fee for Maxwell's transfer 4 years earlier. Within months, legal action from the Player's Union resulted in a reward of £50 to James himself.

Finally freed from the dreaded retain and transfer system which hindered many a player in the senior game, James was able to sign up for a second spell at Rugby Park in season 1912-13. He played in all 3 of their Scottish Cup games that season, scoring in two of them. Interestingly, his goal in the 3-0 win over Nithsdale Wanderers may have planted a seed for his next move, for he signed up with the Sanquhar side for, what turned out to be, his final footballing season, 1913-14.

In his personal life, James was married with two children. His son of the same name was nicknamed 'Bud', and he also became a footballer of some renown in the 1930s, clocking up more than 250 Leagie appearances with Kilmarnock and Preston North End.

At the outbreak of The Great War, 'Bud' was just a year old when his Dad enlisted, at Kilmarnock, in the Seaforth Highlanders, 1st Battalion. Some time during his service he was promoted to Lance Corporal. The 1st. Battalion Seaforth's were regular troops and had been attached to the Indian Army 7th (Meerut) Division. At the outbreak of the war they were in India and despatched thereafter to France disembarking in Marseilles on 12th October, 1914.

In 1917, James was involved in the British campaign against the Turks. It was hard going and they were met with fierce and determined opposition. Like Gallipoli, conditions in Mesopotamia (Iraq) defy description. Extremes of temperature (120 degrees F was common); arid desert and regular flooding; flies, mosquitoes and other vermin; all led to appalling levels of sickness and death through disease. Under these incredible conditions, units fell short of officers and men, and all too often the reinforcements were half-trained and ill-equipped. Medical arrangements were quite shocking, with wounded men spending up to two weeks on boats before reaching any kind of hospital. These factors all contributed to high casualty rates.

To consolidate their position in newly taken Baghdad and to drive home the initiative by seizing control of the Samarrah railway, some 130km north of Baghdad, Commander-in-Chief, Sir Frederick Stanley Maude, on 13th March, 1917, launched the Samarrah Offensive with 45,000 allied troops at his disposal facing 10,000 Turks with 15,000 reserves newly retreating from setbacks against Russian forces. Fallujah, an important objective of the offensive, was taken on 19th March. James was killed on Saturday, 21st April, 1917 at The Battle of Istabulat, the result of wounds suffered. He was one of the estimated 18,000 British casualties of the Samarrah Offensive, although a further 40,000 were lost to sickness. His body was not recovered. He left a widow and, as we know, two young children.

Continuing British attacks, and with more reserves on the way, persuaded the Turks to cede Samarrah on 23rd April, leaving the town, and its railway, in British hands. James is commemorated on the Basra Memorial. His elder brother, Thomas (Royal Scots Fusiliers), was killed in Pas-de-Calais, France, a year later. James is remembered on three War Memorials; Kilmarnock (where he was born and brought up), Dundonald (where his wife and family lived with her relatives during the war), and on Panel 38 of the Basra War Memorial, Al-Zubair, Iraq. This impressive memorial was erected in remembrance of over 40,000 British Empire identified casualties, who died in operations in Mesopotamia from Autumn, 1914, to the end of August, 1921, and whose graves are not known. See 'Gallery' tab above for images of the Basra memorial.

We commemorate his life in our feature piece, The Partick Thistle Fallen →.


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