John Burleigh
John Burleigh
A. Player

probably born in Scotland

John Burley (later stylized as 'Burleigh') was born on Wednesday, 22nd December, 1858, in Blythswood, Glasgow.

The forward probably joined Thistle in 1877 or 1878.

Aged 19, he made his first known appearance on Saturday, 21st September, 1878, in a 2-0 friendly win at home to Springvale.

That day, John became a member of our scoring debutant's club.

He scored the last of his 8 known goals on Saturday, 29th December, 1883, in a 4-0 friendly win at home to Clyde.

That turned out to be his last known game for the club, having appeared for the Thistle on at least 13 occasions.

His known club-list included only Partick Thistle.

John died on Sunday, 31st October, 1920, in Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, aged 61.

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Bio Extra

The son of David Burley (joiner) and Margaret Burley (née Ramsay).

The Evening News and Star (9 June 1879) tells us that the 20-year-old John BURLEY was President of the club, and that he was also acting as match secretary. It gives his address as 96 New City Road, Glasgow and, from this, we were able to cross-check the Electoral Roll to get a positive I.D. which was very pleasing! John was also listed as the club President for season 1882-83, so we get a sense of his both of his stature and his feeling for Thistle over a good number of these formative years. Press reports carried the confusion of the spelling of his surname, listing him as Burleigh, Burley and even the odd Birley but, as his story unfolded, we settled on the former.

At the end of 1875 when Thistle were (most likely) formed, John was hitting his 17th birthday, the perfect age to be one of the likely lads who banded together for the unwittingly historic deed, even if the odds are against. Quite when he first joined is unclear, but John has 6 known appearances for Thistle in 1878-79 - and 6 known goals! It was during this season that Thistle won their first-ever trophy, and John played his part in the run to Hampden.

In October 1878, the West Of Scotland Cup began with Thistle carrying their good form into a home match against Dennistoun and ended with a 6-3 win, before a 1-2 defeat at the feet of Cowlairs. However, form was quickly regained and Vale of Clyde (1-0 Burleigh), Dumbarton Albion (3-0 Burleigh, Brash(2)), Roseberry (2-0 Bowie(2)), and Petershill (3-0 Burleigh (2), Brash) were all defeated through November and December before the Quarter Final of the West Of Scotland Cup against Thornliebank Rainbow. The game was played at Thornliebank in front of a large number of spectators. Rainbow took advantage of the wind and slope in the first half, but the prolific Burleigh and Brash both scored to win the game for Thistle.

That put Thistle into the semi-finals where they'd face Wellpark of Crossmyloof. No teamlines are known, but Thistle eventually won through after two games and more than 3 hours of football! And so the stage was set for the big final the following week. 400 or so were at First Hampden Park on Saturday, 5th April, 1879, 3.30pm, and they were about to witness John and the club make history as the first-ever trophy was won, the holders being defeated by a single goal, as reported in the North British Daily Mail:

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WEST OF SCOTLAND ASSOCIATION CUP – PARTICK THISTLE v MARCHTON. The final tie for the above cup, for which a number of junior clubs, who have no ground of their own, have competed in the various stages, took place on Hampden Park, kindly put at the disposal of the combatants by the Queen’s Park. The clubs left in the last tie were Marchton (present holders) and Partick Thistle, both promising teams. About 400 spectators, including a large number of partisans of both clubs, attended, and watched the progress of the game with considerable excitement. The Partick club, if anything, had the advantage in weight, and showed better combined play than their opponents, but both at times were erratic in judgement, a defect however, which experience will go a long way to rectify. The Marchton had the wind in their favour during the first half of the game, and near the outset looked like scoring, but the defensive tactics pursued by Thistle in front of goal were excellent, and while the younger club, Partick Thistle, renewed their energy, that of the Marchton began to relax, and their can only be opinion about the fact that the winners earned an honest victory. Although both goals were repeatedly endangered, no scoring occurred until the second half, when the Thistle, with the breeze at their backs, earned a clever goal – the ball being brought up by Brown, Meldrum and Bowie, and was sent through by Brash, about 20 minutes before time was called. Shortly before the close the Marchton had a couple of plucky efforts to retrieve themselves, but did not succeed, the Thistle being hailed the winners of the cup by one goal to none.

Thistle secured their own private grounds at Jordanvale in 1880 and registered with the SFA. John featured in the club's first-ever Scottish Cup campaigns of 1880-81 and 1881-82, which included the first-ever match against Rangers, a 0-3 away defeat in front of the new club-record attendance of 1,000 in the autumn of 1880. By November 1881, John was sitting outright with the early club-record of 7 unbroken and confirmed competitive appearances since 1878, albeit several line-ups were not reported during the run. John's involvement with Thistle spanned six known seasons as a player, although his appearances and goals tallies are clearly under-reported in the era. That said, it also seems clear that he wasn't so regular after his first few seasons.

John, who worked as a drapery warehouseman, married Margaret Charteris in 1886, with the marriage registered at Biggar. They had at least 4 children including John (b.1888), James (b. 1890) and Isabella (b. 1892). By the time of the 1891 census, John and his new family were living at Albany Street, Maryhill, seemingly settled on the new name of BURLEIGH - we've seen this play before! Ten years later, the family remain at the same address, with the same new name. The 'Burleigh' seemed to follow with him down the years and this was how he was described at the time of his demise due to pneumonia in late 1920. The Glasgow Herald public notice carried the 'Burleigh' name and his son, J. B. Burleigh of Finchley, London, signed the register entry. John was laid to rest at Westburn Cemetery in Cambuslang on 3rd November 1920.

(WS/JK/NK)



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