John Freebairn
John Freebairn
John Freebairn
● John Freebairn, 1961 (HA)

probably born in Scotland

John C. Freebairn was born sometime between 1st January and 24th April, 1938, in Stirling District. *

The 6' 1 (12st 8lbs) goalkeeper signed for David Meiklejohn's Thistle circa Saturday, 11th October, 1958, having most recently been with Glasgow University.

Aged 20, he made his debut appearance on Wednesday, 29th October, 1958, in a 1-1 draw at home to Kilmarnock in the SFL First Division.

John kept his first clean-sheet on Saturday, 1st November, 1958, in a 1-0 win away to Third Lanark in the SFL First Division.

He registered the last of his 21 clean-sheets on Saturday, 19th August, 1961, in a 0-0 draw at home to St Johnstone in the League Cup.

He played his last game for the club on Saturday, 16th September, 1961, in a 4-2 defeat away to Third Lanark in the SFL First Division, having clocked up 117 appearances as a Jag.

His club-list included Glasgow University, Partick Thistle, Cowdenbeath, Albion Rovers and Hamilton Academical.

John died on Friday, 24th April, 2020, in North Lanarkshire, aged 82.

* If you can help us to improve any of these marked points on The Thistle Archive, then please do get in touch →

Bio Extra

At school and university John Freebairn was an excellent all-round athlete. He was a champion runner and was the goalkeeper for the Scottish Schoolboy team that played England in 1956, when he was at Kilsyth Academy. He was also a very good high jumper, and when he went to Glasgow University, with good coaching, became discus, javelin as well as shot put proficient. John was a decathlete competitor at AAA standard. He represented Glasgow University at football and athletics. The Scottish Distance Running History (SDRH) website states that “He gained three Scotland Amateur international football caps against England Holland and Wales.” These caps were awarded in 1958.

John joined Partick Thistle in October 1958, and became a part time player. This allowed him to continue with his studies in Civil Engineering. Being able to continue with his degree was a major factor in Thistle winning the race for his signature, over Arsenal, Spurs and other clubs. The SDRH articles claim that a retired Olympic athlete called Dunky Wright tried to talk John out of signing for the Jags.

Freebairn took over from Tommy Ledgerwood in goal for the 1958/59 season (although Tommy did play his last game for the club on 18 April 1959, against Dunfermline). John played 117 games for the Jags, with 21 clean sheets.

John played in Thistle’s 1961 Glasgow Cup Final win over Celtic at Hampden on Bank Holiday Monday 26 September 1960. The Jags won 2-0 with goals from Cunningham and McParland. A contemporary newspaper report said of Freebairn “…then Chalmers looked almost certain to score with a fine drive but Freebairn stuck out a foot and cleared off the line. Chalmers struck the bar with Freebairn well out of position. The Thistle goalkeeper was in excellent form, at times making some almost impossible saves.” This was the first Cup Final Billy McNeill played in. It wasn’t his last.

John did have a reputation for sprinting out of his goal to “clear the lines” causing many a heart in mouth occasion for the Maryhill Faithful!

SDRH posted a lengthy series of articles on 9 September 2019 outlining John’s athletic career very well. Reminiscing in one of those articles it was said that “He remembers competing in the Sports of 1958 where he won the shot put and was rewarded with a Parker-Knoll chair which was better than (fellow athlete) Hugh Barrow’s transistor radio, but much harder to fit into the family car.” John was reinstated as an athletics amateur later in life, and he competed regularly in sports events until 2005, when he was 67. He was an athletics coach for many years also. John was employed as a roads engineer in Stirling for 32 years.



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