John Lyon
John Lyon
John Lyon
● John Lyon, 1907 (HA)

probably born in Scotland

John Ferny Imrie Lyon was born on Saturday, 8th July, 1882, in Troon, South Ayrshire.

The 5' 10 (11st 6lbs) defender signed for George Easton's Thistle in August, 1905, having most recently been with Clydebank Juniors.

Aged 23, he made his debut appearance on Tuesday, 22nd August, 1905, in a 1-0 win at home to Port Glasgow Athletic in a Benefit match.

John scored his only goal for Thistle on Saturday, 3rd November, 1906, in a 3-2 defeat away to Queen's Park in the SFL First Division.

He played his last game for the club on Saturday, 4th April, 1908, in a 6-0 defeat at home to Aberdeen in the SFL First Division, having appeared as a Jag on 83 occasions.

His club-list included Irvine Meadow XI, Clydebank Juniors, Partick Thistle, Distillery and Vancouver Callies.

John died on Saturday, 27th February, 1937, in Vancouver, British Columbia, aged 54.

Bio Extra

The son of William Lyon (carpenter) and Isabella Lyon (née Fernie) who were married in Troon in 1866.

John was a big and strong defender who hailed from Ayrshire and came through at Irvine Meadow XI before transferring to Clydebank Juniors, presumably on account of work, as these things tended to be in those days. It was there he came to the attention of George Easton, who brought him to Meadowside in time for season 1905-06, Thistle's 4th successive season in the top-flight - new heady heights for the club.

Tom Harvey and Archie McKenzie were the experienced backs in the jersey, so John was brought in to provide cover, and the fact that he could play comfortably on either flank made him an ideal addition to the squad. John spent most of his first 4 months in the reserves, who were earning lots of credit for their performances in the first part of the season. Several players were promoted to fill in for first team injuries and losses of form. Towards the end of 1905 they reached the Scottish Second XI Cup Final, having beaten Third Lanark, Rangers and Clyde earlier in the competition. Hearts were the opposition in the final and they won the ballot for home advantage. At Tynecastle, Thistle lined up: Duncan, Lyon, McKenzie, Wilson, Walley, Allan, Lawrie, Gray, McAllister, Brown, McGregor. Despite not having conceded a goal in the earlier rounds, Thistle collapsed to a 0-4 defeat. Typical!

Thistle ended the league season in 5th place and with the highest points total recorded to date. Willie Howden must have had a call to be the player of the year, having been responsible for the team taking points in several matches, although John Lyon, who replaced the injured Tom Harvey in December and didn’t miss a game after that, would have run him close. With his strong and steady performances, the full back firmly became a favourite with the Meadowside fans in the new year of 1906. Indeed, he was a near ever-present for the entire calendar year of 1906 and played in 39 consecutive competitive games which, at that time, was getting close to Willie Howden's club-record of 48.

The experienced Tom Harvey recovered from what had been a serious injury sustained in December 1905, and he and John Lyon would challenge each other for the right back position in 1906-07. Meanwhile, chairman William Ward had been trying to persuade Rangers to release left back George Gilchrist, and in early September he was successful. Gilchrist had often guested in odd games for Thistle and in the previous season had played 30 times for the club, while still being registered for Rangers. He joined Tom Harvey, John Lyon, and Alex McGregor giving the club four good solid full back options.

Thistle were beginning to find life in the top-flight a bit of a grind, and the good results started to dry up. In November 1906, a 2-3 defeat at Hampden was notable for a forced change to the forward line after Sam Kennedy called off late with influenza. John Lyon was tried at centre forward, and despite scoring his only goal for the club, didn’t lead the forward line well. He moved back to full-back, with George Gilchrist shifting forward, but the change came too late and, despite a late James Wilkie goal, Queens Park held on for the win. Despite the defeat, Willie Howden again had an excellent game. A difficult season never really picked up, but Thistle now had a bit more breathing space in the expanded 18 club division and, although 14th place was a huge disappointment, it wasn't a fatal blow.

More worryingly, the downward trend continued in 1907-08 and only 3 of the 18 teams finished below Thistle. This was Thistle's last season at Meadowside and the mood was low, with no firm future plans in place for a new ground. Crowds were down at Meadowside, so much so that directors reverted to strange tactics such as switching a home game to Pittodrie in a hugely misguided effort to try and boost funds. The 0-6 "home" defeat spoke volumes - and it would turn out to be John's last game as a Jag. We get a sense of the low morale when we consider that only 500 people turned out for the last-ever game at the ground, a 1-1 League draw versus Hibernian on a rainy Thursday night in late April, 1908.

It had all turned sour for John and Thistle, the heady heights of his glory spell in the first season now a distant memory. There was to be no place for John in the miserable homeless season of 1908-09, nor indeed at the new Firhill home in season 1909-10, even though the club held his registration papers. Seemingly in exile, the player had a spell with Distillery in Nothern Ireland, before setting sail for Canada!

John played as a back for the Vancouver Callies, a team predominantly consisting of Scottish ex-pats, and named after their local businessman supporter, John Callister, who'd settled in the area after arriving from the Isle of Man in 1885. He and Con Jones, an Australian immigrant who'd arrived in 1903, were the two main men responsible for driving the early game forward in the region. Organised soccer was played in British Columbia as early as 1908, when the Pacific Coast Association Football League was formed. That league featured teams from Vancouver, Nanaimo, Victoria, Ladysmith, and Seattle, Washington. Two years later, Con Jones presided over a new (short-lived) professional League in 1910. The first-ever professional game in Canada was played between two Vancouver clubs, the Rovers and the Callies. It took place on the 25th March, 1910, at Recreation Park in Vancouver, beneath the awe-inspiring North Shore Mountains. However, the age old conflict of amateurism vs. professionalism delivered a still birth; these were the only two clubs to compete in the League, playing a 'series' of 4 games against each other!

John Lyon played at full back in the aforementioned match, and was joined in that historic game by another former Jag, David Pearson, who played in the forward line of the Callies. Final score; Callies 3 Rovers 0 (see 'Scrapbook' tab for the match report). With the structure being unpredictable, it's likely that John played with a number of differently named teams in the area, with many of the same players crossing over fluidly. Other names kicking around were Vancouver Celtics and, intriguingly, Vancouver Thistle!

Back in the UK John had been an army reservist with 104 Regiment Ayrshire Garrison Artillery for three and a half years before moving abroad, and when war came he enlisted in January 1916. He joined 131 Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force. When with the CEF in England, John was injured when a train hit him when he was walking on a railway track. When he was discharged in March 1918, the Acting Lance Corporal still had issues with his hip.

On account of his service during WWI, John is included in our feature piece, The Partick Thistle Returned →.


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