Johnny Houston
Johnny Houston
Johnny Houston
● Johnny Houston (NIF)

born in Northern Ireland

John Houston was born on Friday, 17th May, 1889, in Ballymena, County Antrim.

The forward signed for George Easton's Thistle in September, 1919, having most recently been with Ulster Rangers.

Aged 30, he made his debut appearance on Tuesday, 16th September, 1919, in a 3-1 neutral-venue win against Clyde in the Glasgow Cup.

Johnny scored his only goal for Thistle on Saturday, 24th January, 1920, in a 3-1 win at home to Motherwell in the Scottish Cup.

He played his last game for the club on Wednesday, 28th April, 1920, in a 3-0 defeat away to Ayr United in the Scottish Football League, having appeared as a Jag on 22 occasions.

His club-list included South End Olympic, Linfield, Everton, Ulster Rangers, Partick Thistle and Bohemians.

Johnny died on Friday, 11th December, 1964, in Belfast, aged 75.

Bio Extra

Johnny joined the Jags from Ulster Rangers in September 1919. The Irish international forward had made his name during an illustrious spell with Everton before the war. He was 30 years old when he joined the Jags two months before the end of the war. Johnny played 22 matches for the Jags, all of them in competitive fixtures during the 19-20 season. Johnny’s record is 8 wins, 5 draws and 9 defeats. Biggest win was a 5-0 defeat of East Fife in the 2nd round of the Scottish Cup in February 1920. A 17,500 crowd at Firhill saw Thistle go 4-0 up by half time, with Neil Harris getting a first half hat trick. Johnny scored his only Thistle goal in a 3-1 Scottish Cup 1st round win over Motherwell at Firhill. The crowd was an astonishing 26,000. The Sunday Post report of the match reads “a hard end to end battle. Defences were on top for most of the 1st half then Houston reacted first when a Bowie shot was spilled”. The report goes on to describe the match as “a rousing game.” Johnny joined Bohemians at the end of the season.

Johnny was born in Ahogill near Ballymena on 14 May 1889. His parents were shoemaker John Houston and Mary Elliot. He had an older brother called Leslie, who was to die from wounds received in action in November 1915. Johnny started his football career in 1912 with South End Olympic, a local team. He joined Linfield in 1912 and won the Irish Cup, the first of many medals he'd eventually win there. Johnny moved to England and joined Everton, playing 26 matches for the club between 1913 and 1915. With war suspending English football he returned to Ireland to play for Linfield between 1915 to 1919 when his military duties permitted this. Post war he played briefly for Ulster Rangers before joining Thistle. Johnny was awarded 6 international caps for Ireland, along with 2 Irish League caps, and played in the first Irish team to defeat England!

Johnny married Lillian Gilbert in Belfast in 1915. It was also in 1915 that Johnny was called up to the army. He had been in the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (RIR) pre-war, and was a reservist hence the early call up. He was transferred to 4th Battalion RIR, and retained his rank of sergeant from the 2nd RIR. (2nd RIR were an “extra reserve” Battalion with underage soldiers etc, who were not available for front line duty. They acted as a resource supplying the appropriate replacements for front line units.) The 2nd Btn had seen heavy action throughout the war and when Johnny arrived at the front were involved in the Battles of the Lys and the end of the campaign around Flanders. Johnny was awarded a Military Medal for his bravery on the final days of this action at Mouscron near Tourcoing. As an acting Colour Sergeant the Citation read “during an attack on the enemy’s lines all of the officers were put out of action and Sergeant Houston took command of his platoon. He led the attack in face of a murderous fire, advanced 100 yards and succeeded in taking and holding the objective for 36 hours until relief arrived”. He was later awarded a bar to his MC. The first Citation was recorded in the Edinburgh Gazette on 21 November 1917, with the bar Citation on 13 February 1919.

After ending his football career Johnny was employed by the General Post Office in Belfast. In World War 2 he received a field Commission and served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Tank Corps. He died suddenly, aged 75, on 11 December 1964 at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

On account of his service during WWI & WWII, Johnny is included in our feature piece, The Partick Thistle returned →.


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