Whit's the goalie daein? The Andrew Duff Story

by William Sheridan & Joe Kelly

Andrew Duff was born on Sunday, 10th April, 1859, at the family home in Monkton, South Ayrshire. He was the son of James Duff, a shoemaker to trade, and Jane Duff, née Gemmell. There was a sad background to his early life as he was actually the second Andrew Duff, the 4-year-old brother he never knew having succumbed to some sort of ailment just 13 months before Andrew was born. It'd be fair to say that Andrew II took his brother's name and did him proud. His was a life well-lived, occupied by shipbuilding, playing football and starting a family. He won many cups and medals in his time and was a standout player for Partick Thistle in the early days, demonstrating fine qualities as both a goalkeeper and a forward. He's the only Partick Thistle player who will ever lay claim to winning two cups for the club by keeping a clean-sheet as a goalkeeper in one of them and scoring a hat-trick as a forward in the other! He would even improvise and have a go in both positions in the same match if he was bored!
Andrew Duff
● Photo c1883, signature at marriage in 1888. (OH/SPG)

An article in the Evening Times of April 1890 revealed that Andrew started his footballing career in the junior game although, frustratingly, no club side in particular was mentioned. Ayrshire or Glasgow perhaps? We can ascertain that Andrew seems to have had a bit of an independent streak, having made his own way from his South Ayrshire home to Glasgow for work as a shipwright, taking lodgings at Russell Street in Partick. Perhaps a place was found for him there by his Thistle mates, for he lived in the same close as the Suter brothers, Jerry & Edward! Hugh McColl also lived a few houses along on the same street. The Partick Thistle family, eh?

Andrew Duff
● Merkland Street/Russell Street junction, 1969. (ML)
Andrew Duff
● A. Duff, listed as Partick Thistle secretary in 1880. (TFA)

As a Jag, or indeed in any guise, his name first appeared in the papers in February 1878 when he scored in a 3-0 win over Camphill at Overnewton Park. It wasn't until another 14 months later that his name was seen again, when a Thistle eleven was named for the first time. The occasion was the West of Scotland cup final at the original Hampden Park, where Thistle would meet Marchton for the trophy. By this time, Andrew had dramatically switched from the forward line to become goalkeeper. Having (theoretically) scored on his debut as an outfield player, Andrew (theoretically) kept his first clean-sheet on his debut as a goalkeeper, helping Thistle to a 1-0 win and their first-ever trophy. In reality, this fanciful notion is almost certainly untrue, but equally it's almost certain to remain romantically unproven!

The 21-year-old Andrew was listed as the match secretary in 1880, with his teammate, and neighbour, Hugh McColl, the honorary secretary. Thistle were on the rise, having secured new private grounds at Jordanvale and, consequently, membership of the SFA. Andrew probably kept goal in our first-ever Scottish Cup tie that October, and certainly did so in our second - a 3-0 loss away to Rangers in front of 1,000 supporters, Thistle's first-ever 4-figure attendance. Thistle won their second trophy this season - the Yoker Cup - and, although teamlines aren't known, it's more than likely Andrew played his part.

Andrew Duff
● Jordanhill v Partick Thistle, first Scottish Cup tie in 1880. (HFK)

The 22-year-old took on the role of vice president in 1881-82. In December 1881, he became the first Thistle player to gain representative recognition of sorts when he was selected to play in SFA trials for the forthcoming matches against Sheffield and Lancashire counties. Although his trial didn’t result in selection for those actual matches, he did later represent us in Glasgow FA select games. His goalkeeping was singled out for praise in the SFA Annual of 1882 (“goalkeeper of the highest promise; very smart”) and press reports, certainly from the mid 1880s, were also calling for his international selection.

CUP FINAL HAT-TRICK

Heard the one about the Thistle goalie who scored a second half Cup Final hat trick? As previously mentioned, Andrew could play outfield too and scored several goals when he occasionally ventured out as a forward player. Thistle successfully defended the Yoker Cup in 1882, and Andrew scored in the 10-0 win over Brittania in January, thereby laying down the marker in round one. On 11th March (the same day that Scotland v. England at Hampden was setting a new Scottish attendance record of 10,000), Thistle were at Holm Park, winning The Yoker Cup for a second time. Our third trophy, it was won in some unusual circumstances. Jack Beattie (who was most commonly half back) kept a clean sheet whilst Andrew Duff (who was normally our goalie) bagged a second half hat trick; welcome to the fantastical world of the free-spirited amateurs! Just to prove that his previous weekend’s Cup Final heroics were no fluke, the bold Andrew netted again the very next week, Vale of Teith being defeated by 5 to 1 in a friendly at Jordanvale.

Andrew Duff
● The earliest known Thistle team photo, c1883. (HFK/OH)

In March 1883, there was a third successive win of the Yoker Cup trophy for Thistle, with Andrew in goals. Sir John Maxwell (of Pollokshaws) were the opponents. After an even 1st half, aided by the wind, Thistle scored 2 and had a third disallowed. Sir John Maxwell were seldom seen out of their own half. The cup became Thistle's permanent property.

MAKING STRIDES

One of the main reasons for the very survival of Partick Thistle to this day was the relentless pushing by the various committee men of the 19th century who continually strived to advance the club's standing at every opportunity; improving facilities, improving the players and continually seeking to challenge those clubs perceived to be at the top of the Scottish game. Season 1883-84 typifies these efforts; Thistle were at their new Muir Park home and Dumbarton FC, the Scottish Cup holders, took the Partick Thistle challenge for the very first time. Much to the dismay of the huge crowd which had gathered in January, the game had to be postponed owing to some sort of mishap with a telegram external-link.png, but the fixture was re-arranged for 22nd March.

The “Scottish champions” (such as the cup holders were deemed to be in those days) took the lead after just 7 minutes, but Thistle hung on in there and demonstrated to all in the 4,000 strong throng that they were no strangers to the art and science of the beautiful passing game. Thomas Paterson levelled the scores before the break. Dumbarton pressed hard to maintain their reputation but Andrew Duff kept them at bay with a string of saves, his play being reported as “simply perfect” and “outstanding”. The Thistle did justice to Andrew's work when legend-to-be Bob Robertson (in his first season at the club) scored the winning goal. It was a “surprising result” and one of the most significant in the club's early history. The players had proved a point to themselves, the committee had been rewarded for all their efforts, and the large crowd realised they had a team worth supporting, a club to be proud of.

However, to give you an idea of the sort of challenges faced by our committee in those days we need only consider that crucial springtime 1884 period. Despite the euphoria and the heroics in the aforementioned match, Andrew was literally forced away from Thistle just a few days later due to work commitments. He was contracted to Leith docks and, such was his growing reputation as a “capital goalkeeper”, he was fixed up immediately by Heart of Midlothian. Tragedy for Thistle. The Muir Park faithful would read with dismay how well their hero was doing through in Edinburgh. There was a 4-2 win at Hibs followed by a 3-0 win at St Bernard's. To add insult to injury, Andrew turned out at Powderhall for Edinburgh against Glasgow, keeping a clean-sheet in a 2-0 win. This was followed by another fine Hearts win, Queen's Park being turned over by 2 goals to 1. The next match on the card? Partick Thistle versus Heart of Midlothian, Saturday, 26th April, 1884. It had been expected that Andrew would play against Thistle but, lo and behold, he was back in Thistle colours for the first time in 4 weeks, his work contracts for ships and football teams seemingly temporary and flexible in either direction. Joy of joys, a 3-2 win for Thistle in Partick ensued; the Jags were on top of their game at this point and, with Andrew back in goals, all was well with the world.

Andrew brought honour to himself and to Thistle when he represented Glasgow in two matches towards the end of 1884; firstly, in October, there was a 3-3 draw versus Dumbartonshire featuring no less than 5 Jagsmen (Andrew Duff, John Hendry, Jack Beattie, Bob Marshall & Bob Robertson). This was followed by a 6-2 win over London at Hampden Park in December. There was some strange uncertainty about his allegiance when he chose to travel with St Bernard's on a New Years tour of England just a week or so later. Jags, meanwhile, were bound for a slightly less glamorous sightseeing tour of Dundee. Andrew was back in goal for Thistle on 10th January, but again turned out for St Bernard's the following week, losing 4-0 at home to Hibs.

Again, however, this dalliance with an Edinburgh team seems to have been brief and spontaneous, and normal service was resumed within the same month. Press reports for the 5-0 friendly win over Kilmarnock Athletic (31st January 1885) talk of “Andrew Duff, the famous goalkeeper, playing at centre forward”. The Herald reports that “shortly after kick off, Duff, who was playing at centre forward, sent the leather between the posts and secured a goal for his side”. This game is especially notable for the fact that our new recruit from Partick Elm, one Willie Paul, scores his first ever goals for Thistle. Note the plural. The tone was set. He would be Thistle's first goal centurion (one of only two double centurions) and the new boy had laid down his marker. Reading between the stats lines, it would seem that Willie’s arrival signalled the end of Andrew Duff’s centre-forward antics, as he was never seen there again! Andrew played in 12 of the next 14 matches which included some fine wins over some of Scotland's best sides. Renton (Scottish cup holders) and Hearts were defeated in successive Saturdays in March, and Rangers were hammered by 5 goals to two in April. 4-1 wins over Partick, home and away, served to emphasize Thistle's complete mastery of their home burgh.

LAST SEASON HIGHS - BUT WHIT'S THE GOALIE DAEIN?

Andrew Duff
● Depiction of the FA Cup final, 1883. (GI)

A great highlight in Andrew's Thistle days was the action-packed run to the last 16 of the FA Cup in 1886-87, and he played in every game. Thistle took a great scalp in the first round when they defeated Blackburn Olympic - the first Northeners ever to win the FA Cup in 1883 - by three goals to one at their Hole-i'-th-Wall ground. “Of the winners, Duff was very safe between the posts, and Hendry and McLean were both reliable and sturdy backs, particularly the former, whose tremendous lifts were a treat. So adieu to the Cup, Messrs. Olympic.” (CFF). This result was a real confidence booster and Fleetwood Rangers were eliminated at Inchview by 7 to nil in the next round. A trip to Belfast was next, where an incident in Thistle folklore, centred on Andrew, occurred. To be fair, play was confined to the Cliftonville half, and he must have been bored out of his skull. Late in the game, with Thistle leading 10 nil, the bold Andrew ventured forward looking to get in on a little goalscoring action for himself. Not only did he fail to complete his mission, he spoiled the clean-sheet in the process. As the Glasgow Herald put it: “Cliftonville never got a chance of scoring till close upon the calling of time, when Duff, the visitor's custodian, being tired of doing nothing, left his charge. Baxter, for the home team, seized the chance and shot the ball through”. Well, a little bit of eccentricity, it's the Thistle way, is it not? The entire burgh of Partick was deflated when the exciting run finally faltered at the last 16 stage in London, the Jags losing by 1 goal to nil in a hard fought contest versus Old Westminsters.

Andrew Duff
● FA Cup final action 1887, Villa v WBA @ Kennington Oval. Thistle played there in the round of 16. (WIK)

That 1886-87 season was actually Andrew's last season proper at Thistle, and he did it some style, appearing on (at least) 35 occasions, his highest tally yet. There had been two draws against Rangers during the campagin (0-0 at Kinning Park in December and 1-1 at Inchview in April) so a final tie was agreed upon, played at Hampden Park to add to the sense of occasion. A fine crowd of 3,000 bore witness to Marshall and Johnston scoring in quick succession and it was 2-0 Thistle at half-time. Rangers pulled one back in the 2nd half, but 2 from Suter and another from Marshall gave Thistle the emphatic 5-1 win “to the surprise of all”.

A SOUTHERLY ADVENTURE

Andrew Duff
● Almost certainly Andrew had a hand in the Sorfareren, completed at Woolston in August, 1888. (WIK)

It was one thing losing Andrew to Hearts and St Bernard's for a few games when his work called him to Leith, but his transfer to the Woolston shipyard in the summer of 1887 had a much more permanent impact. It was a year-long contract - and it's more than 400 miles from Glasgow to Southampton! Inevitably, Andrew turned out for Woolston Works that season, a team made up primarily of workers from the yard. A huge employer, they had a great team and were known for a robust style of play which brough them success. At that time, they vied with St Mary's YMA as the top side in Southampton.

Andrew's sweetheart, Maggie, never made the trip to Southampton, but he made a short return to Scotland in January 1888 and, on the 31st, he and Maggie were married in Maggie's house at 13 Cross Street in Partick. Maggie's mother and father, William and Mary Bryson, were in attendance but, sadly, Andrews parents were both deceased by this time.

Back in Southampton, Woolston competed in the inaugural Hampshire Senior Cup (whereas St Mary's Y.M.A. entered the Junior Cup); in the final, they defeated Winchester by two goals to nil to claim the trophy. With St Mary's winning the Junior Cup, the two clubs decided that they should compete to decide which was Southampton's top club. The match was played at the Antelope Ground (home to Woolston) on 14 April 1888 and the home side were victorious by three goals to nil. Indeed, were it not for the financial collapse of Oswald, Mordaunt & Co (the owners) a couple of years later, it's entirely feasible that Woolston and not St Mary's (who moved in to the Antelope Ground) might well have become Southampton FC.

THE ABERCORN YEARS

Andrew Duff
● Andrew's first season at Abercorn, 1888-89, alas no names quoted. (HFK)
Andrew Duff
● Underwood Park lay close to where St Mirren play today. Currently the site of Jewson timber. (WIK)

The newly wed Andrew joined Abercorn in the summer of 1888 and made his debut for them in a pre-season tournament versus Morton at Cappielow on 6th August 1888. Just 4 weeks later, Thistle ventured to Blackstoun Park, and Andrew squared up to his old club for the first time. He's only human and we can only speculate that he may have gained some degree of satisfaction at the final scoreline; Abercorn 6 Partick Thistle 2. Andrew spent 4 full seasons with Abercorn, moving with them to Underwood Park in 1889. Just at this time, Maggie gave birth to their first son, James. These were happy days. In April 1890, the Evening Times reported that Andrew, perhaps with a view to supporting his new family, had been sorely tempted to join the ranks of English professionalism, but that he was torn as he was enjoying his time at Abercorn. By now, two Renfrewshire Cup winners medals had been added to his collection.

However, he may have regretted not making a move as, by 1890-91, he was second choice to James Fleming, although he did at least have the consolation of having played in the Scottish Football League in its first-ever season. Abercorn ran all the way to the Scottish Cup semi finals that season, although Andrew featured in only one of the six cup games.

Like all good Jagsmen, Andrew returned occasionally to give favour to the Partick Thistle football club. In November 1890 a most peculiar situation arose when Thistle's McCorkindale was unable to play in the friendly game at home to Abercorn. And who should step in to the breach? Why, it was none other than the bold Andrew Duff, playing his first game for Thistle in almost 3½ years! He was no stranger to Inchview, but this did him, nor Thistle, any favours, the Abbie's running out comfortable winners by 4 goals to 1. With amenable contact having been re-established with the Thistle directorate, Andrew accepted an invitation to join the club for a New Year tour of England, featuring in a 2-2 draw at Bootle (1st January) and a 2-3 defeat at The Wednesday (3rd January). He was last seen at Inchview at the end of that same season, turning out for a “Partick Thistle past” side in an end-of-season charity match for the benefit of the Whiteinch Orphanage funds. The date (30th May?) and score remains elusive for that match, so if anyone ever finds it please do let us know!

Andrew remained committed to Abercorn though and, if patience is a virtue, then he was rewarded in the 1891-92 season, when he appeared in 20 of Abercorn's 22 matches in the top-flight. They finished 9th in the 12 club league, ahead of their great rivals, St Mirren. On the 28th May 1892 Andrew played his last game for Abercorn in the Paisley Cup final versus St Mirren at Westmarch. He finished a winner as Abercorn took the cup by 5 goals to 3 in an end-of-season thriller. "Duff played a grand game for Abercorn" said the Herald.

A NEW LIFE

Andrew Duff
● Bird's eye view of the Thames Ironworks Shipbuilding yard, showing two ships under construction, c1902. (WIK)

After retiring from the game at the age of 33, Andrew and Maggie, who was the same age, together with young James, relocated to Canning Town in East London. There, Andrew was employed by the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company. In January 1898, Mary Watt Duff was born, completing their idyllic family unit of one boy and one girl. London was home for the rest of his life.

THE MAN, THE LEGEND

Andrew Duff
● Director Andrew Smith is pictured top left, followed by 7 of his 8 early legends (Jack Beattie missing). From l to r: Andrew Duff, Bobby Brown, Jerry Suter, Bob Robertson, John Hendry, Willie Paul and Bob Marshall.

The 62-year-old Andrew would undoubtedly have been thrilled when he learned that Partick Thistle had finally got their hands on the Scottish Cup in April 1921. More than 40 years had passed since he played in the club's first venture into the tournament - how far they had come since those pioneering days!

Andrew and Maggie were together up until he died at their home in West Ham in January 1924. A combination of the distance from Glasgow and the time passed meant that his death occurred without press commentary, as far as we can tell at the time of writing.

What we do know from earlier reports is that Andrew was greatly esteemed by his clubmates and the supporters, both as a player and also for his unassuming and gentlemanly ways. We can also tell from his actions during the 1890-91 season that he retained a long-term affection for Partick Thistle.

In October 1904, Thistle director Andrew Smith, who had joined the club in 1880 and served as secretary and president, was interviewed by the Scottish Weekly Record external-link.png and included Andrew in his thoughts: “Partick Thistle has turned out a lot of first class players. Among the older hands one may rank among the best such men as Andrew Duff, Bobby Brown, Jerry Suter, Bob Robertson, Jack Beattie, John Hendry, Willie Paul and Bob Marshall.

By all accounts, Andrew sounds like a gent, and he played for Thistle in various shapes and forms in three different decades. He also had that little bit of eccentricity, in common with so many of the Partick Thistle greats. We heartily recommend the fine Andrew Duff as ship-shape for any Partick Thistle hall of fame.


Publishing date An original Thistle Archive publication, 29-Aug-2022.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 29-Aug-2022.


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