Thomas Burns
Thomas Burns
A. Player

born in Scotland

Thomas Burns was born circa 1865, in Glasgow. *

The goalkeeper joined Thistle in 1885.

Aged 19 or 20, he made his first known appearance on Saturday, 28th November, 1885, in a 2-2 friendly draw away to Heart of Midlothian.

Thomas kept his first known clean-sheet on Friday, 1st January, 1886, in a 3-0 friendly win away to Everton.

He registered the last of his 6 known clean-sheets on Saturday, 21st January, 1888, in a 1-0 friendly win away to 3rd L.R.V..

He played his last known game for the club on Saturday, 2nd January, 1892, in a 3-1 friendly defeat away to Rangers, having appeared for the Thistle on at least 32 occasions.

His club-list included St Peter's, Partick Thistle, Linthouse, Celtic and Blyth.

Thomas died on Monday, 20th February, 1893, in Blyth, Northumberland, aged 27.

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Bio Extra

Thomas made his debut in somewhat frantic circumstances as Thistle director Andrew Smith recalled in a 1904 interview, (see external-link.png) and it seems the 2-2 draw must have felt like a win:

I remember we once had a match on in Edinburgh. Bobbie Brown was captain at the time. At the last moment Andrew Duff, the goalkeeper, disappointed us, and we had to hurry off to secure a substitute. We managed to get a hold of Burns, of the St Peter’s FC, whom we had to take away from his work. As we were speeding along the streets, carrying a pair of football boots, we found that we must take a cab, otherwise we would lose the train. As we entered the vehicle, the cabbie, mistaking me for an officer of the law, remarked, ‘What’s he done?’ at the same time pointing at Burns. ‘Nothing yet,’ I replied, ‘but we hope he will do something good when he goes to Edinburgh.’ He did, for he won the match for us against the Hearts.

Burns played several times in the forthcoming weeks, but made way when Duff returned in January. He lent his services on and off as and when required from thereon, seemingly never too far from the club's orbit. On 15th August 1887, Burns, described as a Thistle player at the time, appeared at Inchview for Western Hibernians, a select side especially assembled for a benefit match against Thistle, in aid of his old club, St Peter's, who had fallen into some debt in the previous season. At this time, Andrew Duff, a shipyard worker, had just left the club to take up a year-long contract at Southampton, and so the position of first-team goalkeeper was made available to Burns, finally getting his chance in an extended run as Thistle's #1. He appeared in 23 of the 24 games from 27th August onwards, but would be permanently dislodged towards the end of the season by future-internationalist John McCorkindale.

In early February 1888, the 1-3 friendly loss against the crack Vale of Leven side proved to be his last game in this spell and ‘Reddy’, as he was nicknamed, moved on to Linthouse just a few weeks later, where he settled as the #1 for a season and a bit. He was playing with Celtic Reserves in 1889-90, and appeared in a few games for the first team in the early 1890s, including a competitive fixture in the 1889-90 Glasgow North Eastern Cup (Glasgow Thistle 0 Celtic 5), as the Celts went on the retain their first ever trophy. In September 1890, the 'keeper returned to Linthouse, although he wasn't quite so prominent the second time around.

Meanwhile at Inchview, John McCorkindale, lured by the promise of national league football, “threw his lot in with the Clyde” in January 1892 and it seems once again (curator's punt) that the S.O.S. call went out to Burns, the long-term stand-in option, for the New Years match at Old Ibrox, lost 3-1 on 2nd January. Although the official history lists a "Burness" for that game, "Burns" is quite clearly stated in both the Glasgow Herald, the Glasgow Evening News and the Scottish Referee. This proved to be a one-off appearance, with former Rangers 'keeper James Marshall getting the nod to take over for now.

In the second half of 1892, Burns moved to the north of England where he worked continued to work as a caulker in a shipyard. He also played as goalkeeper for Blyth. The move had initially gone well, including his football career where he appeared in various matches, including against Berwick Rangers. However he eventually faced many problems, and suffered a tragic end.

Early in his Blyth career (in September 1892), his new team played him when he was not in fact eligible (in a 5-2 win versus Gateshead N.E.R.). As a consequence, Blyth had two points deducted in punishment, which was said to hurt their title hopes. In late-1892, he was involved in a serious incident during a match for Blyth where he sustained broken ribs, playing to the end but collapsing after the match.

He could not play for a few weeks but eventually recovered and also went back to his work in Blyth shipyard. But then came an even bigger problem. One day at work, Burns collapsed, although there was little understanding of the cause of this. It seemed unlikely that he would play again, and Blyth brought in a new ‘keeper. He was obviously a popular man and his teammates took turns to sit up with him at night in his final days. Sadly, Burns died in February 1893, of what was described as a “brain fever”. He was aged only 27.

His funeral took place on Thursday 23 February 1893. Upwards of 200 mourners attended including a great many of the Blyth team, and several beautiful wreaths were sent. Thomas was laid to rest in Cowpen Catholic Cemetery in Blyth.


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