Willie Freebairn
Willie Freebairn
Willie Freebairn
● Willie Freebairn, 1896 (VIF)

born in Scotland

William Alexander Freebairn was born on Saturday, 9th January, 1875, in Whiteinch, Glasgow.

The forward joined Thistle in 1893.

Aged 18, he made his first known appearance on Saturday, 29th April, 1893, in a 3-2 defeat away to Linthouse in the Scottish Alliance League.

Willie scored his first known goal for Thistle on Thursday, 4th May, 1893, in a 2-0 friendly win at home to Queen's Park Select.

He scored the last of his 80 known goals on Saturday, 27th October, 1900, in a 3-0 win away to Cameronians in the Glasgow Cup.

That turned out to be his last game for the club, having clocked up at least 134 appearances for the Thistle.

His club-list included Partick Thistle, Abercorn, Leicester Fosse and East Stirlingshire.

Willie died on Monday, 19th November, 1900, in Glasgow, aged 25.

Bio Extra

Son of Archibald & Mary Freebairn (nΓ©e Young), who had six children; Mary, Archibald, David, William, Janet & James. Three of the brothers - Archie, David & William - all played for Thistle.

As written above, on Saturday, 27th October, 1900, Willie scored the last of his 80 goals in a 3-0 win away to Cameronians in the Glasgow Cup. It was Willie's 9th goal of the season that day, consolidating his place as our top-scorer at the time. However, it proved to be the last game that he played – a kick to the chest side-lining him immediately. The initial consequences were that he missed the Glasgow Cup Final two weeks later when Thistle, once again, were thwarted by Rangers, who won by 3 goals to 1 at Celtic Park. The long-term consequences proved to be much more severe than that, however. After a few weeks of being β€œnot quite right”, Willie, who was due to be married on the 28th December, was admitted to the Western Infirmary. He underwent a chest-operation on Sunday 18th November and he never rallied from it, resulting in his death on the following day.

Willie was only 25 when he died but he packed a lot of living in to his short time. He was in his second spell at Thistle, having tried his hand down South for a spell at Leicester, before returning to fulfil his boyhood dreams with a short-spell at East Stirlingshire (he had lived in Falkirk). Cut down in his prime, his death came as an almighty shock – his return to the first team had been expected shortly as a matter of routine. The 27-year-old Willie Paul had nurtured the 18-year-old Willie Freebairn into the Thistle strike force several years previously at Inchview. The two men had a great in-team rivalry going on during Thistle’s first two seasons in the SFL back in 1893-94 and 1894-95. Freebairn was top-scorer in the first season, Paul the second, each vying to outdo the other in a ding-dong battle that was fruitful for Partick Thistle.

On 22nd November 1900, the funeral was held, the party walking from the Freebairn home in Dumbarton Road near Whiteinch Cross to Byres Road, before being driven to Western Necropolis. Local shops were closed as a mark of respect. As he mourned, Willie Paul might have thought back to some great and famous days for the two. Perhaps he thought back to the time when both men scored a hat-trick against Glasgow Thistle in the League in the crazy 13-1 game back in 1894. Even fresher in the mind would be the game just last March when Thistle, going for the flag, were 3-1 down at HT, at home to Abercorn. The two forwards stole the show with four second half goals between them. Perhaps Paul would have smiled at the memory of Freebairn and he being carried off the field by supporters β€œamid hilarious merriment”.

Another of their fellow strikers, John Proudfoot, until his own death in 1934, kept a copy of an excellent poem that was written for Willie Freebairn at the time of his death. Thanks to being reproduced on the Partick Thistle Early Years site, it's always there for new generations to enjoy:

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A Parting Tribute to the Late William Freebairn - The famous forward of the Partick Thistle Football Club.

The game is ended; too soon he has reached the goal;
In the surging tide of contest no more 'tween pole and pole;
Kinsmen and comrades are plunged in grief and gloom;
For yesterday they followed Willie Freebairn to the tomb.

The game is ended; too soon he has reached the goal;
In the surging tide of contest no more 'tween pole and pole;
Kinsmen and comrades are plunged in grief and gloom;
For yesterday they followed Willie Freebairn to the tomb.

Impressive funeral, respect and regard to pay;
How many fond words were spoken as they followed him yesterday;
See the flowers of friendship - brotherhood in many a bloom,
Bright wreaths of "In Memoriam" to lay on dear Willie's tomb.

The race not for the swift, nor the battle for the strong;
These words of Holy Writ were remembered in the throng.
As they followed in the cortege their grief and respect to tell,
And as one by one they went away, sighing "Willie dear, farewell!"

I wonder will there be a wreath of Thistles all entwinded
With the Rose of dear Old England to bring other days to mind?
As gloom gathers o'er the game, and the goal grows dim and dark,
So gloomed the news of Willie's death o'er Partick and Meadowside Park.

Willie was a favourite in the land of the bright red Rose,
But fortune brought him back again to the land where the Thistle grows;
He has helped to make the name and fame of more than the Thistle team,
But his brave young life so bright with hope has perished like a dream!

A famous forward - his fame both north and south,
The crest and spirit of the game, like the billow bounding forth!
Brave to the last! Hope struggling with manly strife;
But he never rallied again; so passed his bright young life.

Long will the Thistle miss their Willie in the game;
No more for his delighted ears the cheering crowd's acclaim!
The surging sea of victory, the tempest of deafening cheers!
Now he sleeps where Memory weeps her sad and silent tears.

He was bred in the land of the brave, in grand old Stirlingshire,
Where the thrill of noble memories set his dauntless will on fire
To do gallant deeds of daring upon the football field,
And the token sweet o' auld langsyne and sorrow see revealed.

See there among the blossoms one from Falkirk of renown;
Fond Memory sends a wreath - oh lay it gently down!
From the shrine of Scotland's glory, East Stirlingshire - his team,
Sweet Memory, like the setting sun, sends Willie its parting beam.

His sport had the stamp of character, for all his play was fair;
Honour bright upon the ball that went bounding through the air;
Behold his portrait - the straightforward look of man!
Strength, decision, character throughout his manhood ran.

Yes, Freebairn was a sportsman whose fame was always fair;
His play was an example to football everywhere;
In that fame there was no foul - the belov'd of many a band;
His example remains a force for good, emulation to command.

And so this Tribute will not be written in vain
If you emulate Willie's manly ways and his character live again;
The true attributes of man on the football field are seen
When he scorns to do an action foul, deceitful, cruel, or mean.

One of Willie's dearest comrades urged me to write this rhyme,
To give a voice unto the grief that moved so many at the time;
For his heart was very sorrowful for his comrade dear and kind;
His voice was the voice of woe, but its words he could not find.

Gone from all he loved, - from the lone-left and forlorn;
Another moon, no more, would have seen his marriage morn;
The hope of happy days crushed like a rose in bloom,
To droop and wither like the flowers as they die o'er her Willie's tomb.

Life is a football field; its accidents we never know,
In the hurry-burry of the game, in the contact to and fro;
But our Father's will be done; He takes but what He gave;
Life is a football field, and its goal here is the grave.

But there is the life immortal - the eternity of the soul;
May we wrestle for heaven and happiness, the beliver's sacred goal!
Yonder may we meet again in our Father's Home above,
Where the flowers of affection never fade, where all is peace and love.

JOHN FORBES
19 Taylor Street, Townhead, Glasgow.

(WS)



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