Tom Morrison

Name: Tom Morrison
Date of Birth: 21/01/1904
Place of Birth: Glasgow, Scotland
Nationality: Scottish
Position: Right Half
Signed: 02/09/1924 from Troon
Debut: 06/09/1924 v Dundee H (2-1 win)
Final Match: 28/01/1928 v Hamilton A (2-1 win)
Departed: 09/02/1928 to Liverpool (£4,100)
Apps: 149
Goals: 12
Honours: 1926 Scottish Cup

Misc:
1 Scotland Cap,
12 unofficial Scotland Caps, 5 goals
Record Transfer Fee Received

The story of Tom Morrison centred around his undoubted fantastic football ability, but off the field of play the wing half was something of an enigma and his life includes a great deal of mystery including at least two instances of him going missing for several months and a period of crime.

Thomas Kelly Morrison to give him his full name, is reported to have been born in the coal mining village of Coylton in Ayrshire and although he undoubtedly lived here later in his life, having scoured the national databases it is likely the wing half’s actual birthplace is Glasgow on the 21st January 1904, and his family relocated to Ayrshire after this.

After playing with Troon Juniors, Saints manager John Cochrane signed Morrison in September 1924 and the 20-year-old would be next great wing/centre half to appear for the club following on from Edward McBain, Robert Robertson and more recently Charlie Pringle. Over the next year or so, Cochrane would add Alan Gebbie and John Millar to his half back line, and this would become one of the finest midfield structures in the history of the club.

The young wing half was used sparingly by Cochrane at first, but the following season Morrison’s potential began to show as Saints made a stunning start to the season losing just once in the opening fourteen matches and topping the division until Christmas. During this outstanding beginning to the campaign Morrison scored his first goal for the club when he hit the winner at Brockville on the 22nd August 1925 to secure a 1-0 victory over Falkirk.

Saints of course would win the Scottish Cup at the end of this season, but the great cup run almost ended at the second-round stage with Morrison centre of the drama when during a howling winters day at second tier Arbroath in February 1926, he missed a second half penalty which resulted in the Red Lichties hitting the inside of Saints post only seconds later during a counter attack. Fortunately, no damage was done, and the match finished 0-0 with the wing half influential in the replay at Love Street a few days later when a 3-0 win was recorded.

This was the closest Saints came to being eliminated during this historic cup achievement and on the 10th April 1926 the impressive half back line of Miller, Gebbie and young Morrison were instrumental once mire as Celtic were beaten 2-0 by a superb St Mirren performance and at the age of just twenty two Morrison was a cup winner, which at the time was higher profile than even winning the league.

The following season was another historic one for Morrison as his form for Saints improved even further when he grabbed seven goals from his wing half position meaning the international selection committee were looking at him very closely. In March 1927 he was called up to the national team for the crucial Home Championship match at Hampden against England on the 2nd April 1927, and in front of the second largest ever recorded crowd for a football match anywhere in the world at the time of 111,214, Morrison made his Scotland debut in a 2-1 defeat to the Auld Enemy.

The following month, the SFA had organised a lengthy summer tour of Canada with the Scotland squad and Morrison was once more selected, appearing in twelve games between the 26th of May and 15th July 1927 and scoring on five occasions. However, these matches were against regional select sides and classed as ‘unofficial’ therefore Morrison does not have a legitimate claim to be both Saints all-time top cap holder and goal scorer, despite pulling on the national strip on thirteen occasions and scoring five times. Officially Morrison has only one cap!

The rise of Morrison continued unabated in 1927/28, and once more he was a key figure in Saints challenging at the top of the division, scoring three times although he would sometimes drop to defence during this period. English heavyweights Liverpool had seen enough of the brilliant twenty-four-year-old however, and in February 1928 they secured the signature of Morrison by spending a whopping £4,100 take him south, the biggest transfer fee ever received by the club by quite a distance and one record that would stand for eighteen years.

Morrison was a regular at Anfield for many years, playing over 200 times for the English giants but his career appeared to derail in 1934, and on August 22nd he was suspended without pay by the club for a breach of discipline, the first sign that something was not all well with the wing half.

A few months later, Morrison was back playing regularly for Liverpool but following a match at Huddersfield on the 11th November 1934, he was taken ill shortly after his return to Merseyside and rushed to a nursing home (before the formation of the NHS) where he was operated on for appendicitis. Thankfully, the operation was a success but the following month the half back indicated he was ready to quit football at the end of the season aged just thirty and take a coaching role abroad, preferably in the Canary Islands.

This move did not transpire, but with Morrison idle as he was recovering from the operation, he appears to have gone off the rails and Liverpool suspended him twice for fourteen days without pay in early 1935, with the first time being after his failure to turn up for a reserve fixture on the 9th February during his rehabilitation. By then Morrison had taken the decision to travel to London and watch Sunderland take on Spurs at White Hart Lane the previous day, with the Black Cats of course managed by his former mentor and Saints boss John Cochrane. Liverpool then added a second suspension without pay when Morrison failed to show up for training following this initial 14-day period.

In fact, Morrison had failed to return home completely from this visit to the English capital in early February, and by the 4th of March real concern was growing for the wellbeing of the Scottish international with his wife concerned that he had suffered memory loss or physical reaction during his recovery from the appendix operation. Mrs Morrison had even travelled to London to search the Euston area where he was last spotted but had failed to find any trace of her husband.

It is of course unfathomable this could happen today to a Scottish international playing for Liverpool, but the Anfield side showed little sympathy and reported Morrison to the FA on the 13th March, with still no word on the safety of the wing half. Whatever happened remains a mystery, but Morrison finally did return home in mid-April, and immediately placed on the transfer list by Liverpool. Unsurprisingly, nobody decided to take a chance of the AWOL wing half and Morrison remained out of favour with the Reds until his old mentor John Cochrane came calling in November 1935 and brought him to Sunderland.

Morrison went straight into the first team at Roker Park and was a pivotal part of Sunderland going onto the win the English top-flight that season which makes what happens next even stranger. During pre-season, Morrison once more disappeared from home which was now in the North East of England, but this time there was no trace of him in the months that followed.

Whatever was happening with Morrison’s personal life or mental health is unknown, but seven months later in December 1936 he was recognised in Cambridge and arrested as he was wanted by magistrates in Sunderland for the crime of absconding from his wife and leaving the state (Public Assistance Committee) to support his children.

At court, it transpired that Morrison had travelled to Cambridgeshire during the summer of 1936 under the name ‘Jack Anderson’ and was picking fruit to make money. He had approached local football side Gamlingay for a trial, who unknown to them were evaluating a Scottish Internationalist who only one month prior to this had won an English Championship medal!

Again, this would be ridiculous in modern times, but with no TV and the press publishing very few pictures of footballers, not many would have known a player outside the town or city he played in other than megastars of the era such as Stanley Mathews. Unsurprisingly, the amateur side were extremely impressed with the seemingly unknown Scotsman and promoted him immediately to the first team where he stayed for four months before being apprehended by the authorities.

The charges against Morrison were withdrawn by the judge as the player agreed to pay his wife for back paid and ongoing support as well as repay the money used by the state to support his family during this absconded period and finally also the fees for the court case costs, which was all possible due to the £49 owed to him by Sunderland.

Unfortunately, this was not the last time Morrison would be in court over the next few years, and following his release by Sunderland in 1937, the wing half returned to Scotland in the summer signing for Ayr United in June where he now lived in the village of Coylton. Before his career at Somerset could even take off however, Morrison was at Kilmarnock Sherriff Court on burglary charges in August of that year.

The Scottish International pleaded guilty to two charges of theft by housebreaking and another of attempted housebreaking in various cottages throughout Ayrshire during the summer after Morrison had posed as the nephew of a proprietor and salesman. It appears Morrison had taken to drink also and having missed the start of pre-season with Ayr United as he was in jail pending this court case, the club had suspended Morrison without pay for 14 days. The judge ordered the former Saints man to pay a fine of £10 or face jail for sixty further days.

It is unknown what happened immediately following this but considering Ayr United cancelled his contract shortly afterwards, clearly the board of directors at Somerset Park were not impressed with their star players behaviour.

Morrison next surfaced in Ireland in 1939, playing for Drumcondra FC, and once again he was in court but this time acting against his own club! The wing half had suffered a career ending injury playing for the Dublin club against Bray Unknows at Tolka Park a few months beforehand, and it was decided by the Drumcondra board that Morrison would receive no further wages from his employer.

On this occasion, Morrison could leave the court with his head held high however as the judge awarded in his favour, and Drumcondra would need to pay the former Saints man 30 shillings per week until he was able to work again. With that news, Morrison appears to have disappeared completely from all records, however on 20th January 1983 a Thomas Kelly Morrison died in Newcastle aged eighty-two, which fits the details of the Saints legend and is also close to Sunderland where he is known to lived for a period, therefore there is a good chance this is our man.

The story of Tom Morrison is shrouded in mystery. It is easy speculate that he fell out with his wife and ran from his responsibilities finding comfort in only alcohol, however as little attention would have been paid to his mental wellbeing in the 1930’s, it would be extremely harsh to be judgemental about his conduct.

What is evident however without doubt that Tom Morrison was a brilliant footballer; capped by Scotland, won the Scottish Cup with Saints, the top division in England with Sunderland, and transferred for a huge amount to Liverpool making Saints a small fortune in the process. He was an integral part of Saints success during the 1920’s and should be remembered for this as much as his off-field story.

Alex Linwood

Name: Alex Linwood
Date of Birth: 13/03/1920
Place of Birth: Drongan, Scotland
Nationality: Scottish
Position: Centre Forward
Signed: October 1938 from Muirskirk
Departed: June 1946 to Middlesbrough (£6,000)
Debut: 19/08/1939 v Queen of the South
Final Match: 04/05/1946 v Raith Rovers
Apps: 235
Goals: 164
Honours: 1943 Summer Cup, 1 Scotland Cap v England (unofficial)

There is an old blues song written by Albert King called ‘Born under a bad sign’ suggesting that “if it wasn’t for bad luck I’d have none at all” and had Alex Linwood been a different kind of person, then he could have justifiably claimed this was true of himself, however right to the end of his eighty three years he remained humble and thankful for the life he had.

Linwood was born in the tiny Ayrshire settlement of Drumsmudden near Drongan in 1920, a small village community that is now lost to time as its sole function was to house coal miners and their families.  Drumsmudden is one of fifty similar villages in Ayrshire alone that suffered this fate having been long abandoned since the pits closed, with Glenbuck probably the most famous of these settlements in football circles due to legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly growing up here and the almost mythical exploits of the Glenbuck Cherrypickers football team, which produced a staggering 50 professional footballers (including seven Scottish internationalists) from a population of 1,000 people until their demise in 1931.

Life would have been difficult in these settlements as mineworkers and their families could only buy their provisions from the company store and everyday there would be an anxious wait and hope for the small population that loved ones returned safe and well from the various pits they were working.

In 1934 at the tender age of just fourteen, Linwood followed the route that every other abled boy in these communities would do and went down the mine for a living; little did he know however how this decision would steer his life and football career for the next twenty years.

With the demise of Glenbuck Cherrypickers, the nearby village of Muirkirk decided to form a Junior team in 1938, and Linwood travelled the twenty miles or so from his Drumsmudden settlement to play for the new side, with scouts from professional clubs located all over Britain watching the team from day one due to the prolific past of this area in producing top class footballers.

Although a centre forward in his school and juvenile days, Linwood was played as an auxiliary outside left for Muirkirk, but after only five matches for his club where he scored by his own admission “a lot of goals” Saints had offered the young forward professional terms and he made the decision to sign for the Paisley side which also stopped the need for him going to go down the mines every day.

Initially young Linwood played for Saints reserve side as the first team forward line which included Jimmy Knox, Bobby Rankin and William McLintock were in fine form at the time, but only five matches into the 1939/40 season everything changed, not only in football but all over Europe and beyond as World War II started following the invasion of Poland by Adolf Hitler and his formidable German war machine.

Any thoughts Linwood had of signing up for the war effort were almost immediately shelved as everyone who had worked down the mines previously were required by law to return to this occupation in order to help fuel the considerable effort required to meet the needs of a country at War. This also meant that Linwood at the age of nineteen could no longer train during the day, but would be available to play for Saints on a Saturday afternoon should he retain his fitness, which for non-smoking and tee-total young Alex was no problem at all.

With the Scottish League officially scrapped after only five matches, the regional Western League was created for professional clubs to keep playing and generating income, with equivalent divisions in the South, East and North of the country.

This meant that Saints no longer played Hearts, Hibs, Dundee or Aberdeen for example, but continued to meet the likes of Celtic, Rangers, Motherwell and Kilmarnock on a regular basis. Due to the splintered nature of these leagues, it was decided by the SFA and Scottish football league that all WWII competitions would be “unofficial” and no player or club records counted towards any individual or collective honours, another decision that would affect Linwood more than most.

With many footballers’ away training for combat, fighting in Europe or redeployed elsewhere in the UK due to their work commitments, this afforded others stationed at home to get first team action and Linwood was soon in the main squad as autumn 1939 dawned and the Nazi’s blitzed everything in their path on mainland Europe.

Linwood took his chance when presented with it, and on the 4th of November 1939 the forward scored his maiden senior goal against Clyde at Love Street; the first of twenty three he managed in his successful debut season which included three hat-tricks. However, with personnel changing on an almost weekly basis, most clubs couldn’t get any consistency and Saints finished tenth out of sixteen clubs, but to prove how sporadic form was, Saints thrashed Queen of the South 6-0 at Love Street with Linwood scoring four times, yet the Doonhamers finished runners up in the league.

The following season had a strange start as Saints were forced to play at Ibrox due to damage caused at the Love Street entrance to the stadium by a stray German bomb looking for the shipyards on the Cart, but Linwood continued to score goals at a phenomenal rate (also playing beside the aforementioned fellow Ayrshire man Bill Shankly who guested for Saints in 1941) reaching twenty seven and twenty two goals in the next two campaigns, but the 1942/43 season would prove to be the pinnacle of Linwood’s Saints career.

The forward had reached fourteen league goals by early January; however he was rendered “unavailable” for the next few months presumably for war purposes (probably stationed at a colliery in England or Wales) but by the late spring Linwood was back in time for the 1943 Summer Cup, which unofficially was the replacement for the Scottish Cup.

Hungry for action, Linwood simply steamrollered the competition scoring thirteen times in the seven matches, including at least one goal in every round. Third Lanark were the first to feel the considerable wrath of Linwood after four months without a match when the forward scored a hat-trick in his first game back playing since January to secure a 6-3 first leg win at Love Street.

Linwood netted once more in the second leg at Cathkin Park to emphatically ensure progress to round two for Saints by an aggregate score of 9-4, but the forward was merely warming up as Dumbarton were beaten 7-4 in round two over both legs, with Linwood scoring all but one of Saints goals, including five in the first tie at Love Street.

The semi-final paired Saints with Renfrewshire rivals Morton at Ibrox on the 26th June 1943, and with the Greenock side boosted by the continued appearance of arguably the best player in the world at the time, Stanley Matthews, as well as his England teammate Tommy Lawton, this imbalance had resulted in a freak 8-0 loss at Cappielow on the first day of 1943. It is fair to say Saints were up against it.

Saints were in a much stronger position now though, and a thrilling 3-3 draw resulted in a replay at Hampden the following week, where Linwood netted twice to defeat Morton 3-2 in another brilliant game of football between the rivals.

This derby victory set Saints up for the final against Rangers at Hampden on the 10th July 1943, and Linwood proved to be the key man once more, scoring the only goal of the match to defeat the Western League champions in front of over 60,000 at the national stadium. It was a stunning upset, and the incredible form of Linwood resulted in his call up to the Scotland match against England, but like everything else during WWII this was not officially counted. Although this fact was probably a relief as a weak and patchwork Scots were thrashed 8-0 in Manchester at Main Road.

Linwood continued to score goals during the war, but his pretty sensational 164 Saints strikes including 11 hat-tricks during this period are not counted officially and simply as a result of being a wartime footballer the forward drops from second top goal scorer in Saints history eclipsing even Jimmy Knox, to just ONE official goal, scored in the the 1945/46 League Cup.

Perhaps Linwood felt his luck would change with the war ending as he no longer had to go back down the pits, but after securing a record £6,000 transfer to Middlesbrough in 1946, legislation was passed in parliament making it compulsory for all miners to return to work in order to boost the recovery of the country, and despite all his new teammates being full time professionals Linwood reverted back to be only available on match day due to this.

Later in his life, Linwood described this hindrance as the reason he couldn’t settle in England, which is completely understandable, and he moved to Hibernian and then Clyde where he was finally officially capped for Scotland in 1949 and scored against Wales which surprisingly was his only appearance for the national team. During all this period, Linwood was still legally required to work down the mine.

The great forward would finish his career at Morton, and scored goals right up until he retired (72 in 101 appearances at Cappielow) aged 35 at the end of the 1954/55 season. As a player the forward was described by the divine authority of all things Scottish football, Bob Crampsey as “Strong, stocky, but curiously elegant”, and is officially credited with 178 goals in his career in 266 appearances, however once his war time record is considered that jumps to a quite remarkable 324 goals in 404 matches.

After football, Linwood lived his last years in Renfrew and was often seen at Love Street watching his adopted team, although in his last known interview given in 2001 to the Clyde match day programme Linwood insisted his first love would always remain his local side, Ayr United who he retained a strong connection with.

In this same interview Linwood considering himself very fortunate to have played football and despite his own career being hindered by World War II there was absolutely no bitterness about this or the fact he was forced to work down a mine, and when asked if he had any unrealised ambition stated:

“No, I played for Scotland and three great Scottish clubs in St. Mirren, Hibs and Clyde. I played with great players like Billy Steel, Willie Woodburn, George Young, Harry Haddock, and Billy Liddell, so I can have no regrets about what I achieved in the game, especially as none of it was planned! I never thought for a minute that I would become a footballer. It just happened! I was very lucky.”

A few years after this interview, Alex Linwood passed aged eighty three on the 26th October 2003 at home in Renfrew. He left behind stories of a fantastic football career and a humbleness rarely seen in the modern game by footballers who have achieved a fraction of the success enjoyed by Linwood, who was an extremely talented young player forced to combine his cherished football career with being a miner, something he didn’t enjoy, but Alex never complained about the hand he was dealt.

We will probably never see the likes of Alex Linwood again, as a man or footballer, so we should do everything possible to celebrate the fact such great people wore the black and white with such pride and excellence.

Willie Kelly

William Kelly was born in 1915 in Maryhill in the west of Glasgow and the tough reputation of the area back then perhaps forged the footballing character of the young centre back that moved from his local club to Saints in 1934.

Very quickly Kelly became known as an uncompromising and extremely tough player, who not many forwards got the better of in Scotland and was mentioned on multiple occasions in the media as suitable candidate for the national squad, where he was a ‘reserve’ on a number of occasions, which today would equate to a squad player as only 11 players were called up at this time.

Kelly was uncomplicated in what he done on the football park, and was described by one hack as a “…..strong, forcing player. Not a stylist, but highly effective…..” a fact that the Paisley support enjoyed, and the Glaswegian was very much a fans favourite due to his no-nonsense approach on the park.

After five years at Saints it looked as though a big transfer to England was in the making however after the club reluctantly agreed to sell their star defender to raise income, but the bid from Middlesbrough of just under £2,000 was ceremoniously rejected by Saints who wanted four times that.

Later in the year as war broke out Kelly joined the RAF and that move to England never transpired, but other than playing for the RAF Select which often looked like an international side so strong was it, Kelly didn’t guest for anyone else during this period and often played for Saints when he returned on leave to Scotland, resulting in him playing in the famous 1943 Summer Cup win and picking up a winners medal.

On the 19th of August 1944, Kelly was sent off following an incident at Love Street during a 1-0 defeat to Rangers, and following a disciplinary hearing the following month was banned from all of football until March 6th 1945, a full six months without playing, which seems incredibly hash!

This disciplinary hearing appeared to hasten his departure from the club though and after 274 appearances and eighteen goals; Kelly was sold to Dundee United in August 1945 in a record deal for the Tannadice side which held great excitement for the second division club in anticipation of such a well know player appearing for the Terrors.

The centre back didn’t spend long in Dundee however as he failed to settle, and after only twenty appearances was transfer listed at his own request and subsequently sold to Morton in January 1946. Before the year was out however Kelly was back in front of the SFA after being ordered off against Clyde in November of that year, and sensationally on the 4th December 1946 the defender was suspended “sine die” and his career effectively over despite the football authorities overturning this in 1950, but by this point Kelly was 35 years old and had not played for four years making the decision completely futile.

Willie Kelly may not have been the artistic flamboyant type usually found as a hero by football supporters, but he had a tenacity and will to win that every side needs and qualities that through the ages have always been respected by the St Mirren support. Kelly had an iron man, indestructable image and he appeared late in his life in the 1991 Marching In video where he recalled the 1943 Summer Cup victory.

In 2005, Willie Kelly passed away aged 91 years of age and is buried beside his wife Jeanie and daughter Ellen at the St Kentigem Cemetry in Glasgow.

Jimmy Howieson

World War I played a significant part in many St Mirren players lives, but nobody’s football career developed entirely due to joining the military during this period, except for talented inside left forward Jimmy Howieson.

Born in the Gorbals in 1900, the youngster attended Rutherglen Elementary and John Street School in the city, but along with his brothers and sisters during the summer holidays would help his father John in the family pub; The Crammond Bar on Queen Street in the city centre, which is now ‘Drouthy’s’, and incidentally been a public house since 1848.

The youngster had no real interest in playing football due to his spare time being occupied almost exclusively helping his father at the bar, and immediately after leaving school as a 14-year-old started working in the pub full time for around a year, before taking on an apprenticeship in a bid to become a marine engineer at the nearby shipyards.

Two years into his training in late 1917 however, an event occurred that would change the direction of Howieson’s life forever. Following an accident at work which left young Jimmy with smashed and broken fingers, he was discharged from hospital and made his way to the local Navy recruitment office where he enlisted, immediately ending his engineering apprenticeship in the process.

After being involved at the end of World War I with the Royal Navy, for four years Howieson sailed the planet in his new profession and for the first time in his life started playing organised football when he was selected for the Navy side. However, it was an introduction like no other, as he was playing in all sorts of climates, altitudes and weather against different styles of football as young Howieson took on players from Africa, Asia, The West Indies and mainland Europe. Despite being very skilful, this football induction also made Howieson extremely tough and it became a distinct possibility a career as a professional footballer was in the making.

In 1921 when home on leave, Howieson had permission from the Navy to play organised football in Scotland and he appeared for Port Glasgow, with his performances convincing the inside forward he could become a professional footballer prompting the Glaswegian to pay £50 to discharge himself from the armed forces and concentrate almost solely on the game.

Howieson’s first club after this discharge was his local side Rutherglen Glencairn and he made a reputation as a powerful inside forward capable of great runs and shooting, something he retained throughout his career. After only a few months at the Glens, the professional clubs were circling however and Howieson signed for Airdrie in 1922 who at the time had a golden generation of players including the legendary Scottish forward Hughie Gallacher.

This was unchartered water for the Diamonds who would never reach these heights again and the Lanarkshire side would finish runners up in the Scottish league for four consecutive seasons from this point onwards and win the 1924 Scottish Cup, with Howieson a key part of this success in supplying the prolific Gallacher, (90 goals in 110 matches for Airdrie) and securing his first Scottish Cup winners medal in the process.

Surprisingly at the end of that 1924 season Howieson left Airdrie, and with both St Mirren and St Johnstone interested in signing the forward, one of the strangest transfers in Scottish football history occurred when the player decided to split his playing time between Perth and Paisley! For league games Howieson would play for the Muirton Park side but in cup matches he would appear for St Mirren, with no rules back then to stop multiple transfers of a player during the season and no loan system in place. This meant Howieson moved between both clubs eight times in total during the 1924/25 season as the Paisley side were eliminated at the quarter final stage of the Scottish Cup by Celtic after four rounds of matches.

Howieson therefore made his debut for St Mirren on the 24thJanuary 1925 after being transferred a few days beforehand from the Perth club and played his part during a 3-1 victory over Peterhead in a first-round Scottish cup match. He was then immediately transferred back to St Johnstone to continue playing league matches!

This process was repeated against Ayr United, Partick Thistle and Celtic as Saints progressed through the tournament, but unfortunately the Paisley Saints hadn’t considered the prospect of replays in this complicated arrangement and Howieson was absent for both of them against Celtic as their cup dream was ended at Ibrox in the third match between Saints and the Parkhead side after two draws, the 1-0 defeat lingering in the memory of the Paisley support for the next year or so.

At the end of the season, it was generally believed Howieson would transfer to St Mirren permanently given their rise to a top six club at this point, but the Gorbals boy surprised John Cochrane once more by signing for recently promoted Dundee United, a relatively new club at the time with practically no tradition. After five goals in ten matches for the Tannadice club in the first few months of the 1925/26 season Cochrane finally got his man and paid United £1,000 for their star player, with Saints in the great bargaining position of being top of the league and genuine title challengers at this point.

Although Saints magnificent form didn’t last in the league, they still finished fourth and Howieson proved something of a lucky charm for Saints in the Scottish Cup as once again the club progressed through to the quarter final stage after beating Mid Annan, Arbroath and Partick Thistle. Saints avoided Celtic this time at this latter stage but were drawn against that fearsome Airdrie side of the 1920’s, where Howieson of course had so successfully made his name in the Scottish game.

Even the great Lanarkshire side couldn’t prevent Saints progression in the competition however, and a 2-0 win was recorded at Love Street. In fact, nobody could stop Saints in 1926 and Rangers were defeated in the semi-final, leaving Howieson and his team mates the task of avenging the painful 1925 quarter final defeat to Celtic when they faced the Parkhead side in the final.

On the 10th April 1926, Dave McCrae gave Saints the perfect start with an early goal and the first ever national trophy won by St Mirren was secured later in the first half when Howieson knocked in the second to clinch a historic Scottish Cup success for Saints in front of the largest ever domestic attendance recorded for a football match in Scotland at the time.

Sadly, Jimmy’s father, John, passed away a few weeks after this victory from stomach cancer and left the sum of £6,000 in his will, almost half a million pounds today allowing his widow Agnes to take over the running of The Crammond bar immediately afterwards, ably helped once more when possible by her children including Jimmy who never left the bar trade throughout most of his life.

With the Scottish Cup in the trophy cabinet, Saints started the following season superbly once more, winning eight of their first ten league matches and topping the division following a superb 3-1 win over Celtic at Love Street in mid-October 1926, only a fortnight after a 3-2 victory over Rangers. Howieson was key to this start, scoring four times and Saints remained in contention for the title once more until Christmas when like the previous campaign they faltered somewhat and eventually slumped to a very disappointing tenth at the end of the season.

By early 1927, Howieson had scored ten times for Saints that campaign with his last coming on the 3rd January during a 3-1 victory over Morton. This great form was rewarded when the following month Jimmy was picked for the Scotland side and he made his international debut in front of 40,000 spectators at Windsor Park in Belfast, with Alan Morton scoring twice to secure a 2-0 win for the Scots.

However, before the end of the 1926/27 season, Jimmy had been transferred to Hull City for £3,200, considerably Saints biggest fee ever received at the time as it was around £1,000 more than the value of James Hamilton’s move to Rangers in September 1925, and the first transfer for the club over £3,000. Perhaps it was the taste of travelling the world with the navy earlier in his life, but Howieson rarely settled in his playing career with his eighteen-month spell at Saints as long as he spent anywhere at one club in his close to fifteen-year professional career.

After seven goals in thirty matches at Boothferry Park, Howieson was on the move again soon enough and like many Saints and Scottish players from this era decided to try his luck in the USA, who back in 1928 were paying handsome wages despite attracting very small crowds due to the perceived high entry price for spectators.

In the 1928/29 American Soccer League season, Howieson played for the New Bedford Whalers during a very successful campaign for the Massachusetts club who made the play off final after finishing second in the ASL. Howieson scored an impressive seventeen times from forty-three matches but still didn’t hang around very long in his new home and in the summer of 1929 signed for the New York Giants, who were affiliated with the Baseball franchise of the same name.

After three goals in four matches for the Big Apple club, Howieson was back on the boat for England and surprisingly returned to Hull City where he had admitted he couldn’t settle beforehand. Again, it was the knock out competitions where Howieson excelled, and in the 1929 FA Cup his club had progressed to the semi final where they were leading Arsenal 2-0 with just fifteen minutes remaining and the possibility of Jimmy adding an FA Cup medal to his collection of Scottish Cup ones looked good.

The Gunners however scored two late goals to take the tie to a replay and won this before lifting the cup the following month, so it was a case of what might have been for the inside forward. In 1930, Howieson’s much travelled boots were on the move again, this time to Ireland where he played for Shelbourne, winning the Free State League and Leinster Shield during his two seasons with the club.

Following this success, in 1932 Howieson returned to Scotland and signed for his local side Clyde who just happened to be the team he supported all his life, fulfilling one of his football dreams in the process. A short spell at Alloa followed this homecoming, before the inside forward was back playing in Ireland with Glenavon in 1934.

Throughout this time and all his football career, Howieson worked in the pub trade and had been looking for an ideal bar to purchase close to his Gorbals home. In April 1935 opportunity presented itself when Jimmy and his brother John bought the Railway Tavern at 520 Rutherglen Road in the shadow of Shawfield Park (then home of Clyde) and not far from where he was raised. Today, this exact spot is a sadly a junction on New Rutherglen Road and all evidence of the old Gorbals long gone.

Despite running and owning the bar, Jimmy continued to play football at first, signing for Belfast Celtic in 1935 for one last season in a sport Howieson had only discovered he was any good at by pure chance when he signed up to join the navy, where he incidentally remained in the “senior service” until 1942.

Details of Howieson’s whole career are sketchy particularly before he joined Saints and left for America, but he is likely to have played between 400 and 500 matches in professional football scoring around 100 times. Jimmy also won two Scottish Cup medals, the League and Cup of Ireland, was capped for Scotland and played in five different countries. Not bad going for someone who had never played a competitive match at any level until he was 18 years of age.

After football, the two Howieson brothers ran The Railway Tavern for many years and had plentiful visitors wanting to talk to Jimmy about his successful football career or to even get an autograph, although the former Saints man had stayed in the game and was managing Strathclyde Juniors after retiring from the playing side.

Football seemed to run in the Howieson blood, and Jimmy’s nephew Bert Wilson was tipped as the next great thing of Scottish football after being groomed by the former Saints man, but the youngster never did make the professional scene despite much fanfare in the press about his development following the second world war.

Many decades later in 2015, New Zealand international Cameron Howieson signed for the club from Burnley and after being questioned in an interview about the possibility of him being related to Jimmy, discovered he was in fact the great grandson of the 1926 Scottish Cup hero and was playing for Saints almost ninety years later.

Unfortunately, Cameron never met Jimmy who had passed away in 1974 nor did he have anywhere near the same impact on Saints as his great grandfather but the Howieson name will be linked forever with Saints due to the achievements of the Gorbals barman almost a century ago.

Alan Gebbie

Alan Gebbie was born in 1901 in Kilmarnock, and although officially ‘Alexander’, he was known as Alan throughout his life. Gebbie escaped the coal mines of Ayrshire as his father Robert was a lace weaver, and in 1919 the young half back signed for Muirkirk Athletic before catching the eye of Saints and John Cochrane who signed him for Saints just prior to Christmas 1924, another part of the intricate jigsaw which brought so much success to the club during this period.

The transition from amateur to professional football for Gebbie was seamless, and he scored in only his second match for the club, against his hometown team when Saints defeated the Ayrshire side 3-0 on the 5th January 1925. This is one of four goals Gebbie managed this debut season, including the winner against Celtic on the last day of the season to secure sixth position in the table for Saints.

The next season of course was a historic one for Saints as they finished fourth and won the Scottish Cup, and Gebbie played a massive part in this as a 6-1 defeat at Parkhead on the 9th of March 1926 was followed by Saints winning seven out of the last eight matches including the semi-final cup win over Rangers and the final over Celtic.

Gebbie scored six times in the three matches directly after this 6-1 defeat, with a double in each match as Saints beat Raith Rovers, Rangers and Cowdenbeath, hauling the club from rock bottom morale back to the one of the best sides in the country which they undoubtedly were. The Ayrshire man finished second top scorer at the club that season with nine goals, including one in the cup, the crucial clincher against Airdrie in the quarter final, who were arguably the best side in the country at the time.

The following season Gebbie scored six times, including another winner against Rangers, and remained a virtual ever present in the side over the next decade, with his best individual contribution coming in the 1928/29 season when he scored an impressive thirteen times, including a fine hat-trick in a 5-0 victory over Falkirk on the 16th March 1929.

An all action player blessed with wonderful stamina, Gebbie was a regular scorer for Saints for several seasons after this, but as he got older played a more disciplined role in the team, scoring just three goals in his last four seasons at the club and the team suffering the indignity of being relegated in the 1934/35 season, as the long serving player surpassed a decade at the club.

Gebbie scored his final goal for Saints on the opening day of the 1935/36 season during Saints first ever match in the lower tier, a 6-1 win at Bayview. At the end of the campaign as Saints won promotion, Gebbie was released and joined Aldershot as player/coach, but surprisingly was not given a benefits match despite twelve years at the club and over 300 appearances.

Almost a hundred years after Gebbie made his debut for Saints he remains the fifteen highest ever appearance maker for Saints, as well as the twenty fourth highest goal scorer in the history of the club despite not playing in a forward position. Alan Gebbie is an unsung hero of the glorious 1920’s for Saints, and another who should be considered an all-time great.