At a club brim-full of legends, John Thomson has his own special place in the hearts of Celtic supporters and the 92 years since his untimely death after a collision on the pitch at Ibrox haven’t dimmed his standing in the Celtic Family, writes Francis K. Beirne.
A young lad named John Thomson,
from the west of Fife he came
To play for Glasgow Celtic and to
build himself a name.
On the fifth day of September,
‘gainst the Rangers club he played;
From defeat he saved the Celtic, oh
but what a price he paid.
One of the songs on the 1966 E.P. by Sean Dunphy and the Hoedowners, The Johnny Thompson Song, is based on a true, tragic story. Lyrics are by Liam Mallory (real name Clifford P. Stanton) to the melody of the popular Irish song, ‘Noreen Bawn’. The song was also popularised by Mallory himself and a Scottish singer, Glen Daly.
His surname was Thomson without a ‘p’, not Thompson. At the age of 22, Glasgow Celtic goalkeeper, John Thomson died following an accidental collision with a Rangers’ forward at Ibrox Park, Glasgow on 5th September, 1931.
John Thomson was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife on January 28, 1909 and started his working life as a teenager down in the coalmine. Playing for Wellesley Juniors, he was spotted by Celtic scout Steve Callaghan. Thomson signed for Celtic at the age of 17. He made his debut against Dundee at Dens Park in February 1927. Thomson meanwhile impressed from practically the first minute of the match, going on to keep his place as first choice keeper.
In his short playing career with Celtic, he achieved two Scottish Cup wins. In his debut season he lifted the Scottish Cup in only his 19th game for the club as the Celts beat East Fife 3-1 at Hampden Park. In 1931 he was again on the winning side in a Scottish Cup final, this time after a replay as over 104,000 saw Celtic first draw 2-2 with Motherwell before winning the replay by 4 goals to 2. In his 188 appearances for Celtic, he kept 66 clean sheets (35%).
John made his international debut against France in May 1930 in the Stade de Colombes in Paris and kept a clean sheet as the Scots won 2-0. His next cap was won against Wales at Ibrox and ended in 1-1 draw. He ended his brief international career on a high by keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over against England at Hampden Park.
The ball rolled from the centre and John ran out and dived,
The ball rolled by; young John lay still, for his club this hero died.