Name: Denis Lawson
Date of Birth: 11/12/1897
Place of Birth: Lennoxtown, Scotland
Position: Right Winger
Signed: 05/11/1919 from Kilsyth Emmett
Departed: 10/11/1923 to Cardiff City
Debut: 08/11/1919 v Hearts (scored)
Final Match: 10/11/1923 v Queen’s Park
Honours: 1 Scotland Cap (v England 1923)
Denis Lawson was yet another of John Cochrane’s outstanding signings for St Mirren, and his brilliant wing play was one of the most significant reasons for not only the incredible season centre forward Dunky Walker would have in 1921/22 but also the rise of Saints during the 1920’s to become one of the most respected sides in the UK.
Lawson was born on the 11th December 1897 in Lennoxtown and lived in Main Street of the then Stirlingshire town with his parents, older brother and younger sister. His football career started at nearby Kilsyth Emmett but towards the end of 1919 Cochrane brought him to Saints when he signed on the 5th of November, with interest in the 21 year old extremely high, including potential moves to Celtic and Third Lanark where he had played trial matches.
Lawson made an immediate impact at the club, scoring the third goal as Saints beat Hearts 4-1 at Love Street three days after he had signed, the first of four he would score before the end of that campaign and a good start to life in the professional ranks. Season 1920/21 wouldn’t go as well however, and the Paisley club slumped to the bottom of the pile, finishing last of the twenty-two topflight clubs.
With no automatic relegation, Saints could only rely on the goodwill of other clubs who voted for the Paisley side to remain in the First Division, but with the winger showing real potential and nobody capitalising on his pin point crossing and passing, John Cochrane signed Dunky Walker to solve his sides goal-scoring crisis.
Walker was just the man to thrive on the service of Lawson and grabbed an astounding fifty-six goals the following season, elevating Saints forward line to one of the most feared in the country as the side jumped fourteen places to finish eighth that campaign. 1922/23 would be similar, and although Walker still hit twenty goals the other forwards spread the goals out this time with Lawson scoring five times, his best total in a Saints shirt during an individual season.
With the international selection committee looking very closely at Saints red hot forward line, it speaks volumes that the only one capped by Scotland was Lawson. On the 14th April 1923 the right winger wore the number seven of the national side when he became the third Saints player to appear in the Auld Enemy clash in front of 71,000 at Hampden during a 2-2 draw with England and the twelfth to earn a full cap for Scotland.
His consistency continued the following season, and on the 15th September 1923, Lawson scored his final goal for Saints during a 2-2 draw with Dundee at Love Street. With scouts from England watching the Scottish Internationalist now on a regular basis, it seemed inevitable a transfer would happen sooner rather than later.
With the transfer market really starting to evolve since WW1 ended, clubs were beginning to receive bigger fees for players as this became just important as the most obvious way to generate income for the past forty years or so, which was through the turnstiles. In 1919 Saints had received their first ever fee over £1,000 when Jock Marshall left for Middlesbrough, and in 1923 they had had already sold a player for the first time for over £2,000 and Lawson would be next.
In November 1923, Cardiff City paid £2,050 to take Lawson south to Wales, but of course the Welsh club were already in the English league and at this point a top-flight club. This was during the most successful period of Bluebirds history, securing the 1927 FA cup during their longest ever unbroken spell in the top-flight which ran from 1921 to 1929.
Lawson left Cardiff the year before this FA Cup win but was a regular for the Welsh side in his time in Wales, scoring twice in 64 appearances. Like Jock Marshall before him, Lawson then took a step into the football unknown and in 1926 joined the imaginatively named Springfield Babes of the American Soccer League, based in Massachusetts. The winger scored twice in twenty-three matches for the Babes, but in December 1926 the club folded, and the franchise bought by Sam Fletcher who was manager of Rhode Island club Providence Clamdiggers.
All the players and assets of Springfield Babes FC were therefore transferred to the Clamdiggers, including Lawson who was forced to relocate the eighty-five miles or so between the two cities and played the remaining sixteen matches of the season at his new club scoring once. Perhaps this experience put Lawson off settling in the USA, so in 1927 at the end of the 1926/27 ASL season he returned to the UK and signed for English minnows Wigan Borough, of the Division Three North.
Before long however Lawson was back in Scotland and finished his career off with spells at Clyde and Brechin City before retiring from football in 1932 aged thirty-five. During his career Lawson had played almost 400 matches in four different countries, played for Scotland against England and supplied the ammunition for the most prolific season a Saints player has ever had and ever likely to have in our history.
A wonderful dribbler and crosser of the ball, Denis Lawson was an entertainer on the football park and lived until he was seventy years of age, passing away on the 23rd May 1968 in Glasgow leaving his wife Catherina behind.