Denis Lawson

Name: Denis Lawson
Date of Birth: 11/12/1897
Place of Birth: Lennoxtown, Scotland
Nationality: Scottish
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
Apps: 164
Goals: 12
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.

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.

John Cochrane

Appointed: July 1916 from Johnstone FC
Departed: April 1928 to Sunderland
No of matches managed: 460
Wins: 200
Draws: 106
Losses: 190

– 1919 Victory Cup Winner
– 1922 Barcelona Cup winner
– 1926 Scottish Cup Winner
– 8 top half of the league finishes
– 5 top six finishes in the top league
– Longest serving manager in clubs’ history
– Signed the entire 1926 Cup winning side

John Cochrane is one of only two men to appear in this book who never played for the club (the other being fellow manager John McCartney) and his twelve year spell as manager is the longest in the history of St Mirren, but arguably also the most successful of anyone before or after.

Back in 1916 when Cochrane was hired to be manager of Saints, the concept of appointing ex-players to the position as happens now was an alien one as most part time clubs wanted someone who was a secretary first and then picked the team second, therefore skills we would expect today in a manager such as coaching, tactical ability and good recruitment weren’t necessarily the first attributes looked for by a hiring club who really wanted an accomplished administrator with a bit of authority thrown in for good measure.

That is probably how the post was sold to Cochrane, but in 1937 when looking back at his time as Saints manager he admitted to being “manager, gateman and groundsman” as well as doing his main job which he bluntly described as “trying to raise good footballers in order to sell them and thus keep the wolf from the club’s door”.

Despite having no real background in the game other than being secretary of Johnstone FC, Cochrane was given the job as club manager in July 1916 after Hugh Law had resigned, becoming the fourth manager in Saints history and the third who had been secretary elsewhere immediately beforehand.

Cochrane was born in Paisley in 1877, and lived in the affluent Carriagehill Drive in the south of the town, with his father Hugh who was a factory owner employing almost one hundred people, and mother Jessie. John was the second youngest of five children, and his two Aunts’ also lived in the large property with his parents. It is unlikely Cochrane experienced the widespread poverty prevalent in Paisley during his upbringing, and his education allowed him to become a draughtsman. However, it was football that was the real passion of Cochrane and he got involved with Johnstone FC, laying the foundation for his move to Saints.

In truth, Cochrane inherited a club going in the wrong direction at Saints, with two bottom position finishes in the previous five campaigns resulting in only a league vote saving St Mirren from a first ever relegation on both occasions.

Not helping Cochrane was WWI taking place as he took over management of the side, with several players deployed in the army including first choice goalkeeper and star player Willie O’Hagan, the prolific John Clark as well as the talented inside forward James Brannick who sadly wouldn’t return from the frontline. It is difficult to comprehend today what it would be like managing a dressing room or any workplace where young men would announce with no notice they would be leaving immediately to fight in a war and then weeks or months later you receive a telegram informing of their death.

That is the reality of what Cochrane juggled in his first few years at the club and even during a period where the expectation was that death should be shrugged off; Cochrane had to maintain morale in a dressing room where young men were coping with the passing of not only teammates but also brothers, uncles and friends as the slaughter in Europe continued unabated for four dreadful years.

The goalkeeping issue with O’Hagan away in Greece fighting was made plain to Cochrane in his first match in charge when Saints were trounced 5-1 at home to Celtic on the opening day of the 1916/17 season, but this was to prove no more than a blip as Saints finished seventh out of twenty top flight clubs in Cochrane’s maiden season, a position that would have better had Saints won any of their last seven matches.

Cochrane would guide his team to 11th and 10th in the next couple of seasons as the conflict in Europe finally ended, and with the Scottish Cup postponed during the war years the 1919 Victory Cup presented the senior clubs in Scotland their first chance of grabbing a national cup trophy since the 1914 Scottish Cup final.

This would see the competition start and finish between the 1st of March and 26th April 1919 as all five rounds were scheduled during this period, and helped by the return of Willie O’Hagan from the war effort, Saints progressed through the first round at the second attempt, a 1-0 win at Boghead courtesy of a Frank Hodges goal, a player still officially ‘guesting’ from Birmingham City as he hadn’t yet been demobilised and was stationed in Scotland.

Clyde were then defeated 3-2 at Love Street 10 days later thanks to winger Jamie Thomson and a double from John Clark; the centre forward returning to Saints only a few days beforehand  after being top scorer in the 1914/15 season and guesting for clubs in Ireland as he was stationed here during the uprising. These were the first of eight Clark would score in as many matches in the remainder of the season, and was a player hugely missed by the club.

Clark and O’Hagan played massive parts in the cup run, but the star of the tournament was Jamie Thomson, signed by Cochrane from Manchester United in 1918 and would spend almost the entirety of Cochrane’s Saints career beside him, and the winger was the deciding factor in both the quarter final win over Celtic and the semi-final one over Hibernian, before Saints thrashed Hearts 3-0 in the final to land what in every sense is a major honour, but the official record books say otherwise.

With the influential Jock Marshall sold to Middlesbrough soon after, Cochrane then had to be content with twelfth place from twenty two clubs the following season, but with Love Street being revamped this one of many sales to fund this project that hit the playing squad hard and 1920/21 saw Saints finish bottom of the pile again in the first division and only spared relegation for a third time in ten years by a league vote.

The board acted however to this catastrophe, and late in that season the Saints manager bought Dunky Walker from second bottom Dumbarton for a club record fee of £1,100 in what would prove one of the finest signings in Saints history (see the Dunky Walker section). The goals of Walker were the catalyst for nine straight seasons of Saints finishing in the top half of the table, with seven of them coming under Cochrane.

Recruitment seemed to be where Cochrane excelled as manager of Saints. When Walker was sold to Nottingham Forest in 1923, Cochrane signed Davie McCrae from obscurity to replace him, who went on to score 251 goals for Saints. With Willie O’Hagan falling out with the club in 1921, Cochrane replaced him with the forgotten but supremely talented Jock Bradford, a masterstroke in the same mould as Jock Stein taking the veteran keeper Ronnie Simpson to Celtic some forty years later.

Alan Gebbie, Andrew Findlay, Willie McDonald, Bobby Rankin and Jimmy Howieson would also all sign for Saints under Cochrane, who despite being an administrator had a quite uncanny eye for a footballer, in particular a goal scorer but the key to his success was longevity both from himself in the management position and within the team, where a number of players stayed at the club for close to a decade forming tremendous fighting spirit within the dressing room.

This was typified during the 1925/26 season when Cochrane led Saints to their first official major honour when the Scottish Cup was won, defeating Rangers in the semi-final and Celtic in the final. In addition to this Saints had beaten Airdrie in the quarter final, which may seem like no great achievement now, but the Diamonds had been league runners up for three successive seasons in the lead up to this season and again would finish up in second place in May 1926. They were without doubt one of the finest teams of the time, and Cochrane had negotiated past the best three sides in the country on route to glory.

Non-league Mid Annan, Arbroath (after a replay) and Partick Thistle had also been defeated on progress to this historic moment, and during a period where Cochrane’s ability to spot great attacking players is well documented, the team only conceded one goal in their seven Scottish Cups tie that season. Tactically, Cochrane had the ability many ‘proper football’ men could only dream of.

The foundation for the cup win was laid in the years leading up to this by Cochrane, with the team finishing sixth for three consecutive seasons and leading the division until Christmas 1925 that season, but ultimately settling for fourth place. The eleven players starting in the cup final were all signed by the manager and they peaked this memorable season, probably the greatest individual campaign in the history of the club.

The club had such a strong reputation back then that legendary Welsh international Billy Meredith, who was considered the first superstar of football, invited Saints to play Wales in his benefit match at Anfield in late 1925, an incredible honour for the club and proof that the more recent inclination of almost everyone in the media ignoring clubs in Scotland outside a select few is not how it was done in the previous one hundred years.

Saints were chosen for this match due to their outstanding form that season, but also as their 1922 Barcelona Cup triumph at the Les Cortes had enhanced the reputation of the club significantly, with the Spanish tour finely planned and executed by Cochrane who realised the benefit of spreading the name of the club beyond Scotland. Only the late 1970’s and 1980’s come close to this level of on-field success, and this was started by another football pioneer, Alex Ferguson.

Saints would finish tenth and fifth in the next two seasons, but perhaps believing his great side had peaked, Cochrane left Saints on the 5th May 1928 for Sunderland where he stabilised the almost perennially relegation threatened Wearsiders before winning the league in 1935/36, and adding the FA Cup and Charity Shield in 1937. He remains a legend in Sunderland, and like Saints is considered their greatest ever manager.

After eleven years in charge, Cochrane stepped down from his Sunderland post on the 31st March 1939 and but for a brief 13 day spell at Reading a few months later retired from football as World War II broke out, but John Cochrane had bridged the gap between both wars by becoming a history maker in both Scotland and England, securing immortality at two clubs in the process.

Donald Greenlees

First Spell

Signed: May 1897

Departed: April 1899 to Southampton

Appearances: 42

Goals: 2

Second Spell

Signed: May 1900 from Southampton

Departed: May 1907 to Greenock Morton

Appearances: 177

Goals 5

Total Appearances: 219

Total Goals: 7

  • Over 200 appearances for the club
  • 10 years’ service at Saints
  • Benefit match awarded by the board
  • Capped by the Scottish League

Donald Greenlees was born on the 14th January 1875 in the Glasgow area of Bridgeton, but around the time Saints were formed in 1877 his parents Joseph and Agnes returned to Renfrewshire where they were born and settled in Kilbarchan, the place of his mother’s birth.

Young Donald was the middle of five children who lived in the family home at 13 Barholm in the village and his parents both worked in the prolific weaving industry of Renfrewshire before his father Joseph changed occupation to employment at the local Paper Mill where eventually Donald and his brothers John and James had also found work by 1891.

The family home in Kilbarchan

Professional football was a still a couple of years away in Scotland and even turning full-time still decades from being the normal practice, therefore players during this period generally played for the love of the game, or when professionalism became accepted, they would do it for a few shillings and continue their day job. Young Donald was no different and when he signed for St Mirren in the late spring of 1897 (the start of what would be a ten-year association with Saints only broken by two years in English football) he continued to work at the local mill in Johnstone.

Initially Greenlees had played for Kilbarchan FC and Saints had been chasing the right sided half back since late 1896 according to The Referee newspaper. After singing for Saints in May 1897, Greenlees played in all forty-two St Mirren matches over the next few seasons scoring twice before he accepted a move to Southampton in controversial circumstances in April 1899.

The Kilbarchan boy had agreed extremely good terms with the southern English club of £5 per week and a £45 signing on fee which equates to around £700 every Friday and a £6,000 lump sum today, with his wage more than double the average weekly income in Scotland at the time, although this national average was based on working seven days per week, which of course young Donald wouldn’t have to do as he was now a full time footballer.

However, probably keen to agree the fantastic deal on offer, young Donald had failed to tell the Saints board of this move who were only informed via telegram by the English FA who stated one of their best players was no longer eligible to play for the club, and Saints board therefore took the case to the SFA.

In the hearing that followed, Saints were the clear winners with the English FA heavily criticised for their handling of the matter. Despite accepting the legitimacy of the transfer, St Mirren insisted that Greenlees play in the Renfrewshire Cup for the club and young Donald duly did so before boarding the train for England, however he had also received a two month ban from football at the hearing for swearing at the referee during a match with Port Glasgow Athletic in early 1899, so his Southampton career stalled somewhat at the beginning.

The wing half only played for one season at Southampton but met his wife Ethel during this period who was the daughter of a local merchant and the couple relocated to Scotland in 1900 when Donald signed once more for Saints, aged twenty-five. For the next seven seasons, Greenlees formed the backbone of the side firstly along with Andy Bennie but more long-term beside Michael McAvoy. Greenlees would also drop to defence on occasion and formed a solid partnership with club captain Thomas Jackson.

The half back was a fearless warrior on the park for Saints and on a couple of occasions suffered serious injury, both against Celtic when firstly he collapsed in the dressing room at half time during a match in 1903 after what can only be assumed was a head clash, but still managed to reappear in the second period to complete the match. Unthinkable now of course, but a common occurrence in football until late in the twentieth century before concussions became a more serious matter for player safety.

On another occasion in 1905 at Parkhead, Greenlees received a nasty thigh injury and was in some distress leaving the field, so much so it was widely reported the following day and much concern was evident regarding the wellbeing of Greenlees. This injury wouldn’t be a serious issue now but with the death of James Dunlop still relatively fresh in the mind back in 1905 only thirteen years later, the worry was understandable.

In the aftermath, the press seemed to write off Greenlees returning to football completely such was the severity of his wound, although any threat to life had now passed. Greenlees defied the doom merchants by returning to the first team within a few months however and for the next four seasons remained at the right or centre of Saints half back line.

Long before this point in his Saints career, Greenlees had been capped for the Scottish League against Ireland on the 27th February 1904 and received a testimonial from the club in a game against Rangers in 1907. Finding praise of the Saints man in the press is relatively easy, and his influence on the side unmistakable in the opinion of journalists who believed his mere presence on the football park was enough to make Saints a much better side.

It was reported in 1903 by the Scottish Referee that Greenlees was the best half back in Scotland along with John Cross of Third Lanark, and they should be capped almost immediately such was their ability. In particular, the Saints man was singled out for working like a “demon” on the park, and the “artistry” of his play which was considered a weakness by the journalist during a period where it was believed only forwards should be displaying skill, so Greenwood appears to have been a more modern thinking player. Both players however appeared the following year for the Scottish League XI and Cross received a full cap a year later, but it seems gaining international recognition while wearing the black and white was as difficult back then as it is now and Greenlees finished his career uncapped by the SFA.

In 1909, Greenlees left Saints for Morton aged thirty-four years of age after appearing in a total of 261 matches for the club scoring nine times. It can’t be stated enough however that the number of matches played during this period was nowhere near the level of today, and this level of consistency would have led to around between 400 and 500 in the modern game.

The following year Greenlees returned with his wife and young son, Donald junior, to Southampton where they settled in the village of Shirley on the outskirts of the city, an area which would be later consumed by the rapidly expanding port city. Donald worked in the docks during this period and played for Eastleigh FC to supplement his income, but when world war one broke out in 1914, Donald signed up almost immediately and joined the Royal Marine Labour Corps who combined fighting and labour (digging trenches and building structures etc) in the so called  ‘Theatres of War’ in Europe.

The former Saints man was initially a Private but promoted to Sergeant within a few years and his regiment formed part of the 63rd Royal Navy Division, who fought in many of the large battles of the war including Gallipoli, Passchendaele and the Hundred Days Offensive. Incredibly Donald survived it all and served in his Division between 1914 and 1920. His football field bravery was clearly transferrable to the battlefield.

Donald lived a long life after the war, and died in 1955 aged eighty in Leigh, Lancashire, many hundred miles from Paisley and Kilbarchan but with his indelible mark on St Mirren already made.

Tom Jackson


Signed: May 1896 from Thornliebank
Departed: August 1909 to Johnstone
Appearances: 240
Goals: 4

• 6 caps for Scotland
• 3 caps for the Scottish League
• Over 200 appearances for the club
• Club captain
• Only Saints player to captain Scotland
• 1908 Scottish Cup Runner Up
• 13 years at the club
• Fought in WW1

Thomas Jackson, or Tommy as he was known by the Saints support, was born in 1878 the year after Saints were formed, and after spending more than thirteen years at the club which included six caps for Scotland (a record that stood for more than 70 years) as well as being the only Saints player to ever captain the national team, the right back has a valid claim to be the greatest ever Saints player.

The defender originally hailed from Thornliebank, back then a village that was part of Renfrewshire before county boundaries were moved, and played for his local side named simply after the village, before Saints spotted Jackson’s obvious talent and in the summer of 1896, some eight years before the clubs first ever manager John McCartney was appointed, the club committee persuaded the full back to sign terms with the Paisley side who were of course founder members of the Scottish League with a strong reputation.

Jackson made his debut for Saints on the 15th August 1896 at Ibrox on the opening day of the 1896/97 season, his first of two hundred and forty appearances for the club, but it would get much better for the young defender than the 5-1 defeat that occurred on a miserable afternoon for the Saints support.

Very quickly the press picked up on the quality of Jackson’s play, and his ability to defend without using “great force” suggesting it was his reading of the game that excelled more than any other attribute. Without much hassle, the young full back established himself as a first team regular and one of the most admired players in the country.

By 1902, Jackson had been in such fine form for so many seasons it almost became inevitable he would be capped by Scotland at some level, and the Scottish League were first to select the reliable Saints man by awarding him a cap against the League of Ireland in February of that year. Two years later, the SFA replicated this by selecting the full back for the home internationals in spring 1904, and against Wales at Dens Park on the 12th March that year, Jackson made his full Scotland debut in front of 12,000 supporters during a 1-1 draw, meaning St Mirren had another internationalist on their books, the ninth since 1890.

A fortnight later Jackson travelled with the rest of the Scotland squad to Dublin and appeared once more during another 1-1 draw, this time against Ireland who were of course a unified country back then under British rule. As was the case for over a century though, it was the annual clash with the Auld Enemy that was the pinnacle of the season, and playing against England was as big an honour a Scottish player could get until the national team started taking the Word Cup seriously in the 1970’s.

After appearing for the Scottish League against their English counterparts on the 4th April 1904, five days later Jackson retained his place in the Scotland full side to face England at Parkhead in front of 45,000 spectators, becoming the second of only seven Saints players to do so, following in the footsteps of John Patrick in 1897, with Ian Munro being the last in 1980. Unfortunately, Scotland lost 1-0, but Jackson’s would build further on these three Scotland caps over the next few seasons and could be comforted by the fact it was reported in the press that he was the best defender on show for either side that day.

To celebrate becoming a regular in the Scotland staring XI, Jackson then scored his first ever career goal after eight seasons at Saints later in 1904 when he notched the final strike in a fine 3-0 victory over Rangers at Love Street on the 12th of November, the first of only four he would score in his time at Paisley.

As the Home Championship beckoned again in spring of 1905, Jackson was delighted to be named once more in the national squad, and on the 6th March Scotland travelled to Wrexham for their first fixture in the tournament that year with Jackson making history by being selected as captain, the first and only time this honour has bestowed a St Mirren player, but the Scots lost 3-1 to the Welsh in front of 6,000 spectators.

Unfortunately, Jackson was overlooked for the next two matches against Ireland and England on this occasion in 1905, but he made his third and final appearance for the Scottish League select against the English on the 11th March that year, and this undoubtedly showed the quality of Jackson as Saints had a pretty miserable season finishing tenth of the fourteen club competing in the top division that campaign.

It would be 1907 before Jackson was selected for Scotland again, and the Saints man gained his fifth cap against Wales on the 4th March again in Wrexham, but Scotland lost 1-0 in front of just under 8,000 spectators. Twelve days later, Jackson made his sixth and final appearance for Scotland during a 3-0 win over Ireland at Parkhead, where 26,000 cheered on the Scots.

These six appearances for Scotland by Thomas Jackson was a record for the club until the 24th of May 1980, when Munro gained his seventh and final international cap in that match mentioned above against England. The season after Jackson’s Scotland career ended with Hampden rebuilt, international matches started being played regularly here with crowds immediately surpassing the 100,000 mark, unfortunately Jackson missed this, but his six caps gained during a period where only three international matches were played every calendar year and only two defenders were used is extremely impressive none the less.

1908 also witnessed Saints reaching their first ever Scottish Cup final, following three semi-final defeats in the previous nine seasons. It wasn’t to be a great occasion for the Paisley side or their supporters though and they were thrashed by Celtic 5-1, but despite this Jackson was the only outfield Saints player to receive any praise from the written press in the aftermath, indeed it was reported the score could have been a lot worse had it been not been for the defender and Saints ‘keeper Jimmy Grant.

This would be the penultimate season of Jackson’s St Mirren career, and on the 21st December 1907, he scored the final of his four goals for the club during a 5-2 defeat against Falkirk in a season where perhaps with his considerable powers diminishing, Saints had a wretched season defensively conceding sixty eight times in all competitions despite finishing a respectable seventh of the eighteen clubs.

The 1908/09 season would be the final one of Thomas Jackson’s St Mirren career, and the team again finished seventh in the division, with the defender playing the last of his two hundred and forty appearances for the club on the 24th April 1909 at Clune Park, home of then top-flight Post Glasgow Athletic. On the eve of the following season, thirty-year-old Jackson signed for Johnstone, then a club in the professional ranks and his time at St Mirren was over, a spell crossing three decades and two different centuries.

Jackson had throughout his football career continued to work as a legal clerk which he carried on doing so and remained at the family home after retiring from the game in 1911, where he lived with his widowed Mother, Isabella, and his five sisters. In 1914 when the first World War broke out, Jackson enlisted with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and as part of the 11th Battalion landed at Boulogne-Sur-Mer with the 45th Brigade in the 15th (Scottish) Division during July 1915 for service on the Western Front.

Private Jackson successfully fought in and survived the Battle of Loos between 25th September and 8th October 1915; this was the first-time poisonous gas was used on a battlefield by the Allies and was the biggest attack on the Germans during all of 1915. Despite this, British and French losses were more than double that of Germany who claimed victory. 85,000 died on both sides during the battle but this staggering level of death was nothing compared to what would come next, however.

In the summer of 1916, Jackson’s Battalion then lined up in the bloodiest battle in human history when he was one of three million men who took part in the Somme Offensive, more commonly known as the Battle of the Somme. Incredibly, one million people would be injured or killed during the four months of battle, with soldiers having a one in three chance of not surviving or being wounded significantly enough to have life changing injuries.

A few weeks before this battle ended, sadly Thomas Jackson lost his life on the treacherous mud fields of The Somme on October 20th, 1916. The former Saints hero was one month short of his thirty ninth birthday and had never married. The devastating death toll the following month at the end of this one battle is now estimated to be 1.2 million men and resulted in Britain and France gaining just six miles into German occupied territory.

Daily Record announcing the death of Jackson, 21/10/1916

The following day Saints played out a 0-0 draw with Raith Rovers as the Scottish League continued as though nothing was happening on mainland Europe, and the players wore black arm bands in respect of Private Thomas Jackson, the former Saints and Scotland captain who was the most capped and significant footballer from this country to lose his life during World War I. The Sunday papers the next day described Jackson as the greatest defender ever to pull on St Mirren colours, and over a century later that still might be the case.

Thomas Jackson’s remains are buried in France with his fellow fallen soldiers and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Monument, based not far from where the Somme Offensive took place.

Thiepval Memorial, The Somme