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John Thomson


Celtic and Scotland goalkeeper John Thomson was born in Kirkcaldy and grew up in the mining community of Cardenden in Fife. A member of the Church of Christ, a small Protestant evangelical church, he soon discovered football.

On 5 September 1931, Celtic were playing their old rivals Rangers at Ibrox Stadium. Early in the second half Thomson and a Rangers player, Sam English, went for the ball at the same time. Thomson's head collided with English's knee, fracturing his skull. Thomson was taken off the field in a stretcher, most people assumed that he was just badly concussed, but a few people who had seen his injuries suspected worse. One Rangers player who was also a medical student said later that as soon as he saw him he gave little chance for his survival. The rest of the match passed uneventfully and ended in a 0-0 draw. Thomson died in the Victoria Infirmary later that evening. A huge crowd of Celtic supporters attended his funeral in Fife, many of them had even walked from Glasgow.

 His death shocked many people, and there was a well-known song written Johnny Thomson, to the tune of Arbor Hill. English was later totally cleared of any responsibility for the accident. Celtic manager Willie Maley wrote of Thomson: ‘His merit as a goalkeeper shone superbly in his play. Never was there a keeper who caught and held the fastest shots with such grace and ease. In all he did there was the balance and beauty of movement wonderful to watch. Among the great Celts who have passed over, he has an honoured place.’