John Thomson

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:28 pm on 8th December 2005.

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Photo of John Swinburne John Swinburne SSCUP 5:28 pm, 8th December 2005

I thank Helen Eadie for giving us this opportunity to pay tribute to one of Scotland's outstanding football personalities, John Thomson.

I should declare an interest as I am a director of Motherwell FC, one of the finest exponents of Scottish football.

I remember working in the shipyards with an old chap called Pat McGinley. He worked away quietly—he was a tremendous engineer and fitter—but he was always singing a song of praise to John Thomson. I will not sing it—I will spare members that—but the song went:

"From out a west Fife village,

Of mining stock he came

To play for Glasgow Celtic

And make himself a name."

Everything that I was going to say in this speech has been said, but instead I will describe what happened when, as a good Motherwell supporter, I went to Parkhead in the early 1960s to see two former Motherwell centre-forwards playing in opposition to each other. Joe McBride was playing for Celtic, and Ian St John was playing for Liverpool. I managed to get a ticket for the Celtic end. Neutral fans would generally try to avoid the Celtic end, but I went there because I was desperate to see those two former Motherwell centre-forwards competing at Parkhead in an excellent European game.

We were standing there, packed like sardines, and the fans were singing rebel songs and other songs. A big chap turned round, pointed towards me and said, "He's no singing." I did not know the words to the song. The fans then broke into a song of praise to John Thomson and the words of old Pat McGinley came floating back to me. I could sing them as well as anyone in the crowd and they eased off after that. John Thomson got me out of trouble that day.

Our national stadium contains a hall of fame, which commemorates players and personalities who are deemed to have brought credit to the Scottish football scene. No one has brought more credit to the game than did the unfortunate John Thomson, who died in his prime at the age of 22. It would be remiss of the SFA not to act. The next time that I see David Taylor, I will tell him to get the lad's name in the hall of fame. There are many other players who should also be included in the hall of fame, but there is no one else who contributed quite so much to football or who literally gave their all to the sport.

The hall of fame is a post-war thing. I think that that is the only reason why John Thomson is not already there. That will be rectified by the football authorities. I am positive that we will be able to go proudly to the hall of fame and see John Thomson's name there.

The little ditty from old Pat McGinley ends:

"Come all you Celtic players,

Stand up and play the game.

Between the posts there stands a ghost.

John Thomson is his name."

I thank Helen Eadie once again for securing the debate. It is a pleasure to have contributed a little bit to it.