John Thomson

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:32 pm on 8th December 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Michael McMahon Michael McMahon Labour 5:32 pm, 8th December 2005

I should possibly declare an interest as a member of the Carfin (1948) Celtic supporters club. I had not originally intended to speak in the debate, but I said that I would support Helen Eadie today, as I supported her motion when she lodged it some time ago. I have something else that I have to go to this evening, but the more I heard people talking about John Thomson, the more I felt I had to make a contribution.

At the weekend, as we watched the burial of a legend of football, George Best, I was thinking how appropriate it was that in the same week we would have a debate on the death of a genuine Scottish legend, John Thomson. As I was sitting with my children, talking about the images that we were seeing on the television, with tens of thousands of people lining the streets of Belfast to honour George Best, I, like Helen Eadie, recalled how, at a time when transport, the media and people's financial resources were not as they are now, 30,000 football supporters still made the journey to the graveside in Cardenden to pay tribute to a man whom they had watched in their day.

As a Celtic-minded person, I was raised in that tradition. I remember learning at my father's knee about John Thomson, and my father had had the story passed on to him by his father. I visited John Thomson's grave. I felt that, as a Celtic supporter, it was my honour and privilege to do so. Indeed, I encouraged my own children to do the same and they have done so. I hope that they will pass it on to their children.

We have to keep alive the memory of legends such as George Best and John Thomson, because they are what football is all about. We got the good and the bad with George Best; all I ever heard about was the good of John Thomson. As a Celtic-minded person, I find it easy to discuss with my friends and fellow supporters traditions, history and people such as John Thomson, but it is unfortunate that outside that Celtic family too few people know about John Thomson. That has to be rectified because he was a giant of the game just as George Best was.

For that reason, I had no hesitation in supporting Helen Eadie's motion. It is good that she has brought the matter to the Parliament's attention. If we can get more people to learn about John Thomson, all the baggage that comes with Scottish football might start to dissipate and we might start to make progress in tackling sectarianism and taking that aspect out of Scottish football. We should do that in his honour and in his memory, of which Celtic-minded people are proud.

In honouring John Thomson in the way that Helen Eadie has requested, the SFA would be doing a service not only to Scottish football but to wider Scottish society. We need more people to learn about that remarkable young man.

John Swinburne mentioned the song about the ghost of John Thomson standing in the goals. As a Celtic supporter I often wonder whether that ghost is just too big for Celtic. Celtic is traditionally associated with attacking football—our number 7 is the greatest known to football fans anywhere. However, Celtic has not had a great tradition of goalkeepers. We have had Ronnie Simpson and Pat Bonner and we might have a great goalkeeper in Artur Boruc now. Celtic has not had the number of goalkeepers that it should have had. Perhaps in honouring John Thomson, we will lift the burden from the goalkeepers who have had to fill the gap that he left.

Before I sit down, it would be remiss of me not to take the opportunity to utter the words "hail, hail", because this might be the only time that we have a debate in which I can get away with it.