And we gave them goalkeeper James McGrory…and Dan McColgan

Another Celtic rite of passage…Frank, Dan and Maura

Part 4: And we gave them goalkeeper James McGrory…and Dan McColgan

Local man Dan McColgan first came to football prominence with the Baillieston Juniors side which won consecutive Scottish Junior League titles in 1923/24 and 1924/25, the Station Park outfit scoring almost 200 goals and losing just two games in the process. Baillieston also reached the Scottish Junior Cup final in April 1924, losing 3-1 to Parkhead at Firhill in a replay following a 1-1 draw.

They had only been established in 1919, drawing comparisons with the St Roch’s side which won the League and Cup Double in its first season at that level a few years earlier, thanks to the goals of a young James Edward McGrory.

That 1922 final had also been played at Firhill and just to complete the set and Celtic connection, the 1925 Junior showpiece would take place at the same venue, future Celtic scout and trainer Jimmy Gribben part of the St Anthony’s side which lost out to Saltcoats Victoria at the third time of asking.

Dan McColgan at Baillieston Juniors

Dan joined Celtic on 30 May 1925, his arrival coinciding with that of an old favourite. Thanks to Jamie Fox who provided this gem from the newspapers of the day, “Two New Celts.”

“Mr Maley announced on Wednesday morning that Tom McInally, the old St. Anthony’s-Celtic centre-forward, who was transferred to Third Lanark, and has been at Cathkin for some seasons, has been re-transferred to the Parkhead club, who, with McGrory, [Willie] Fleming and McInally on their list, are well off for centre-forwards. It is also announced that McColgan, of Baillieston Juniors, an accomplished and much-sought-after centre-half, has signed for Celtic. Peter McSevicke, Shieldmuir’s international custodian, who at one period of the season was said to be bound for Celtic Park, has taken the Pittodrie shilling, and will play for Aberdeen.”

Dan McColgan pulled on the famous Hoops for the first time the following week as part of the team which represented the club in a five-a-side tournament at Hampden, part of the annual Queen’s Park FC Sports Meeting. On the beautiful sunny afternoon of Saturday, 6 June 1925, 10,000 spectators enjoyed watching an elite field of athletes which included ‘Chariots of Fire’ Olympic champion Eric Liddell.

Just eight weeks earlier, on Saturday, 11 April 1925, over 75,000 supporters had packed into the same arena to witness an iconic footballing moment, Patsy Gallacher’s sensational somersault equaliser for Celtic against Dundee in the Scottish Cup final. A trademark Jimmy McGrory header in the final minute then sealed a record 11th Scottish Cup for the club.

Dundee were again the opposition when Dan made his senior debut in a League match at Celtic Park on Saturday, 31 October 1925. The Dens men were flying high after a 2-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox seven days earlier, whilst the Hoops would be without skipper Willie McStay and Adam McLean – both on duty for Scotland against Wales at Ninian Park, Cardiff the same afternoon – plus legendary goalkeeper Charlie Shaw, McStay’s predecessor as captain, who had made his final Celtic appearance in the 5-0 win over Morton at Cappielow the previous week.

Peter Shevlin replaced Shaw against Dundee, whilst Madras-born Harry Callachan received a rare first-team opportunity at full-back as cover for McStay. McLean’s absence involved a reshuffle of half-backs and forwards, with Peter Wilson moving up to inside-right, Jimmy McGrory playing wide on the left flank and Dan McColgan stepping in at centre-half.

The full Celtic team that afternoon was as follows.

Peter Shevlin, Harry Callachan & Hugh Hilley;
Jimmy McStay, Dan McColgan & John ’Jean’ McFarlane;
Paddy Connolly, Peter Wilson, Tommy McInally, Alec Thomson & Jimmy McGrory.

The game ended goalless before 12,000 spectators, Dan racking up a clean sheet on his first-team debut as third-placed Celts lost ground on League leaders St Mirren. Down in Cardiff, Adam McLean marked his international bow with a good performance and Scotland’s second goal in a 3-0 win over a Welsh side who played for most of the game without their captain Fred Keenor, who suffered knee cartilage damage early on. Both Willie McStay and Adam McLean duly returned for Celtic’s trip to Pittodrie the following week, with Harry Callachan and Dan dropping back out.

Dan’s second Celtic appearance was in the 1-0 home League win over struggling Raith Rovers on Saturday, 9 January 1926, the Baillieston man replacing the injured Jimmy McGrory at centre-forward. No pressure then, Dan!

Celtic lined up as follows.

Peter Shevlin, Willie McStay & Hugh Hilley;
Peter Wilson, Jimmy McStay & John ’Jean’ McFarlane;
Paddy Connolly, Alec Thomson, Dan McColgan, Tommy McInally & Adam McLean.

It took a late penalty conversion from Willie McStay – ‘awarded for a simple infringement by one of the Kirkcaldy players’ according to The Glasgow Herald – to give Celts the win which kept them three points clear of Hearts at the top of the table with two games in hand. The Great McGrory was back in his normal position for the following week’s clash with Hibernian at Easter Road, albeit unusually he was not on target in a 4-4 draw.

Dan would play no further part in the first team as Celts ended the season with the League title and Glasgow Charity Cup, the Hoops denied a treble of trophies by St Mirren in the Scottish Cup final. He then went on loan to Second Division Third Lanark on 26 November 1926, scoring 12 goals in 21 League appearances for the Warriors that season as they finished fourth in the table behind champions Bo’ness – featuring the aforementioned Jimmy Gribben – Raith Rovers and Clydebank.

Two of those strikes came in the final eight minutes of Third’s 6-0 defeat of Arbroath at Cathkin on Saturday, 5 February 1927, whilst another secured a point in a 2-2 home draw with Dumbarton in late March. Dan also made one Scottish Cup appearance that season, Thirds beaten 1-0 at Forthbank Park, Stirling on Saturday, 22 January 1927 by fellow Second Division side King’s Park.

Dan McColgan was recalled by new Scottish Cup-holders Celtic to replace the injured Jimmy McGrory once again for the Charity Cup semi-final tie with Rangers, played at Parkhead in front of 27,000 spectators on Saturday, 7 May 1927. He replaced John McMenemy – the son of Napoleon – in the only change from the Scottish Cup-winning line-up of a few weeks earlier. The Hoops team that day was as follows, with a very special young talent now keeping goal.

John Thomson, Willie McStay & Hugh Hilley;
Peter Wilson, Jimmy McStay & John ’Jean’ McFarlane;
Paddy Connolly, Alec Thomson, Dan McColgan, Tommy McInally & Adam McLean.

Rangers fielded their new centre-forward, Bob McPhail from Airdrieonians, and sadly it was he who would come out on top that afternoon with a double in their 4-1 win, Adam McLean with Celtic’s only goal as they relinquished their grip on the old trophy.

Within a few months, Dan McColgan would be turning out for his third senior side, the Celt going on loan to Second Division Ayr United on 26 August 1927. He would have a former Celtic player for company at Somerset Park, the aforementioned centre-forward Willie Fleming having moved there in the summer of 1925 before being converted to a full-back.

Featuring at centre-half, Dan scored one goal in 28 League appearances for the Honest Men as they dominated the Division, finishing a massive nine points clear of his old Third Lanark teammates to clinch promotion, thanks hugely to a 66-goal contribution from Ayr United’s new attacking star Jimmy Smith.

That incredible tally surpassed Jimmy McGrory’s 48 League goals for Celtic that campaign – which included eight against Dunfermline Athletic in one match in January 1928 – and remains a British League record to this day.

McColgan also made two Scottish Cup appearances for the Honest Men that season, featuring in the 2-0 win over First Division Bo’ness at Somerset Park on Saturday, 21 January 1928 then again in the 4-2 defeat to a Patsy Gallacher-inspired Falkirk at the same venue two weeks later, Dan scoring the sixth and final goal of that game.

Just as had happened the previous season, Dan was back in a Celtic shirt for the club’s final match of the campaign, this one a collector’s item as it featured not only a Dan McColgan goal for the club but the great Jimmy McGrory wearing the gloves between the posts for the Hoops – I suspect for the one and only time – whilst another star forward Tommy McInally was at centre-half!

On Monday, 21 May 1928, Willie Maley’s men travelled to Moodiesburn to play a charity match against Stoneyetts Institution – a team I assume made up of employees at the hospital – for the benefit and entertainment of its patients.

This unique Celtic team lined up as follows and included a couple of unfamiliar names in the forward-line in Burke and Parker.

Jimmy McGrory, Dan McColgan & John Donoghue;
Peter Wilson, Tommy McInally & John ’Jean’ McFarlane;
John McMenemy, Burke, Owen McNally, Parker & Denis McCallum.

The teams were tied 3-3 at the interval and by full-time they had shared 10 goals. The hosts were actually leading 5-3 before Dan scored Celtic’s fourth with 10 minutes remaining then Tommy McInally headed the equaliser with the last action of the game. The match report indicates that goalkeeper McGrory ‘was equal to the occasion’ early on, before conceding five goals. Don’t give up the day job, Jimmy!

Dan McColgan was back at Celtic Park for the 1928/29 campaign, proudly posing in the team photograph ahead of that campaign. The players would be blissfully unaware of how poignant that image would become, as the old Pavilion behind them, which had stood since the second Celtic Park was opened the best part of four decades earlier, was destroyed by fire in March 1929. That particular part of the east end skyline would never be quite the same again.

Dan would receive his next first-team opportunity after a shock 3-0 home defeat to St Mirren on Saturday, 22 September 1928 ruined Celtic’s perfect start to the League season. The Bank Holiday Monday, 48 hours later, saw the Hoops make the short trip to Cathkin to face Third Lanark in the Glasgow Cup semi-final.

With Willie McStay and Peter Wilson struggling due to injury, Willie Maley re-introduced Dan McColgan at right-back and handed a debut to a young wing-half who would become a Celtic legend, Chic Geatons. A huge holiday crowd of 34,000 saw the following Celtic team line up.

John Thomson, Dan McColgan & Peter McGonagle;
Chic Geatons, Jimmy McStay & John ’Jean’ McFarlane;
Paddy Connolly, Alec Thomson, Jimmy McGrory, Willie Gray & Denis McCallum.

Celts were 2-0 down and almost out with less than 10 minutes remaining before rallying to produce yet another of their legendary cup comebacks. Paddy Connolly pulled a goal back before Jimmy McGrory was barged down in the box in the dying moments, Willie Gray coolly converting to earn the Hoops a replay the following Tuesday.

Both McStay and Wilson would be fit enough to resume for the League clash with Hamilton Academical at Douglas Park five days later and the 5-1 win over Thirds in the replayed Glasgow Cup tie the following Tuesday. The green-clad Celts would duly go on to retain the trophy again by defeating Queen’s Park 2-0 at Hampden on Saturday, 6 October 1928, Dan having played his part in getting them there.

There is some classic Pathe News footage of that final shown below.

John Thomson and Willie McStay in action against Queen’s Park in the 1928 Glasgow Cup final at Hampden.

Like the match at Stoneyetts six months earlier, Dan’s only other Celtic first-team involvement that season would come in unusual circumstances. He was one of the select group of players who represented the club the following month in the Glasgow Dental Hospital Cup, a one-off competition arranged to raise the funds required to build a new facility in Renfrew Street.

The tournament involved the city’s six senior clubs and was organised on a similar basis to the Glasgow Cup, albeit all of the matches were to be played in midweek.

Celtic were one of four teams involved in the first round of the competition, the Hoops taking on Queen’s Park at Parkhead on Wednesday, 14 November 1928 with the following line-up.

John Thomson, Dan McColgan & Peter McGonagle;
Chic Geatons, Jimmy McStay & John ’Jean’ McFarlane;
Paddy Connolly, Alec Thomson, Owen McNally, Joe Riley & Bob McWilliam.

The margin of Celtic’s 4-0 victory may be slightly misleading, as the Spiders struck the crossbar on three separate occasions. Nevertheless, a double from inside-forward Joe Riley – a Scottish Junior League and Cup double-winner with Maryhill Hibernian in 1928 – the club would be known as Maryhill Harp from 1939 – had the Celts comfortably in command at the break in front of 4,000 spectators.

Owen McNally then replicated Riley’s feat in the second half to send Celtic through to a semi-final clash with Partick Thistle at Hampden later that month, the Jags having previously beaten Third Lanark by a single goal at Firhill.

Thistle would overcome Celtic 3-1 after extra-time in a game ended 10 minutes early due to the lack of daylight, then defeat Rangers 2-0 at Hampden in December to become the only winners of the trophy, which resides to this day at Firhill. A brief overview of the competition and its context can be found HERE.

By the time of that Glasgow Dental Hospital Cup semi-final tie with Thistle though, played on Wednesday, 28 November 1928, Dan McColgan would once again be wearing the colours of Third Lanark, this time as a permanent signing, having made six first-team appearances for Celtic in four separate competitions and playing in three different positions.

Celtic had travelled to face Thirds at Cathkin on League business four days earlier, returning with a 2-0 win despite playing for most of the match without injured talisman Jimmy McGrory. I suspect there may have been some discussions between the directors of both clubs at that game, as this appeared in The Glasgow Herald seven days later, Saturday, 1 December 1928.

“Recently weaknesses have developed in the Cathkin Park middle division, and the management have shown commendable enterprise in trying to remedy them.

Ten days ago, they secured the transfer of Russell Moreland from Hamilton Academical, and during the week they were successful in getting Celtic to release McColgan, who, it may be recalled, was previously loaned to them by the Parkhead club. Last season he assisted Ayr United. McColgan will occupy the centre-half position in today’s side, which has also been revised forward.”

It would appear that the suggestion to bring Dan to Cathkin had been on the table for some months prior to that. I am indebted to Jamie Fox for providing this newspaper clip which logically would have appeared in the spring or summer of 1928.

“A Third Lanark player, who was looked upon as a permanent fixture for the Cathkin club, is Dan McColgan, of Celtic. He was on Third’s list two years ago, and then was lent out by Celtic to Ayr United. This lad, who can play centre forward and centre half with equal facility, is standing out for a fee that neither Celtic nor Third Lanark seem to be prepared to grant, but judging from Mr Maley’s word and that of Mr John Morrison, McColgan will be at Cathkin next season.”

In any case, Dan joined Third Lanark on Tuesday, 27 November 1928 and, as suggested above, made his debut in central defence against second-placed Hearts in a 4-2 defeat at Tynecastle on the opening day of December.

He scored seven times in just 14 League appearances in what remained of that season, whilst adding another goal in his two Scottish Cup ties for the club, all of those following his switch from defence to centre-forward from the turn of the year. That move up front had a disappointing start, a 4-0 defeat by Aberdeen on New Year’s Day, but Dan’s impressive scoring run began with the second-half equaliser 24 hours later, as Third Lanark recovered from a goal down to beat Hibernian 2-1 at Cathkin on Wednesday, 2 January 1929.

Aberdeen v Third Lanark at Pittodrie, January 1929

Dan then ran riot three days later, scoring four in Third’s 5-1 destruction of bottom club Raith Rovers at Cathkin. The Glasgow Herald acknowledged that contribution 48 hours later.

“McColgan, playing at centre-forward, made an inspiring leader and scored four goals.”

At that time Thirds were 11th in the 20-team table, ‘tolerably safe’ as one newspaper quoted.

Dan added a Scottish Cup goal in January, the third for Thirds in a 6-2 hammering of Second Division Clydebank at Cathkin, with David Chalmers also on target for the Bankies. His son Thomas, known as Stevie, would score the most important goal in Celtic’s history in May 1967. St Mirren then ended Warriors’ interest in the competition for another season with a 1-0 win at Cathkin on the first Saturday of February.

McColgan was back on the goal trail seven days later, Saturday, 9 February 1929, his first-half brace giving Thirds a 2-1 interval lead over Kilmarnock at Cathkin. But the Ayrshire side – who would lift the Scottish Cup two months later, having beaten both Celtic then Rangers to do so – hit back with two of their own to take the points in the second half.

Dan McColgan, in the colours of Ayr United

Dan would then miss out – presumably through injury, given his goal return – as Third Lanark suffered four successive League defeats on the road, to Falkirk, Rangers, St Johnstone and Clyde. With only one point gained from a possible 14 since early January, the Cathkin side was now in serious danger of relegation. That position was hardly helped by the 5-0 defeat to St Mirren at Love Street on Saturday 16 March 1929.

Thirds did give themselves ‘a ray of hope’ with a 3-1 win over Cowdenbeath at Cathkin seven days later, Dan’s name again missing from the teamsheet, but that would prove to be the final victory of the campaign.

Next up was a trip to Shawfield on the last Saturday of the month…to face Celtic! The Glasgow Herald of Good Friday, 30 March 1929 explains those circumstances.

“The fire which completely destroyed Celtic’s pavilion necessitates the Parkhead club finding other quarters for the day, and through the kindness of Clyde they will act as hosts to Third Lanark at Shawfield Park.

This may well prove to be one of the most strenuous contests of the afternoon, the winning of the points by Third Lanark being almost essential if they are to retain their position in the First Division.

Not only because of the fact that the Celtic players will have to operate with strange footwear – their own having been destroyed along with the pavilion – Third Lanark can be made out to hold more than an outside chance.”

Thirds were still level going into the closing 15 minutes of the match but then a scoring burst produced four goals, three of them for Celtic thanks to Jimmy McGrory, a Peter McGonagle penalty and an own goal from full-back Andy Jamieson. The visitors’ only response was a spot kick from former Newcastle United cup-winner Neil Harris on an afternoon when both of their main rivals – Ayr United and Dundee – won, to leave Third Lanark on the edge of relegation.

Dan had not been involved against his old club at Shawfield, but he did return to the Third Lanark team 48 hours later, McColgan selected at right-back against third-placed Hearts at Cathkin on Easter Monday, 1 April 1929. At kick-off, Thirds were 19th in the 20-team table but the point gained in a 2-2 draw lifted them above Dundee, albeit the Tayside club had three vital games in hand.

Thirds were inactive over the next fortnight, as first Kilmarnock won the Scottish Cup then Scotland defeated England at nearby Hampden to claim the Home International crown, and the Mount Florida arena would be their next port of call on Saturday, 20 April 1929, to face owners’ Queen’s Park.

This would prove to be the decisive afternoon in the campaign, Dan missing as the Spiders – chasing a record goals tally and highest-ever League finish of fifth – ran riot with an 8-3 victory and would duly achieve both targets. Dundee secured an unlikely point at high-flying Motherwell that day to condemn Thirds to the Second Division, two points behind the Dens Park men with just one game remaining and a vastly inferior goal difference.

Dan McColgan was still absent as Third Lanark completed their League programme the following Saturday with a 5-2 home defeat to Partick Thistle. The Cathkin side finished in second-bottom spot and were relegated together with Raith Rovers. He did feature in the final action of the season, as Thirds took new champions Rangers to extra-time at Firhill before losing their Glasgow Charity Cup semi-final by the odd goal in three.

Dan was not in the Third Lanark team which lost 3-1 to Partick Thistle at Firhill in the first round of the Glasgow Cup on Tuesday, 20 August 1929, and within two months he would be plying his trade across the Irish Sea, commencing a loan with Six-County champions Belfast Celtic on 22 October 1929. Details on his involvement at the Donegall Road Celtic Park are sketchy, but he returned to Cathkin at the end of that campaign, on 29 April 1930

Thirds would reclaim their top-flight place after winning the Second Division title the following season, albeit Dan would perhaps have mixed feelings about that, having spent much of that period on the Open to Transfer list. He did not appear in the line-up as the Warriors opened their First Division campaign with four successive wins, commencing at Douglas Park, Hamilton on Saturday, 8 August 1931, or when Celtic visited Cathkin and shared six goals on Wednesday, 2 September, in a match which would mark the last one completed by the Prince of Goalkeepers, John Thomson. Dan finally left Third Lanark to join second-tier Albion Rovers on 16 September 1931, just 11 days after the tragic death of his former Celtic teammate John.

“They never die who live in the hearts of those they leave behind.”

Right-half Dan McColgan scored two goals in 26 League games as Albion Rovers finished in 16th place in 1931/32, whilst making three Scottish Cup appearances. The first of those cup-ties took place at Marine Gardens, Portobello against First Division Leith Athletic on Saturday, 16 January 1932. Former Celtic and Hibernian legend Jimmy ‘Sniper’ McColl opened the scoring for the hosts after half an hour with Rovers’ left-winger Browning equalising 11 minutes from the end.

Browning added a double as Rovers came from behind in midweek to win 4-2 after extra-time at Cliftonhill, setting up a second-round clash with 1929 winners Kilmarnock, a repeat of the 1920 final. The Scottish Cup run would duly end at Rugby Park on Saturday, 30 January 1932, the hosts scoring either side of the interval to progress by 2-0.

Dan was also involved in a remarkable League match at Gayfield, on Saturday, 9 April 1932, Arbroath leading 6-0 before Albion Rovers replied with four goals in the final 18 minutes. But the end of that campaign would bring the curtain down on his senior footballing career.

Dan McColgan

That would allow Dan to support Celtic whilst meeting the love of his life and bringing up a family. On 8 July 1941, he married schoolteacher Catherine O’Rourke at St Brigid’s RC Church in Baillieston. At that time, Dan, a Crane Slinger in an Engineering Works, was living at 34 Martin Crescent, Baillieston, whilst Catherine resided at 30 Monkland View, Bargeddie. Catherine, you may recall, was the daughter of former Airdrieonians, Bradford City and Scotland centre-forward Frank O’Rourke. English FA Cup-winner Frank passed away in his native Bargeddie on Christmas Eve 1954, just after his 78th birthday.

As an aside, one of the witnesses to the marriage of Dan and Catherine was William Corrins, who lived at 8 Greenshields Road, Baillieston, and who therefore would have been a near neighbour of former Celtic scout and trainer Jimmy Gribben, who had lived at number 17 since the mid 1930s.

Dan and Catherine McColgan would later be blessed by two daughters, Maura and Kathleen. Dan took Maura to Lisbon for the European Cup final in 1967, and she would later follow in her dad’s footsteps by representing the club, in Maura’s case by leading the Stadium Tours team. She recalled that on their trips to Celtic Park as a youngster, they would always sit in the main stand, behind the directors, and that the first time her father took her there he introduced her to Jimmy McGrory. Now that’s a proper Celtic rite of passage, Maura!

A postcard from Lisbon

Whilst with her dad in Lisbon on Thursday, 25 May 1967, the pair took time out to send a postcard to a friend in the USA, before making their way to Celtic Park for the homecoming the following evening.

Sadly, Dan passed away seven years later, on 16 May 1974, shortly after witnessing the first-ever nine-in-a-row in Scotland and yet another Cup Double for his beloved Celtic.

Dedicated to my lovely friend, Maura McColgan

Hail, hail!

Matt Corr

Follow Matt on Twitter/X @Boola_vogue

About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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