Coatbridge 1-0 Airdrie – And who is this man, Jimmy McGrory is smiling at?

The day is 28 March 1931, the place is Hampden Park, and Scotland are about to take on England before 129,810 people. The players are being introduced to Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, the first Labour Prime Minister of Great Britain, and a man from Lossiemouth who made no attempt to pretend that he was not supporting Scotland.

Indeed when the decisive second goal was scored by – well, I will leave you to guess – Ramsay was seen to stand up in the stand and cheer. Scotland’s team was a Home Scots team of Thomson (Celtic), Blair (Clyde) and Nibloe (Kilmarnock); McNab (Dundee), Meiklejohn (Rangers) and Miller (St Mirren); Archibald (Rangers), Stevenson (Motherwell), McGrory, (Celtic) McPhail (Rangers) and Morton (Rangers).

In the picture (from the left) we have Bob McPhail of Rangers scratching his nose and wondering what to make of him, George Stevenson of Motherwell with a look of contempt, captain Davie Meiklejohn of Rangers, polite and decent as always, doing the honours, J Ramsay Mac himself still looked upon in March 1931 as the messiah in so many working class Scottish households (that would soon change, but that is a different story), our own Jimmy McGrory the only man to look 100% happy to see him, Joe Nibloe of Kilmarnock looking as if he as about to pick a political argument with him, Danny Blair of Clyde possibly a bit overwhelmed by it all, and then Alan Morton of Rangers showing outright hostility!

This is hardly surprising for Morton was a mining engineer (not one of the “good guy” miners) and in 1959 Morton’s sister Catherine Morton stood for the Conservatives in Coatbridge and Airdrie in what was little short of a sectarian contest, but fortunately the “good guys” of James Dempsey and Labour won through with a majority of about 1,000. Coatbridge voted one way and Airdrie the other and no prizes for guessing which was which.

The “good guys” of Scotland also won at Hampden 2-0 that day with John Thomson in top form in the Scotland goal, and the two goals were scored by George Stevenson, and as you have by now worked out , our very own James Edward McGrory.

IMAGO / ColorsportFootball – 1928 / 1929 season – English Football League XI 2 Scottish Football League XI 1 Jimmy McGrory pictured for the SFL team before the game at Villa Park 07/11/1928.

Jimmy also scored twice when Scotland won 2-1 in 1933…but history has so far been unable to furnish an explanation as to why he was never chosen to go to Wembley. It was Scotland’s loss for they were beaten at Wembley in 1930, 1932 and 1934 and only earned a draw in 1936. It is hard to believe that the Golden Crust might not have made a difference.

As for J Ramsay MacDonald, he found the unemployment problem hard to solve, and was eventually persuaded (a couple of weeks before John Thomson met his death) to form a National Government with the Conservatives and Liberals. He was never forgiven for such Maurice Johnston behaviour, and died (at sea in the South Atlantic!) in 1937. But he wasn’t always bad, and had played a conspicuous part in opposing the Boer War and the First World War. And he did enjoy 28 March 1931!

Just a shame that John Thomson is not in this photo. John would have been overwhelmed to meet MacDonald. John was brought up in places like Kirkcaldy, Wellesley and Cardenden, and you tend not to vote Conservative there. Trust me!

David Potter

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About Author

I am Celtic author and historian and write for The Celtic Star. I live in Kirkcaldy and have followed Celtic all my life, having seen them first at Dundee in March 1958. I am a retired teacher and my other interests are cricket, drama and the poetry of Robert Burns.

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