Triumph and Tragedy in the 1930s plus more Treasured Celtic Artefacts

David Potter’s Celtic Diary today was the inspiration of what comes next, a vivid reminder of one of my favourite Celtic teams.


While the ‘Lisbon Lions’ was the team of my era, it is the Scottish Cup winning Celtic team of 1931 that inspires me the most and for many different reasons.

The Triumph and the Tragedy of that team has great significance to me living on the Fife boundary and with relatives coming from mining communities. Bowhill Colliery numbers one, two and three elicits images of large chimney stacks, old brick buildings and large mechanical wheels, but its the coal Bings that linger the most in your senses.

At Bowhill number one, on 31 October 1931 a large explosion happened and ten men lost their lives, a deadly working environment but with a camaraderie second to none, this was where John Thomson began his young working life, following in his father’s footsteps down the mine. We talk about when “ten men won the League”, but, this was a terrible tragedy when “ten men lost their lives”.

The ‘triumph’ of that 1931 Scottish Cup winning team and the ‘tragedy’ of what followed to John Thomson and later to Peter Scarff lives long in our memories, while we grow old, they will always remain young, idolised for their bravery and talent.

I always try to visit John Thomson’s graveside in Cardenden. Perhaps its because of my Grandfather’s and Grand Uncles mining credentials that when I visit Johns graveside my thoughts travel just a few thousand yards to what remains of Bowhill colliery number one and those brave men who lost their lives in that deadly explosion.

John Thomson’s grave – Bowhill Cemetery, Cardenden, Lochgelly, Fife, KY5 0BH (Memorial ID 17949537)

At the inquiry into that disaster held at Dunfermline Sheriff Court in January 1932 before Sheriff Umpherston and a jury, the Sheriff said this:

“He would be sure that the jury would express their admiration for the courage and promptitude of the overmen and underground firemen in their efforts to reach their comrades, in particular the feat of James Clark (overman) in penetrating as far along the face as he did without a safety lamp appeared to be worthy of the highest traditions. The jury, counsel and agents joined his lordship tribute and a suggestion was made that these acts of heroism should be brought to the notice of the Carnegie Hero Fund Trustees”.

John Thomson’s jersey is on display at Celtic Park, Willie Maley’s Newry unveiling today and my favourite Celtic Glasgow Cup medal, with an enamelled Glasgow crest and shamrock detail won by Alec Thomson are treasured Celtic artefacts, they remind me of Celtic’s glorious unbroken history, but also a reminder of the triumph and the tragedy of those mining heros who lost their lives at Bowhill Colliery number one.

PS  Thank you for The Celtic Star.

Anon Celtic Star Reader

The 1930’s is perhaps the most dramatic of all decades in Celtic’s history, so many highs, tragedies and so many Celtic heroes played for the club at that time. Matt Corr has been working on a history of Celtic in the 1930s over the past two years and this book will be published on Celtic Star Books later this year.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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