Monday, 29 November 2010

Falkirk FC - 100 Club - John Simpson

John Simpson is quite simply the best player that ever played for Falkirk Football Club. Now that is a big statement to make given the calibre of players who have donned the Falkirk dark blue over the years, even though I never saw him play [obviously]. John, or Jock, Simpson comes from a footballing family, his uncle Harry had turned out for Grahamston, East Stirlingshire on the left wing and represented Stirlingshire several times, his cousin also John played for Stenhousemuir, and John's son Peter played for King's Park and St Johnstone. But other sport was also in the family as Harry's Grandson was Bobby Simpson Australia's Test Cricket Captain.

The Simpson family hailed from the Grahamston area of Falkirk, but upon Jock's father [also John] coming of age he moved his new family to Laurieston, but as he worked in an iron works he was always liable to move due of his work, and so in the mid 1880s the family moved down to Pendleton, in Lancashire. A move that was to blight Jock's football career later on as this was also the place of his birth.

Within months the family had returned back over the border to remain in Laurieston, and John to grow up like any bairn. After school, Jock started showing up in the junior columns of the local papers, an exiting young outside right first for Grange Rovers, then for his village side Laurieston Villa. Interest in Jock was growing and although playing a trial for Rangers he was snapped up by Falkirk in early 1905, and turned out for the first eleven in some of the minor competitions that were prevalent at the time.

The following season he burst into the league team and simply never looked back, he was soon regarded as the best winger in Scotland, if not the whole UK, and this is where his place of birth caused a problem. Back when the SFA had only in recent years decided to select Scots who were playing in England, they were still sticking to qualification based upon place of birth [no matter the lineage], and the English FA simply would not countainance selecting a player from a league other than the English, meaning several years of international exclusion. Finally his performances on the field caused one authority to relent and Jock was finally selected to represent the Scottish League against the Southern League in 1910, and it seems his performance did not go unnoticed as he was soon afterwards selected to play for the Stripes against the Whites in an England International trial. Within days of that match huge offers were flooding in from English clubs and before he had a chance to turn out for Falkirk again the club had accepted an offer from Blackburn Rovers of a reported £1850 [plus James Robertson], a record fee for a Scottish Club, and Jock was off to play in England.

During the First World War restrictions on travel meant Jock was to turn out for Falkirk again, but by this time, the treatment meated out to everybody with a bit of pace and skill had taken their toll, his ankles had taken a severe kicking, not just whilst in England it had been a part of his treatment during his first spell at Falkirk. But that touch in front of goal had gone and Jock stuck to the wing as a supplier of chances, only thirteen goals coming in his second spell even though he was a first team regular. After an attempt to resurrect his top-flight career at Blackburn just after the war, Jock gave up the ghost and promptly retired from professional football. Jock returned to Falkirk to run the Horseshoe Inn on Falkirk High Street. He never gave up on football though, and when he got the chance would play for Falkirk Amateurs, winning the Scottish Amateur Cup with them. John turned out for Falkirk one last time in a benefit match against old adversaries East Stirlingshire in 1922, before ending his career with Falkirk Orient in the Falkirk Wednesday League [played on Wednesday afternoons for shopworkers], though little can be said of his career at the Orient as the matches had next to no coverage. Jock remained popular in Falkirk for the rest of his life, living, as he did, in Orchard Street until his demise in 1959. John is interred in Falkirk Cemetary, and although it is a family decision I feel it a shame that it does not mention his Footballing career anywhere on the stone [but I would think that...]


Lea = Scottish League Division 1 & Scottish League [WWI]
SCu = Scottish Cup
Min = Minor Competitions [East of Scotland League, north-Eastern Cup, Dunedin Cup, Dewar shield]
Loc = Local Competitions [Stirlingshire Cup, Stirlingshire Consolation Cup, Falkirk Infirmary Shield]
Oth = Other Matches [Friendlies, Benefits, etc]
Representative Honours – Scottish League v Southern League 1910/11
Club Honours – Scottish League Division 1 RU 1907/08, 1909/10, East of Scotland League W 1904/05, Dewar Shield W 1905/06, Stirlingshire Cup W 1905/06, Stirlingshire Consolation Cup W 1904/05, 1906/07, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1904/05, 1905/06, 1906/07, 1907/08, 1908/09, 1916/17
Falkirk FC Leading League Goalscorer 1906/07 [23], 1907/08 [32], 1909/10 [24]
Leading Goalscorer in European League Competitions for 1907/08
Hat-Tricks – 6 [Division 1 [4] Dewar Shield [1] Other [1]]


  1. Two questions I have for you :

    1) In your option just what made Jock Simpson stand out as the the "greatest ever " FFC player ? Was it he undoubted talent you have described above or was it that years later were those in the know still holding him up as the "number one " bairn of all-time ?

    2) I'm really interested in the Pendleton connection. As you know I dabble a bit in the victorian Falkirk district football research and this specific place came up recently whilst researching another club. Camelon FC, when their goalkeeper left home to move to Pendleton and then played with Pendleton Olympic in the mid 1880s. There are other mentions in the Falkirk Herald from the mid to late 1880s of a community of exiles from the Falkirk area living in the Manchester area and even footballer players were going there for visits on their holidays ! Do you have any clues as to why Pendleton (apart from that there was work there) ?


    Canal Bank XI

    ps love the blogs ! ... and I was at an Alex Jack Cup Final a no. of years ago at Whitehill Welfare's ground on a very wet Sunday afternoon. I can't remember much else about the game though.

  2. Quite clearly there was a link between Pendleton & Falkirk in the 1880s, as to the specifics I can't nail it down exactly. I presume that one of the many foundries in the Falkirk area was owned by a firm which also owned a foundry in Pendleton. The first thing that pointed me toward thinking this was a match report of an inter-foundry match from around Manchester carried in the Falkirk Herald, this it seemed to me so out of place until I noticed that one of the players was a certain K.McKenzie, recalling to me Kenneth the former East Stirlingshire back, a moulder from Bainsford [I'll have to dig it out and send it to you, remind me].

    Jock Simpson's Dad & Grandfather worked in foundries and were from the Grahamston part of Falkirk [at one time rich in foundries], the Camelon goalkeeper confuses matters slightly, I may over-simplifying things but there was simply no huge social, nor geographic, mobility at the time, people either worked locally, or moved to their place of work and there were at least two [maybe three foundries in Camelon alone], but there are always exceptions [for example 3 or 4 of his brothers worked at the Camelon foundry yet he found work in Grahamston/Bainsford and it made sheer economic sense to live with his family in Camelon, and walk the extra mile or two per day than pay for extra lodgings, but this is only an idea].

    As you well know East Stirlingshire were heavily reliant on foundry workers throughout their early years, and forgiving lack of available line ups, players often came and went, only to return again, with no reason given for the absence. Perhaps there is a s**tload of information waiting to be plundered in and around Pendleton. One huge flaw being the dates of the relevant censuses, these being 1881 and 1891, just either side of the period needing researched, but there are always more local records and [hope against hope] several local newspapers with all manner of nuggets of information. But another thing that we have to keep in mind is that certain former East Stirlingshire/Falkirk/Grahamston/Camelon/etc players may have remained in the area longer than others, in fact they may have settled there, so this is another place to look for Births/Deaths/Marriage notices, it is certainly not without the bounds of logic that some may have married down there and returned with their brides to Bainsford, with more luck there still exist the employee records of the foundry [or foundries] in question.

  3. On Jock simpson, apart from the simple fact that he is still Falkirk FC's highest goalscorer in the top level of Scottish Football, he was the highest payed player in Scottish Football when he left [he left to further his career not for riches, he would have taken a pay cut to go to Blackburn, as the salary cap was in effect in England at the time, not in Scotland, possibly making him the world's highest earning player at the time [unproveable I know...], simple fact is that for a club like Falkirk [and many others in Scotland] who rarely are noticed by selectors until their players move, Simpson made two Associations go against their stated principles by sheer force of his being better than anyone else in his position [some contemporary sources say he was better than Billy Meredith]. He made the high and mighty Football Association relent in their arrogance to select him [albeit for a trial, and he played in the next international [though, by then a Blackburn Rover]], this was the only the second time that the FA selected a player playing regularly in Scotland, the other being the often overlooked selection [also in a trial match] of Henry Hammond the regular centre-half of East Stirlingshire [though he is listed by England as "Oxford U & Corinthians", a blatant lie as he was teaching at Blairlodge School, Polmont, during the week and playing for ESFC on the Saturday that season, with occasional appearances for Queen's Park & Corinthians in friendlies] until 50 years later when Hibernian's Joe Baker played for England in 1960.

    In total I think his achievements stand above and beyond all comers, all this in effectively a five year career, [he was but a shadow of himself when he returned]; Kenny Dawson may have scored more than double his goal tally, but over a longer career; Evelyn morrison scored at a far better better rate, but he was a centre-forward and never played long enough to challenge Jock. The only other person that might rival him would be Jock Drummond, but the simple fact is that with Falkirk he often had to be played out of position to cover for injuries, others' shortcomings etc, and he was never allowed to settle into his natural position and dominate his opponents.

    1. Thank you very much for this information on my grandfather. I knew and loved him as a child but the family sadly didn't pass on much information about his past, beyond his successes as a football player. My sister and I still have his international caps and his English League medal from the 1911/12 season. I'm trying to find out more about Jocky's family and I'm grateful for your information. It seems the males in the family were foundry men. Do you know anymore about them? At any rate thank you for this valuable information.
      Best wishes
      Ian Simpson

    2. Sorry for taking so long in replying, I had not checked in a while.

      Here is the 1881 census entry for the Simpson family.

      Campfield St is just off Falkirk's Grahams Road.

      The John [15] is Jock's father [already a moulder in his teens], whilst Harry [12] went on to play for Grahamson & East Stirlingshire.

      There were some article's in the Falkirk Herald when Bobby Simpson [Grandson? of Harry] was made the australian cricket captain which may shed more light [I would phone Falkirk Library for a bit of help instead of trying it yourself]

      There were too many foundries around Falkirk [and too few records left] to work out which foundry they worked in [if the same one], but if you google the relevant terms there seems to be some stuff to go on. However, I wan you, when I did it I got to see my ugly mug :(


    3. It looks like your great-grandfather probably worked in the Scotia Foundry, as that was the foundry linked with Pendleton.

  4. Hi John, I see you have recently edited the Wikipedia article on Jock Simpson. Are you aware that a number of Irish books/sources refer to a John, Jack or Jock Simpson playing for Shelbourne in the League of Ireland during the mid 1920s. I believe this maybe the same player although this would contradict some of the info you have posted. While researching my book ''Ireland’s First Real World Cup -The Story of the 1924 Ireland Olympic Football Team'', I came across this Simpson on several occasions. He had a fairly eventful career with Shelbourne. In 1924 in played for an FAI XI against Celtic in an Olympic fundraiser . The same year he also played for a Shelbourne XI against the Ireland Olympic team. He is also listed as Shelbourne’s top goalscorer in the [[1925-26 League of Ireland]]. There is a British Pathe film clip of the FAI XI available online. David Needham

  5. Interesting, however I have nothing to link the two players, nothing was mentioned in the local press or in either of the two John Simpson obituaries I have of him mention Jock spending time in Ireland, this does not mean it never happened, but I am not sure, he had suffered rough treatment in England, and allegedly his ankles were pretty rough, I will have to look into it. But thanks for this, David.

  6. Cheers John, I;ll do some further research myself and will get back to you hopefully quicker David