Legends Of Paradise

John Thompson (Goalkeeper)


Five wins in six games had given Celtic a great start to season 1931-32 and in the sixth of these games, a 6-1 demolition of Hamilton Accies, John Thompson was magnificent. One newspaper ran a regular poll of Scotlands best players and Thompson was the top Celt, consistently getting twice as many votes as the great Jimmy McGrory, so the Celtic fans were worried of rumours linking the 22 year old star with Arsenal.


A week later Celtic were to suffer the greatest tragedy of their history.


There were 75,000 at the first Old Firm meeting of season 1931-32, on the 5th of September, a game littered with heavy bruising tackles from the kick-off. The sectarian based gang warfare that had developed during the Depression was transferred from the streets to the Ibrox terracing.

Little constructive football was played but in the 50th minute a rare scoring chance fell to Rangers' Sam English, who was taking part in his first big match. With no defensive cover in sight he went straight for John Thompson's goal.


John dives at Sam English's feet

The goalkeeper left his line and as English went to shoot, John dived bravely at his feet. John saved a certain goal but paid a terrible price for his bravery.


The pair collide

The Doctors try to revive John

The trainers,doctors and managers of both teams immediately rushed onto the pitch. Certain elements of the notorious Rangers Copland Road end cheered and waved flags at the sight of a stricken opponent, but to his credit, the Rangers captain that day, Davie Meiklejohn immediately realised the severity of the situation and rushed behind the goal and signalled for silence. Sadly, his efforts were in vain.

It was obvious John's injury was serious, blood had been pouring from his head and he was taken from the pitch, his head covered in bandages. Left-half Chic Geatons took over in goal for the remainder of the game.

For the record the game ended Rangers 0 Celtic 0.

In the dressing room, a depressed fracture of the skull was diagnosed and John was rushed to the Victoria Infirmary. His parents were summoned from their home in the village of Cardenden in Fife and arrived at the Victoria shortly before 9pm.

John Thompson died of his injury at 9.25pm .

He was 22 years old.

On the Monday, his coffin left the Victoria Infirmary and returned to his birthplace of Cardenden in Fife. A memorial service was held on the Tuesday in Trinity Church, Claremont Street, Glasgow. Davie Meiklejohn read the lesson. So many people had wished to attend that an overflow service had to be held. On Wednesday 9th September 1931 John Thompson's funeral was held. A special train was packed with mourners and two carriages were set aside for the thousands of floral tributes for those who wished to attend from Glasgow. There was glorious sunshine and over 30,000 people packed both sides of the funeral route six deep.

John Thompson 1907 - 1931

Before Celtic's next match, at home to Queen's Park the following Saturday pipers played a lament, a bugler sounded the last chorus and the band played "Lead Kindly Light". The crowd stood with their heads bowed and no-one uttered a word during the two-minute silence. Across Scotland there were gestures of respect at the other games played that day.

Willie Maley's memorial card said all that needed to be said.

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

The John Thompson Memorial

Songs Of Celtic FC

Sounds Of Celtic FC

The Lost Manuscript Of Brother Walfrid & The Tim Commandments 

The History Of The Huns - Extreme Caution Required

The History Of Celtic Park 1888 - 1999

The Trophy Room

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