Jimmy Brownlie, Footballer 1885 -1973

Brownlie, Mr. James (Jnr) – also known as Jimmy, son of James Brownlie (Snr).

Born James Brownlie on 15th May 1885, at McDougal’s Land, Hunthill, High Blantyre. He was the youngest son of James and Agnes Brownlie family of 3 sons and 3 daughters who all loved at that address, with his grandfather William Brownlie.

He attended High Blantyre Primary School on Hunthill Road and it is claimed he learned his goalkeeping skills between the poles of the bike sheds at at he back of the playground. He left there at the age of 14 to become a bricklayer, a trade at which he would continue to work at throughout his long career as a footballer (1902 -1923). By 1900, he may have worked nearby to his home at Aitkenheads yard. He was 5 foot 11 inches in height and weighed 13 stones.

In his teenage years, Jimmy played with the newly reformed Blantyre Victoria Football Club and was a favourite player for many spectators at the time. He was spotted by other larger clubs including Glasgow Celtic and Third Lanark. Celtic invited them to play for him against Peebles Rovers and after an exceptional goalkeeping display, he was offered terms to sign with Celtic. However, when the manager told Jimmy, he would be on the bench as a reserve, rather than first goalkeeper, he famously turned down Celtic and accepted terms with Third Lanark, which back then was a similar large club. It would be Celtic who would regret the decision.

When Jimmy was due to play in a home game at Cathkin Park, he worked until midday, and after a quick change, caught a tramcar to Glasgow. He proceeded to the Horse-Shoe Bar, where he had a half pint of beer and a slice of roasted cheese, the pubs speciality, then caught another tramcar to Mount Florda to join his teammates at Cathkin Park, which was close to Hampden Park Stadium.

Written in Third Lanark’s history, are the words, “The best thing that ever happened to Third Lanark AC, was the arrival of the immortal goalkeeper supreme Jimmy Brownlie, at Cathkin Park in 1906.”

In 17 years unbroken service with Third Lanark, Jimmy remained entirely loyal to his chosen club as first goalkeeper and created some exciting times for spectators who saw him time and time again block opposing shots at his goal.  He amassed a huge collection of honours, 16 International Caps against England, 14 against Ireland. He only conceded 11 goals in all of those matches. He also won International Scottish League awards against England, Ireland and Wales. 1 Glasgow Cup Winners medal, 1908/1909 runner up medals, 2 charity cup runners medals and was selected as Scotland’s most popular player ever in 1912, receiving a silver cup for his efforts. He became known as “The Man with the iron Clutch”. In 1912 he was earning £11 a week, which was a remarkable wage for a player then.

In 1921, Brownlie was included in the Scottish teams tour of USA and Canada. He visited 12 cities and played a total of 19 games in those 2 countries. Played 19. Won 19. For 86. Against 8. The low “Against score” perhaps shows you how accomplished he was in goal.

He lived for a time at the Hoolets Nest, Barnhill. In May 1923, Brownlie was appointed player/manager of Dundee Hibernian, who were renamed Dundee United later that year. He continued to play for a further season, but later made one further appearance in an emergency, at the age of 40 in 1926. His first managerial spell with the club found early success, with the Division Two title in 1925, and again in 1929, but he left the club in April 1931 on the brink of a third promotion. He returned in 1934 with the club at a low ebb, one away from bottom of Division Two, and helped to effect a partial revival before he left again in October 1936. A third and final spell came in season 1938–39, in a dual role with Sam Irving; both men were also appointed as directors of the club at this time.

In May 1939, Brownlie announced that he was giving up both roles due to the pressure of his other business interests.

He died on 29th December 1973, living long until the age of 88. Jimmy Brownlie was truly Blantyre’s other famous son and is still recognised today as one of the all-time greats of Scottish football.

Words lifted from “Blantyre Explained” a forthcoming book by Paul D Veverka (c) 2016

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