There’s nothing like the work of fellow historians to get you motivated and re-appraise your own work. This was certainly the case when we chanced upon a recent article published at toffeeweb.com, a site dedicated to archiving the Everton FC story. Thanks to researcher Tony Onslow, we now have the birth and death records of our Hope Robertson, and a little detail on his family background. You can read the article here.
Unfortunately, a large portion of the Thistle-related bio doesn’t stack up for us, namely the contention that Hope joined Thistle as a teenager and played in our FA Cup games of the mid-1880s. It seems to us that Tony has misinterpreted another Robertson of that time, namely our Robert ‘Bob’ Robertson. We have stacks of contemporary evidence to show that Bob was in action for Thistle throughout the period – he was club captain, served on the committee and won representative honours with Glasgow. We have no such evidence to support Hope’s presence at this time.
Whilst we haven’t had the time or resources to investigate Hope’s career thoroughly, we can at least piece together a decent outline from what we know – and it makes for quite an interesting profile.
It’s commonly reported that he started out with Minerva (a junior tam from Partick) and, whilst we have no contemporary supporting evidence, we see no reason to doubt this. His first known ‘senior’ club appears to be Morton in season 1888-89, and this is backed up by respected historian, John Litster. A quick check of their Scottish Cup line ups of 1 Sep 1888 (a 7-3 win at Port Glasgow) and 22 Sep 1888 (a 1-4 defeat at home to Abercorn) seems to back that up.
At this point we should fast-forward momentarily to an article found by Stuart Deans which appeared in the Middlesbrough Daily Gazette in late October 1890:
From this, we can make a reasonable assumption that Hope, in line with many unpaid amateurs of the time, was tempted away from Morton by an English club as yet unspecified, but likely to be in season 1888-89. What we do know for certain is that he was in Scotland for the start of season 1889-90. We’re fairly confident in saying that he made his first known Thistle appearance on 10th August 1889 as a 21-year-old in a 3-3 thriller at Milton Park, the home of Kilbirnie.
At this stage we begin to agree with Tony’s article.
He was then lured away to play for Woolwich Arsenal in September, 1889, endearing himself to the Londoners by scoring twice in their first-ever FA Cup game. Hope then returns to Glasgow again at some point, and is once again in place at Inchview for the start of 1890-91, seeking to make the centre-forward position his own. At the start of October, he scored his first known goal for the club in a 2-2 friendly draw at home to Hibernian. However, after just 6 games, he is approached in person by Everton’s club-captain, Andrew Hannah, who’s on a covert mission to find new recruits. Hope finds the attractions of English football too much to resist and, for the third time, heads for England’s green and pleasant land.
After some considerable time with Everton (where he played in the first match at Goodison Park) and Bootle, Hope rejoins Thistle for a third spell in 1893-94, marking his return brilliantly with a goal in our very first game in the Scottish Football League – a 3-2 win at Cappielow on 19th August 1893. There are a couple of reports that he joined Airdrie later in this season, but we rather feel this may have only been for a guest/trial appearance at Dundonians on 10 March 1894. By season’s end, our man is off on his southwardly travels yet again, joining Walsall Town Swifts for the start of season 1894-95, making his debut in the opening game of the season against Burslam Port Vale in Division 2.
We will continue to look for further details of Hope’s career and endeavour to be able to tell the full story of Hope Ramsey Robertson.
Season by season