The most famous Scottish goalkeeper of the early 20th century could have been a Partick Thistle player rather than a Third Lanark legend.
Jimmy Brownlie played for Third Lanark between 1906 and 1923, playing almost every international match between 1909 and the outbreak of was in 1914 – 16 games. He also played 14 times for the .
However, before he signed for the Cathkin club he almost signed for Partick Thistle, and told the story in an article published in the Dundee Peoples Journal in 1915.
In it he claims that he played for Thistle in an end of season Inter City League match at Cathkin against Third Lanark in a trial arranged by Thistle secretary George Easton. He received 30 shillings for his trouble and was told by Easton (“a thorough gentleman”) to hang around because his signing would be a formality. Brownlie couldn’t help but overhear a heated argument coming from a meeting between Easton and Thistle club officials. One (unnamed) director objected to his signing since the club already had Willie Howden and didn’t need this good junior. Easton argued that he would be an excellent signing for the club (initially as cover for Howden) to no avail. He returned from the meeting “looking wild” and had to apologise to Brownlie. He did say however that the matter would soon be sorted but Brownlie says he resolved on the way home never to sign for Partick Thistle – absolving Easton from blame.
Jimmy’s memory wasn’t completely correct in his article. The game was actually a game in the Glasgow League played on 23 April 1906. Papers at the time listed the goalkeeper as “Thomson”: presumably a false name to avoid alerting other clubs to his availability. At the time he was playing for Blantyre Vics.
The rest is history, as they say. He signed for Third Lanark instead of Thistle and played almost every game for Thirds the following season: clearly he was ready for first team football. Willie Howden remained Thistle’s first team keeper the following season until an injury meant that Thistle had to scramble to sign a new goalie for the remainder of the season.
As well as Brownlie’s 16 full caps he played many games for the Scottish League representative team and other international representative teams. He won 40+ caps for Scotland/SFL and played over 350 times for Third Lanark. After ending his playing career he became manager of Dundee Hibernians (later to become Dundee United), leading the club to Second Division championships in 1925 and 1929.
Brownlie may also have had a similar experience at Celtic, according to the Blantyre Project. This website reports: “Celtic invited him to play for them 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.” This story can’t be corroborated elsewhere.
Thanks to Jack Little and William Sheridan for their help with this article.
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