Jimmy McGrory – The Eighth Wonder!

Header Ritchie

Oh, Jimmy McGrory

The Prince of Garngad

The best centre-forward

The Celts ever had

Oh see him rise high in the goalmouth to score

Oh, Jimmy McGrory

Just gie us one more

Oh, send for McGrory (x3)

Tae gie us one more

(Tune:  Hail Glorious St. Patrick;

Source: ‘Heroes are Forever’ by John Cairney)

There were four thousand fans in attendance at Celtic Park on 14th January 1928 for a Scottish League tie against Dunfermline Athletic.  Just two weeks earlier almost seventy thousand were in the old ground to witness Celtic beat Rangers in the traditional New Year’s Day fixture, thanks to a goal from Jimmy McGrory.  The Garngad bhoy was in a truly rich vein of goal-scoring form: two days after the Rangers victory he scored a hat-trick of goals away to Queen’s Park and did the same the following Saturday at Falkirk, Celtic recording 3-1 wins in each game.  Those four thousand lucky souls who decided to take in the Dunfermline game were to witness scenes in Paradise that would never be repeated.

Jimmy McGrory cig card 2

Jimmy McGrory wasted no time in laying waste to the Dunfermline defence.  The title race that season involved Celtic, Rangers and Motherwell and McGrory’s incredible scoring rate was being relied upon heavily by Willie Maley’s team to maintain their challenge. Dunfermline were to record only 12 points in the league all season and ship an incredible 126 goals while finishing in the bottom spot:  McGrory could smell blood.

He had some able assistance.  His friend John Thomson kept goal and the defence was led by captain Willie McStay with Peter McGonagle his fellow full-back and wee brother Jimmy McStay holding the centre with support from Peter Wilson and Frank Doyle.  The five man front-line had the trickery of Tommy McInally and Alec Thomson while Paddy Connolly and Adam McLean used the width of the wings to feed the spearhead at centre-forward: McGrory.

Celtic team 1927-8

Celtic, Season 1927-8

J. Thomson, W. McStay, McGonagle, Wilson, J. McStay, McFarlane,

A. Thomson, McInally, Connolly, McGrory, McLean

The rain poured down on Celtic Park from before kick-off.  With just one minute on the clock and following “delightful play” between Frank Doyle and Paddy Connolly, the latter sped down the right wing “and his accurate low centre was met by M’Grory who fired it hard into the corner of the net.”  One Nil Celtic.  It was a dream start.  Just three minutes later the clever Connolly again found McGrory in space and this time, “shaking off the challenge of the opposing pivot” he left goalkeeper Harris helpless with a similar shot.  Two Nil Celtic.

Already the home support had a lot to cheer about.  Before the ninth minute of the game was complete McGrory was again on the scoresheet.  He was already nicknamed The Human Torpedo because he could head a ball more powerfully than many mere mortals could kick it, even though he stood at only 5ft 6 inches.  From yet another Connolly cross  a trademark McGrory header “flew off Jimmy’s cranium” and Harris could only parry the sodden heavyweight leather-laced ball on its way across the line.   Three Nil Celtic – with only nine minutes gone and all three goals coming from McGrory, each “due to the brilliance of Connolly.”  (Incredibly, this wouldn’t be the fastest hat-trick McGrory would achieve:   in 1936 he scored a hat-trick in just three minutes against Motherwell and he still holds the British record for career hat-tricks – 55 in total).

With three already netted, Dunfermline were now acutely aware of McGrory’s danger and decided to police him heavily:  “an unwanted cordon of blue shirts escorted him at every turn” reported one newspaper.  On the 21st minute McGrory broke through that cordon, steered the ball into space and hooked a glorious shot into the net for his fourth of the game.  Four Nil Celtic.

Jimmy McGrory action being tackled

Jimmy McGrory in action

It was The Jimmy McGrory Show and with the Dunfermline half-backs and full-backs all trying to patrol McGrory it created space for his colleagues to play in.  Three minutes before half-time Alec Thomson “waltzed past three opponents and scored”, giving Celtic an unassailable lead going into the break.  Five Nil Celtic.

McGrory later recalled the scenes in the Celtic Park dressing room:  “At the interval someone suggested I should go for the record which they had to tell me was held by RS McColl (whose chain of newsagents is still going strong today) and Laurie Bain of Queen’s Park and David Browne of Dundee who had all managed to score six goals in one League game.  Having given me this reliable information, Tommy McInally then told me to stay well upfield in the second half and he would lay everything on a plate for me.  You know, I don’t think I got a pass from him for the rest of the match!

The Celtic support were also well aware that the record was in McGrory’s reach.  As the players re-entered the field for the second half “the crowd called for more M’Grory goals.”  His team-mates were clearly following McInally’s instruction:  “the Celtic players visibly set themselves to give M’Grory every chance to beat the record and, spoon-fed by his comrades, M’Grory entraptured the crowd.”

The excitement in the crowd reached “fever-height” in the 60th minute when yet another McGrory shot evaded Harris and the Dunfermline net bulged for the sixth time.   Six Nil Celtic.  Only one goal was needed in the last half-hour to equal the record – surely he would do it?  Within two minutes McGrory answered in the positive.

Celtic forward line 1928 cup final

The Celtic front line in 1928:

Paddy Connolly, Alec Thomson, Jimmy McGrory, Tommy McInally and Adam McLean

A clever pass from Adam McLean released the Garngad man to score his sixth of the match.  Seven Nil Celtic.  One newspaper reported that “the spectators almost went wild with jubilation.”  Little wonder, they had just witnessed history in the making.  And with 27 minutes still remaining could he go further and actually smash the record?

All eyes remained firmly fixed on McGrory.  His team-mates were similarly focused on creating that single chance to make the record his.  And so in the 63rd minute, within a minute of scoring his sixth, the record was swept aside when Jimmy McGrory scored his seventh of the game – the last three in just three minutes! – and sent the support into seventh heaven according to the press:  “The crowd went wild with joy and exultant cheering while the Celtic players surrounded their hero and warmly congratulated him on his brilliant feat.”

Another paper reported that “When he netted his seventh and created a new record the crowd gave way to delirium.”  Some supporters couldn’t contain their delight and decided to try and thank the record-breaker in person:  “Two spectators dashed on to the field to congratulate the hero.  The referee intercepted one, but the other got to M’Grory and shook his idol by the hand.”

McGrory and his team-mates weren’t satisfied with the eight-goal margin.  Five minutes from the end McGrory again beat Harris with yet another shot, prompting more scenes of joy on the terracing:  “A tempestuous babel of applause from the crowd greeted the centre when he came along with the eighth to equal the highest scoring record in football.”  Nine Nil Celtic.  At full-time the adoring support flooded on to greet McGrory but “the modest hero evaded an army of admirers, who cheered lustily.”  Even they couldn’t catch him.

Final Score:  Celtic 9 Dunfermline 0

(McGrory: 1, 5, 9, 21, 60, 62, 63, 85; Thomson: 42)

Incredibly, Jimmy had the ball in the net ten times against Dunfermline that day, with one being ruled offside and the other goal disallowed for a foul on Connolly just before he centred the ball for McGrory to despatch it into the net.  It mattered not:  the new record belonged to McGrory and him alone.  Monday’s Glasgow Herald reported:  “In achieving this M’Grory was assiduously served by his colleagues but nevertheless showed skill and marksmanship that further confirmed his title as the most dangerous and successful leader of attack in the country.”

Within days the Glasgow Observer published a poem sent in by a supporter in honour of McGrory’s new record entitled Consilio Et Animo (By Skill and Spirit):

McGrory 8 goal poem 

McGrory never forgot the contribution of his team-mates that day.  Paddy Connolly was keen as mustard and “in dazzling mood” like the centre-forward himself.  Jimmy McStay was just as prominent in a supporting role while the Glasgow Observer stated that McGrory also owed a debt to “M’Inally, M’Lean and Frank Doyle who worked like Trojans to plant the ball where M’Grory could make good use of it.”

Eight goals.  In a single game.  It is little wonder that, even today, some Celtic fans refer to Jimmy McGrory in reverential tones.  He was the supreme striker – not just for Celtic; not just in Scotland.  Decades after his playing career ended many of the records he created remain unbeaten to this day.  Those eight goals against Dunfermline are still a British record for a top-flight football match.  The goals he scored in that 1927-8 season, 63 in total across all tournaments, remain a joint British record (with Dixie Dean of Everton).  That achievement places the Garngad man in joint sixth place in European rankings for most goals a season.

Overall, McGrory’s staggering career tally of 550 goals from 547 competitive appearances places him tenth in the All-Time Best Goalscorers rankings – the only other player in the ranking to have played in Scotland is a certain Henrik Larsson, whose career tally was a not inconsiderable 470.  (More information here:  http://www.rsssf.com/players/prolific.html)

One Celtic player did come close to equalling the McGrory goals-a-game record – and the man himself was there to witness the event.  On 11th November 1973 at Celtic Park, Dixie Deans scored six goals against Partick Thistle in a 7-0 victory:  he netted a hat-trick in the first 24 minutes but didn’t hit his sixth until the last minute.  McGrory later told his biographer Gerry McNee that Deans “gave me a fright a few years ago when he scored six and was unlucky not to get more.”  Dixie himself recalls coming off the pitch that day to be told by the 69 year old former Celtic manager: “Son, I really thought you were going to take my record there!

Jimmy McGrory and Dixie Deans balls

Jimmy McGrory and John ‘Dixie’ Deans with their respective match-balls

The record was his and his alone.  Famously unassuming, Jimmy McGrory took pride in his record-breaking achievement, saying not long before his death:  “It’s a record of which I am rather proud and I still have the match ball in my home which was later given to me by Willie Maley who for many years displayed it in his Bank Restaurant in Queen Street.”  Today the ball, painted in record of the achievement, is on permanent display at the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park – along with the last pair of McGrory’s size six football boots, left in the care of Celtic trainer Jimmy Gribben when the striker left to take up the post of Kilmarnock manager in late 1937.

The ball

For me there is – and always will be – something magical about Jimmy McGrory.  As a child I remember looking up the different Guinness Books of Records in my Gran’s house while visiting and there he was – the only Celt and the only Scot whose name was writ large in the football section.   He’s still there today, in the online version, with Pele and just one other for company:  http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/most-career-goals-(football)/

Those few thousand Celtic supporters who watched him score eight goals that rainy day in 1928 witnessed the birth of the legend of Jimmy McGrory.  The legend – as with the records he created – will go on forever and ever.  For Celtic fans he remains the Eighth Wonder of the World.

(By Bear & Carfin Harp) 

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Some of the headlines celebrating Jimmy McGrory’s record-breaking feat in 1928:

World Scoring Record headline

Rat Tat Tat wee

McGrory takes toll DEMON SCORER

McGrory in scoring mood headline

Rampant Celts Overwhelm Fifers

McGrory sets a new record– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Issues 1 and 2 of The Shamrock – Celtic Retro magazine on sale at Celtic Park on home matchdays and through Paypal.  Digital version also available:   https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/magazine/

Sham Issue 1 front cover  Sham 2 cover

Book Review: ‘Keeping In Paradise’ – John Fallon

Book cover

Review:   ‘Keeping in Paradise’ by John Fallon (with David Potter)


It is often said that goalkeepers can be lonely and introspective individuals given the exposed nature of the work they do and the scrutiny that their mistakes are subjected to.  That doesn’t mean that they are shy or retiring though, two adjectives that would never be used to describe John Fallon.

John was at Celtic Park for just over thirteen years in what proved (eventually) to be the ultimate golden era for the club: 1958 – 1972.  He was an eye-witness to history unfolding as Celtic went from securing no trophies in his first six years to two European Cup finals and numerous league titles, Scottish Cup and League Cups in the next eight.  The transformation of Celtic under Jock Stein’s management is still breath-taking to behold, decades on.

And make no mistake:  this is John Fallon’s club.  Born into a Celtic-supporting family in Cambuslang he was a member of the James Kelly CSC in Blantyre from an early age, paid a mere seven pence to get into Celtic Park as a boy and fondly recalls his trips as a supporter overnight to Aberdeen (well, it was the 1950s) as well as the shorter runs to Dundee and Edinburgh.  He watched on as Celtic lifted the Coronation Cup in 1953, did the Double under captain Jock Stein in 1953-4 and hammered Rangers in the record-breaking 7-1 League Cup final of 1957.  There were more than a few heartaches in the years that followed before he himself donned the yellow jersey in the Celtic goal.

JF Celtic 1965 SC

“There’s Fallon, Young and Gemmell who proudly wear the green . . .” – Scottish Cup Winners, 1965

He remains a well-known figure among Celtic supporters today through his regular attendance at games home and away in the company of his grandchildren as well as his regular column in the ‘More Than 90 Minutes’ Celtic fanzine.  He has a reputation for being outspoken yet his autobiography fortunately doesn’t follow the often turgid approach of former players criticising everything about the modern game, bemoaning how their careers played out and mouthing off to no great effect.  Instead it concentrates, with commendable detail, on his seasons as a professional footballer, tracking the progress of Celtic from Scottish also-rans to European champions.

One of the things that helps set this book above others by former Celtic players is the enlistment of Celtic historian and author David Potter as co-writer.  Instead of the tried-and-dreary formula of having a pally tabloid journalist knit some sound-bites and statistics together into 150 pages, what we have here is a penetrating and often engrossing read which puts the experiences of Fallon and his team-mates firmly in the context of the club’s history and those who came before them (and occasionally after).  Facts and tales from the club’s annals feature throughout which, allied to the author’s own experience of following the club before and after his playing career over, help to give this book a different perspective and feel from many others.   There are many insights and stories from Celtic’s golden era which appear here for the first time.

In part this is because John was an actual eye-witness for long-periods in the 1960s, his position as the established number one supplanted quickly following the arrival of Ronnie Simpson at the club.  He was often the only other player on the bench for those big European games as the only exception that UEFA made to the no substitutes rule at the time was for goalkeepers.   He also was Celtic’s last line of defence in historic games including the World Club Champions ties against Racing Club in Argentina and Uruguay, the ground-breaking 1965 Scottish Cup Final and the di Stefano testimonial game against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu stadium before an incredible crowd of 120,000.

John Fallon and bench celebrate v Dukla

Celebrating – as a supporter would

His friendship with Ronnie Simpson developed and survived even when Fallon managed to wrest back the yellow jersey in the late 60s.  It is the relationship with manager Stein that underpins this book as well as John Fallon’s time at the club.  Even though he was initially coached by Stein as part of a very successful reserve squad, the two men never got on and Fallon feels as though he never fully earned the trust of his fellow Lanarkshire man.  He is embittered at his treatment at the hands of the manager yet bitterness is not a hallmark of this book – Fallon knows where he made his mistakes and holds his hands up accordingly.  He argues his case that he played well on numerous occasions, as the many newspaper reports of the games he played testify, yet he seemed to come up short in attempting to convince Stein of his worth.  Tellingly, he agrees with this description from Bob Crampsey of a training session at Barrowfield where the sports commentator recalled John “performing heroics, but then Stein came out onto the track from the dressing room, and Fallon just turned into a wreck.”

Fallon gives credit where its due though and while he maintains – as many do – that Jock Stein’s track record with goalkeepers was poor (Ronnie Simpson being the exception) he confirms that it was Stein who transformed a group of talented young players with an almost tangible fear (and expectation) of losing to Rangers into the best Scottish football team of all time whose achievements on foreign fields remain the stuff of legend.  John Fallon didn’t just witness those – he contributed to them.

This is the honest account of an individual who was often on the sidelines yet never lost his love for his club and who clearly cherishes those moments of triumph, especially the Treble-winning season of 1968-9 which included a clean sheet away to AC Milan in the San Siro.  He does not flinch from criticising some of his team-mates from the time, pointing out what he considers favourable treatment of certain individuals, nor the actions and attitudes of some Celtic fans in abusing himself and other players when mistakes were made.  One would expect nothing less from the man referred to as El Pelirrojo (The Redhead) in the South American media.

John Fallon has long worn his heart on his sleeve.  This was evident when he used to give the thumbs up to fans when a Celtic goal was scored and the time at Greenock in 1964 when he was berated by a Sergeant from Strathclyde’s finest for celebrating a goal in front of angry Morton fans.  One image stands out above all others though and strangely doesn’t feature in the book – the moment of triumph in the 1965 Cup Final when Billy McNeill’s header secured Celtic’s first silverware since 1957 and Celtic’s overjoyed keeper swung on the crossbar in delight!  He’s not known as the original Holy Goalie for nothing after all.

John Fallon Crossbar

Celtic’s Number 1 celebrates the first silverware on the road to glory

John and David have combined to put together a compelling account of his life as a Celt which is imbued with the legendary Fallon frankness and gives a fresh perspective on a time and characters that many in the Celtic support thought they already knew inside-out.

One other positive feature about this book is the excellent price:  £9.99.  There are many new Celtic and other football books at present which cost north of £15 and sometimes even £20 – it is a mystery why they cost as much as that when the content is no greater than this book (presumably there is a tidy profit being made).  For a tenner this book is well worth the money and the decent price makes it even more attractive for fans to purchase as a gift for family and friends.  It’s a gift well worth sharing among Celtic aficionados.

JF reading book

Paperback, 248 pages

Black and White Publishing


The Shamrock rating: 7/10 


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The book can be purchased from Amazon here:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Keeping-Paradise-Autobiography-John-Fallon/dp/1845029593/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442363783&sr=8-1&keywords=Keeping+in+Paradise


Read The Shamrock’s other reviews here:  https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/celticreviews/


The Pinnace Collection – Celtic

Pinnace cover Celtic

Celtic is the latest club to feature in a publishing project by football historian Paul Day which focuses on the famed Pinnace Collection of cigarette cards which carried photographs of football players from England, Scotland and Wales in the 1920s.

Over 3,000 football cards were ultimately produced by Godfrey Phillips, the tobacco company who made Pinnace ‘Navy cut’ cigarettes.  The cards – and variations of them as well as team photos – have proven a favourite of collectors down the years and they provide fascinating snapshots of players, kits and teams from a time when footballers were at the heart of their communities.

Paul, a Sunderland fan, has produced a range of books featuring specific team collections of Pinnace cards including Arsenal, Manchester United, Clapton Orient, Aberdare, Leeds United and South Shields.  Celtic is the first Scottish team to be selected for the series.

Celtic (2)

The Shamrock has contributed player profiles to the book.  It was Willie Maley’s team of season 1920-1 which featured on the Pinnace cards and included famous Celts such as Patsy Gallacher, Jimmy McMenemy, Tommy McInally, Andy McAtee and Alec McNair.  Less well known Celtic players such as Willie Crilly, Paddy Corcoran and the wonderfully-named Jimmy Bauchop are highlighted too.

181 celtic 182 celtic

The book also focuses on former and future Celts such as Jimmy McMenemy (then of Partick Thistle) and Mickey Hamill (ex Belfast Celtic and at the time a Manchester City player) who made it on to the Pinnace Cards.

Jimmy Bauchop

Each book in The Pinnace Collection has 32 A4 pages which are largely in colour and presented in paperback format and costs £10.00.

You can purchase the Celtic book here by clicking here:  The Pinnace Collection – Celtic

Book 4 McStay colour pics

Welcome to the antiquated world of footballers with soup-strainer moustaches, goalkeepers in flat caps and turtle-neck jumpers, international players proudly displaying their caps and players in their Sunday best clothes, raincoats and trilby hats. No long-haired layabouts, horrendous ‘mullets’ or aggressively shaven heads to be seen here; no sponsors splashed across the front of these heroes’ shirts – in fact you’d be hard-pressed to spot as much as even a club badge on most of these chaps! These are the honest, hard-tackling footballers of the early 1920s, when football was a man’s game using a leather ball with laces that dented your forehead and coloured boots were worn by women. Welcome to the world of the cigarette card footballer!

This quote comes from an excellent website about the Pinnace cards and their unique role in football history which be accessed here: An Introduction to the Pinnace Collection.

Further details on the 20 different Pinnace books which Paul Day has now published can be found here:  The Pinnace Collection – books.

Book 3 McAtee pic

1125 celtic


THE RISING CLUB – Willie Maley

Nineteen year old Willie Maley and his elder brother Tom were among the first recruits to the new Glasgow Irish club called Celtic in late 1887.

Writing almost three decades years later in the ‘Weekly Mail and Record’ in June 1915, the man who became Celtic’s Secretary/Manager and would guide the club through to its Golden Jubilee in 1938 recalled the very earliest days at the first Celtic Park – even before the inaugural game had been played:

“Once Tom and I had definitely decided to join the Celtic we were quickly brought into touch with the “heid yins” and I may say that never since have I met a more enthusiastic body of men than that first Celtic committee.

At their head they had Dr. Conway, a most popular and kindly East-end medical, whose untimely end a few years later robbed the new club of a worthy chairman and one who would, if he had been spared, have been a worthy representative of the great club it was destined to be.

Of the rank and file of that committee, besides John Glass I met J.H. McLaughlin, H. Darroch, John O’Hara, James M’Kay, Frank M’Erlean, J. M’Donald, Joseph Shaughnessy, John and Willie M’Killop, Hugh Murphy, Dan Malloy and Davie Meikleham.  It is hard to believe, but of that list of rare good friends only three are left with us.

The work of the club went on in great style, and the new ground proceeded with greatest keenness.  The enclosure was situated at the corner of Janefield Street and Dalmarnock Road, bounded on one side by the Janefield Cemetery.  We had, in addition to the playing pitch, a practice pitch.  The old pavilion still lives in my mind.  The dressing rooms were built underneath the stand, which was built to hold about 500 people.  In addition we had comfortable offices in the little erection.

In the process of building the first team we used to have little practice games even before the ground was completed and I remember my first appearances on the famous pitch.  With several other young players who had been secured before the big “catches” were made, we stripped under the shadow of the stand in course of erection and, wearing a white shirt with a band of green across it from shoulder to shoulder, the pioneers of the great Celtic trotted out before a handful of enthusiasts.

We had several of these practice games and after each we were taken down in the little League Hall in East Rose Street, now the headquarters of the rising club, and here, after a good tea, we used to have harmony provided by our good friends.

With the inclusion in the Celtic net of Kelly, Dunbar, M’Callum, Groves, Coleman, M’Laren, M’Keown, Gallagher and James M’Laughlin, the excitement rose tremendously, and these little gatherings got to be regular parties.  In Neilly M’Callum, once he got settled among us, we had a regular artiste, and his singing was a great treat to us all.”

Willie Maley (middle-row, 2nd from right) with team-mates and Celtic committemen, in the first ever Celtic team photo: taken on 22nd December 1888, away to Vale of Leven

Celtic team 1888 large Willie Maley

To read more Celtic Snippets please click here:  https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/celtic-snippets/