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Fullname: James McLaughlin
Born: 16 Sep 1864
Died: 25 Mar 1946
Signed: 1888; May 1889
Left: 1889 (Glasgow Hibs); 1890 (Battlefield)
Position: Full-back (& goalkeeper)
Debut: Celtic 5-2 Rangers XI, Friendly, 28 May 1888
BiogJames McLaughlin played at full back in Celtic's first official game a 5-2 victory over a Rangers XI.
James McLaughlin was the son of William McLaughlin. In 1851 William McLaughlin and his wife Margaret were living at 45 Uries Row with their two children, William and Margaret. The street in which they lived has been thus described as,
Uries Row no longer exists but was a row of houses that were rented out to mining families working for Govan collieries or otherwise known as Dixons Iron Works. If you left the Iron Works, you had also to vacate the squalidity of the house.
By 1861, the family had grown to six and William had moved them to Springburn in the North of Glasgow. William described in the census as an Ironstone Miner, had in all probability moved to seek employment in the newly built St. Rollox Locomotive Works on Springburn Road.
On September 16th, the McLaughlin’s last child was born at 447 Springburn Road.
He was named James and would become one of the eleven members of the first Celtic team
The young James had an obvious talent for football and joined his local team; Cowlairs Juniors aged 16 in 1880, the same year in which his father William died. His position was Centre Forward. By the age of 18 he had converted to the position of half back and then joined the senior team as a full back.
Such was the impact he made, that in the five years in which he of playing for the senior team he was made captain of the team and became involved in the business affairs of the club at a very young age.
In 1887 aged 23, James would transfer to Hibernian where he played for one season before the men of the Celtic Committee came calling for him.
James McLaughlin signed for Celtic as a full-back. His debut was against Rangers on May 28th 1888. He along with Michael Dolan, Phil Murray and Michael Dunbar would play in Celtic’s first three matches. His Scottish Cup debut was on 13th October 1888 in the 4-1 defeat of Albion Rovers. In his first Celtic season he would not personally taste defeat on the field.
At the end of the season he took over as Celtic’s first choice goalkeeper. He had the distinction of playing in first trophy winning Celtic team on 11th May 1889, as the Glasgow North-Eastern Cup was won by defeating Cowlairs 6-1. The medal won by James that day is still treasured by the McLaughlin family. The trophy is shown here, on display at Celtic Park.
By the start of season 1889-1890 James had become Celtic’s first choice goalkeeper and opened the season in goal as part of the team, which beat Renton 2-0. He would retain the Celtic goalkeeping position for most of that season.
At the time of Celtic’s founding there was no Scottish League competition and the club played in many friendlies. James would undoubtedly have played in many more competitive games then the three Scottish cup appearances he is credited with had there been a league competition at the time. James McLaughlin’s grandson Bill McLaughlin summed this up perfectly when he said:
“Celtic played what were known as Challenge Matches against the likes of Preston North End and Blackburn Rover. I recalled the later words of Jock Stein that “Celtic don’t play friendlies””
James was a member of the Celtic team who defeated Blackburn Rovers 1-0 at Celtic Park in October 1889. The team photo taken that day is one of the earliest surviving Celtic photos.
A 2-0 defeat against Third Lanark on April 19th 1890 in the Glasgow Merchants Charity Cup was James’s last appearance for Celtic. His good friend Willie Maley would take his position in goal for the next match.
At the end of his playing career James became a much sought after referee and was the refereeing representative of Celtic. He was held in high esteem by clubs in Scotland and beyond for his sense of authority and even-handedness.
Newspapers reports of the time were effusive in praise of his qualities.
“Great as was the reception which both teams received, it was nothing to that which greeted Mr McLaughlin, who is admitted by everyone to be a prince among referees.”
“..it was even stated that the committee of the club (Hearts) would have been quite satisfied to have had Mr McLaughlin at the Celtic match, Celt though he be.”
“Among the many gentlemen who hold the whistle in Scotland, perhaps no-one is more popular or more deservedly esteemed than James McLaughlin, late of the Celtic.”
After retiring James became a publican in Airdrie.
In the 1930’s he and was a regular visitor to Celtic Park, sitting in the Director’s Box such was the esteem in which he was held.
James McLaughlin was a figure held in high esteem both as a player and a referee. He passed on to successive generations of his family a love of Celtic Football Club. He described his team mates thus.
“They are a grand bunch of fellows to know.”
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Honours with CelticGlasgow North Eastern Cup
Glasgow North Eastern Medal won by James McLaughlin who played in our very first game. Celtic 5 Rangers 2
Shows Bill McLaughlin the Grandson wearing his Grandpas medal, Pic taken by Antsplan at the Ceremony in St Kentigerns to mark the grave of James McLaughlin, James was presented with this Medal for winning the Glasgow North Eastern Cup which was the 1st Trophy Celtic ever won, One of the most Important Medals in our long and Illustrious History and i thank Bill for his patience and willingness in showing me such a rare item, Hail Hail! Jamie Fox