Does anyone remember Matthew Thomson? He played for Arsenal 100 years ago.

By Tony Attwood

Now with update from Maryhill FC – see below

Matthew Thomson is one of those Woolwich Arsenal players about whom it seems impossible to find very much at all.

He joined the club from Maryhill, his home town, where he was born in 1887.  Maryhill.

Maryhill FC date back to 1884, when the district of Maryhill was a village on the outskirts of the city of Glasgow. In the earliest years of the club’s history the side had a brief flirtation with Senior football, entering the Scottish Cup on several occasions (this was before the formation of the senior Scottish League), but the majority of the club’s existence has been in the Junior grade of football unique to Scotland.

Having moved ground several times in the earlier years of their existence, since the final years of the 19th century Maryhill have made Lochburn Park their home. Originally one of Glasgow’s more basic football venues, after an extensive upgrading programme in the late eighties and early nineties, Lochburn is regarded as one of the finest stadia in Junior football, regularly hosting local Cup Finals.

According to the club’s web site (see link above) “Many distinguished players have trod the Lochburn turf in the red and black of Maryhill – many of these never took the step up to the Senior game, however just a few of the notable names who did were the likes of the late Tommy Burns (Celtic & Scotland), Danny McGrain (Celtic & Scotland) and Jim Duffy (Partick Thistle/Dundee).”

There is you will notice, no mention of Matthew Thomson, who went directly from the club to Woolwich Arsenal FC and played in the first division of the English league.


Since my original publication of this page I have heard from the webmaster at Maryhill who says…

Regarding the above player he played for Maryhill in the season 1902/03 and they finished 3rd in the league that season.  Sorry this is all I can find on him.

So not much more – but we have a confirmation that he did play at least one season at Maryhill.

Anyway, from what we can tell, Thomson went straight from Maryhill to Woolwich Arsenal and played three games for us in 1908-9.  His first game was in the 1-1 draw at home with Middlesbrough on March 17 1909.  The official records show no detail of the score.  He replaced PR Sands who had been injured in the previous away game against Aston Villa.

Thomson made three appearances that season, and obviously impressed because he played 30 times in the league scoring one goal in 1909/10.

But in 1910/11 Sands was back as the first choice number 5, (he went on to become the first captain of Arsenal at Highbury) and from here on Thomson’s fortune was up and down.   I have checked the Swindon Town web sites, but they seem to have no mention of him.  I also have no record of his death – which leaves the possibility that tragically he was one of the many who gave his life in the services of his country in the first world war.

1910/11 – 17 appearances

1911/12 – 7 appearances

1912/13 – 25 appearances

1913/14 – 7 appearances

He played at Highbury in the first season, and his final game was on November 8th when we lost 6-1 away to Fulham in front of 35,000.  He was by then playing at number 4.

He transferred to Swindon Town at this point and I can find no record of him from then on.  If you know do tell.  There is no record of his death either, which suggests he sadly was one of the many who lost their lives serving the  country in the first world war.

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3 Replies to “Does anyone remember Matthew Thomson? He played for Arsenal 100 years ago.”

  1. In the spring of 1911 Matthew Thomson was boarding with Arthur Joyce and his wife at 8 Chesnut Road, Plumstead. On the 1911 census he describes himself as a professional football player employed by Woolwich Arsenal FC. He is said to be aged 23, single, born in Maryhill, Glasgow.

    (Information found by chance while researching a nationality claim by his landlord’s great grandson!)

  2. Thompson’s daughter Maud worked for the BBC in Glasgow in the 1950’s where she met her husband Dr Denis Wright the founder of the National Youth Brass Band. She was a family friend and I remember her showing me her fathers football medals. She also recalled being asked to read out the football results on the Radio in Scotland presumably in the 1950’s.

  3. He was my great uncle. I can give you more information in due course. He had a pub in Kilbirnie, Ayrshire and died in the early 1970s.

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