Meet the ancestors at Arsenal: Patrick Boylan

By Simon Weir.  Background research by Tony Attwood
My great great uncle PATRICK BOYLAN played for Woolwich Arsenal in the 1896/97 season. Patrick signed in 1896 and played one season in the first team and reserves before returning to Greenock Morton. His photo in his Arsenal kit can be seen here:

Also a wee film of his story from The History Detectives:

I have a copy of some of his games, scores and team sheets also, which I will dig out. I also have his medal from the Greenock & District Charity Cup of 1895 when he played for the Greenock Volunteers. Hope this is of interest to you.


“PA Boylan” as Dean Hayes calls him, is reported as being born in 1876 in Greenock, and then played for Greenock Volunteers, Woolwich Arsenal and then Morton (Greenock Morton today).  Greenock Volunteers was a junior club (meaning non-league rather than under 16) in the 19th century, but I have no other information about them.

Boylan’s Arsenal’s career was restricted to the 1896 – 1897 season in which he started 11 first team games.

He played centre half for the first 10 games of the season but then after the 2-5 defeat to Small Heath (which also makred the end of W Fairclough’s run) he was dropped.  He then came back to play in the notorious 0-8 defeat played on the same day as an FA Cup match (December 12) and that was it.

In fact four players were dropped after the Small Heath game, and none of them made long term recoveries thereafter as Arsenal reformulated the team over and over again.  Indeed only five of the players who started the first match of the season were in the team for the last game of the season.  Losing 2-5 was indeed a turning point.

And so having fallen out of favour he returned to Scotland to play for Morton.   Morton Football Club was established in 1874and became Greenock Morton in 1994.  (There is no town called “Morton”).

Morton were one of the founding members of the old Second Division, formed in 1893. They finished 8th in their first season. Morton first gained promotion to the First Division in 1899-1900.  There’s no mention of Boylan on the various Morton websites, however.

3 Replies to “Meet the ancestors at Arsenal: Patrick Boylan”

  1. thanks Tony, much appreciated. I too am seeking the 1896/97 team photo. Would you know if one exists? I have been doing a lot more research and will email you what I have found, mostly the United & Kent League games Patrick played in, but also the Reserve & friendlies he played too. He played 40 games in all and scored 4 goals, but lots more research still to do.If anyone has any info on the 1896/97 team, players or season I’d love to hear from them as I’m planning a book about Patrick’s footballing life.

  2. I have a photocopy of the 1896-7 team photo, in which all the team are named, that Fred Ollier sent me in 2002. The caption says Boylam (not Boylan) but I would presume it’s the same chap.
    I am trying to get hold of a decent digital image of this photo so if you have any luck please let me know at

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