The strange case of Hugh McDonald

The strange case of Hugh McDonald


Hugh McDonald was a goalkeeper who signed from the Scottish club Beith in the 1905/6 season.  He is one of hundreds of players who played for Arsenal and whose lives and histories are now forgotten.


But Hugh McDonald deserves to be remembered – and he is a player of whom we really ought to know more.


According to Arsenal: The Football Facts, McDonald was born in 1884 and died aged just 36 in 1920.  He worked his way around a range of Scottish clubs (Ayr Westerlead, Maybole, Ayr Academicals, and Beith) before coming to Woolwich.  My guess is he was amateur or semi-pro in Scotland, but came south as part of the general exodus of men who either worked in the munitions plants or played for the club.


In 1905/6 he played two games for Arsenal, before moving on to Brighton and Hove Albion, Oldham Athletic and Bradford Park Avenue.  He came back to Woolwich for the 1908/9 season when he played in every game.


The following season he played 36 of the matches – missing two through injury.   It was clear that at this point Woolwich Arsenal rated him highly because when he got injured in the 3-2 win over Chelsea on September 25 1909, he nevertheless played in the following match against Blackburn a week later, despite (according to local newspaper reports) not being able to jump up or bend down!.  Apparently it was his knee that was injured – he was obviously afraid of the jumping for fear of the landing.


He did then miss two games, before returning on the 16 October, and then staying in goal for the rest of the campaign.


Which makes one think – the club clearly rated him.


But then at the end of the season he was transferred again – this time to Fulham.  And this is where it starts getting a bit murky.  Because by the summer of 1910 when he left the club, Henry Norris was owner of both Fulham and Arsenal.  In other words Norris transferred a player from one of his clubs to another.


This is the first case I can find of Norris using his newly purchased power to move players around. 


As I say, I know nothing else of Hugh McDonald of Woolwich Arsenal – but if you do, please do let me know.


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3 Replies to “The strange case of Hugh McDonald”

  1. Hugh MacDonald was my grandfather. I never knew him as he died in 1920 after suffering the effects of poison gas in the trenches during the first world war. Apart from the fact that he had a pub in London (Where my father was born) I know very little else about him but would be keen to find out more.


    David MacDonald

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