THE BOWHILL BHOY (Celtic’s John)

Of all the Celtic legends, that of “John Thomson (Prince of Goalkeepers)” is among the most enduring.  Today, exactly eighty years since the heroic tragedy of his death, making his final save in typically fearless fashion, we at 25thMay1967 honour, in verse, the man behind the legend.

Over the past weekend, The John Thomson Memorial Committee re-enacted the epic trek from Glasgow to Cardenden undertaken back in the day by the thousands determined to attend the funeral of a young man who embodied the very essence of “The Celtic”. You can donate to the memorial committee here.

In the wake of the awful events of 5 September 1931, generations of Celtic supporters have nurtured and sustained the Thomson legend – in literature, in club folklore,  in the haunting lilt of the emotive Johnny Thomson Song and not least, by word of mouth from father and mother to son and daughter.

A memorial stage play based on the Thomson legend is running in Glasgow this week.  A real-life drama, if ever there was one – for the artist, art.

For as long as there is a Celtic faithful, there will be the memory of John Thomson … Celtic’s John … The Bowhill Bhoy:

R.I.P. John Thomson (Celtic & Scotland)

28 January 1909 – 5 September 1931

“The Bowhill Bhoy”

My old dad avowed
(so, it must be true)
that a Bowhill boy,
hale at twenty-two …
who laid down his life
in a daring save
that propelled the lad
to an early grave …
was the best he ever saw.

In the pomp of youth,
strapping … in his prime,
he had talent raw,
in a gift sublime …
a courageous heart
with a reckless edge –
focus, power and grace
to the jersey pledged …
ne’er before or since surpassed.

Meteoric rise,
cruelly brief career –
tragic his demise,
swathed in grief sincere …
lasting legacy
to both kith and kin
as a treasured son
and a Hoops’ linchpin…
now, forever, Celtic’s John.

On the fateful day,
in a sick’ning crunch,
consummation sore
of a mother’s hunch …
terrors harboured deep
in a mammy’s heart,
lockfast tight in dread
of his headstrong art …
all unleashed that awful night.

Derby debut cursed
for a young, blond “Bear”:
Sam’s marauding power,
Johnny’s peerless flair …
till that day unmatched,
thenceforth intertwined
in a dance of death –
to their fates consigned …
one to lore; one, living hell.

As the action froze
in a young mind’s eye,
one sharp, piercing scream
rent the Govan sky …
in a grisly trice
two young worlds caved in –
Celtic’s prince of gloves
and his ‘Micky Finn’ …
nascent destiny undone.

If you value life,
as you’ll surely do,
then, lament the loss
of a genius true …
humble son of Fife
noble, proud athlete
Johnny Thomson, dear –
Scotland’s gem forfeit …
Celtic’s Bowhill Bhoy supreme.

Copyright © 25thMay1967, July 2011


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