“The Glory of the Green” (Part Three)



Though his career was tragically brief and he never figured in any of Celtic’s truly “landmark” occasions, John Thomson is as much a Parkhead treasure as any of the signature triumphs and glittering trophies that set our club apart from all others.

Thomson’s legendary story, incomparably told by Tom Greig in his spellbinding biography of the phenomenal Fifer, “My Search for Celtic’s John” (Tom Greig/Ogilvie Writings 2003), needs no re-telling here.  However, we hope Timdom might appreciate our 25thMay1967 tribute poem, inspired by the above book and re-produced below alongside an image of John’s memorial cabinet in Celtic Park:

“The Bowhill Bhoy”

(Celtic’s John)

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 …

thitherto 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)

N.B. Tradition and folklore have it that John Thomson, perhaps uniquely amongst goalkeepers, never wore gloves.  The poem’s reference to him as “Celtic’s prince of gloves” is simply poetic licence and imagery.


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