John Blair
John Blair
John Blair
● John Blair, 1922 (PIC)

born in Scotland

John Blair was born on Sunday, 27th June, 1897, in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire.

The 5' 9 (11st 0lbs) forward signed for George Easton's Thistle on Tuesday, 3rd February, 1920, having most recently been with Saltcoats Victoria.

Aged 22, he made his debut appearance on Saturday, 14th February, 1920, in a 2-2 draw at home to Ayr United in the Scottish Football League.

John scored his first goal for Thistle on Saturday, 13th March, 1920, in a 2-2 draw away to Falkirk in the Scottish Football League.

He scored the last of his 33 goals on Saturday, 20th December, 1924, in a 2-0 win at home to Falkirk in the SFL First Division.

He played his last game for the club on Saturday, 25th April, 1925, in a 3-0 defeat away to Cowdenbeath in the SFL First Division, having clocked up 173 appearances as a Jag.

His club-list included Saltcoats Victoria, Partick Thistle, Kilmarnock and Rangers.

John died on Thursday, 4th February, 1971, in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, aged 73.

Bio Extra

The son of Irvine-born Campbell Blair (fisherman) and Irishwoman Mary Blair (née Buchanan) who worked with him in fishing. The two were married at Stevenston in 1881 and had a great many children, with John being the sixth born of these! Sadly, Campbell was drowned at sea, and Mary had to mostly raise the children on her own.

His father would surely have been proud - John became one of the greatest Partick Thistle heroes of all-time when he put the ball in the Rangers net to win the Scottish Cup in 1921!

The Saltcoats-born right winger was a red-hot name in the junior game, starting and finishing his career with Saltcoats Victoria, and representing his country at that level on several occasions. He scored 33 times in his 6 seasons at Firhill, and would actually finish as our top League scorer, with 12, in season 1921-22. However, he was considered more of a provider than anything else, a “clever manipulator” and “extremely dangerous raider”. Had we been able to chart assists from this era, it would have been interesting to assess John Blair's tally, as he was forever being quoted in the build-up play, and his efforts undoubtedly helped us on our way throughout this campaign. The selectors certainly had him marked down as essential this season, starting him on 51 occasions, placing him at the very top of the appearances chart. John was one of only three - along with Joe Harris and Jimmy Kinloch - to feature in all eleven of the Cup games.

He had started the season in fine scoring form, with 8 goals before the New Year, but was on a barren run of 22 games without netting, albeit he had been making worthwhile contributions, notably assisting with the goals which secured Scottish Cup victories over Hibernian, in February, and Motherwell, in March. What a time he chose to end the scoring drought!

In the final, 40-year-old Jimmy McMenemy, going for his 7th winners’ medal, was marshal of the day’s operation, nullifying threats and guiding others, and he teed-up a back pass which invited our stand-in spoiler, Watty Borthwick, to uncharacteristically burst forward down the left. Watty shimmied past internationalist Andy Cunningham, and lofted over a deep cross-field pass which was cleverly dummied by Jimmy Kinloch, who had spotted the unmarked run of John Blair, by now, dashing inside from the right wing. Having ghosted in behind the high lying Rangers backs, John was now in with a big chance, and his culminating touch, from some 20 yards out, served justice to a fine move. Thistle’s outside right kept his head at the critical moment, “delivering the parting and successful shot with admirable coolness and judgement”, and the ball nestled just inside the post of the Rangers ‘keeper who, like his defenders, also seemed to be taken by surprise.

James Bowie, the Rangers left-half, later stated that the thing he regretted most in all of his career as a player was the “trifling accident to his knickers” (his elastic broke) which caused him to leave the field for a moment or two, twenty minutes into the game. It does seem to stack up with the reports that our man was able to ghost in for a clear opportunity. Frankly, we'll take all the luck we can get. From John's point of view, he put himself in a great position to have that one shot at glory, and he took it like a champ. John Blair - eternal Partick Thistle legend!

On 20th April 1921, just 4 days after his Scottish Cup heroics, it's thought that John appeared as a guest for Kilmarnock 'A' in their 2-0 Scottish Alliance win over Queen's Park Strollers, with 3,000 at Rugby Park to see it. Did he have a soft spot for the Killie we wonder? In September, 1922, and with a fine sense of irony, John was invited by Rangers to play for them at Ibrox against Preston North End in a benefit match for Tommy Muirhead, the Light Blues captain. 5,000 were there to see it, but luck was out for the Ibrox side, who again lost out by one goal to nil! Post-Firhill, he returned, almost inevitably to Saltcoats Vics, where he played to a high standard for several more seasons, so much so that he won junior internationalist caps in his later years.

In his personal life, John married Agnes Morrison of Musselburgh and they set up home in Saltcoats, where John began his own plumbing business. It made sense, therefore, that he would play with his local team to help alleviate the pressures of travelling time to play professional football in Glasgow and all over Scotland. John and Agnes had three sons together, but sadly lost one to diptheria in 1928. Speaking to Partick Thistle for a video production in 2021, his grandson, Doug Blair, fondly recalled how he visited his grandparents regularly in Saltcoats in the 1960s and told how John loved to sail his big model yachts in the local pond! Sadly, John took a stroke towards the end of his life, and passed away at his Saltcoats home, 2 Gladstone Road, early in February 1971.


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