Tom Callaghan
Tom Callaghan
Tom Callaghan
● Tom Callaghan (FFW)

born in England

Thomas Callaghan was born on Sunday, 25th November, 1883, in Birmingham.

The forward signed for George Easton's Thistle on Saturday, 7th August, 1909, having most recently been with Manchester City.

Aged 25, he made his debut appearance on Monday, 16th August, 1909, in a 2-1 defeat away to Morton in the SFL First Division.

Tom scored his first goal for Thistle on Saturday, 18th September, 1909, in a 3-1 win at home to Dumbarton Harp in the Scottish Qualifying Cup.

He scored the last of his 11 goals on Saturday, 17th August, 1912, in a 2-1 defeat away to Kilmarnock in the SFL First Division.

He played his last game for the club on Tuesday, 1st April, 1913, in a 3-2 defeat away to Third Lanark in the Glasgow & District Mid-Week League, having appeared as a Jag on 99 occasions.

His club-list included Small Heath, Halesowen Town, Glossop, Manchester City, Partick Thistle and St Mirren.

Tom died on Monday, 20th February, 1917, in Zillebeke, West-Vlaanderen, aged 33.

Bio Extra

Quick off his mark, the clever Englishman is also a good shot and excels in clever dodging and deadly centring. He is very popular with the patrons of the Thistle.

~ The Scottish Referee, 3rd October, 1910

The son of George Callaghan (brass caster) and Theresa Callaghan (née Sherlock). At the 1891 census their family was living at Coxwell Road in Birmingham, the siblings still at home being George (22), Emma (20), Henry (16), Alfred (14), Arthur (12), Ellen (9), Tom (7) and Frank (4). Tom also had an older sister, Teresa, who would be about 24 at that time. The 2-year-old Tom was baptised at St Peter's, Birmingham, on 4th April 1886. This is possibly the reason why some sources give this year as the date of birth. By March 1901, the family was living at 125 Osler Street in Birmingham. The 17-year-old Tom was working as a coremaker. His first cousin once-removed was Ernie 'Mush' Callaghan who played with Aston Villa in the 30s and 40s.

In what must have been a dream move for him, the 19-year-old Tom was on the books at First Division Small Heath (the club we know today as Birmingham City) for season 1903-04, although he never made the breakthrough to the first team. Tom appeared in the Birmingham Combination with Halesowen Town in 1904-05, before heading for Derbyshire in April 1905 for another crack at the Football League, this time with Second Division Glossop. The 21-year-old immediately became a first-team regular, making his debut in a 3-1 home triumph over Gainsborough Trinity on 15th April 1905. Glossop finished the 1904-05 season in twelfth place. Tom was prolific in terms of appearances in the following two seasons, clocking up over 70 competitive appearances. He chipped in with the goals from out wide on the right too, netting around 10 in first class action during the seasons mentioned.

His form led to another big move in the summer of 1907 as he signed for big-spending Manchester City. £750 secured the transfer, softening the blow for the Glossop officials. However, it wasn't easy to for Tom to make the breakthrough in such a prestigious team. There, he really was at the top of the tree, and City were gunning for the champions flag. They finished joint-2nd that season and Tom featured in two of the League games. His League debut came on 8th February 1908 at Trent Bridge, where 8,000 witnessed a surprising result; Notts County 1 Manchester City 0. Tom was in top-flight action again just 3 weeks later at Bury, City being held to a goalless draw at Gigg Lane.

Despite impressing in City’s second string, it became evident that Tom was never going to get a proper look-in at the higher level and he made a bold move Northwards to Glasgow, signing with Partick Thistle in August, 1909. This was a very good time to be signing for Thistle, albeit Firhill was a rather chaotic environment at the time. The club had been homeless the season before and the results had been horrendous. However, this was a fresh start with new impetus. In many ways, Tom's personal circumstances were completely reflected in the club that he was joining, both requiring a rebirth. Joining the club at this time were stars from the English First Division, and Tom would have been very familiar with the names of ex-Liverpool men Alec Raisbeck and Maurice Parry, both internationalists of some renown.

Tom took control of the right wing position from the off, although positive results were hard to come by for some time as the club took time to re-settle in Maryhill. The first two League games were actually lost home and away to Morton, the "home" leg taking place at Ibrox as the executive continued to encourage the builders to hurry along at Firhill. Eventually the ground was opened on 18th September 1909. Due to Thistle's awful League performance the season before, they were faced with the ignominuous task of having to qualify for the right to play in the Scottish Cup proper. Having despatched Renton by a goal to nil two weeks earlier, Dumbarton Harp were the opponents for the first-ever game at Firhill. Tom wrote himself into the history books that day. With the game finely poised at 1-1, his drive in the 55th minute put the Jags 2-1 up. The standites in amongst the 4,000 crowd stomped their feet on the timber floor in a show of mass approval. Final score; Partick Thistle 3, Dumbarton Harp 1. A victory over Nithsdale Wanderers 3 weeks later meant that Thistle's place in the Scottish Cup draw was indeed secured. The Jags had to wait until Christmas day for their first League win at Firhill when a strong Hibs side were defeated by 3 goals to 1. A corner was turned. Tom didn't actually play that day and perhaps it's just as well. Tragically, there was a fatal accident during the match, when Thistle's Frank Branscombe slipped on an icy surface in a challenge for the ball with James Main, striking the Scotland defender in the stomach with his boot with some force. Main died from his injuries 4 days later.

Tom finished third in the competitive appearances chart in his first season, having featured on 31 occasions. Jags were 16th out of 18 in the League though, so big improvements were required - and improve they most certainly did! Firhill became an absolute fortress in 1910-11. For the one and only time in the club's history, they went through the entire campaign unbeaten at home in the top-flight. Played 17, won 13, drew 4, lost 0. Will we ever see the likes again? Probably not! Again, Tom was in the upper echelons of the first team stars, with 31 appearances and 6 goals in all competions. League highlights for Tom were match-winning goals against Hearts (2-1, October), Morton (1-0, December), Hibernian (2-1, December) as well as a goal against Rangers (2-2, January). Jags finished in 4th place - their highest placing in the Scottish game at that point.

In the census of 2nd April 1911 Tom was a lodger at 7 Clarendon Street, just off Maryhill Road and within easy walking distance of Firhill. He was described as a single man and it was stated that he was a football player, born in Birmingham. He was lodging with another English Jag of the day, George Keenlyside! Anyone following in our research footsteps will be thwarted by many red herrings in Tom's story, one of which is his stated age (22) on this document. Don't even get us started on the multitude of spelling variations in many other documents! Tom did not appear for the start of 1911-12 for either the first team or reserves. Perhaps he was injured, or maybe he returned down south for a bit? In November 1911, a loan deal was arranged with St Mirren and normal service was resumed for the player personally, with 4 goals in 20 competitive appearance for the Buddies.

Tom was back in the fold at Firhill for a full-on season in 1912-13. He scored in August in a 2-1 defeat against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, but that proved to be his only goal of the season despite racking up 31 competitive appearances. Jags finished second bottom in that campaign, a real disappointment when compared to the most recent seasons. Tom remained as a registered Thistle player in the 4 seasons which followed, but became inactive as a footballer, certainly at any professional level. At some point he returned home to Birmingham and his address was later given as 72, Ladywood Road.

In January 1916 the Military Service Act was passed. This imposed conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, exempting only the medically unfit, clergymen, teachers and certain classes of industrial worker. Tom was 32 at this time, and almost certainly met the criteria. He enlisted in 1916, initially in the Somerset Light Infantry, but moved to the 1/20th London Regiment (Blackheath and Woolwich), a territorial unit that had been on the Western Front since March 1915. The batallion defended the German assault at Vimy Ridge in early 1916. They then fought on the Somme where they captured High Wood during subsidiary battles of Flers-Courcelette, and Eaucourt l’Abbaye during the fighting for the Transloy Ridges. In October 1916, the 20th Londons moved north to the Hill 60 sector of the Ypres Salient with its division.

On 20th February 1917, a large-scale trench raid was launched at Hill 60 by 1/6th Londons, part of 140th Brigade, during which record numbers of prisoners were taken and considerable intelligence gained. It was a significant achievement for the battalion and one which was supported by the rest of 47th Division, including 20th Londons. Many men paid the ultimate price for this success however, including Tom, who was killed by German shell fire. Following his death, a sergeant in Callaghan’s unit wrote to the footballer’s brother to explain how he had lost his life. On 12th March 1917, the Evening Dispatch (see 'Scrapbook' tab above) published an extract of the letter which read:


He [Callaghan] was in charge of a gun at the time, and while sticking to it like grim death, a shell fell on top of him and another man, killing them both… I can’t say enough for him. I only wish I was as fine a man.

The War Graves Commission site has an entry regarding gravestone inscriptions to be. On it, Tom's next of kin was described as Mrs. T. Callaghan, her address given as 119 Osler Street, Birmingham (the street where Tom lived in the 1901 census). We believe that Tom remained a bachelor, and that Mrs. T. Callaghan is his mother, Theresa.

Tom was buried at Chester Farm Cemetery, located 5 kilometres south of Ypres town centre on the Vaartstraat. The cemetery contains 413 identified and seven unidentified casualties.

We commemorate his life in our feature piece, The Partick Thistle Fallen →.


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