Watty Borthwick
Watty Borthwick
Watty Borthwick
● Watty Borthwick, 1922 (JFS)

born in Scotland

Walter Borthwick was born on Thursday, 9th January, 1890, in Leith, Edinburgh.

The defender signed for George Easton's Thistle on Thursday, 22nd August, 1918, having most recently been with Hibernian.

Aged 28, he made his debut appearance on Saturday, 24th August, 1918, in a 3-1 win at home to Clydebank FC in the Scottish Football League.

Watty scored his only goal for Thistle on Saturday, 14th December, 1918, in a 3-1 win at home to Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish Football League.

He played his last game for the club on Wednesday, 1st March, 1922, in a 0-0 draw away to Dundee in the SFL First Division, having appeared as a Jag on 81 occasions.

His club-list included Leith Athletic, Broxburn Shamrock, East Fife, Cowdenbeath, Hibernian, Partick Thistle, Dalbeattie Star, Bristol City, Hartlepools United and Nithsdale Wanderers.

Watty died on Saturday, 15th March, 1969, in Loanhead, Midlothian, aged 79.

Bio Extra

The son of John Borthwick (a dock porter) and Mary Cobban Borthwick (née Blacklaw), born at 16, North Junction Street. His big brother, Jack, was also a prominent footballer, playing at centre half with Hibs and Everton amongst others.

In the classic Scottish Cup campaign of 1921, Watty hadn't featured since the win at East Stirlingshire 2 months earlier, but he was back to play a key role in the final itself, filling the boots of internationalist Jimmy McMullan with distinction. Indeed, as astute observers noted, with his height advantage over McMullan, his inclusion might well have been a blessing in disguise.

Aged 19, Watty's first taste of senior football came with his local side, Leith Athletic, although he was disappointed not to command a regular first-team place at Old Logie Green. It took some years for his footballing career to find some momentum, but this it did in the mid-10s, with stints at Broxburn Shamrock, East Fife and Cowdenbeath. Watty was a Hibs supporter who actually lived on Easter Road and he got his dream move in the close season of 1916. Toughened and seasoned, the 26-year-old established himself as a first-team regular from the off, and served Hibernian as a solid right back for two full campaigns. He was regarded as a hard man to beat, who took a no-nonsense approach to defending.

Our regular right back of 1917-1918 had been Tom Adams, but it became apparent that ill health was going to severely limit his contribution as the next term came around. George McQueen (Rangers) and John Pearson (Tottenham Hotspur) were drafted in as emergency loanees, with Watty being cherry-picked from the Easter Road roster as the most realistic contender for the permanent place. All went well in his first season, as Thistle finished 4th, Watty featuring in 75% of the games. He'd've been half expecting it, and it came to be that Tom Adams returned for 1919-20, reducing Watty's game time to around 50% of the fixtures. As a charitable favour, Watty appeared in a couple of games for Dalbeattie Star in the Southern Counties Charity Cup at the tail end of the season.

At this stage, his reduced game time pretty much set the tone for his Firhill future, and he would have to content himself as a reserve, albeit he was viewed as a highly capable option as a stand-in, as and when necessary. And what a stand-in he proved to be in the gruelling and demanding 55 game campaign of 1920-21! Watty's game ratio was down to 33% this term, but he was invaluable when called upon, gaining plaudits for his 4 appearances in the Cup run, especially in the final itself. It was viewed as a major blow when Jimmy McMullan bowed out due to his ankle injury, but, on the day, Watty proved himself more than able for the challenge, imposing himself on the game, denying his more illustrious opponents the time and space, winning his aerial battles and, we believe, providing the wonderful crossfield assist for John Blair's winning goal.

Whilst some reports credit Salisbury, we rather think that the assist came from Watty, as per the Scotsman and Glasgow Herald accounts. McMenemy, protecting the ball in his own inimitable style, teed up a back pass which invited our stand-in spoiler 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. Blair's finishing drive, from 20 yards, served justice to the fine play and the rest, as the say, is history.

The Scottish Cup winners medal was possibly a career highlight for all eleven of the Jagsmen who took the field on 16th April, 1921, and that was certainly the case for Watty. However, frustrated at his "supersub" status, he hankered after a new challenge and, as I understand it, tried for Bristol City in a Division 2 match on 18th February, 1922, the Robins losing 1-0 at Sheffield Wednesday. He was back up the road to play his final game as a Jag at Dens Park two weeks later, before reuniting with Cowdenbeath for a short spell as 1921-22 drew to a close. I'm surmising that Watty was offered the financial benefit of a free transfer at this stage, as a thank you for his efforts at Firhill. He was back in England by the close season of 1922, joining Hartlepools United of Division 3 (North). Back again in the South of Scotland, the somewhat nomadic finale to his career drew to a close at Sanquhar, where, in season 1923-24, Watty played in the inaugural third tier of the Scottish Football League, assisting Nithsdale Wanderers in their quest. He played two seasons there, finishing on a high in 1925, as the title, and promotion, was secured. There would be no second tier twilight action for Watty though, as he retired from the game at that point, aged 35.

Watty settled back in Midlothian, where he latterly worked as a school janitor. He died of a cardiac arrest at his Loanhead home in 1969, aged 79, leaving a widow, Jane.


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