Eddie McPhee - SJFA Secretary 1900 - 1936
BY DOUGLAS GORMAN
Edward “Eddie” Marshall McPhee was born on 29 May 1870 in Tollcross, Glasgow and became an indefatigable, committed and long-serving administrator in Scottish Junior football. He was employed as a woollen cloth warehouseman and lived latterly at Stewarton Cottage, Tollcross that would have been a well-known address for club secretaries.
Picture source: The Scottish Junior Portfolio of Photos published in 1897 by J.C. Chalmers, G. Denny and W. Prentice
Vale of Clyde FC
At just 14 years of age he became the first secretary of Vale of Clyde FC. Although the Tollcross-based club may be able to claim its origins back to 1873, it was Eddie who got the team organised. At a meeting on 23 March 1885 he proposed the club adopt the name of Vale of Clyde having seen it on the side of a tramcar during a visit to Govan. The club played at Bogleshole Park and made an inauspicious start in the 1886-87 season with a 9-1 defeat by Eastfield in the first round of the Cambuslang & District Junior Cup. They were not put off and in the following season won the cup defeating Newton Thistle in the final. The club applied to join the Glasgow Junior Football Association (GJFA), formed in 1884, but were refused. To make matters worse they were disqualified from the Cambuslang & District Cup for playing a man under the name John when his real name was James. In 1888 with the demise of the Senior Tollcross club Vale of Clyde took over their ground in Germiston Park where they remained until 1936 when today’s Fullarton Park became the home ground.
These setbacks did not deter Eddie and his committee and they first entered the Junior Cup in the 1889-90 season and were finally admitted to the GJFA for the 1890-91 season. This proved to be a very successful season winning four trophies – the Scottish Junior Cup, Glasgow Junior Charity Cup, Evening News Charity Cup and North Eastern Junior Cup. Despite this success the club chose to remain in the Junior ranks for at least one more season. In 1892-93 season the club entered its first league competition with the formation of the Scottish Junior Football League (the first of three leagues to bear that name) and finished as runners-up as well as winning the Junior Cup again.
League football was in its infancy and this one did not prove a success so in the next two seasons (1893-94 & 1894-95) the club was not affiliated to a league but went on to join the Glasgow Junior Football League in its inaugural 1895-96 season. Eddie continued his association with the club until he became secretary of the Scottish Junior Football Association(SJFA) in 1900 and had to relinquish formal club connections. During his time with the “Tin Pail” the club won the Scottish Junior Cup on two occasions (1890-91 & 1892-93) and in his last season (1899-1900) they were champions of the Glasgow Junior Football League. Other honours won were the Glasgow Junior Cup (1891-92, 1892-93 & 1897-98), Glasgow Junior Charity Cup (1890-91), North Eastern Junior Cup (1890-91, 1891-92 & 1897-98), Tollcross & District Junior Cup (1892-93), Evening News Charity Cup (1890-91) and Cambuslang & District Cup (1887-88).
Although Eddie was not in the 1890-91 Junior Cup-winning team he did play in the side that won the North Eastern Junior Cup a month later in June 1891. Eddie had other talents as on Friday 19 June 1891 when the Junior Cup was formally presented, it was reported that “Messrs Gray, Marshall, Dempster and M’Phee acquitted themselves well” in the concert that followed.
During Eddie’s long spell at the club nine players won Junior international caps (David Baxter, James Baxter, Davie Bell, J Cunningham, James Linnen, D Livingston, Charles Ritchie, George Rodger & Joseph White). Johnny Divers went on to win a Full Scotland cap as a Celtic player when he played and scored a goal against Wales in 1895. The club launched the careers of many other footballers during this period including the colourful and chaotic career of Harry Boyd. Boyd went on to play in England for Sunderland Albion, Burnley, West Bromwich Albion, Woolwich Arsenal and Newton Heath (today’s Manchester United).
Alongside his involvement with the Vale he joined the general committee of the Glasgow Junior Football League and was appointed its first secretary in 1895 before resigning in 1900 to take up the post of SJFA secretary. Locally he was secretary of the Tollcross & District 2nd XI Junior and Juvenile Cup competition. If this was not enough, he was still playing and in 1892 represented the Glasgow JFA committee in a match against their Edinburgh counterparts. He was also a referee and officiated at the Junior Cup semi-final on 21 April 1894 when Ashfield defeated Broxburn Athletic (4-0) at Burngrange Park, West Calder.
He first became involved with the SJFA in 1893 when he was elected treasurer. He managed the SJFA’s fragile finances. He had successfully walked a financial tightrope to fund the first visit to play the Birmingham District and Counties Football Association in Leamington in 1894. At the end of the season with all accounts paid the SJFA balance was £36 19s 1d (£36.95) and the Scottish Referee said: “when it is remembered that the Association had almost expended its last sixpence on the ill-fated Birmingham expedition the result is truly marvellous.” That first match was not “ill-fated” but led to a series of 46 annual matches between the two associations. These first steps gave the SJFA confidence to play further afield and in 1912 annual matches against the North Wales Coast FA were established and even a short tour to Norway was undertaken in 1921.
Eddie had been clearly identified as a future SJFA secretary. He had earned descriptions as “The Goschen [Lord Goschen was First Lord of the Admiralty] of the junior football world” and “that most energetic official”. At the 1899 Annual General Meeting it was agreed that the secretary should in future receive a salary of £40 p.a. rather than a voted honorarium. John Chalmers, the current secretary, was appointed to the salaried position. However, he retired after one year and at the AGM on 16 June 1900 the chief event was election of a new secretary. A lively meeting was anticipated after the Lanarkshire Junior Football Association, thinking Eddie was likely to be the favourite, took the unprecedented step of canvassing other associations and clubs outside Glasgow prior to the meeting. They felt that their candidate, the current SJFA president William Prentice (Haywood Wanderers), would better serve the associations outside Glasgow. The Glasgow Junior FA reacted angrily. They pointed out in a pre-meeting circular that “while we hold no brief for Mr M’Phee, we consider in using his name they have treated him unfairly”. They made it clear that they thought that this was an attempt to stir up old “Glasgow versus Country” arguments. In the vote Eddie won by 41 to 34 votes, was duly elected and remained in post until his death.
During his time as SJFA secretary he oversaw the growth of Junior football bringing together the local associations around Scotland with almost 400 clubs competing for the national Junior Cup in the 1920’s and players seeking selection to the Junior Scotland side to play international matches against other countries in the British Isles. He also played a significant part in the continuation of Junior football during the First World War. At times the relationship with Senior clubs and the Scottish Football Association was fractious due to the constant issue of poaching of players. This culminated in the Intermediate Dispute that rocked Scottish football from 1925 to 1931 with a large number of clubs breaking away from the SJFA. In the end a resolution was brokered with a standard £75 transfer fee being paid by a Senior club signing a player from a Junior club. A provisional signing arrangement was introduced to make it easier for Junior clubs to retain players sought by Senior clubs while they were still challenging in Junior league and cup competitions.
In 1918 he was awarded a testimonial to recognise his 25 years’ service to the SJFA. The proceeds of the collection were presented to him at a small ceremony on 18 December 1918.
At the 1922 AGM there was a proposal to appoint a full-time secretary but this was defeated by an overwhelming majority to retain Eddie in his part-time role.
His final year
Eddie had started to suffer from ill-health in January 1936 but had made sufficient improvement that his doctor had given him permission to attend the Junior Cup Final at Hampden Park on 25 April. He had decided to tender his resignation at the SJFA meeting that immediately preceded the Cup Final. Sadly, he died suddenly at home on 23 April. Five minutes before the start of the Final the Benburb and Yoker Athletic players, wearing black armbands, stood to attention as the Govan Burgh Band played the Dead March. Later, at the opening of the SJFA AGM on 20 June in Perth a two minutes’ silence was observed in his memory. During the meeting it was decided to erect a suitable memorial and a subscription list was opened. On 23 May 1937 Rev James Alexander, Minister of Tollcross Central Church, officiated at the ceremony in the Tollcross Cemetery when Eddie’s wife, Catherine, unveiled the memorial.
The Parkhead history website (parkheadhistory.com) has a photograph of the memorial and says that “it was erected at the front right of the gate of the church graveyard which was accessed through Church Lane from Tollcross Road. Edward Marshall McPhee is laid to rest in the Session House lair 2 which today is unmarked.”
The dedication reads:
clubs and friends
Scottish Junior Football Association
in memory of
Edward Marshall McPhee
who for 44 years served
the interests of the S.J.F.A.
Treasurer for 6 years
Secretary for 37 years
born in Tollcross
29th May 1870
and died there
23rd April 1936
In his will he left £5,589.