Alex Donaldson

Alex Donaldson was one of the very few that with the rules at the time was able to break out of the English vortex. Whilst playing, a right-winger, for Bolton Wanderers he had impressed enough to be called up for a trial for England. That was when, one, it was realised, quite by whom it is unclear as Alex would have certainly known, that he was ineligible because he was a Scot both by blood and birth and, two, the Scottish Football Association, who should already have been literally on the ball, woke up, sent a selector to take a look at him. The result that within a month he was awarded a cap, the first of six, two of which would be against England.

The reason for a certain amount of scepticism about the way the events above unfolded is the story of Alex himself. He was born in 1890 in Barrhead, the son of a clerk from Busby and a mother from Bowfield above Johnstone. However, he was to lose his father at age seven and his mother had to turn to working as a washer-woman. However, she did so still in neighbouring Neilston, only by 1911, in fact by 1907, taking herself and her only child, then already a teenager, to Leicester, where she found work in a laundry and he in a shoe factory. It meant, firstly, that Alex had received his early, footballing education in Scotland, so Scottish style, only by fate first utilising those skills beyond the youth game on English soil, and, secondly, not only had an obvious Scottish name but must throughout have had an identifiably Scots accent. 

Alex Donaldson was to start his junior footballing career in Leicestershire and then Nottinghamshire before in 1911 being signed from Ripley Town to Bolton, where he was to remain for a decade, albeit including the war-years. In 1920-21 the club would finish third and by then Alex had been called up for Scotland five times, thrice pre-War, twice immediately post-War by when he was thirty years old, would make a final, international appearance and be on his way. In early 1922 he moved sideways to Sunderland, finished the season off and then the next played almost every game with The Black Cats rising from twelfth to second in the top division. 

Yet he did not stay, being transferred, again sideways, to Manchester City perhaps not entirely with his approval and with little impact. He made just seven starts over some sources say one and others two seasons, being perhaps farmed out in the second. Then in 1925 at thirty-four he stepped down a level for a couple more campaigns for Chorley between Bolton and Preston and in the Lancashire Combination before full retiral in 1927.

And explanation of Donaldson's lack of success at Manchester City is attributed to a falling-out with the club early for which there were personal reasons. In 1916 in Deane by Bolton he had married local girl, Ann Horrocks. They were to have six children. The first two were born in Leicester in the war years when Alex was guesting for Leicester Fosse and presumably working in the city. The third birth would be in 1921 in Bolton, the fifth in 1926 and the sixth in 1931 in Manchester North and Manchester South respectively. But it would be the arrival of the fourth that is the key. It was in 1924 in Sunderland. Perhaps expecting a longer stay on Wearside he had just moved the whole family there and was reluctant with his wife pregnant once more to move them back.  

With the end of active football the trail of Alex and the family for a while becomes a little difficult. There is mention of running of a pub, which might explain South Manchester in 1931. In 1939 he, Ann and the two youngest children are recorded in Leicester once more, he as a Capstan Lathe operator. And then, presumably post-war,  he would return north to open what would become a well-known sports-shop on the Hyde Road, so South Manchester once more. It would be sold on final retirement, when he and Ann seemed to have returned to live back in Bolton. His death and cremation would be recorded there in 1972 at the age of eighty-one as would Ann's passing in 1994 in her one hundreth year. 

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