Robert "Bob" Harley

Robert "Bob" Harley was one of the second wave of Canadian soccer payers. The first had started with David Forsyth in the 1888's. The second was post Great War with the tours to Australia in 1924 and New Zealand in 1927. Bob Harley was one of the former party, indeed the captain, and for such was one of the early inductees to the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame.

But, of course, Harley was not Canadian-born. His birth, in 1888, was in Clippen by Linwood, in Renfrewshire, his father, like his mother, from Slamannan and a Grocer but the family moved to Airdrie and it was there abouts entirely that Bob learned the game.

Bob's father would die when he was relatively young, one of six children, and his mother in 1901 would remarry. And he as a young man would work presumably in the building trade for it was such that he would find work in 1910, when at twenty-one he emigrated. He went first to the United States, there joining a maternal uncle, but within two years had found his way to Canada, to Winnipeg in Manitoba.  

And there he might have stayed but for The Great War. Whether he enlisted or was called up is unclear but from 1914 he was part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force sent to Europe and, having been decorated for bravery, was in 1916, presumably in France, wounded, badly in the legs. Certainly in 1917 back in Airdrie when from his mother's address in Chapelhall he married local girl, Margaret McMeekin, confirming he was a bricklayer to trade, he was in the military and giving his last address as a convalescent hospital in Woking in Surrey in England.  

Clearly by then his War was over. Soon after the wedding he returned to Canada with Margaret and in 1918 the first of their two sons was born back in Winnipeg. And it was there too that he, already thirty, recuperated enough to restart his football. Said once to have been a Rangers' youth player he was a centre-half, but at only 5ft 4ins very much of the Scottish variety. 

He played for and captained local club, United Weston. It had been founded in 1909. In 1921 he was a member of teams for both Winnipeg and Manitoba against the touring Scottish F.A. party. In 1924 by then in his mid-thirties there was the Australian trip, two wins, three losses and two draws, however, it seems to have been more or less his last major action on field. He was not part of his club team when it was Dominion champions in both 1924 and 1926. 

However, it is said he went on to play for and coach the local YMCA and to hold soccer clinics in Manitoba and also Saskatchewan, into the 1950s, so into his sixties. In fact he was to continue to spread the football word almost until his death. It was in 1958 at the age of sixty-nine, still in Winnipeg. Margaret would outlive him by fully twenty years but on her passing still in the city she would join him in the local Brookside Cemetery. He in 2003 would be inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame.

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