On 14th April 1901 in the game that would decide the first playing of the Copa Macaya, which would in 1903 become the Catalan Championship, there were at least three Scots on the field, but perhaps four, five or six. The champions-to-be, Hispania, had three in the squad, Joseph Black, Willie Gold and John Hamilton and probably all three were playing. And in the team that day of the runners-up, FC Barcelona, there were certainly three more, Joseph Black's brother, Alexander, Peter Mauchan and George "Geordie" Girvan. And just now it is the last of these that is of most interest.
A season earlier all six had been in the same team, Escoces F.C., as workers at the Scots cum Nottingham, Johnston, Shields lace mill implanted in the Catalan capital from 1893 and known as La Escocesa, The Scot. And it would be lace in particular that would be the thread that would run through the rest of Girvan's life, even unto death. George “Geordie” Girvan, was perhaps just 20 when he had arrived in Spain. He had been born in 1878 in Dalziel i.e. Motherwell but of parents, his father an engineer, from Newmilns, the home of Johnston, Shield's parent factory and to where they returned by 1891, via neighbouring Galston by 1884.
But before 1901, whilst the family was again living in Galston, George was already on his way. Indeed by 1900 he had married, in November that year in Barcelona with his first child born but eight months later. His bride was Susannah Maria Zillah Tomlinson, she from Nottingham, suggesting that the two worked alongside each other. Moreover, a second son was soon born to the couple but neither he or his brother seemed to have survived beyond infancy and by 1904 the couple alone appear to have been back in Britain.
There a third son, George Jnr., the first to survive, was born to Susannah, but not in Scotland but in Nottingham, where George Snr. is recorded as a Twist Hand. But they were soon to return to north of the border, to Newmilns. Three more children would be born there in 1905 and 1912, including a second William and a John. They in time enter the lace-industry too. In 1911 George Snr is recorded as a lace curtain weaver, the boys at school. In 1921 he is a lace weaver for Steel and Co. at River Bank Works in Stoneygate Rd., where he had lived as a child, whilst George Jnr is a "Shuttler" at the same company and William, who would be killed in France in World War 2, the same at Johnston, Shields' main works.
But amidst all this the young Geordie Girvan Snr. had already made an albeit brief but indelible impact on Barcelona, Catalan, even Spanish football. As an inside-forward after the dissolution of Escoces F.C. in 1900 and now in January 1901, recruited to F.C. Barcelona and featuring in eight fixtures in the season, he scored not only the club's first ever goal in official competition, the Copa Macaya, but seven more. Moreover, for two more seasons, 1901-1903, he joined none other than Hispania.
And on his return to Scotland George Snr had almost a third life. Before dying still in Newmilns in 1968, aged a good 90, he became both the secretary of the Scottish Lace and Textiles Union and provost of his hometown. In fact on his death he is recorded as a Trades Union Official (Retired) and a widower. Susannah had died fourteen years earlier but for her, as it would be for him, the address had been on Girvan Crescent, the road, very much still there, named in his honour. Where he is buried is unclear but he is known to have been survived by son, John, who died still in Newmilns in 1991.
And there would be one last footballing twist. In 1957 Spain faced Scotland for the first time ever. It was at Hampden. Girvan was there for what would be a 4-2 home victory but remarking at the end of the game, "I suppose I taught these guys how to play, and how to commit fouls."
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