James "Jimmy" McAulay

It is a measure of the prowess of James McAulay as a footballer, particularly as a goalkeeper, that he would win nine caps over five seasons in an era when two, three or four caps was norm over a couple of years. He is also something of a one who got away. 

He spent the whole of his playing career with one club. It was from 1880 to 1887 Dumbarton. Yet he was born in Bonhill. But there is an explanation, in fact two. 

The first is that both his parents, he their third son, were born at Kilmaronock, just up the Clyde from The Rock. The second is that he was originally a country-boy born on the Balagan or Ballagan farm at the limit of Bonhill parish north west of Balloch. The reason was that his father was an Agricultural Labourer, sometime Greive cum Dairyman. However, within a decade of his birth the family had returned to Dunbartonshire's county-town, changing James' life-path at least. There he would not just first work as an Engine Pattern Maker, becoming a Marine Engineer, but also at twenty begin to play for the town's football-club's First Team and not for the one of his birth, Vale of Leven. In doing so he was probably following in the footsteps of his elder brother, David, also Bonhill-born, an auctioneer's clerk and seven years his senior for, in 1873, a David McAulay had been a founder member of Dumbarton FC and until 1876 would line-up for all its fixtures.

But Jimmy did it first as a centre-forward, playing there as a twenty-year-old in the Scottish Cup Finals of 1881 and 1882, both lost after replays, and for his first cap, scoring, in the latter season. However, over the summer of 1882 he moved between the sticks. It was a change that was to earn him the epithet of "Prince of Goalkeepers", finally take the Scottish Cup in 1883, defeating Vale of Leven, and win him a further eight caps including five consecutive appearances against England without defeat.  

James retired from all football in 1887. The reason was that he had taken a job in Burma, working on the steamers on the Irrawaddy River. But by 1893 he was certainly back in Dumbarton. There that year he married Mary Henderson, the couple, which remained childless, and after perhaps returning to Burma eventually until their deaths settling in the town at the mouth of the Leven, pillars of the community, in a house, named Ballagan after his birthplace. Mary would die in 1940. He would follow after several years of illness in 1943 at the age of eighty-two. But, whilst he would be buried in Dumbarton Cemetery, his passing would not be in the town but in hospital in Larbert in Stirlingshire, probably because he had been staying in his last days with his brother-in-law, his wife's brother David, who would sign off the death.

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