James "Jimmy" Lawrence

Throughout the greatest years of Newcastle United in the first decade of the 20th Century there was one player, who was an ever-present. He joined the club in 1904. He left in 1922 and in the meantime with the War-years intervening, had made over five hundred starts for his club team but just one for his country. In part the lack of international caps was due to the presence of Hibernian's Harry Rennie until 1908, Peter McBride of Preston and Third Lanark's Jimmy Brownlie to the Great War but there was perhaps another factor. Despite being a commanding figure specificallt within The Toon system he stood only 5 feet 8 1/2 inches tall and was relatively light-weight physically, factors that in Scotland might have hindered despite a junior cap. 

And then, of course, James "Jimmy" Lawrence had also lied about his age, something that must have been known North of the Border. He had actually been born in 1879 in Partick, one of twins, his father from Old Scone by Perth, in the city a Shipbuilder's Timekeeper, and his mother from Port Patrick by Stranraer. And he began his football with Partick Athletic at the age of twenty-one for two seasons before two more at, perhaps due to the paternal connection, Glasgow Perthshire, this whilst working as an apprentice tinsmith to trade. So, apart for guest appearance for both Rangers and Hibernian, that was the full extent of his experience before Frank Watt came in for him to replace Kingsley and Lawrence was able, albeit he did look fresh-faced, on the way to shed six years, then able throughout his senior football career to create and preserve the myth that he had been born in 1885.

With Lawrence between the sticks Newcastle was to win three English League titles and a single FA Cup, although the club would in the latter finish as runner-up four more times, the last occasion in 1911. And in the meantime he would settle in the city, living on Shields Road in Heaton until in February 1913 he married. His wife was Barbara Murray, born in Heaton itself but the daughter of a Scot. She was a decade younger than his real age, four than his given one and whilst they settled in Ovingham, a village up the valley of the Tyne they would soon travel north. And she did so perhaps already expecting for three months later she was dead, dying in Glasgow from an haemorrhage, the result of a pregnancy that proved ectopic.

Jimmy Lawrence returned to Tyneside, during The Great War working in a local munitions factory, before returning to the Newcastle team in 1919, eventually to hang up his boots in 1922 actually aged forty-three. By then he had also in 1921 become chairman of the Players' Union. Founded in 1907, a successor to the Association Footballers' Union, it had thrived as it does still today. And after playing he briefly tried management before turning to coaching at Preston and then in Germany. He spent six successful years at one of Karlsruhe's two teams, FV, winning five regional championships. 

However, declining health was to bring him back to Scotland for good by 1933 , when he settled in Stranraer, perhaps drawn there by his mother's family connection. She had died in 1929 in Calgary in Canada, where her younger son had emigrated pre-War and she and two of her daughters, including Jimmy's twin sister, joined him. Jimmy even in his short Stranraer stay was to become Chairman of the town football club but by 1934 his condition had declined to the point where he was admitted to the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow. And it was in hospital that he passed away at the age of just forty-nine, his final address given full-circle as his sister and brother-in-law's and back in Partick. 

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