Jim Wilson

James "Jim" Wilson's life was short. He died in Alexandria of pneumonia at the age of just thirty-four. The year was 1900. He is also something of an enigma. Although buried in Vale of Leven Cemetery he has no known grave, at least so far. And, although having been born in Bonhill in 1865, so reaching maturity well into the era of early photography there seems to be no picture of him either. The closest we get is perhaps a photo of the Vale of Leven team, probably from 1888, which definitely shows Jimmy Cowan, (top row, second from left) who left for Aston Villa in 1889, and should therefore also include Jim Wilson, since he played for the club from 1884 to 1893. But, which of the others he is, is a different matter. Perhaps he is the cap-wearer.

Jim Wilson had been born on Main St., Bonhill, the son of locally-born parents, his father a grocer, who would go through various jobs before becoming a commercial clerk. Jim himself at fifteen would be a machine-boy in a print-works and a decade later a Calico Printer. He would also marry, to Elizabeth McKenzie in 1891, whilst coming to an end of a decade-long football career. It had begun as a forward with Vale of Leven Wanderers, Alexandria's junior team, but a switch to goalkeeper proved so successful that he not only moved up to Vale of Leven itself but played for them for the best part of a decade, from 1884 to 1893, and was from 1888 to 1891 seen as the best 'keeper in Scotland. In that period he won four Scotland caps, the first against Wales and then stepping in after the 1888 gubbing by England and steadying the ship with a win and a draw against the Auld Enemy before a final loss in 1891. 

As to home life, at some point after marriage the Wilson family moved, as it happens fortuitously, ten doors up from Elizabeth's parents on Arthur St. in Alexandria. And with her he would have one child, a boy, born in 1899, who sadly would be orphaned a little over a decade later. Not only would his father pass away when he was barely one, his mother would also die relatively young, in 1910, aged just forty-five.       

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