John "Jock" Smith, aka "Fermer Jock" is a Scotland player about whose earlier and later life we know quite a lot but little about much of the middle. He was born in 1898 at now-listed Drumbuie Farm by Beith in North Ayrshire, one of nine children, five girls, four boys. In 1901 they were still there but in 1911 the family was was living at Crawfield Farm to the south of Beith, with man and boys all working their land. It was for this Jock was nick-named in Scots "Farmer" but if, as appears to be the case, his father was Alexander Smith, the boy at Drumbuie had actually started life as the son of not as a tiller of the soil but a "Lime Master or Merchant" of two decades.
The young Smith was one of the many footballers, whose early career would be seriously disrupted by the Great War. In 1914 he was twenty, in 1918 twenty-four but apparently not called up. Quite possibly he found himself in a reserved occupation. At some point in those four years it is said he was turning out for Neilston Victoria, and it must have been from there that he was picked up, not by a North Ayrshire or Glasgow club but by Ayr United. He joined them in 1919 as a rapid full-back, was played up front because of his speed, Ayr finishing 10th in the first full post-war season, but eventually did develop a defensive partnership with Phil McCloy, who had established himself at the club at much the same time. And it was also with McCloy that Smith earned his single cap, a 1-1 away-draw with England.
The cap was not repeated perhaps because in the season following it Ayr was actually relegated, at which point McCloy moved on to Manchester City, Smith following a year later, already aged well into his thirties, to Middlesbrough. There in four seasons he made 123 appearances as the club yoyoed. The Second Division championship was won in 1927 and 1929, with relegation in 1928. However, in 1930, aged thirty-six, he moved on, dropping a division and almost immediately taking the Welsh Cup.
But the stay at Ninian Park was only for two seasons, at which point with Jock still wanting and able to play on, he moved across the water, to Belfast and Distillery for three seasons, taking him past his fortieth birthday. And Belfast clearly suited him. On hanging up his boots he went into business and remained there until his death in 1973. He is buried with his wife, Margaret, who survived him by a decade, in a still cared-for grave in the city's Roselawn Cemetery.
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