John Hamilton was a Darvel-boy, or at least seems to have been. If identified correctly he was born there in 1870, would die there in 1923 and is buried in its Old Cemetery. But in between he was to be one of the most important shapers of Spanish football, specifically Catalan football, as a player first and then a referee.
He was the eighth of the nine children of Thomas Hamilton and Agnes Gemmell, his father a cotton weaver, also Darvel-born. It was a village that was producing more than it fair share of footballers. Nicol Smith, of Rangers and Scotland, was three years younger and lived a couple of streets away. Unrelated Alex Smith of the same club was born in 1875. And there were others. The street games, all within just a few hundred yards of the current Darvel ground must have been quite something.
It is therefore hardly surprising that Hamilton, although not of the Smiths' standard, in childhood and youth developed a life-long passion for the game. Meanwhile he began his working- and private-life. In 1881 he was still at school. In 1891 he was already a "calanderer", an operator of machine to press and finish fabric, in his case lace. And in neighbouring Newmilns on 6th May 1892 he married local lassie, Jeanie Wilson. Three sons would soon follow. Thomas, who would die in The Great War in 1917, arrived in 1893, John Jnr. three years later and Andrew three years later still. The first two were born in Newmilns, the last back in Darvel in 1899.
And John Hamilton would also be found in Darvel in 1901 and 1911. In both he is recorded as a lace warehouseman and again a decade later, two years before his death, as a lace manufacturer in his own right. Moreover, on his death in Darvel once more he would be buried in its Old cemetery with his son, to be joined by his wife on her death in 1934. The inscription on the grave reads "Erected By Jeanie Wilson Ilmo Her Beloved Husband John Hamilton, Lace Manufacturer D. At Rosemount, Darvel 5.10.1923 in His 54th Year. Also Their Beloved Son Sergt, Tom Hamilton 28.3.1917 Aged 24. Also the Above Jeanie Wilson D. 23.4.1934."
But back to the football. Presumably working for Johnston, Shields, the Newmilns lace-makers, he was in 1893 sent with others from Darvel/Newmilns to Sant Marti, Barcelona and its new factory, soon to be known as La Escocesa, still there and now an artists' centre. Certainly in the winter of 1893-4 he featured as a goal-scoring forward for the Scots of Sant Marti against the English Colony of Barcelona, after which, with no other mention, he may have returned to Scotland. But he would be back. He was there in 1900 as a founder on the creation of Sant Andreu F.C., soon to be known as Escoses F.C. He would, now from goal, or as a defender, captain the team until its dissolution in November of that year. And he would also for the first time referee.
At that point the Escoces players went in several directions. Hamilton, perhaps after a brief time at home, returned to join Hispania. There as a defender he enjoyed considerable success. The club would win the first Copa Macaya, the precursor of the Catalan championship, which began in 1903. However, in November 1903 Hispania too folded and Hamilton moved on once more, joining Barcelona, which with him in the squad would take the 1904-5 Catalan title.
Meanwhile Hamilton continued to officiate. Indeed, in 1902 he had become the first President of the College of Catalan Referees and, as his playing days came to an end, he became more and more involved, perhaps due to a fairly long interlude back in Scotland from 1905 to 1909, in this facet of the game. He took the whistle in games in the 1902-3 season but seemingly not again until 1909-10, after which he was regularly in the middle. In 1912 he even refereed the final of the Copa del Rey, a 2-0 victory at the city's Camp de la Industria for his old team FC Barcelona over Madrid's Sociedad Gimnastica, with his last known appearance on Boxing Day 1916 at the age of forty-six, with a permanent return to Darvel then perhaps prompted by his son's death.
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