Lucca, Lucchese and Henderson

There is a common footballing thread to this story. The thread is thread, cotton thread and the source is Paisley. For half a century, post the invention in America of the domestic sewing-machine, the Renfrew-shire town was Mecca not just for its pattern but the stuff that holds together clothes on backs. At first it was head-to-head competition between two family enterprises, the Clarks and the Coats. Then, as the two firms combined, came the consolidation of a few foreign operations and the establishment of others, one of which was in Italy, in Tuscany, in the beautiful, walled-city of Lucca, birthplace of Puccini.

The factory, once the town's major employer, the water-powered mill complex remains, crumbling but still elegantly ochre in a way a Scottish equivalent could never be. And so, a short distance away, does its then in-house sports-field, a product of some paternalism, a belief in sports in general for health and one James Henderson. In fact the small arena, with its field and cycle-track, calcio, atletica and ciclismo combined, is to this day still called Campo Henderson. 

James Henderson was a Paisley working-boy through-and-through, despite later being knighted. Born in 1882 he grew up in the town, the son of a weaver, who became a green-grocer. In 1901 he was working as a clerk for his father but by the following year seems to have joined Coats, might have been sent to the Glasgow office and certainly to the Hamburg office. In Germany in 1908 he married a local girl shortly before his transfer to Italy and, as managing Director, to Lucca in 1910, where he would remain in charge, in and from Italy and from the UK for the next forty-five years. 

Today James Henderson, or Sir James Henderson as he became in the 1930s, is perhaps best remembered for The British School in Milan, which for many years bore his name. But he had a long business career, always with Coats, becoming a Board member and only retiring in 1957 at the age of seventy-five, a decade before his death in Hampstead in London. 

But returning to football, in 1905 Coats had purchased an existing textile business mill in the Tuscan city, creating Cantoni-Coats. Production began in 1908. That purchase coincided with the foundation of Lucca F.C. And, whilst Henderson's attitude to what would on his arrival become the largest employer in Lucca might today be considered at the very least paternalistic it was one which other Scots elsewhere would duplicate. At its heart was an enlightened view of social activity and sporting participation as important elements of well-being, mental and physical.

And it was to that end in 1922, as things settled post-War, the company sports' club was founded with Campo Henderson following in 1923. Moreover, it was that same year, through the combination of the football arm of the company's club and existing Lucca, that Unione Sportiva Lucchese-Libertas, now Lucchese 1905 or simply Lucchese emerged. It is still the city's club, playing in Serie B and A until 1952 and now in Italy's third tier. Further-more the new club would have a centre-forward someone whose presence seems likely to have been more than simple.

In 1919 from the village nearby village team, Barga, a new centre-forward would join. He would go on the play for both Lucca's old and its new club until 1924, fifty-one games, forty goals and nine caps for the Italian national team. But he was also a player, with whom Henderson, if minded, could have a good blether. That player was, of course, Johnny Moscardini, Falkirk-born and, after the best part of a decade in the land of his forebears and until his death, a cafe owner in bonny Prestwick. 

Birth Locator:

Paisley, Renfrewshire


Residence Locator(s):

1891 - 83, Smithhills Street, Paisley 

1901 -  2, Smithhills Street, Paisley

Lucca, Tuscany


Grave Locator:



Ground Locator:

Campo Henderson, Lucca, Tuscany       


Other Sources:





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