Thomas "Tommy" Fraser

In 1929 a new goalkeeper arrived at Bethlehem in Pennsylvania to play for The Steel, the American Soccer League's most successful team. He was lauded as a sensation. His name was Tommy Fraser and he came from Scotland, as did fifteen or so of the twenty-two man squad. In fact he was Galston-born in about 1901, would play nineteen games for the team, probably having already featured for the Newark Americans, only to disappear as the League and American professional soccer in general collapsed in the face of financial mis-management and then The Depression. 

And that seemed to be that except for three small clues. One was a mention of a Clyde goalkeeper of the 1920s, Tom Fraser, who was also an accomplished golfer. Two was a Thomas John Fraser, born in Moniaive and a professional footballer, married, his wife Margaret staying behind in Newmilns, who in 1929 travelled from Galston, to New York bound for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And three was a Thomas Fraser, also born in Moniaive, who in 1937, aged thirty-seven, travelled once more to  New York en route for Philly, listed as a Pro-Golfer.  

Thomas John Fraser was indeed born in Glencairn, i.e. Moniaive, and in 1900, his father, Simon, an Attendant in a Lunatic Asylum. But the family had by the following year moved back to the parents' hometown of Galston, his father to work as a coal miner. And two decades later they were still there, Tommy working as a Miner's Drawer but with his father having had another change of profession, which would explain his son's golfing ability in a Scottish version of the Severiano Ballasteros story. He was a Greenkeeper at the Galston and Loudoun Golf Course, halfway between Galston itself and Newmilns. 

As to football it is fairly clear that Tommy started in Galston but where he went from there is uncertain. It s, however, undoubted  that he played professionally. He was recorded as such in 1927 when he married a Newmilns girl, Maggie Gallacher, in Newmilns itself, thier first son being born in Galston-Newmilns the following year. However, the entire family was soon to cross the Atlantic. Tommy is recorded as a professional footballer doing so in 1929.  Margaret joined him a year later. And although the family, probably on the collapse of "soccer", returned to Scotland subsequently, their second child, a daughter, being born there in 1934, it did not stay long. By 1936 it was back in Philly, their third child born there that year and their fourth also, in 1938.    

By then Tom was working as a pro-golfer and did so until at least 1940. His naturalisation papers that year record his as such, although the census that same year has him as a Conditioner at Roseneath, a then country house replete with tennis courts etc. And after that there are no indications for the war years and beyond except that, sadly, Margaret Fraser would die young of cancer, in 1955. Their eldest son would also pass away prematurely, in 1959 in an accident. And Tommy himself would die in 1973 still in The City of Brotherly Love and be cremated, a man who was quietly an twofold, sporting ambassador to the United States, initially for the Scottish passion and then its invention, football and golf respectively. 

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