Obituary. Jimmy McGill

Following the news yesterday on of the passing of Jimmy McGill, this is a short obituary of Jimmy`s career.

Jimmy McGill was born on 10 March 1926 in Kilsyth. He played in the Scottish Junior football set up for Maryhill Harp. His first taste of senior football was in England with Bury in the first official season after WW2, 1946/47. His stay though in the second tier of English football was very short. After only playing for Bury once in the league and before the season`s end, he joined Derby County in March 1947.

McGill`s first team debut in England`s top flight was in a 1-0 win at home against Huddersfield on 3rd May 1947. His first defeat was the week after, 1-0 at home to Arsenal. He played two further league games before the season`s end. McGill played beside some distinguished team mates. England internationalist, Raich Carter won the FA Cup before and after the war, the only player to do so. Centre Forward, Jack Stamps` place is Derby folklore is secured with the annual player of the year award being named after him. In McGill`s first Summer at Derby the club broke the British transfer fee record when they signed Scottish international, Billy Steel, the player to score from Billy Houliston`s assist in Scotland`s 3-1 win at Wembley in 1949.

Derby were a very decent team in McGill`s time there finishing fourth in England`s top tier to Liverpool and going out of the FA Cup at the semi final stage to Man U. McGill though was unable to establish himself in the first team. The last of his eight league first team appearances was on 10 April 1948, a 3-0 defeat at home to Charlton Athletic. McGill seen the arrival of another inside forward to break the British transfer record in March 1949, £24 000 paid for Johnny Morris from Man U. Derby went better than the year before and finished third without McGill featuring.

McGill moved to Kilmarnock in October 1949, then modestly in the middle of the second of Scotland`s two senior divisions. Once more McGill was unable to establish himself as a regular in the first team where in the league he played 16 games over two seasons (scoring twice in the 16 games). McGill joined Berwick in the regionalised Division C. It was here that the moment of fate came that was to lead to McGill`s best years playing football.

In the Scottish Cup Berwick were drawn to play against Dundee United from the second tier of the national league set up. Berwick drew 3-3 at home before pulling off a shock by winning 3-2 in the replay in Dundee. For the second round Berwick were pulled out of the hat to play a home tie against top division Queen of the South.


(Back - Dougie McBain, Alex Smith, Dougie Sharpe, Roy Henderson, Jimmy Binning, Jimmy Greenock

Front - Bobby Black, Jimmy McGill, Jim Patterson, Wattie Rothera, Jackie Oakes)


Bobby Black said to us when he interviewed for his profile on this website. “The first season I played for Queens, my form was a bit, I can only describe as ‘indifferent’, but things got better. And when they signed….”

“I remember playing against Berwick Rangers for Queen of the South. And Walter Johnstone, the chairman of Queen of the South, he came in to the changing room to congratulate me on my, either equaliser or winning goal, I think it was the winning goal [Queens won 3-2, Feb 7th 1953 thanks to a goal in the final minute]. At that time Billy Houliston, Queens legend, he was playing for Berwick. I was so influenced by one of the Berwick Rangers players. I said, ‘Sign that bloke that was playing, a bloke called McGill’”.

Jimmy McGill signed for Queens the following September at the age of 27. Queens had been unimpressive in the League Cup in August finishing well bottom of their four team group. McGill debuted at Palmerston against Stirling Albion on the first day of the league campaign, a 4-1 win. McGill at last found his football spiritual home and immediately clicked to become the final piece of what has become Queen of the South`s most lauded front five. Black, McGill and Wattie Rothera were all skilful attacking players on first name terms with a football. Black and McGill were similar in style as ball playing tricksters. Rothera`s talents were more of a `play making general` type. On the left wing was Jackie Oakes, an out and out speed merchant similar to someone like Marc Overmars in more recent times. Powerhouse centre forward, Jim Patterson, had a great nose for goal and a resolute determination to get on the end of the chances created. Patterson`s consistent and prolific scoring is rightly heralded. Goals were also shared around though with not just Patterson scoring and another in particular getting on the score sheet with regularity, namely Bobby Black. Playing fluid, dynamic, attacking football with interchanging positions between the two of them, this allowed Black and McGill to not only carve out chances for team mates, Black in particular had an eye for goal and a composed finish that combined with his years of service place only Patterson above him in the QoS scoring chart.

Black. “Without McGill I wouldn’t have been what I was. I made my name with more than assistance, we had a wonderful understanding, we could read each other’s minds. I still believe he played a major role in the success of Queen of the South at that time.”

“The team was the thing because for some reason, and I don’t know who was responsible for putting the team together but we all got on well with each other, we all had the confidence and whatever. I mean McGill was a great player as I told you earlier on. When we signed him from Berwick Rangers, that really coincided with what they called the great team that we had. Up until then I’d been playing sort of semi injured following the transfer from East Fife. Then when they switched me to on to the wing and then introduced McGill we seemed to take off.”

Black spoke the truth. From McGill`s signing Queens went on arguably their greatest ever league run. From that win against Stirling Albion they took on all comers to lead Scottish football`s top division until New Year on 1954. It would be a misrepresentation though to say that the five same attackers were ever present in their time together at Palmerston. Jackie Brown as an example played in the league leading run scoring important goals including both in the defeat of Rangers. Queens` form fell away in the second half of the season meaning McGill`s best finish in his time at Queens was two seasons later, Scotland`s sixth best team with the lauded front 5 all still at Palmerston. Within that front five though it was McGill`s inter play with Black for which he was to be best remembered. Another ex player, Charlie Brown summed them up as, “Black and McGill, the pair of them tearing down the right together."

Black again – “What we tried to do, McGill and I used to try and out psyche the left side of their defence.” He later added, “I’ve been in Bristol bowling club and guys have come in shouting, ‘Black and McGill’. ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘We come from Lochmaben.’ It’s quite gratifying still to be remembered.”

In the five seasons in which Jimmy McGill played at Queens, he included 122 league games and 24 league goals. Among notable goals he scored was in 1956/57 in which his header put Queens 4-1 up against Celtic. McGill`s header proved decisive as the battling Celtic team fought back to 4-3.

In 1958 McGill left Queens and joined Cowdenbeath. With Rothera and Roy Henderson both already retired through injury and the QoS team in decline, Queens were relegated at the end of that first season after McGill`s departure.

As per yesterday`s announcement, Jimmy McGill died on Sunday evening, 21 April 2013. He had been living in a care home in Cumbernauld and fighting dementia. In an impressive knock me made it to 87.