Over the last few years Brentford fan, Paul Briars, has researched the footballers who played for Brentford FC from 1890 to 1920 for Remembrance Day and shed new light on; the players who played for Brentford FC in 1914/15, discovering the names of those former players who made the ultimate sacrifice and the stories behind some of the players who served and came home.
As a result, new names discovered have been added to Brentford FC’s Roll of Honour and remembered; William Allwright, James Greechan, Harry Gould and George Kennedy. Their names are now written alongside those the Football Club already had knowledge of; Patrick Hagan, George Littler, Harry Purver, Horace Robotham, Ralph Shields and Percy Saunders.
Paul’s excellent research is still ongoing into former Brentford players who served their Country, discovering their stories and their service in the Colours in World Wars One and Two.
During one such search, in February 2017, Paul came across a Scottish footballer; Alexander White Walker. Alex was known to have played for Brentford during season 1904/05, but little else was known about him or what happened to him in later life, so here’s his story.
Alexander White Walker was born in an area of Edinburgh known as St George on 15 November 1881. His Scottish baptism record survives online and includes the names of his parents and this allowed me to research further into Alex’s history.
In the Scotland Census of 1881, recorded before Alex’s birth, the family were all living at; 7 Oliver Terrace St George Edinburgh. His Father, also Alexander Walker, was a baker and aged 38. His Mother, Janet Walker (nee Staig), was aged 36 and was mum to two sons; George (3) and Robert (2). Sometime between 1881 and 1891, between the Censuses, Alexander Walker (Father) passed away.
The Scottish Census of 1891 tells us that Janet and her three sons had moved to; 106 Gorgie Road St George Edinburgh. Janet had begun working as a mangle operator while the three sons, now aged 13, 12 and 9, were all scholars, i.e. at school.
We next come across Alex Walker when he joined Heart of Midlothian FC in April 1899, as an inside-right, following in the footsteps of his brother, Robert Walker (Bobbie Walker).
Over three seasons playing at Hearts, Alex appeared in 14 senior matches, scoring 3 goals, but he also appeared in the reserve team of the time and made a total of 48 appearances and scored 14 goals. His brother, Bobbie, became a legend in the Scottish game and is named in the Heart of Midlothian FC Hall of Fame, having spent 23 years as a player at the Tynecastle Club. Also appearing for the Scotland National and Scottish League XI sides.
After leaving Hearts, in May 1903, Alex moved to Motherwell FC for the 1903/04 season, in July 1903. No records are known of his appearances whilst at Fir Park. A season later, Alex journeyed down south and joined Brentford FC in September 1904. In his one season at Griffin Park, Brentford’s first at their new ground, Alex made just eight Southern League appearances without scoring a goal. His first seven appearances were between September 5 and November 5 1904 versus; West Ham, Reading, Bristol Rovers, QPR, Millwall, Tottenham and Luton. His last and final appearance wasn’t until March 11 1905 versus Swindon Town.
A newspaper report from September 1905 mentions that Alex had suffered a severe knee injury while at Brentford. After recovering from this injury he was looking at returning to Scotland to continue his football career. Unfortunately, with the sources available, no further record of his football career can be found.
Alex Walker is shown in this Brentford FC postcard from 1904/05, by Wakefield’s. Alex is sitting in the front row, second from the left.
The last census available to view, naming Alex, is from 1901 and records the family; Janet Walker (56) and the youngest son, Alex Walker (19), living at 96 Gorgie Road St George Edinburgh. Alex’s occupation was listed as; Gas Meter Maker. There is a record from 1911 where we know that Janet and Alexander had moved to Musselburgh.
My research into Alex Walker found that he joined The Royal Scots Regiment as Private 4496 on 9 December 1915 in Musselburgh Scotland.
He was immediately posted to the Reserve, as many soldiers were in this period of WW1, before being mobilised for training on 18 March 1916 at Glencorse and posted to C Company 3/9th Battalion, The Royal Scots (Highlanders). This particular Battalion was the 3rd line of the 9th Battalion Territorial Force. It was later merged into the 4th Battalion Royal Scots in June 1917.
Alex’s service record survives – part of the small percentage to survive the WW2 bombings – and tells us that he was 5’ 6” tall and aged 34 at time of enlistment. The record goes on to say that Alex was sent to the 2nd Scottish General Hospital, at Craigleith Edinburgh, on 8 April 1916 with symptoms of TB (Tuberculosis). Sadly just a month later, on 12 May 1916, Alexander White Walker died.
His record lists his time in the Colours as “Home” service only, for just 56 days, so he or his surviving family didn’t receive either of the campaign medals from WW1 but they were sent the memorial plaque (known as the death penny). Alex is buried in the Edinburgh Cemetery, North Merchiston, and occupies a family plot, K26, in which Janet (his mother died July 1915) and Bobbie (his elder brother died August 1930) are also interred.
Another former Brentford footballer to receive my attention was Alexander Glen. There are publications around, notably the Southampton FC Who’s Who, that note Alex’s death as Glasgow 1966. Once again, further research into Alex’s family tree confirmed my theory that this death record was incorrect and he in fact died on 21 September 1916. Here’s Alexander Glen’s story.
Alexander Glen was born on 11 December 1878 in Kilsyth Stirlingshire, Scotland. His father, John Glen was a Master Builder, aged 34, and his mother was Mary Glen (nee McVicar), aged 33.
The 1881 census notes the family living at 23 Main Street Kilsyth Stirlingshire. John and Mary, along with three children; Jessie 8, Mary 6 and Alexander 2.
The 1891 census shows the family still living in Main Street, Kilsyth, but now at number 46. John is noted as a contractor (builder), aged 48, and Mary, aged 46. Two children are listed, Mary (16) and Alexander, who is now 12 and a scholar.
During the late 1890’s, Alex began playing football and turned out for Fitzhugh Rovers FC and Glasgow Parkhead FC, in Scottish Junior football.
On 31 March 1901, the Scotland Census tells us that Alex is 22 years of age and is residing at; 143 Fir Park Street, Dennistoun, Glasgow. He is boarding with the ‘Govan’ family and his occupation is noted as; Medical student.
It is mentioned in the Southampton Who’s Who (and other sources) that Alex went to South Africa and the Boer War. Being a medical student, he served with the Scottish National Red Cross Hospital (SNRCH) as a First Class Orderly. In the SNRCH medal rolls (dated May 1901) he is noted as a Medical Student. Alex received the Queen’s South Africa Medal with two additional clasps; Cape Colony and Orange Free State.
On his return to Scotland, he continued his medical studies in Glasgow and played for Clyde FC.
In July 1902, Grimsby Town offered him the opportunity to play in the English First Division. His main position in the side was as an inside-forward. At the end of the 1902/03 season after just 13 games and 1 goal, Alex left Grimsby Town and moved a bit further south to sign for Notts County FC. Once again, after just one season with the Magpies (20 games and 3 goals), he was on the move, this time to North London to sign for Tottenham Hotspurs FC, in May 1904. After two seasons at Spurs, playing in the Southern League, Alex moved even further south, this time to Southampton FC, also in the Southern League. During the 1906/07 season he appeared in 29 matches, scoring 10 goals. This wasn’t enough to secure another season at the Saints and Alex was on the move again. Just a short trip further along the south coast to Portsmouth FC. He didn’t play many times for Pompey, just seven appearances and one goal, and so his last move in football was to Brentford FC in July 1908.
His time at Brentford was a little stop start. He appeared in just 11 Southern League matches, scoring three goals, but he also appeared for the reserves in the United League and London League. At a point towards the end of 1908 he contracted blood poisoning. During his period of convalescing, at the beginning of 1909, the Middlesex Independent newspaper noted that Alex had gone to a suburb of Sheffield.
This small snippet in the local paper, from January 1909, linked the search to one source, his older sister and her husband – a Doctor – as they were living in Ecclesall, Sheffield.
At the end of the 1908/09 season, aged 32, Alex’s football career looks to have come to a natural finish. The England census of 1911 shows that he was living in Southsea, Portsmouth, boarding with the Matthias family. His occupation is noted as; Commission Agent (Horses). Also boarding at the address are three Portsmouth professional footballers, so he must’ve kept in contact with former team members.
Where Alex went to and what he did after 1911, we just don’t know. There aren’t any reliable sources to pin him down.
My curiosity around Alex Glen was due to his death date – as noted above. Having researched the Glasgow 1966 death more closely, I found out that the Alexander Glen whose death this refers to was actually; Alexander Kennedy Glen, born in Dumbarton in 1877. Therefore, when did Alexander Glen (born 1878) die?
Continuing with my search of the online newspaper archives, I came across several Coroner Reports in the Yorkshire newspapers, for the end of September 1916, see attached.
On 21 September 1916, a Lieutenant Alexander Glen, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, sadly committed suicide whilst in camp at Ripon, North Yorkshire.
Could this be the former professional footballer?
Further research found the registration of his death, at Ripon in September 1916, and then a small obituary in a Sheffield newspaper, for a “dearly beloved brother”, took my eye (See attached). This was a lead I had to follow through.
The names; Dr and Mrs T. Chas. Jones, were living at The Grove Walkley Sheffield. Lt. Alexander Glen was 38, a perfect age for the footballer.
The address and the family were easily found in the 1911 England Census. Doctor Thomas Charles Jones and Jessie Jones. I searched for their marriage, but nothing was found in England. My instinct took me to Scotland and there was a marriage, in January 1891 in Kilsyth Scotland. The parents, John and Mary Glen (nee McVicar), a match.
Also living at the address in Sheffield was an Effie Glen. Who was she? Looking in the Scotland’s People archives I found a birth record, Euphemia Glen, September 1881. Parents; John and Mary Glen (nee McVicar). Perfect.
Searching the Soldier Effects Record for Lt. A Glen – an account of War Gratuities paid to the relatives of soldiers who had died in service – it notes a Gertrude M Glen as receiving the payment.
There is a record in the archives of an Alexander Glen marrying a Gertrude Mary Gregory in Leigh Lancashire at sometime between July and September 1916, so shortly before committing suicide.
There’s also another record in the archives, this is for a daughter, Elizabeth H Glen, born between January and March 1917 in Leigh Lancashire. (Mother maiden surname – Gregory).
The Coroner’s Report has a very poignant suicide note by Lt. Alexander Glen. We shall never know how or why he got to a point where he had to take his own life. Serving in the forces? Personal issues? Who knows?
Personally, this has been a sad story to tell but one I’m pleased to have discovered so as Lieutenant Alexander Glen is remembered and not forgotten ever again.
Therefore, after a few months of research and looking at many records, we can add another two names to the Brentford FC Roll of Honour.
Private Alexander Walker and Lieutenant Alexander Glen.
We can add another Brentford FC Guest footballer to the list too; Shoeing Smith William Mathews.
Bombardier William George Allwright #22710.
Royal Field Artillery.
Lieutenant Alexander Glen.
Royal Army Medical Corps.
Private Harry Gould #G/1063.
8th (Service) Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).
Private James Greechan #17740.
12th (Service) Battalion Highland Light Infantry.
Sergeant Patrick Hagan #3004.
11th Battalion Royal Scots.
Company Sergeant Major George William Kennedy DCM, MM. #418239.
42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders) Quebec Regiment, Canadian Infantry.
Sergeant George Littler #9173.
2nd Battalion Kings Royal Rifles.
Private Henry George Purver #SP/3728.
24th Battalion (2nd Sportsmen’s) Royal Fusiliers.
Private Horace Osborne Robotham #F/2397.
23rd (Service) Battalion (2nd Football) Duke of Cambridgeshire’s Own (Middlesex Regiment).
Private Alexander White Walker #4496.
3/9th Battalion Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment).
Sergeant Percy Kitchener Saunders #7624351.
18th Divisional Workshops Royal Army Ordnance Corps.
Private Ralph Shields #NX57251.
No.2 Company Australian Army Service Corps.
Six footballers are currently known to have worn the colours of Brentford FC as a Guest player during wartime football (1914-1918 & 1939-1945) and they too made the ultimate sacrifice.
Sapper John Alborough; 3 appearances London Combination 1918/19. Died 31/10/18.
Sergeant Henry Cook; 10 appearances London Combination 1915/16. Died 09/01/1917.
Private William Kirby; 18 appearances London Combination 1916/17. Died: 03/10/17.
Shoeing Smith William Mathews; 1 appearance London Combination 1915/16. Died: 29/04/1921.
Sergeant Richard Wynn; 22 appearances London Combination 1915/18. Died 09/08/1919.
Sergeant Albert Bonass; 2 appearances Football League South 1941/43. Died 09/10/1945.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”
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