So come all you Glasgow Celtic
Stand up and play the game
For between your posts
There stands a ghost
Johnny Thomson is his name
Johnny Thomson's Ghost, of which that is the final verse, is a song still sung by supporters of Glasgow Celtic Football Club. It is more than a mere folk song, however, and it recalls the memory of the tragic death of a young footballer.
John Thomson, born in Kirkcaldy, West Fife on 28 January 1909, was possessed of a natural ability for football, and in particular for the role of goalkeeper. He played in goal for the Glasgow Celtic first team in 1926 while just 17 years old, and by the age of 22 was established as a member of the Scottish national team, making four appearances for his country.
The Death of John Thomson
Glasgow's most famous football Clubs, Celtic and Rangers, known as the Old Firm due to their domination of Scottish football, have a long, bitter, often vicious rivalry, formed on sectarian religious grounds. The death of John Thomson, however, was caused not due to this rivalry but due to a tragic accident.
During an Old Firm match on the 5 September, 1931 at Rangers' Ibrox Stadium, Thomson and Rangers striker Sam English challenged for a ball in the penalty area, and clashed hard. Thomson was left with a fractured skull and died later that day in hospital, a casualty of his desire to triumph and his determination to prevent a goal.
English was absolved of any blame for the death of Thomson in that accident. However, he was tortured by guilt about the incident, and within a year he had left Scottish football for good, joining English club Liverpool.
Thomson's death was felt by all connected to Scottish football, and his funeral was attended by over 40,000 mourners, many of whom had walked the fifty-five miles from Glasgow to his childhood home village of Cardenden where he was laid to rest.
Johnny Thomson's Ghost
Thomson’s achievements in his brief life, allied to his premature and dramatic death, have led to his being remembered by generations of Celtic fans over the decades since his death. The song Johnny Thomson's Ghost - which exhorts any player wearing the green and white hoops of Celtic to show the commitment of Thomson - was coined shortly after his death, and is still sung as a rallying call by the club's supporters to this day.