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A brief memorial to the players from the Heart of Midlothian who served during the Great War 1914 -1919

With the outbreak of war on August 1914 patriotism and a sense of adventure saw Europe burst with excitement.  Kitchener's call for a hundred thousand volunteers was met five times over in Great Britain.  All classes of the population ran to the colours.  Hysteria gripped Europe and all foreigners were considered ‘spies,’ and those who refused to enlist ‘Cowards’ and ‘traitors.’  Scottish football did not hang back. Almost all clubs saw players leave for the fight immediately and not just reservists or those belonging to the Territorial Army. The footballers of Heart of Midlothian F.C. were subject like all sportsmen to demands that they enlist.  Powerful persons, themselves not able or willing to serve, were asking for all sport to be closed down for the duration.  At the time  parliament was to discuss this situation Sir George M’Crae approached the Heart of Midlothian players concerning a new battalion he was forming.  Thirteen of the players were persuaded by his arguments to enlist in the 16th Royal Scots, others later joined various units.  This action alone ensuring football continued under difficult circumstances. The news brought several hundred Hearts fans, university students, and players from the likes of Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Dunfermline and Hibernian to the battalion.  Mossend Burnvale, known as ‘The Cow-Punchers,’ joined en masse!   Around thirty Heart of Midlothian men had enlisted by wars end. These Hearts players were giving up around £4 a week to earn the soldiers wage of one shilling and twopence a day, that's about 42 pence a week in today's money. Seven were not to return and the majority of those who served suffered physical or mental wounds.  

This site is indebted to Jack Alexander for his magnificent book 'McCrae's Battalion,' which give full details of the story of these men.  A must read for those who wish to know the history of this football club, the men who served, or indeed Edinburgh and Scotland at that time.   Available Here!

The Seven Who Died       

S/116102  Pte James Hodge Speedie. 7th Bat. Cameron Highlanders. Died 25th Sept 1915, Age 21. Born, St. George's, Edinburgh, 17 November 1893, son of John & Janet Speedie, of 32, Polwarth Gardens, Edinburgh. John Speedie a Grain merchant. James, educated at Boroughmuir, worked as an insurance clerk for the North British & Mercantile Insurance Company who lost several men, mostly officers, during the conflict. The news of the November Prussian Guard assault at Ypres, the losses and the seriousness of the situation was not lost on the men at Tynecastle. At half time during the game with Falkirk the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders made an appeal for volunteers and James Speedie enlisted with them. James played on an amateur contract as an inside left for the Heart of Midlothian and played in the first game of the season 1914-15, a 2-0 win over Celtic, before some 18,500 fans.  A notable result in that Celtic were to be unbeaten until well into the next season, a 63 game run!  Speedie early on joined the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders. With them he was early in action, taking part in the first 'Big Push' at Loos on the 25th of September 1915. Though his regiment swept past Loos and attempted to take Hill 70 he himself was killed during the battle.  His body was never found. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.  His brother, 2nd lieutenant John Gibson Speedie, 4th Royal Scots, was also killed at Arras.    

James Hodge Speedie

19024 Cpl Tom Gracie. 16th Bat. Royal Scots.  Died 23rd Oct  1915, age 26. Glasgow Craigton cemetery. Born Glasgow 1889, a meat salesman to trade, Tom had played for several clubs beginning with the Juniors and progressing through Airdrie, Arthurlie, Greenock Morton before joining Everton in 1910. Two years later he moved to Liverpool from where Hearts bought him in May 1914 to replace Percy Dawson just transferred to Blackburn Rovers for £2500, enough to pay for the new stand.  Costing Hearts a mere £400 and scoring a club record 28 goals in his first season he became a popular bargain buy.  His goal scoring record earned him a international cap against the Irish league in 1915.  

Tom was one of The Sixteen and continued to score goals for the Hearts in spite of a combination of army training and illness.  This illness was kept as quite as possible but while stationed at Leeds this overcame him and he was transferred to Stobhill War Hospital, Glasgow, where he died on 23rd October 1915. He became the only Hearts player who died during the war to have a known grave. His illness was Leukemia yet as far as possible he attempted to stay part of the team and play as often as possible, scoring four goals in the process. His brother died at Loos and his brother in law at Gallipoli.  This was indeed a man worthy of our respect.

16th Battalion Position 1st July 1916

Tom Gracie

19112 Pte Henry Wattie, 16th Bat. Royal Scots. Died 1st July 1916 aged 23.    THIEPVAL MEMORIAL.  Henry was born in Edinburgh on 2nd June 1893, son of William Wattie, a coachman  and the youngest of five brothers.  Henry became one of 'The Sixteen,' and was  considered by some to be capable of replacing the great Bobby Walker. Some compliment as Walker was one of the world greats in those days, he had played against England eleven times. As an inside forward Henry managed to score against all comers including a double at Ibrox on his debut, a two goals to one victory over Rangers. At the Somme he went forward against the hail of bullets and shell with the rest, he was seen to fall by Annan Ness but his body was never recovered. His loss was a great loss for all of Scottish football. His brother John was to become chaplain to the fleet. 

Henry Wattie

18999 Serjeant Duncan Currie.  16th Bat. Royal Scots. Died 1st July 1916 age 23. Thiepval Memorial.  Born Kilwinning, Ayrshire 13th August 1892. Born into a football family, his father being a goalkeeper and his brother Robert playing for the Heart of Midlothian and Bury, while another brother played for Leicester Fosse. Duncan played at full back.  As they advanced at the Somme Annan ness sped Duncan receive a bullet in the shoulder.  His body probably lies buried in Gordon's Dump Cemetery. The Kilwinning Roll of Honour.   An excellent site - Kilwinning War Memorial

Duncan Currie

19009 Pte Ernest Edgar Ellis. 16th Bat. Royal Scots.  Died 1st July 1916 age 30. Son of Harry and Marie Ellis, of 236, Sprowston Rd., Norwich; husband of Isobel Ellis, of 25, Tarvit St., Edinburgh. Thiepval Memorial.  Ernie was born at Sprowston Norwich on the 30th November 1885, on St. Andrews Day. By trade he was a boot operator. He had played for Norwich then Barnsley before signing in time to join Hearts on their successful summer tour of Denmark. The Royal Scots embarked for France on 8th January 1916 which meant that he was never to see the daughter born to him after that date.

Ernest Edgar Ellis

18976 Lance Cpl James Boyd, 16th Bat. Royal Scots. Died 3rd August 1916, aged 21.  Son of James and Jane Boyd, of 50, Front St., Mossend, West Calder, Midlothian. Thiepval Memorial. The last Hearts man to die on the Somme, he was born in the small mining village of Seafield in West Lothian. After being educated at West Calder Public School he became an underground oncost worker in the shale mines. His brother Archie had been the Hearts goalkeeper for some time and James signed for the club on 24th August 1914. Another of 'The Sixteen.' He was killed on a 'quiet day' on 3rd of August 1916 when he was twenty one years of age.  Injured he was moved to the field hospital which was hit by artillery fire.  His burial place was lost in the fog of war.  Boyd's Home town is found on an excellent site, visit it now.  West Calder 1914-1918  Aslo the local school have been doing research into James Boyd.  Konect                      

James Boyd

351268 Serjeant John Allan. 9th Bat. Royal Scots. (A ‘Kiltie’ Battalion) Died 22nd April 1917 aged 30. Arras Memorial.  Born at Greenlaw in Berwickshire on 2nd March 1887 and his family had early moved to Edinburgh. A joiner with J. Duncan & Sons of Grove Street, Edinburgh, he enlisted early in the war with the 9th Royal Scots. This was a distinctive battalion in that is was the only Royal Scots Battalion to wear kilts. Thus he found himself as part of the 51st Highland Division.      

The Battle of Arras casualties were very high and it soon became one of the major struggles of the war.  During the battle a patrol of the 9th Royal Scots including John Allan were sent to reconnoitre a wood. They became caught in deadly crossfire and he became another name on the Arras memorial to the missing. He was the last Heart of Midlothian player to be killed. 

John Allan


Pte. Patrick James 'Paddy' Crossan. 'The handsomest man in the world' known as 'Pat' to his friends, was wounded at the Somme and later gassed. This native of Addiewell was a powerful defender unable, some said, to pass a mirror, though he could pass the ball.  Paddy's wholehearted attitude made him a danger to himself let alone the opposition and endeared him to the home fans.  Such an attitude would have been of great encouragement to those around him in the trenches. Twice wounded and gassed at least once this robust and popular player returned to play for three more seasons, earning two testimonials and later opened a pub 'Paddy's Bar,' in Rose Street Edinburgh. Died suddenly in 1933 not yet forty years of age! His bar survived under his name until the nineties. ‘The Handsomest Man in the World,’ was his nickname.  He could pass a ball, they said, but he could not pass a mirror!

Paddy Crossan

Pte. Willie R. Wilson. Returned to playing until 1923 though constantly troubled with a problem shoulder. This suffered with the recoil of the rifle but while it limited his active service, as did trench fever, it probably saved his life. He was the first, but not the last, Hearts player to score three goals at Ibrox in the 4-0 win over the Rangers. He died in 1956, another great year for the Hearts.

Lieutenant A.B. Ness. Twice wounded, refused a commission at the beginning to remain with the Hearts players. However he was promoted from C.S.M. in the field. He died in 1942

Wattie Scott. He was twice turned down by the Battalion Doctor because of Rheumatic fever. Was hailed as Heart of Midlothian's oldest surviving player in 1974. He died the following year.

Pte. J. Hazeldean. Severely wounded by an explosive bullet in his thigh, discharged.                          

Cpl. N. Findlay. Carpenter, released from army in 1916 to work in shipyards.                                      

Cpl Alfie Briggs. Recovered from wounds but never played again. Scouted for Partick Thistle occasionally. Suffered 'Black depression' around July 1st and Remembrance Day. Died in 1950 still with two machine gun bullets in his back!                                                                                                           

Pte. E. M. M'Guire. Wounded in arm.

Pte. R. Preston. Survived and moved to Northern Ireland

Other Regiments where Hearts men served.                                                      

Pte. Jock Wilson. Twice wounded, returned to the Hearts side after the war.                                    

Sgnt N. Moreland. Territorial with the 8th H.L.I. Was three times wounded.

Pte. J. Martin. Wounded and discharged.

Lieutenant Jimmy Low. Seaforth Highlanders. Twice wounded, discharged. Turned down by the Hearts directors in 1919 Jimmy played instead for the great Newcastle team of the twenties, alongside Hughie Gallagher amongst others. The Tynecastle board has never been the abode of intellectuals! He died in 1960.

Pte. R. Malcolm. Machine Gun Corps.  Bob played for Airdrie for a while and then returned to mining. He died 1979.

Sapper. C. Hallwood. Royal Engineers.

Pte. Harry Graham. R.A.M.C. Dentist. Gloucester Regiment. As a dentist he he could have avoided service, but enlisted to serve in France and Russia. Afterwards returned to Tynecastle but failed to hold down a regular place. Went on to play for Leicester City and Reading.

Pte. J. Whyte. Gloucester Regiment.

Driver George L. Sinclair. Royal Field Artillery. Quickly into the fray as he was a reservist. Thought to have served at Mons, the first great battle the British army fought. Continued playing after the war and was running a pub in Abbeyhill in 1958 the year the Hearts won the league scoring a record 132 league goals. For George and the remnants of the Great War this was a welcome result, but it had taken the team forty four years to get their just reward!            

George L. Sinclair

Serjeant. G.P. Miller. No information as yet.                    

Lance Cpl. J. MacDonald.

Royal Garrison Artillery:

Staff Serjeant J. H. Frew. Farrier. Played for Leeds United after the war Became a coach and helped Jack Charlton and many others in their career. He died in 1967.                                                               

Bombardier J. Gilbert. Only played four games for the Hearts but did score once v Hibs!

Gunner C. D. Blackhall. No information as yet.

Gunner J. Mackenzie. No information as yet.

Gunner Robert Mercer. Big Bob Mercer was a centre half of distinction before the war and famed for his 'scientific' football. A 'stalwart' of the Hearts side. As a gunner he saw action at the Somme and was gassed there. Bob returned to hearts at the end of the war but was discovered to have a weakened heart. Played instead for Dunfermline for two years. Joined Hearts for a friendly at Selkirk, his first club, and sadly collapsed with a shriek and died after only ten minutes due to heart failure. He was 37 years of age.

Bob Mercer


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