Jimmy Speirs was born at 4.00am on Monday, 22 March 1886 at 11 Aikenhead Road (now demolished), Hutcheston, Govan, Glasgow – the son of James Hamilton Speirs (1846-1936) and Janet Shields Speirs, nee McLean (1849-1915).
Young Jimmy was named after his father – James Hamilton Speirs (pictured left, around 1917) – in what was to become a recurring theme in the family. The "Hamilton" forename, which many of the Speirs family were given, stemmed from young Jimmy’s paternal grandmother, Ann Hamilton (1815-1901).
The Speirs were a large family. Jimmy’s father was one of twelve children and Jimmy was the sixth of seven children - the others being Margaret McLean (born 1874 - as mentioned above, McLean was Jimmy's mother's maiden surname), Archibald (1876), Annie Hamilton (1878), John McLean (1883) and Robert (1888). Another sibling - John McLean Miller Speirs (born 1881) - had died in infancy.
By the time of the 1901 census, the family was living in Cathcart Road, Govanhill, just a few hundred yards from Jimmy’s birthplace at Aikenhead Road. Jimmy’s father was now a boilermaker, having been a coalminer at the age of 14. Coal mining ran in Jimmy's family - his grandfather Archibald Speirs (1812-1901) and great-grandfather Robert Speirs had also been coal miners.
Of the six children listed on the 1901 census, Margaret (Maggie) had become a draper’s saleswomen, Archibald was a clerk (although by December 1902 when Archibald married he was described as a commercial traveller), John was a postman (although by 1911 John, like his father, was a boilermaker in a locomotive works), Annie "assisted in the house", and Robert was still at school (but would become a clerk with a paint manufacturer by 1911). Jimmy, now aged 15 years, was - like his brother Archibald (pictured rightduring WW2 whilst visiting his grandchildren who had been evacuated to Paignton) - a clerk.
Some five years later, around six months short of his 21st birthday, Jimmy married Elizabeth (Bessie) Lennox Maben.
The ceremony took place on 24 October 1906 at the home of Bessie’s father, David Maben in Moss Side Road, Glasgow, just a few hundred yards from Cathcart Road. Bessie was recorded as a photographer’s assistant, whilst Jimmy’s occupation was stated to be a "valuator’s clerk" – not a footballer.
Bessie is pictured left, in a portrait taken in 1932.
Just over a year later, on 11 December 1907, Bessie gave birth to (another!) James Hamilton Speirs.
The family by now were living at 34 Batson Street, Govanhill – almost across the road from Jimmy’s birthplace at Aikenhead Road, and a few streets east of the Speirs’ family home in Cathcart Road. Although Batson Street remains, what was the Speirs' home has been demolished. Interestingly, Jimmy’s occupation is recorded as "Spirit Dealer’s Stocktaker" at this time.
"Jimmy junior" is pictured rightin around 1917.
The 1908-9 and 1909-10 ward rolls show Bessie to be the named tenant at 34 Batson Street, and the Speirs to be one of seven families living at that address.
Just before his 22nd birthday, Jimmy's involvement in Freemasonry officially began. The Lodge Minutes* and Register* show that Jimmy was initiated into The Lodge Saint Vincent Sandyford No 553, based in Glasgow, on 11 March 1908.
Jimmy was proposed by Henry Swanson, Manager at John McNee, Wholesale Whiskey Merchants of Glasgow - possibly Jimmy's employer when he was not playing football?
Despite this being just four days after representing Scotland in the Home International against Wales, Jimmy's occupation is listed as "Stocktaker", not footballer.
In the summer of 1909, Jimmy signed for Bradford City FC. It seems that initially he may have taken up lodgings in Bradford and made regular trips back to Glasgow – as other Scottish players with the Club did – for the Ward Rolls suggest that wife Bessie, and young son Jimmy (not yet two years old), stayed on at Batson Street in Govanhill. However, Jimmy's 1911 Census return shows that he, Bessie and Jimmy junior were all together at a property in Idle Road, Bradford - at least on Sunday, 2 April 1911, when the Census was completed.
In the early hours of Sunday, 6 August 1912, Jimmy’s wife Bessie gave birth to their daughter, Elizabeth Maben Speirs. Elizabeth - to be known as Betty - was born at Corrour Road, Newlands – then on the southern outskirts of Glasgow. Betty is pictured right, in a portrait taken around 1917. Jimmy’s father-in-law, David Maben, was the informant, and according to Elizabeth’s birth certificate, was present at the birth, which took place at his residence. It seems therefore that the Mabens had moved from Moss Side Road to Corrour Road at some point after Jimmy and Bessie’s wedding in 1906. In the Post Office Annual Glasgow Directory for 1912-13, the Corrour Road address is given as the home residence of Mr David Maben, Master of Works, School Board of Glasgow.
Just a month before the start of the new 1912-13 football season, Jimmy may well have been back at Bradford City in pre-season training, and the details on Elizabeth’s birth certificate suggest that he may have missed the birth. It is interesting to note that the certificate details Jimmy’s occupation as "Valuator’s Clerk" – even though he had by now been playing senior football for six years, was a Scottish international, and had achieved fame as the captain and goalscorer of an FA Cup (or English Cup, as it was then known) winning team.
During the season a number of City’s large contingent of Scottish players took up lodgings in Bradford, making trips "back North" to see their families every few weeks. Many of these players lived very close to the Valley Parade ground, but at least for part of his time in Yorkshire, Jimmy and his family lived in Idle Road, Bradford. This was a recently-built terraced property, a couple of miles from Valley Parade on what were then the northern outskirts of Bradford. The Land Registry does not record Jimmy as owning the property, however.
By 1915, Bessie and her family were living in Darnley Road, Pollokshields - a property which, according to the 1915 Valuation Rolls, was let to David Maben, Bessie's father. This house was very close to Jimmy's roots in Cathcart Road and near to the home of the Annandale "football club" where Jimmy first made his mark in the world of football. Jimmy junior attended nearby Hutchesons' Grammar School where he was Dux of Junior School in 1919/20.
Medal awarded to Jimmy junior to recognise his term as Dux of school (click to enlarge)
The family initially stayed at Darnley Road after Jimmy's death but by 1921, they were living at Ardbeg Street - midway between Darnley Road and Batson Street, where Jimmy and Bessie had begun their married life some fifteen years earlier.
For further information on Jimmy's family, after his death, see the Postcript page.