Untold lives blog

24 February 2013

Jimmy Speirs – Inspirational captain, brave soldier

Bradford City’s visit to Wembley for the Capital One Cup final on 24 February has attracted worldwide media coverage and public interest, but many are surprised to learn this is not the club's first appearance in a major cup final. City, currently lying mid-table in League 2, won the FA Cup in 1911 beating Newcastle United 1-0 in a replay held at Old Trafford after the first match at Crystal Palace ended 0-0. City’s cup winning team included eight Scotsmen, still a record for an FA Cup final, among them Jimmy Speirs who was their inspirational captain. It was Speirs who scored the winning goal after 15 minutes, when his header crept into the net after confusion in the Newcastle goalmouth. After the game Speirs held aloft the new (current) FA Cup which coincidentally had been made in Bradford by the jewellery firm Fattorini & Sons. Jimmy Speirs

James Hamilton Speirs was born in Glasgow in 1886. At the age of 19 he joined Glasgow Rangers and then Clyde before moving south to sign for Bradford City in July 1909, making his debut against Manchester United on 1st September. Speirs was described as ‘a cultured and scheming inside-right’ who averaged a goal every two games during his Scottish career. In March 1908 Speirs won his only international cap for Scotland in a match against Wales. At City he played 86 League games scoring 29 times before moving to Leeds City (United) in December 1912 for a then huge fee of £1400. After a further 73 League games and 32 goals, Speirs played his last match in the final game of the 1914-15 season. Despite being married with two young children, he returned to Glasgow and volunteered to join the Cameron Highlanders and enlisted on 17 May 1915. Conscription was still over a year away and even then he would have been exempt through being married with a young family. In March 1916 Corporal Speirs was posted to France. He won the Military Medal for bravery in May 1917 during the Second Battle of Arras, though unfortunately the citation has not survived, and was then promoted to Sergeant. Later that year on 20 August during the Battle Passchendaele, Speirs was reported wounded and missing, with his widow eventually being informed that he had died on or shortly after that date.

Jimmy Speirs is buried at Dochy Farm New British Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium. The grave has received a new headstone and for the first time in 90 years his name is spelt correctly. It had been spelt Spiers, an error that had been made on his enrolment form when he first joined the army. Looking back as a City fan it is sad to learn of a man who had died a lonely death in a muddy shell-hole just six years after holding-up the FA Cup in front of thousands of cheering Bradfordians.

John Watmough
Copy Cataloguing Team

Further reading:

Frost, T. Bradford City: a complete record 1903-1988 (Derby, Breedon, 1988)
Markham, D.  The legends of Bradford City (Derby, Breedon, 2007)
City Gent Magazine (fanzine) 2009 (158) Sept. p.29 and 2011 (172) Aug. p.6

See Explore the British Library for catalogue records.

Jimmy Speirs’ dedicated website:

Bantams Past Museum:

Photograph from Google images



Wearing my website selector hat, in the light of this blog post I traced and recommended to the Library's Web Archive the memorial site to Jimmy Speirs.

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