Lest We Forget

NB This article was due to appear in the Everton v Tottenham Hotspur Remembrance Day fixture of 7 November 2021. Unfortunately, due to the sad death of former manager Walter Smith, it was held over for his memorial article due to lack of space. It is reprinted in full below.

Corporal 19024 Tom Gracie,

16th (Service) Battalion (2nd Edinburgh)

The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment)

The Life of Tom Gracie

Among the names of the Fallen of Everton FC featured on the panels by the Dixie Dean statue is Tom Gracie. Born in Glasgow in 1899, he was a qualified bookkeeper, but pursued a career in football. He began with Shawfield Juniors before moving to Strathclyde FC. In 1907, he joined Airdrieonians, but was transferred to Hamilton in 1908. He was on the move again shortly after, joining Morton the following year.

Whilst still with Morton, Tom travelled with the Scotland team to play against England in the Home International Championship at Goodison Park on 1 April 1911, where over 50,000 fans witnessed a 1-1 draw.  Although not selected to play, the prolific forward signed for Everton immediately after the game.

He made his debut in a 1-0 win at Blackburn five days later and scored on his home debut in a 2-1 win against Nottingham Forest at Goodison Park on 14 April. He made a total of thirteen appearances for the Blues, scoring one goal before moving to Liverpool on 22 February 1912 for a fee of £150. He netted five goals in thirty-four appearances for the Reds, before returning to Scotland to sign for Heart of Midlothian in 1914.

When war was declared on 4 August 1914, both the Cricket and Rugby authorities made the decision to cease their competitions. The Football Association, however, chose to continue. Discontent began to simmer regarding this decision – especially as reports filtered home of men being killed at the Front in their thousands, and on 25 November 1914, Tom was one of eleven Hearts players who enlisted in the 16th Battalion of the Royal Scots. This was a Pals Battalion and was to become famous as ‘McCrae’s Battalion’, named after Sir George McCrae, a former Liberal MP who volunteered for service and offered to raise and command a battalion in the field.

Tom served as corporal 19024 with the 16th Royal Scots, combining military training while still turning out for Hearts. He lost a brother, John,  in the great advance at Loos.

The team continued to fulfil their fixtures for the rest of the season and he finished as the league’s joint top scorer with twenty-nine goals. This achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider that he was diagnosed with Leukaemia in March 1915, but continued to train with his battalion and play for the rest of the season, scoring regularly.

Tom did not have a chance to serve overseas, as he passed away from the disease at Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow on 23 October 1915. He was 26 years old. On learning of Tom’s death, the Merseyside sports journalist Ernest Edwards wrote: ‘Gracie was one of nature’s gentlemen, and his sudden demise causes me to lose a true friend.’

Tom is recognised as a casualty of the Great War by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Tony Wainwright BEM

Tony Wainwright is part of the War & Remembrance research group in Everton FC Heritage Society. He is also well known for his dedicated work on the history and remembrance of the Liverpool Pals. See more here.

The Fallen of Everton FC booklet is available for download here

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By Tony Wainwright

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