Date: 8th August 2016 at 11:47pm
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Today marks the 100th anniversary of the death of James Comrie, the first Lincoln City player to lose his life fighting in the Great War.

Scotsman Comrie was born on 31 March 1881 in Denny, near Stirling. After making a name for himself in junior football with local side Dunipace, he started his professional career in 1904 with Scottish giants Third Lanark, who had just won their first (and only) Scottish League championship. Comrie enjoyed two very successful seasons as Thirds won the Scottish Cup in 1905, beating Rangers in a replay, and managed a third-place finish in the League behind Celtic and Rangers. Although they reached the cup final again the following season (losing 1-0 to Hearts), league form was not so good as they could only finish sixth. Unusually, he scored 11 goals in 26 league appearances that season, suggesting he may have been used in a more advanced role than his usual position in central defence. The golden age for Third Lanark was over, and Comrie was one of a number of players at the end of that season to follow the well-worn path south of the border.

Third Lanark record: Scottish League appearances: 54 Goals: 16

Surprisingly, he signed for ambitious Southern League side Reading instead of finding a club in the more professional Football League. Despite a disappointing 12th place in 1906-07, which proved to be his only season at the club, Reading were knocked out of the FA Cup by Second Division Bradford City, who took note of the Royals’ centre half.

Reading record: Southern League appearances: 36 Goals: 1

His first chance in the Football League came in the close season of 1907 when he moved back north to Glossop, then in the Second Division. Glossop had their traditional poor season, finishing fourth from bottom. However, two things happened that were to mark his later career: firstly, Lincoln City finished bottom of the Second Division and lost their Football League place; secondly, Bradford City romped to the Second Division title and had again taken note of the Glossop defender. After starting the 1908-09 season with Glossop, he was snapped up by the now First Division Bradford for a substantial fee in September 1908.

Glossop North End record: Football League appearances: 38 Goals: 1

Bradford had started the 1908-09 season poorly and were bottom of the table with 1 point from their opening 3 games. Despite taking time to win a regular place, Comrie helped to shore up the defence over the second half of the season which saw an upturn in form. Bradford picked up 20 points from their final 15 games (two points for a win in those days), surviving on goal average with a 1-0 win over Manchester United on the final day of the season, which ironically relegated Manchester City in their place. Most notable is the fact that Bradford had the third best defence in the league that season despite finishing third from bottom. The following season Bradford finished 7th, their highest league position to date; interestingly, they conceded exactly the same number of goals as the previous season – 47 – and again had the third best defence in the league. Despite appearing in 31 of their 38 league games in 1909-10, he lost his place in the side for the 1910-11 season (which would see Bradford win the FA Cup for the first and only time) and eventually moved on to Lincoln in November 1910.

Bradford City record: Football League appearances: 43 Goals: 3

Lincoln had won their League place back in 1909, but had struggled badly and finished sixth from bottom in their first season back. The 1910-11 season had started even worse, and Comrie arrived at Sincil Bank in November 1910 after a 5-1 defeat at Blackpool had left the Imps just 3 points off the bottom of the table. Comrie took a job as an attendant at Bracebridge Asylum but could not pin down a regular place in the side. He made a total of 12 Second Division appearances for City, scoring his only goal for the club in a 1-0 win at Birmingham on 15 April 1911 (attendance 10,000) which gave City optimism that they might yet escape another re-election bid. Unfortunately, City finished the season with three narrow 2-1 defeats and lost their place in the Football League to…Grimsby Town. Comrie was one of a number of players released as City sought to cut their cloth for the Central League.

Lincoln City record: Football League appearances: 12 Goals: 1

After leaving Lincoln, Comrie made a few appearances for Grantham in late 1911 before returning to Scotland to play for then junior club Stenhousemuir. At the end of the season he returned to Reading, and helped them to 8th, 4th and 2nd places in the Southern League before enlisting in the Army in 1915.

Reading: Southern League appearances: 92 Goals: 1

Private 4064 Comrie was posted to France with the 1st/7th Northumberland Fusiliers and was sent immediately to Ypres where allied forces had already suffered severe losses. It is not known exactly what happened to him in the first week of August 1916, but battalion records state that he died on 9 August 1916 (aged 35) at Meteren, Ypres, while out of line. One account suggests he may have been one of three men injured during fighting on 4 or 5 August, and died of his injuries having been taken to billets at Meteren. Strangely, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

In memory of James Comrie, 31 March 1881 – 9 August 1916