A Professional Priestley

A photograph of T. Priestley and the Ireland team, pictured front, second from right.

Source of photograph: Irish Football Association and John Duffy.

Searching online for distant family members, I came across the son of my great great grand uncle who played football for Ireland.  Having previously written about my father-in-law's connection to Robert Leckie of Scotland fame in my From Killearn to the Scottish Cup Final blog, it came as a surprise to find a footballer in my own family, namely a Tommy Priestly or Priestley.

Tommy's father was a Thomas Dickie Priestley, who was the brother of my great great grandfather James Priestley. Thomas Dickie's Scottish birth certificate shows he was born in 1874 in Glasgow, the son of parents from County Antrim in what is now Northern Ireland as previously mentioned in A Maryhill Highlander.

Thomas Dickie had five siblings with three dying before the age of three years old.  Looking at the death certificates of those three children shows they died of fever associated with contaminated food or water.  This suggests the appalling social conditions the Priestley family were living in at that time, as were many families in Glasgow during the Victorian era.

Thomas Dickie last appears in the 1891 Census of Scotland and reappears in the 1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland having married a local and where he is now working as a ships joiner in Belfast.  Many skilled shipyard workers from Scotland moved to Belfast around the turn of the 20th century.  His son, Tommy the footballer, is born in Belfast in 1911.

Tommy's international career was short with him playing twice for Ireland:

Scotland v Ireland 1932 in Glasgow.  I wonder if his Scottish relations attended the 1932 game in Glasgow and had a chance to meet him?  His last international was Ireland v England 1933 in Belfast.  The photograph below is T. Priestley, Ireland while playing for Coleraine.

Source of photograph: Irish Football Association and John Duffy.
His other playing career saw him turning out for Cookstown, Coleraine and Linfield winning the Co. Antrim Shield and Charity Cup with Linfield.  A major move to Chelsea in England saw Tommy play 27 times during the 1933/34 season where he sadly left the club due to an eye injury.  Tommy finished his playing career with Shelbourne in Dublin.

A photograph of T. Priestley, Chelsea F.C.

Source of photograph: Irish Football Association and John Duffy.

As you can see from the photographs above, any pictures of Tommy playing show him wearing a distinctive rugby-style cap which was said to to have been worn to cover his premature baldness!

Post professional football, Tommy was the Principal teacher at Lambeg Primary School, Co. Antrim and Chairman of the Irish Schools Football Association.  The photograph below is T. Priestley as Chairman, Irish Schools FA.

Source of photograph: Irish Football Association and John Duffy.

Tommy Priestley passed away in Belfast in 1985, leaving behind a stellar footballing and equally notable educational career.

With thanks to the Irish Football Association and amateur football historian John Duffy who provided the photographs of Tommy and the details of his playing career.


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