Willie Wilson (footballer, born 1894)

William R. Wilson (1894–1956) was a Scottish professional footballer, who played as an outside left (winger), primarily with Heart of Midlothian.

Willie Wilson
Personal information
Full name William R Wilson [1]
Date of birth February 1894[2]
Place of birth Edinburgh, Scotland
Date of death 1956[3]
Place of death Cheshire, England
Position(s) Outside forward
Youth career
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1911–1912 Arniston Rangers
1912–1924 Hearts 247 (67)
1916Leeds City (guest)
1923–1929 Cowdenbeath 197 (37)
Total 444 (104)
National team
1915 Scottish League XI 1 (0)
1916 Scotland (wartime) 1 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Club career

Wilson was born in 1894 in Edinburgh and lived at McLeod Street, close to Tynecastle; he was a Hearts supporter in childhood.[2] He began his career with local juvenile sides before joining Arniston Rangers of the Junior grade,[5] and represented Scotland at that level in two matches.[6]

He was signed by Hearts in 1912, aged 18, alongside Paddy Crossan who became a lodger at the Wilson family home.[3] Wilson made his debut in April 1912 in a 2–0 loss to Airdrieonians.[4] In the following season his returns in the league were an impressive 15 goals from 23 games as the club placed fourth.

He continued to feature regularly for Hearts in 1913–14, when they finished fourth again, and at the outset of 1914–15 they began strongly and were top of the league in November. By that point World War I was intensifying, and in the wake of public scrutiny over the willingness of sportsmen to join up for the armed forces, the squad enlisted en masse into what became known as McCrae's Battalion. Wilson signed up was not initially called to active duty owing to a dislocated shoulder sustained in a match some time earlier.[4] The Scottish League continued to operate, but Hearts were depleted and had to settle for the runners-up spot. Wilson was selected for the Scottish League XI in March 1915 with club teammate Jimmy Frew.[7]

In 1915–16 military commitments began to take hold, and soon after scoring a hat-trick in a 4–0 away win over Rangers[8] Wilson was called up to join his unit.[9] From then on he made occasional appearances for Hearts when possible and also had a spell as a guest player for Leeds City.[5] In May 1916, he was selected for Scotland in an unofficial wartime international (the only game of this nature during the course of the war itself).[10]

While several of his teammates fought and perished at the Battle of the Somme, the problematic shoulder meant that Wilson could not fire a rifle effectively, and he was held on reserve. He did see frontline action in 1917 at Arras and was wounded.[2] At the conclusion of the hostilities in 1918 Wilson returned to Edinburgh and was in the Hearts side which reached but lost the final of the 1919 Victory Cup.[4]

For the next four seasons he was once again an important component of the team, averaging 34 league games and 6 goals each campaign despite being troubled by his shoulder injury. In July 1923 he received a benefit match,[2] and a few weeks later left the club having amassed 273 competitive appearances and 72 goals for Hearts.[11]

Wilson moved on to second-tier Cowdenbeath[12][13] and in his first season helped them to gain promotion. His top-level career thus resumed,[4] as Cowden achieved an all-time high league placing of fifth in 1924–25 and retained their divisional status up to Wilson's final season, 1928–29 (and for several years beyond).

After retiring from football, Wilson ran a sweet shop and relocated to the north-west of England to work in his trade of tinsmith. He died in 1956.[3]


  1. "Heart of Midlothian & the Great War". Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  2. Purdie, Tom (2014). Hearts: The Supreme Sacrifice to Hearts at War. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445633343.
  3. Alexander, Jack (2004). McCrae's Battalion: The Story of the 16th Royal Scots. Mainstream Publishing/Random House. ISBN 9781845968212.
  4. A Notable Football Career. | Hearts: The Army: Cowdenbeath., Edinburgh Evening News, 15 September 1928, via London Hearts Supporters Club
  5. "Players: Willie Wilson 1916". Mighty Leeds. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  6. "Scotland Junior International Results and Lineups". Scottish Football Historical Archive. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  7. "Scottish League player William Wilson". www.londonhearts.com. London Hearts Supporters' Club. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  8. "16 October 1915, Rangers 0 Hearts 4". www.londonhearts.com. London Hearts Supporters' Club. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  9. "History 1914–1924". official website. Heart of Midlothian FC. Archived from the original on 20 March 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  10. "Scotland (wartime) player William Wilson". www.londonhearts.com. London Hearts Supporters' Club. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  11. "Hearts player Willie Wilson". www.londonhearts.com. London Hearts Supporters' Club. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  12. "Cowdenbeath Scorers". Top Division Goalscorers. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  13. [A Record of pre-war Scottish League Players], John Litster / Scottish Football Historian magazine, October 2012