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The Restoration of Rangers Graves Project. John Barker Rangers Football Club 1892-1896.

The Restoration of Rangers Graves Project. John Barker Rangers Football Club 1892-1896.

Following on from a thread on the supporters website Follow Follow we found ourselves yesterday afternoon at Craigton Cemetery in Glasgow and we’re delighted to say that we found the final resting place of John Barker who was a member of the first ever Rangers team to win the Scottish Cup. Finding a stone still standing is always a moment of great joy! 

Mr Barker’s stone will now be cleaned and a memorial plaque in his honour placed at the base.

Update to follow.

John Barker.

Born in Govan on June 28th 1869, John Barker was to call the burgh his home all his days. The son of a shipyard worker, he started his football career with local club Linthouse in 1889. A strong running left winger with an explosive shot, he quickly became a fixture in their first eleven.

Linthouse were one of a number of clubs who took part in the inaugural Glasgow Cup competition in 1887, and although they usually fell to heavy defeats if drawn against one of the bigger city clubs, in 1891 they received some favourable draws and reached the semi finals. Pollokshaws and Whitefield had been defeated, but the last 4 tie represented a whole new level when the Govan team were paired with Celtic at Parkhead. This was to be John Barker's first competitive match against them, and one he would want to forget as the left winger was helpless to prevent a crushing 9-2 defeat. It was to be a game Barker would use as motivation in future years.

Linthouse by now were founding members of the Scottish Football Alliance, a brief competitor to the Scottish Football League. Up against the likes of Partick Thistle, Kilmarnock, Morton and Airdrionians it was a competition that would become the Second Division a few years later. With Barker starring on the left wing, Linthouse would go on to become champions in that first 1891/92 season, although he was no longer a Linthouse player by the season end. In February 1892 he made the short move to Rangers.

Barker made his debut for the club on February 13th 1892, one week after a heavy Scottish Cup defeat to Celtic, and he scored in a 7-0 home league rout of Vale of Leven. The following month he netted his first hat trick in Royal Blue in a 5-2 victory over Renton. In all, John Barker made 9 starts before the end of the season, scoring 6 times, but the club were unable to defend the league title they had shared the previous season with Dumbarton, only finishing 5th.

Rangers started the 1892/93 season well, with Barker a key player. They remained unbeaten in league and cups past New Year, but then suffered an unexpected setback in late January when despite a Barker goal they were knocked out the Scottish Cup 3-2 at St Bernard's. Just 3 weeks later on February 18th 1893 came the first Cup final of the season, a Rangers v Celtic Glasgow Cup final at Cathkin Park. John Barker was determined this Glasgow Cup tie would be very different from his embarrassing experience with Linthouse. In driving dain and on a sodden surface, Barker terrorised the holders' defence throughout. He opened the scoring with a fine shot and fully deserved to be on the winning side as further goals from Neil Kerr and the great John McPherson gave Rangers their first ever Glasgow Cup triumph in a 3-1 success.

This was to be the high point of the season, as a late slump in the title run in with successive 3 goal defeats to Dumbarton and Celtic, saw Rangers slip to a second place league finish by a single point. Overall in season 1892/93 John Barker scored 5 goals from 19 starts.

Season 1893/94 saw Rangers drop early points with 2 draws in their first 3 games. The 4th game of the season on September 2nd 1893 was at home to Celtic. 10,000 spectators saw a Rangers team fired up for revenge after blowing the title a few months earlier. And this was to be the day John Barker made history. After an end to end opening spell where both goalkeepers were tested, Barker made a fine run on the left and his perfect centre was finished expertly by John McPherson. Rangers now scented blood and piled relentless pressure on their opponents. Barker fired a thunderous shot past the helpless Cullen to double the lead, and the game was over just before half time when a flowing move was finished by a clinical John Gray header. Rangers were in no mood to settle for three. The second half was a continuation of attempts on the Celtic goal, with Cullen making several outstanding stops. But he was helpless to prevent Barker adding a 4th with an easy finish then was again beaten near the end when Barker completed his treble with another fierce drive.

John Barker became the first Rangers player to score a league hat trick in the fixture, and even to this day it is a feat rarely achieved. Only RC Hamilton, Torry Gillick (in the wartime Southern League), Jimmy Duncanson and Johnny Hubbard have ever managed to equal Barker's memorable feat.

Rangers were to suffer from too much inconsistency to mount a serious league challenge but they found their best form in the Scottish Cup. Winning the national Cup trophy had been the club's biggest ambition ever since their first Cup final heartache in 1877, and bring the cup to Ibrox was the Holy Grail for all at Rangers. After sweeping into the last four, a home 1-1 semi final draw with the mighty Queens Park looked to be a fatal slip as the replay would be at their Hampden fortress. But a magnificent 3-1 win meant a final date with Celtic on February 17th 1894.

The first half was goalless, Rangers coming close in the opening minutes when McCreadie shot narrowly past when well positioned, but Celtic came even closer just minutes before the interval when Blessington struck the crossbar with Rangers goalkeeper Haddow well beaten. The second half was the prove to be the finest 45 minutes of the club's history until that point. In a remarkable and devastating 13 minute period, Rangers overpowered their opponents with a superb display of ruthless attacking football, and in those 13 minutes the destination of the cup was decided. It started in 55 minutes when Hugh McCreadie controlled a David Mitchell free kick 12 yards from goal and lashed the ball beyond Celtic keeper Cullen and into the net. On 65 minutes it was 2-0, and it was a goal fit to win any trophy. John Barker receiving the ball 50 yards from the Celtic goal, then weaving his way past several despairing challenges before crashing home his shot from just inside the penalty area for an unforgettable solo goal. If there remained any doubt about the outcome, that lasted only 3 more minutes when John McPherson pounced on a defensive error to beat Cullen from close range.

Celtic were a beaten team but refused to throw in the towel, and were rewarded with a consolation goal after 75 minutes when Willie Maley converted a McMahon corner from 3 yards out, the only moment of slack defending in the entire second half. The final whistle sparked joyous scenes both amongst the Rangers players and their supporters, and the roar could be heard back at Ibrox when captain David Mitchell lifted the Scottish Cup for the club's first ever triumph in the national competition.

John Barker ended the season with 8 goals from 19 starts, with 5 of those goals against Celtic. He was also by now an international player, featuring against Wales in both 1893 and 1894. Incredibly, these were to be his only appearances for Scotland as he scored 4 times, including a debut hat trick.

In 1894/95 he remained a Rangers regular. He scored against Celtic again in his next appearance against them in September but the game ended in defeat. It was this season when Barker's run as an automatic choice ended as Rangers had unearthed a young left winger from Darvel called Alec Smith whose initial appearances were so impressive he simply had to play. Barker played right wing, inside right and centre forward as manager Wilton tried to find a way to accommodate both. The writing appeared to be on the wall by May 1895 when Barker scored from centre forward in the Charity Cup semi final win over Third Lanark but he was dropped for the final against Celtic despite his great record against them.

But Barker still was regularly selected in 1895/96, but only at left wing when Smith was unavailable. He kept a reasonable scoring record, and even played in defence in one game. His 84th and last Rangers game was at centre forward in a 2-1 win over Queens Park in the Glasgow League on 18th April 1896. In those 84 games he scored 34 goals. These included 7 goals in 11 games against Celtic.

In the summer of 1896, Govan born and bred John Barker returned to Linthouse, now a Second Division club. Now a qualified draughtsman, he balanced his football with his job at the shipyard. Despite Linthouse finishing bottom of the table, he scored 13 goals in 18 intermittent starts, before retiring from football in 1898 at the age of just 29 to concentrate fully on his shipbuilding career.

Married to local girl Ellen, they set up home in Govan with their daughter, also Ellen. He died of lymphoma the day after his 72nd birthday on June 29th 1941.

He played less than 100 times for Rangers. But he scored in our first Glasgow Cup final win. He scored in our first Scottish Cup final win. And he scored our first ever league hat trick against Celtic.

John Bell Barker. Remembered.

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