Tom Vallance Master Mason, Lodge Govandale, No.437
Tom Vallance was born on 27th May 1856 at Succoth Farmhouse in the parish of Cardross. Succoth Lodge which has replaced the original farm building sits just off the Old Renton Road (A812) on the top of a hill. In his early years, the Vallance family moved to Shandon, north of Rhu. It has been suggested that it was here that he became friends with the McNeils.
During the 1870's he moved to Glasgow to work as a civil engineer and then became a mechanical engineer working in a number of the Clyde shipyards.
He was accomplished in so many fields. Arguably, the most outstanding Scottish footballer of his era, he also held the Scottish long jump record for many years and was a keen rower.
Tom was a hugely impressive physical man, standing six feet two inches at a time when the average Scottish male was about five feet seven inches in height. He was, though, a gentle giant. He was an accomplished artist with exhibits being accepted on two occasions by the Royal Scottish Academy. He was also a prize-winner for the breeding of birds and dogs.
He started playing football with some fellow rowers on Glasgow Green in order to keep fit. He quickly became aware of the team started by Moses McNeil and was soon a Rangers player.
Vallance soon made his mark in the popular new sport. A natural athlete, he settled into the full back role, reaching prominence with his teammates in the matches of the 1877 Scottish Cup Final against Vale of Leven. He was also a born leader, the first of the line of the great Rangers’ captains. He was in the team that played its first competitive match on October 12, 1874, when they beat Oxford in the Scottish Cup and he was a key figure in the early days. By the end of the decade, he was the finest footballer in Scotland and England. In 1879, he had his brother Alick beside him in the first Rangers side to win a trophy, the Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup.
Vallance played for Rangers for nine seasons at right back with such distinction that he was made captain in 1876.
He made his first appearance for Scotland in 1877, in a 3-1 victory over England at the Kennington Oval. He would face the “Auld Enemy” on three further occasions, including victories of 7-2 in 1878 and 6-1, in 1881. His Rangers colleagues, George Gillespie and David Hill, played in that match, the latter scoring Scotland’s second goal. Tom also had three victories over the Welsh to think back on in his twilight years. The only blot on an otherwise perfect international career was the 4-5 defeat at the Oval in 1879. The men in dark blue had led by 4-1 at half-time!
In February 1882, Tom Vallance made the bold decision to seek out a new career in the tea plantations of the northeastern Indian state of Assam. It was a move that nearly cost Tom his life. Within a few months of arriving in India, the great athlete was struck down by a form of malaria. He made the decision to return to Scotland.
He played three times for Rangers in 1883/84 season but it was clear the illness had taken its toll of Tom’s health. His final game in his beloved light blue was in a 9-2 victory over Abercorn at Kinning Park.
In retrospect, it can be argued that Tom Vallance’s contribution to the fortunes of Rangers was greater off the field of play than on it. During Vallance’s time in India, John Wallace Mackay had come to power in the role of Honorary Match Secretary; power he would wield to the great detriment of the Club. Tom was appointed Club President in 1883, the first of six seasons in the role. His commitment to the role achieved great support for him in his battle to control the excesses of the greatly unpopular Mackay.
Tom Vallance has now taken his rightful place at the top of the Marble Staircase alongside his friends and fellow Founders.
Tom Vallance succumbed to a stroke at his home at 189 Pitt Street on 16 February 1935. He is buried in Hillfoot Cemetery in Bearsden and his funeral was attended by Mr Struth, Chairman, James Bowie and his old team-mate James McIntyre who both took a cord.
Tom Vallance was a Master Mason of Lodge Govandale 437 and an affiliate member of Lodge Plantation No.581