ON THE evening of June 13, 1930, the SS Munargo began an 18-day voyage from the port of Hoboken, New Jersey to Montevideo, Uruguay.
Though the vessel arrived in the capital in foul weather – the 92nd consecutive day of rain, so it was said – there was still an enthusiastic crowd there to greet it. Inquisitive football fans stood side by side with cameramen, writers and cartoonists from the Uruguayan media as the American squad for the inaugural World Cup disembarked.
The locals knew nothing about these guys who hailed from clubs like the Providence Clamdiggers and Tebo Yacht Basin, Bethlehem Steel and Fall River Marksmen and Bricklayers and Masons FC. There was a Newark Skeeter and a New York Giant and one who spent time with the Holley Carburetor team in Detroit. They were mystery men, but history tells us that the Uruguayans stood in the rain regardless, sizing up the visitors without knowing quite how far some of these people had actually travelled.
The team had at its head Bob Millar, the manager, who'd made his reputation as a player and boss with a succession of teams in America but who had spent the first 21 years of his life in his native Paisley. In his group were other transplanted Scots. Jim Brown and Jimmy Gallagher, a pair of wide players, one from Troon, the other from Kirkintilloch. There was Alex Wood, the right back from Lochgelly, and Andy Auld, the midfielder from Stevenston, and Bart McGhee, the striker from Edinburgh. Maybe you've heard of them and maybe you haven't, but on the eve of the 19th World Cup it is fitting that we pay tribute to the Scots who competed in the first. And not just competed. America made the semi-final and all five Scots played in that match. Brown scored, albeit a futile goal in a heavy defeat against the mighty Argentines, but when do you suppose a Scot is going to score in another World Cup semi-final? In our lifetime? In the lifetime of our children and our children's children? You have to wonder.
It was Scots who brought the game of golf to the free world, but it's easy to forget that they had an influence in the story of American soccer also. And now we'll tell the tale.
Bob Millar: the Staten Island Scot
Millar left Paisley at the age of 21 and fetched up in Oregon. Millar was a good player. Real good. He had something of a restless nature, not to mention an explosive temperament, and he journeyed around the States like a gun for hire. Truly he was a wanted man. One season he scored 59 goals in 33 league games and broke all records. He won the US Open Cup with Brooklyn Field Club in 1914, with Bethlehem Steel in 1915 and 1919 and with the New York Nationals in 1928. He was capped by America as a player and appointed the national team manager for the 1930 World Cup. He was 40 years old at the time.
Jim Brown: the New York Giant
We can only surmise what kind of early life Brown had in Troon. He was the eldest of seven kids and carried a burden of responsibility from an early age, pretty much from the point when his father went out one day and never came home. Word had it that he'd jumped on a ship to America, fed up with the pressures of raising so many kids on so little money. So young Brown left school at 13 to become an apprentice riveter at the Troon shipyards, but he'd always had an obsession about finding his father in the States. At 19, he struck out and headed for America.
Father and son were reunited in Westfield, New Jersey, but they never reconciled. Brown bounced around with some amateur teams until the New York Giants signed him as a professional. His father never gave him much in life, but one thing he did provide: by becoming a citizen of America, the old man allowed his boy to declare for the USA in the 1930 World Cup. Bob Millar was delighted to have him.
Jimmy Gallagher: Cleveland's finest
Jimmy Gallagher was just 12-years-old when his mother decided that there was nothing left for them in Kirkintilloch. They arrived in New York in 1913 and within six years Gallagher was beginning to make a reputation for himself as a player. He appeared for any number of the iconic brands of the day; Tebo Yacht Basin, Fleisher Yarn, Indiana Flooring, New York Nationals, before settling in Cleveland.
It was at the Nationals where he made his claim for inclusion in the first World Cup squad. He was there from 1927 and played in 144 games, scoring 30 goals from outside right. It was the kind of form that could not be ignored. Millar had another Scot in the ranks.
Alex Wood: the Indiana Scot
When he was 14 years old, Alex Wood played for Scotland in a junior match against Wales. The quality of his performance was almost immaterial because by then the plans for his emigration to America were in train. The family moved to Gary, Indiana, and Wood got a job in a steel company. But then his football took off. He played in Chicago with the Bricklayers and Masons and in Detroit with Holley Carburetor. He was a formidable defender, who packed a punch. For the big tournament in Uruguay, Millar would need a set of players who would not be pushed about by anybody. And Alex Wood was one of those players.
Andy Auld: Clamdigger and Gold Bug
Funny how life turns out. Andy Auld moved to Gillespie, Illinois at the age of 23. A star of the Ayrshire and Glasgow amateur football scene, he thought he could make something of himself in the States, but he hated the place. He vowed to return home first chance he got. Before he left, he visited his sister in New York. In his days there, he got involved in a kick-about in a park. Watching from the sideline was a scout from the Providence Clamdiggers from the relatively monied American Soccer League. Auld was offered a deal and took it. Even after they changed their name to the Gold Bugs, he remained, playing nearly 300 games in all and forging a reputation as a player of international class.
In 1926, Auld was capped by America. They beat Canada 6-1 and he scored two goals. It's not altogether clear why he didn't appear again for the States for another four years, but as soon as Millar took over, Auld returned. And set sail for Uruguay with the rest of his countrymen.
Bart McGhee: born in Edinburgh, made in New York
Old Jimmy McGhee was a hard act to follow. He played for Celtic, albeit briefly, then captained Hibs to Scottish Cup glory in 1887, scored five goals in 25 minutes against Hearts on one occasion, played for Scotland and later did the unthinkable and became manager of Hearts. In 1910, he left for America. Two years later, he sent for his wife and kids. Bart was only 13 when he left Scotland. Reports have it that he never again returned to the land of his birth.
McGhee had some of his father's ability. Certainly, he could score goals. Lots of them. Even from his position on the left wing he was prolific. Even at the age of 31, he was a key part of Bob Millar's plans for Uruguay.
Thirteen teams competed in Montevideo. There would have been more, but they couldn't afford the trip. So 13 it was and first up, America played Belgium and routed them 3-0. McGhee scored his team's opening goal and would be remembered for all time as the first scorer in World Cup history if it hadn't been for a Frenchman pipping him to the honour in a game played simultaneously across the city.
Four days later, America played Paraguay for a place in the semi-final. It was an effortless victory, another 3-0 romp, another triumph for Millar and his five fellow Scots. The problem now was that Argentina were the next opponents. Argentina were a sublime side. From the outset, everybody predicted that either they or the Uruguayans would win the tournament and the forecast proved correct.
The semi was played at the new Estadio Centario in front of 80,000 people. The Americans were crushed, but there mitigating circumstances. Some cruel luck descended on them. Their goalkeeper, Jimmy Douglas, suffered a bad injury early on and couldn't be replaced. He was a sitting duck for most of the game. On top of that, Auld was kicked in the face after half an hour and had his lip cut open. He played the rest of the semi with a bloodied rag hanging from his mouth. Legend has it that when the smelling salts were brought on to revive him, an Argentina player booted the medication into Auld's eye, blinding him temporarily.
In the end, America had eight fit players on the field and were beaten 6-1, Jim Brown getting a consolation goal a minute before time. Argentina then lost 4-2 to Uruguay in the final in front of a crowd of 93,000.
The transplanted Scots continued with their football lives for years after, some coming back to the UK to play professionally before returning to America to live out the rest of their days. Millar was the first to die, in Staten Island in February '67. Then Gallagher went in Cleveland in October '71. Auld passed away in December '77 in Rhode Island, with McGhee dying two years later in Philadelphia and Wood departing in Indiana in January '87. Brown was the last of them, dying New Jersey in November '94.
All of them live on, though, in the annals of the US soccer Hall of Fame. They are immortalised there. Remembered as giants in the country they made their home.