Springburn, Glasgow born wing half Bernard “Barney” Battles (Senior) began his football career with Linlithgow Juniors in 1890 and played for Bathgate Rovers in 1891 and Broxburn Shamrock in 1892, before starting his senior career with Bathgate in 1893. He joined Heart of Midlothian in 1894, making his debut in a 3-0 win at Third Lanark in September that year, playing 18 League and Cup games for Hearts as they won the Scottish League Championship before joining Glasgow Celtic in the 1895 close season.
Battles made his Celtic debut in a 2-1 away win at Dundee on 10th August 1895, and later in the 1895-96 season, after he had won the Scottish League Championship for a second year running (this time with Celtic), he left on loan for English Second Division club Liverpool, making his Football League debut against Burton Swifts in March 1896, playing once more as Liverpool finished as Second Division Champions, and also playing in three Test matches for them as they secured promotion to the First Division. For his six weeks’ loan he received a special gold medal and a cheque for a “handsome sum”. Battles joined Dundee in May 1897, playing a single season for The Dark Blues. He then played another League match for Liverpool in a 2-2 draw with Bury at Anfield in March 1898, before rejoining Celtic the following October.
Battles was of heavyweight proportions and lacked pace, but made up for his girth by his enthusiasm and being of fearless nature. He read the game well, and was a popular player. After a victory over Rangers in 1898 the papers proclaimed “St Bernard Battles, Patron of Parkhead”. While at Celtic he won two Scottish Cup Finals in 1899 and 1900, and scored 6 goals in 136 appearances across his two spells at Parkhead before he was transferred to Kilmarnock in the summer of 1904.
Battles impressed the selectors of the Scottish national side with his performances for Celtic and was picked for three home internationals in the spring of 1901, making his debut in an 11-0 thrashing of Ireland at Parkhead in February 1901 and playing in draws with Wales and England in the following weeks, as well as featuring twice for The Scottish League, making his debut for them at The Solitude, Belfast in a 3-1 defeat to The Irish League in February 1899 and playing in a 6-3 defeat to The Football League at St James’ Park in March 1902. He also played for the Glasgow Association against Sheffield in 1902.
Battles went down with influenza after playing for Kilmarnock at Ibrox on 21st January 1905. The flu developed into pneumonia and he died at his home in Glasgow’s Gallowgate on 9th February 1905, at the age of only 29. No fewer than 40,000 people lined the route to Dalbeth cemetery at his funeral. The income from the stands at the Scotland – Ireland match at Celtic Park on 18th March 1905, a total of £150, was donated by host club Celtic to the grieving Battles family in tribute to their former player.
His son Barney Battles (Junior) was born after his death and went on to play for The United States, Scotland and Heart of Midlothian.