Newcastle born centre forward Billy Cairns started his career with junior club Holborn Rangers in 1931 and played for Stargate Rovers in 1932 when he played for Newcastle Juniors against Scotland Juniors, before signing for Second Division Newcastle United for £25 in May 1933. He made his Football League debut against Bury in January 1935 and scored his first hat-trick against Swansea Town in a 5-1 victory a month later. Described at the time as “a leader of the thrustful category, with youth and a big heart in his favour”, he scored a total of 54 goals in 92 appearances for Newcastle before the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, including 4 goals against West Ham in September 1936, 4 more against West Brom in September 1938, and further hat-tricks against Nottingham Forest and Tranmere Rovers. He was Newcastle’s top scorer in 1938-39 with 20 goals.
Cairns signed for Gateshead in November 1944, appearing in the 1945-46 FA Cup. He scored 5 goals in 4 games during the competition before signing for Grimsby Town in May 1946 prior to The Football League resuming in 1946-47. He played 231 games for Grimsby over the next eight seasons scoring an impressive 121 goals, including 4 hat-tricks for the club, being the club’s top marksman in 1946-47, 1947-48, 1950-51, and 1951-52 (with 35 strikes as they finished runners up in Division Three (North) before retiring at the end of 1953-54, already nearly 40 years old.