Glasgow born goalkeeper Jack Harkness joined his local side Queen’s Park in 1925 and stayed there for three seasons. In line with their Corinthian ideals, he played as an amateur during his spell at Hampden Park, making his Scottish League debut in December 1925 at Falkirk. Despite playing against professional and semi-professional sides, the Spiders managed to maintain a respectable position in Division One and Harkness was soon regarded as a key component in the side.
He won his first Scotland cap while at Queen’s Park keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Ireland at Windsor Park in February 1927 and he won 12 caps through to October 1933, but he will always be associated with being the goalkeeper in Scotland’s “Wembley Wizards” team of March 1928 that thrashed England 5-1 at Wembley.
In May 1928, after 104 appearances for Queen’s Park, Heart of Midlothian lured Harkness into the professional ranks, making him their highest paid player in the process. Hearts were frequent top five finishers and the increased profile this afforded Harkness allowed him to become a regular international player. The Maroons of this era were a talented yet inconsistent side however, and during his nine seasons with the Jambos, Harkness failed to win any major honours. A prime example of Hearts’ unpredictability was season 1932-33, when both reigning champions Motherwell and eventual champions Rangers were defeated, yet because Hearts dropped points to lesser sides ensured they only achieved a third-place finish.
Harkness won the admiration of Celtic fans in an incident involving Celtic forward Jimmy McGrory. In a match between Hearts and Celtic, McGrory made a dive in an attempt to score with a header. However, Harkness realised McGrory was going to collide against the goalpost, and as such pushed the Celtic player away round the post to protect him from serious injury. The Celtic fans shouted for a penalty and booed the Hearts goalkeeper for the remainder of the game. McGrory, however, highlighted his gratitude for Harkness’ action and the following season in a game between the two clubs, the Celtic fans gave Harkness a prolonged ovation as he took up his position in goal.
Willie Waugh displaced Harkness as Hearts’ regular goalkeeper in 1936-37. After spending the remainder of the season as a reserve, Harkness decided to retire, at the comparatively young age of 29, after 324 appearances for The Jambos, in order to pursue a career in sports journalism. He wrote for the Sunday Post throughout the 1950’s becoming a very popular columnist and was awarded an MBE in 1971.