London born outside left James Barbour “J.B.” McAlpine (nicknamed “Mutt”) played for Queen’s Park from 1919 until 1933, making a total of 547 appearances (he held the record for the most appearances for Queen’s Park for over 75 years) and scoring 192 goals, to this day the highest scorer in the history of the Queen’s Park. Born in London on 19th October 1901, he made his debut for Queen’s in January 1920 against Third Lanark, and scored his first goal for Queen’s in his next appearance a fortnight later in a 3-0 win over Aberdeen, described by the Daily Record as “Five minutes to go when Alan Morton went off on one of his many delightful runs. He beat Hannah, and when Hume came across to lend a hand, he slipped the ball to McAlpine, who shot it like grease lightning past Anderson.”
Probably his finest match came in 1922 when Queen’s, then spending a season in the Second Division, were drawn against Celtic in the Glasgow Cup. The Glasgow Cup was taken much more seriously in those days than it has been in recent years, and all league games involving Glasgow teams were cancelled to allow the cup ties to be played. Full strength teams were fielded by both sides, and it was the visiting Celtic side that took the lead after half an hour through Patsy Gallagher, however McAlpine made sure the scores were level at half time after Celtic full back McNair hesitated, and “McAlpine was in “on him like a bird” and the scores were level”. Five minutes into the second half “Mutt” put Queen’s into the lead with a speculative shot from outside the penalty area, then the lead was extended to two goals with a MacDonald strike for Queen’s. Celtic pulled one back through Patsy Gallagher before McAlpine struck again to claim a hat trick and to secure the match, a further goal for Celtic with two minutes left was too little, too late. The result was described as “Queen’s Park’s crowning triumph”, with the Queen’s legend grabbing the headlines as “Wonderful McAlpine”. Waverley, of the Daily Record, declared that the “unfathomable McAlpine’s unorthodoxy and surprise and deadly shooting did more than anything to carry Queen’s Park through”, and continued “What a joy day that was at Hampden! The stand shouted themselves hoarse as J.B. McAlpine found his way round Alex McNair: It rocked, or came as near to rocking as it ever did or ever will, when the final whistle tootled a Queen’s Park victory”.
On 31st October 1928 he was selected to play for The Scottish League against The Irish League at Firhill and scored twice, the first a penalty, in an 8-2 thrashing, his second goal finishing the scoring. He then represented The Scottish League a second time a week later, when they lost 2-1 to The English League at Villa Park.
McAlpine was also involved in another game which is part of football folklore, a 3-3 draw against Celtic in a league match at Hampden in the 1930/31 season. Queen’s were leading 2-1 at half time, but Celtic scored twice in the second half before the referee blew for full time. As the teams went off the pitch and into the changing rooms, it was pointed out to the referee that he had played two minutes short, and he recalled the teams to the field to play the remaining two minutes. Queen’s went on the attack and were awarded a penalty kick when Celtic defender Morrison handled the ball, and it was J.B. who stepped up to score and to rescue a point for Queen’s.
While best known for his goalscoring exploits, McAlpine was no slouch between the sticks either, and with no substitutes he was the regular back up goalkeeper. This was never seen to better effect than on a visit to Easter Road in December 1920 when two goals from McAlpine gave Queen’s a 2-0 half time lead. Shortly after the interval the Queen’s goalkeeper, William Gould, was forced off the field after being injured, and McAlpine took over to great effect, making several good saves as the ten men held out to keep a clean sheet.
After 13 years service, McAlpine indicated that he wished to retire at the end of the 1932-33 season, but when the Queen’s squad was depleted through injury at the tail end of the following season, “J.B.” was prevailed upon to return for two final Hampden appearances, against St Johnstone and then against Falkirk for his final game. Bob Crampsey described the end of his last match thus in his centenary book “The Game For The Games Sake”: “The crowd skailed, the net boys brought in the flags, the groundsman brought in the nets, almost as if it were a normal Saturday, and not the day on which one of Hampden’s greatest had chosen to go.”
His record for Queen’s was 473 league appearances with 163 goals, along with 74 cup appearances with 29 goals, and, although his appearance record was broken by Ross Caven in 2000, it is extremely unlikely that his goal scoring record will ever be bettered by a Queen’s Park player. After retiring from the playing field, “Mutt” served on the Queen’s Park committee and attained the Presidency of the club from 1953 to 1955. In 2013 Queen’s Park named their new youth and community building at Lesser Hampden the JB McAlpine Pavilion in his honour.