Born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, goalkeeper Harry Rennie started his career as a half back with local junior sides Volunteers, Bellgrove Ramblers and Greenock Junior West End. His early talent earned him selection for the Scottish Junior International side and eventually a move to Scottish Second Division club Morton, where he belatedly became a goalkeeper in 1897, at the age of 23.
Clearly Rennie was not a man without physical disability but his bravery is apparently legendary. He introduced several innovative concepts to goalkeeping in Scottish football. He was the first to demark his goal area to assist him with judging angles, while he also pioneered the study of opposing forwards’ gestures and body language as they prepared to shoot. His scientific approach quickly brought him to national prominence and he signed for First Division club Heart of Midlothian in 1898 for £50. He made his Hearts debut in a 3-2 home defeat to Rangers in September 1898, and during two seasons at Tynecastle he helped the Edinburgh side to second and fourth place League finishes, making 43 Scottish League and Cup appearances, and he also made his international debut for Scotland when he played in a 3-0 win over Ireland at The Solitude, Belfast in March 1900.
Later in 1900, Hearts agreed Rennie’s transfer to Celtic, however a problem with his contract ensured he never officially joined the Glasgow club. Instead, he signed for Hearts’ city rivals Hibernian during the close season, where he became an important figure in one of the most successful eras in the club’s history. He made his debut at Celtic in a 3-1 defeat on 25th August 1900, and soon established himself as their principal goalkeeper. He helped them to claim the 1902 Scottish Cup, defeating Celtic 1-0 in the Final, with contemporary match reports crediting him with several notable saves. Hibs triumphed despite the Final being played at Celtic Park, the home ground of their opponents, as a result of Ibrox’s unavailability following the partial terracing collapse which occurred during the annual Scotland v England match two weeks earlier. Hibs wouldn’t win The Scottish Cup again for another 114 years. The following year, Rennie helped Hibs to their first ever Scottish League Championship. Rennie and captain Bobby Atherton were the only two players to appear in every match during that campaign.
Hibs couldn’t maintain this level of success in the following years but Rennie remained a frequent choice as Scotland goalkeeper. He won 13 caps in total between 1900 and 1908, recording 4 clean sheets in the process. He also made seven appearances for The Scottish League over the same period. After 233 appearances for Hibernian he joined Glasgow Rangers in May 1908 and appeared for them in the infamous 1909 Scottish Cup Final, which was abandoned after crowd trouble involving rival Celtic and Rangers fans, the trophy being withheld, in total making 40 League and Cup appearances over his two seasons at Ibrox. His last move was to Kilmarnock in 1910, where he made 33 appearances during 1910-11, keeping a clean sheet in his final match in a win at Hamilton Academical in April 1911 – he then retired short of his 38th birthday.
In 2010 he was inducted into the Hibernian Football Club Hall of Fame.
NB in the photograph he appears to wear a Scotland shirt.