Billy Houliston

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Billy Houliston
Personal information
Full name William Houliston
Date of birth (1921-04-04)4 April 1921
Place of birth Maxwelltown, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
Date of death 10 February 1999(1999-02-10) (aged 77)
Playing position Centre forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1945–1952 Queen of the South 120 (60)
1952–1953 Berwick Rangers
1953 Third Lanark 1 (0)
National team
1948–1949 Scotland 3 (2)
1948–1949 Scottish Football League XI 4 (3)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

William "Billy" Houliston (4 April 1921 – 10 February 1999) was a Scottish footballer who played for Crichton, Queen of the South, Berwick Rangers, Third Lanark and the Scotland national team.

Early years[edit]

He was born in Maxwelltown, at Westpark Cottages, where he lived for a short while before his family moved to a house at the Crichton in Dumfries. Houliston played for Brownhall Primary School in the Dumfries and District Primary School League at centre half. Houliston played for the League in cup matches against other areas. Houliton's secondary school was Dumfries High School where he played only occasionally. On leaving school Houliston stopped playing completely.[1]

Aged 17 working as a nurse at the Crichton Royal Hospital Houliston started playing again. It was playing for the Crichton team that Houliston moved from defence to attack playing at either inside or centre forward.[2]

In 1941 Billy Houliston was called up for national service. Houliston joined RAF Coastal Command as a wireless operator. In his 4 years service Houliston was attached to 16 different stations where he represented each at football. Playing in the Arbroath area the local side offered to sign him. On leave back in Dumfries Houliston declined the offer when taking the offer of a trial game for Queen of the South reserves.[1]

Queen of the South[edit]

After an unremarkable debut against Falkirk 'A' Houliston scored in the 4-1 victory over Celtic reserves. Like many that he was to score his goal was eye-catching. Chasing a long ball upfield Houliston beat Kelly in the Celtic defence. Houliston then drew the Celtic keeper out and chipped the ball over the goalie's outstretched leg and ran around him. With the keeper stranded putting the ball into the net was a formality. Houliston was offered a contract.[1]

A month later Houliston made his first team debut a month later, 13 October 1945 away to Morton.[1]

Nicknamed "Basher" from his 'afraid of no one' style,[3] Houliston was the idol of Palmerston Park in the late 1940s. His all action style made him a handful for defences everywhere.[1]

Manager Jimmy McKinnell Junior joined in 1946 as did goalkeeper Roy Henderson and full back Dougie Sharpe.

On 14 January 1948 Houliston gained his first international recognition playing for the Scottish League v the Irish League at Celtic Park. Playing beside George Young, Sammy Cox, Torry Gillick, Willie Ormond and Gordon Smith, Houliston scored twice in the 3-0 victory. Houliston's first was a header from a corner kick, the second a brilliant shot from just inside the box. On 24 March Houliston represented the Scottish League this time against their English counterparts. Celtic then offered a big fee to take him to Parkhead but Houliston was happy to stay with Queens.[1]

In 1949 the goals king of Queens and Scotland cap Jim Patterson signed.

On 17 November 1948 Billy Houliston made his full international debut. The Irish were 2-0 up inside five minutes. 22 minutes later Houliston met the ball on the turn 10 yards from the Irish goal and rifled the ball into the Irish net. A through pass to Mason brought the equaliser. For the next goal Houliston passed the ball wide to Waddell and then kept moving goalwards. Houliston met the winger's cross with a bullet header for the comeback to be complete.[1]

Five months later Houliston played against England at Wembley. Houliston's robust style of play discomforted the English defenders attracting boos from the home fans and post-match criticism from the English press. Houliston and Scotland returned North with a 3-1 win in the bag. Houliston's last full cap was again in April at Hampden in the 2-0 win over France. In all Houliston collected 9 caps at different levels and never played in a losing Scotland side.[1]

In March 1950 Houliston played in a titanic Scottish Cup quarter final tustle against Aberdeen. Playing at Palmerston Park and with ex Queens George Hamilton impressing the Dons were three goals up after 15 minutes playing some fine football. A Doug McAvoy goal reduced the deficit back to two goals at half time. Queens unleashed a second half onslaught. Amid some frantic play Queens pulled a goal back with nine minutes remaining from Doug McBain. Houliston playing out of position on the right wing then crossed for McAvoy's second goal to level the scores at 3-3. Frank Watson in the Aberdeen goal pulled off an outstanding last minute save to force a replay back in Aberdeen. In the 28th at Pittodrie minute Aberdeen again went a goal up before Houliston (playing at his preferred centre forward after a tactical reshuffle during the game) lashed home the equaliser from a McAvoy pass. A minute later Queens were ahead for the first time in the tie - McAvoy again the provider for Charlie Johnston this time to trouble the score keeper. With no more goals Queens went through to the semi final for the first time in their history.[1]

The semi final tie at Hampden on April's fools day against Rangers would go down as a Scottish Cup classic. Disaster struck for Queens in the first minute. In the era before substitutions Doug McBain's injury reduced to Queens to playing the rest of the game a man short. Regardless, 10 man Queens knuckled down and got on with it. In the 43rd minute Houliston spraying the ball wide from midfield saw Rangers Willie Woodburn unable to block out the pass. The ball fell to Jim Patterson who fed Jackie Brown. Brown's sugar finish from 15 yards done the business – half time score, Queen of the South 1, Rangers 0. Rangers equalised with a bundled goal in the 59th minute. Houliston had a last minute chance to put Queens through but the game ended 1-1. The replay again at Hampden seen Queens go in 0-0 at half time. Queens were still in with a shout even after Rangers went a goal up in the second half. However, after a highly questionable 76th minute Rangers penalty it was game over. Rangers added a third before full-time.[1]

The Summer after seen Houliston and his Scottish teammates tour the USA. Houliston netted twice in St Louis in the 6-0 win against the All Stars XI. Another goal followed against the American Soccer League in New York. However a serious ankle injury brought Houlston's involvement in the tour to a premature end. He journeyed home on the Queen Mary without his teammates to have an operation.[1]

Jimmy Binning joined Queens in 1951. During Houliston's time as a Queen of the South player they spent only one season out of the top division of Scottish football. That season was 1950-51 when they were promoted straight back to the top flight as Scottish B Division champions. The success of that season was enhanced by a run to the semi final of the Scottish League Cup. [3][4]

Houliston left Queens with a tally of 60 goals in 120 league games.

Full international caps[edit]

# Date Opponent Result Competition
1 17 November 1948  Ireland Scotland 3 – 2 Ireland 1949 British Home Championship
2 9 April 1949  England England 1 – 3 Scotland 1949 British Home Championship
3 27 April 1949  France Scotland 2 – 0 France Friendly match

Berwick Rangers and Third Lanark[edit]

After the ankle injury Houliston was never the same player again. He was released by Queen of the South in July 1952. While holidaying in Blackpool he was pursued by dignitaries of Berwick Rangers. A contract was offered and Houliston signed while still on holiday. Houliston spent only one season at Berwick where fate meant the club were drawn to play against Queen of the South in the Scottish Cup. A last minute goal gave Queens a 3-2 victory.[1]

Houliston then had a brief spell with Third Lanark before retiring in 1953.[1]

After playing[edit]

Billy Houliston first went into the licensing trade in 1949 when opening Billy's Bar on Dumfries High Street. Houliston continued in this business until the 1980s with the Nith Hotel at Glencaple.[1]

Houliston became a director at Queen of the South in 1957 and was later chairman for several years winning promotion to the first division in with the early 1960s Queens team of player manager George Farm, Neil Martin, Ernie Hannigan and the now veteran Jim Patterson.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Billy Houliston profile on "Queens Legends" on the official Queen of the South FC website
  2. ^ "The Queens" by Iain McCartney, page 102, Creedon Publications, 2004
  3. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 May 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  4. ^ League History - Queen of the South FC - Doonhamers MAD