By Jim Campbell
Robert Hamilton was a local lad who was rated by many neutral observers to be the best full-back in Ireland when playing for Newry Town FC.
Robert or ‘Bud’ as he was affectionally known by many of his friends, first came into prominence when playing for Damolly Rovers during the 1924-25 season.
The Town’s local scout quickly recognised the young defender’s ability and persuaded him to sign up for The Marshes club towards the end of that season.
Newry’s management decided that it would help Robert’s development if he was loaned out to Portadown Reserves, whilst still remaining a signed senior league player with the Frontiermen.
After six months or so ‘Bud’ was back in harness with The Town and at the beginning of the 1926-27 season he signed professional forms becoming an automatic choice at left full-back in the senior side.
His form in the early part of that season was absolutely magnificent and helped to catapult The Town into a top six Irish Senior League spot.
Interesting to note that Robert’s younger brother David, was also, by this time, an automatic choice at centre half in Newry’s very solid rearguard.
After a run of outstanding games in the senior league, 20 year old Robert was selected to play for The Irish League Representative Team against The Free State League at Windsor Park on Saturday 5th March 1927.
The game attracted a massive crowd in excess of 15,000 plus a host of cross channel scouts. Hamilton had a fine game, attracting the attention of Liverpool, Hearts and Glasgow Rangers. Rangers won the race for his signature but they had to increase their original offer to keep him away from Hearts or Liverpool.
The Town completed his transfer to Rangers on Thursday 10th March 1927 for an undisclosed fee and ‘Bud’ made his debut for the Glasgow club on Wednesday 16th March 1927 against Greenock Morton.
The Ireland’s Saturday Night newspaper commenting on Hamilton’s transfer to Glasgow Rangers said “Hamilton’s future is now in his own hands. He has the ball at his feet as it were and with him alone depends how high up the ladder of football fame he will climb. He has gone over to one of the best managed clubs in the land, a club that is known to give youngsters every opportunity to make good. He has everything on his side to make good. Youth, Height and Weight are assets which combined with ability should make any player feel comfortable in the best company.”
Very quickly Robert settled in at Ibrox Park and just as he was at Newry he became an automatic choice at left back in a great Rangers team that was sweeping all before it in Scotland.
In 1928 he was a member of the first Rangers team to tour America and also was a member of their 1929-30 clean sweep team winning the League Championship, Scottish Cup, Glasgow Cup and Glasgow Charity Cup. ‘Bud’ played in a further three Scottish Cup Finals ( Winning Two) and claimed three more Championship and Charity Cup Winners Medals.
Whilst at Rangers he added five full Irish International caps to the Inter League honour he had won at Newry.
Hamilton left Rangers in 1933 to sign for English Div 2 Club, Bradford City FC where he spent two seasons. He then moved North of The Border again to join Third Lanark and later went to Morton as his trophy-laden career came to a close.
After Robert signed for the Ibrox club in 1927 his younger Brother David continued to play for The Town in the Irish League but David’s career in football was halted when he emigrated to Canada.
Another of Robert’s brothers, Sammy ran two successful businesses on the Belfast Road in Newry for a number of years, namely Rockfoot Service Station and Rockfoot Carpets.
Married to a Welsh Lady, ‘Bud’ passed away in Cardiff on the 7th Feb 1964.