Robert Torrance was born in Kirkintilloch, north west of Glasgow, in 1888 and joined Bradford City from his home town club Kirkintilloch Rob Roy on 19th August, 1907 having played a practice game at Valley Parade under the name of McNair the previous Saturday. Torrance had been identified as a talented player by Tom Paton, the man responsible for introducing a number of successful players to Valley Parade including other Scotsmen, Frank O’Rourke, Jimmy Speirs, David Taylor, Jock Ewart and Tommy Cairns as well the England internationals Evelyn Lintott and Dickie Bond.
The auburn haired Scotsman did not make his debut until the following season, playing in the game against Everton on 28th November, 1908. As will be recalled from an earlier feature, this was coincidentally the occasion when the club had introduced its ‘Bantams’ identity.
Having originally played at full back Torrance moved to central defence and established a reputation as one of the best central defenders of his time. Torrance made 179 Football League and FA Cup appearances for Bradford City and played in two Scottish trial games (Anglo-Scots v Home-Scots in 1913 and 1914). He also made 52 wartime appearances for City, scoring twice and his last game for the club was against Barnsley at Valley Parade on 10th March, 1917.
In December, 1913 he was awarded a testimonial and earned £500 from the takings of the game against Oldham Athletic at Valley Parade.
Robert Torrance will be remembered for his part in Bradford City’s FA Cup victory in April, 1911. After the goalless draw at Crystal Palace, Torrance was selected in place of William Gildea to play centre half in the replay at Old Trafford. The switch was to be significant and Torrance was widely acclaimed as the ‘man of the match’. Club captain Jimmy Speirs scored City’s goal after only fifteen minutes with a header, benefiting from the Newcastle goalkeeper having been distracted by the incoming Frank O’Rourke. Although the media tried to credit O’Rourke with the goal, he admitted that he hadn’t touched the ball and so Speirs is recorded as the man who won the cup. Sadly, both City’s goalscorer that day as well as the man of the match were killed in action during World War One.
Robert Torrance had served as a gunner with 162nd Royal Field Artillery and was killed in action near Ypres, Belgium, on 24th April 1918. Unfortunately he has no known grave and is thus commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing near Ypres.
Torrance thus became the tenth serving or former Bradford City player to lose his life during the conflict. Of those, nine are commemorated on the memorial in the Valley Parade reception: Bob Torrance (*), James Comrie, Jimmy Conlin, George Draycott (*), Ernest Goodwin (*), Harry Potter (*), Gerald Kirk, Evelyn Lintott and Jimmy Speirs. Unfortunately the identity of Ernest Kenworthy who played two games for the club in 1906/07 was not established until after the erection of the memorial by Bantamspast in 2015. The four serving players are annoted.
- Read more about the early history of Bradford soccer in my books ROOM AT THE TOP and LIFE AT THE TOP If you are interested in Bradford sport history visit VINCIT: https://www.bradfordsporthistory.wordpress.com
Thanks for visiting my blog. Apart from publishing my BCAFC programme articles I also upload occasional articles of historical interest. Scroll down for details about my books in the BANTAMSPAST History Revisited series which tell the history of sport in Bradford – and in particular football. The books seek to explain why things happened as they did instead of simply recording what occurred and readers may be surprised at the extent to which they contradict many of the myths and superficial narratives that have circulated previously.
Links to other articles written by myself on the history of football and the origins of sport in Bradford HERE
On Saturday 19 May, 2018 I am giving a talk in the Bradford Local Studies Library on the origins of spectator sport in nineteenth century Bradford and the development of the city’s sporting culture and identity. This will cover principally cricket, rugby and football and include a Q&A session.