There have been few professional footballers, if any, who have traversed as many different backgrounds as Veitch (1881-1938). Running a pub has been the stereotypical job for footballers in retirement. For Veitch, soldier, journalist, thespian and chorister were some of the diverse roles he fulfilled.
Most of all, he was a socialist. In October 1898, he had signed indentures as a pupil teacher and was later active in the local socialist Sunday school.
However, professional football was his main calling and, in 1902, he joined Newcastle, his hometown club. Veitch was part of a team that included Billy McCracken, Peter McWilliam and James Howie, which, under secretary Frank Watt, was the dominant club of the age.
In 1905 (with the team pictured above, with Veitch on the front row, second from the left), 1907 and 1909, Newcastle won the league championship and the FA Cup in 1910. They also reached the final in 1905, 1906, 1908 and 1911 but lost them all.
Veitch was the captain who often helped the directors select the team and gave half-time team talks. Veitch, who won six England caps, mainly played at half-back but his strange nickname, ‘Double Width’, also reflected his versatility as he played in every other outfield position.
His socialist roots sprung from his parents and it was perhaps unsurprising that he was a leading figure in the fledgling players’ union and was its chairman between 1911 and 1918.
Colin Veitch is a legend in the history of Newcastle United Football Club.
During the First World War, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery. Following a spell as a reserve team coach at St. James’ Park, where he developed the nursery team Newcastle Swifts, he was unsuccessful as manager of Bradford City and was sacked after 18 months in 1928 following the club’s relegation to the Third Division North.
He later kept himself in the public eye through his journalism, joining the Newcastle Evening Chronicle as a reporter in 1929.
Despite his political leanings, Veitch twice refused offers to stand as the Labour candidate for the Newcastle East parliamentary constituency. However, his outside interests, which he had pursued during his football career, continued to reflect his tendencies.
In particular, the Veitch family were active in the Clarion movement and were members of the Newcastle Clarion cycling club. In 1911, he helped set up the Newcastle Clarion Dramatic Society to further the socialist movement.
By 1924, he firmly put the emphasis on art with the establishment of the People’s Playhouse and then, in 1929, the People’s Theatre Company. Veitch not only acted and directed plays but he also wrote music. He had earlier been a member of the chorus of the Newcastle Operatic Society, which he joined in 1901.
By 1911, he was its deputy musical director and conductor of its largely Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire.
Veitch died in 1938 after failing to recover from a brief bout of pneumonia. A two-minute silence was held at the following Newcastle home game.
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