Born: 11 March 1911, Belfast
Died: 28 July 1985, Belfast
Representative Honours: Ireland: 2 Full Caps (1932-1933), 3 Amateur Caps (1932-1933); League of Ireland: 3 Caps (1937-1939).
Club Honours: (with Linfield) Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1932/33; Belfast Charity Cup Winner 1932/33.
Clubs..... --Seasons-- Signed –Fee- League FACup
Coleraine. ........... Jul-28
Linfield.. 32/33...... Sep-32
Chelsea... 33/34...... Jun-33 £2,000 23/ 1 .4/ 1
Totals.... ........... ...... £2,000 23/ 1 .4/ 1
Tommy Priestley was a Coleraine player when he was included as inside-left in the Ireland line-up to face Scotland at Windsor Park in September 1932. Although he had been a regular in the Ireland Amateur side over the previous few seasons, he had not actually turned out for the Bannsiders during that campaign. Within days he was a Linfield player and featured in that season’s Co. Antrim Shield and Charity Cup successes.
A controversial character, Priestley could not be mistaken on the field of play as he sported a rugby-style skull cap. The red cap was to cover his premature baldness caused by a childhood illness, and brought much derision from opposition fans. Although eccentric in demeanour, Priestley was a solid player, and one of the games thinkers.
A native of Lower Windsor Avenue, Priestley had been a long-time follower of Linfield’s fortunes, and once he arrived at the club he was reluctant to leave. After a mid-week friendly with Sheffield Wednesday he rejected a move to Hillsborough. The story was the same when offered the chance to move to Rangers, but he eventually left Linfield for Chelsea on 7 June 1933. The move, valued at between £2,000 and £3,000 hinged on the precarious financial situation at Windsor Park and the fact Priestley had been offered the job of schoolmaster at Arthur Street School, Peckham.
Shortly after his move to Stamford Bridge, Priestley returned to Windsor Park for an international match with England. He lasted just a season with Chelsea, his club career brought to a close after mud entered his eye, causing a major problem. Although Chelsea retained his registration through to 1939, Priestley returned to the field with Shelbourne. While with Shels he was selected three times by for the League of Ireland, tasting success on each occasion with victories over the Yugoslav, Irish and Scottish Leagues.
With his playing days behind him Priestley became a school principal in Lambeg. He remained a regular match-day visitor to the Windsor Park press box up until his sudden death following an operation at the Royal Victoria Hospital in July 1985.
17-09-1932 Scotland H L 0-4 BC
14-10-1933 England. H L 0-3 BC
Summary: 2/0. Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 2.