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Bertie Fulton

A player of true Corinthian Spirit, well after the phrase could have been considered an anachronism in football circles, Bertie Fulton won every honour available to him, and never received a penny...

Name: Robert Patrick Fulton
Born: 6 November 1906, Larne
Died: 5 May 1979, Larne
Position: Left-Back

Representative Honours: Ireland: 21 Full Caps (1928-1938); 20 Amateur Caps / 1 Goal (1925-1938); Irish League: 15 Caps (1929-1940); Northern Regional "War-Time" League: 4 Caps (1941-1943); Great Britain Olympic Team: 3 Games (1936); Ireland/Wales v Football League (1935).

Club Honours: (with Larne) Irish Cup Runner-Up 1927/28; (Belfast Celtic) Irish League Champion 1925/26, 1928/29, 1932/33, 1935/36, 1936/37, 1937/38, 1938/39, 1939/40; Irish Cup Winner 1937/38, 1940/41, 1942/43, Runner-Up 1928/29; Northern Regional League Champion 1940/41, 1941/42, 1942/43; Gold Cup Winner 1939/40, Runner-Up 1929/30, 1937/38; City Cup Winner 1925/26, 1929/30, 1930/31, 1932/33, 1935/36, 1936/37, 1937/38, 1939/40, Runner-Up 1931/32, 1933/34; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1935/36, 1938/39, 1942/43, Runner-Up 1931/32, 1932/33; Charity Cup Winner 1931/32, 1935/36 (shared), 1938/39, 1939/40, 1940/41, Runner-Up 1924/25, 1929/30, 1930/31, 1934/35; (with London Caledonians) London Senior Cup Winner 1925/26.

Club Career:
FA Cup
Belfast Celtic
London Caledonians
(Isthmian League)
Belfast Celtic

Larne-born Bertie Fulton began his footballing career with his hometown club, then played briefly with Belfast Celtic, making enough appearances at the start of 1925/26 season to gain an Irish League medal. In December 1925 he moved to London to train as a teacher. While studying at Strawberry Hill College, he played with London Caledonians - one of England's leading amateur teams of the time. He assisted the Caledonians to 2nd place in the Isthmian League and winning the London Senior Cup.

Fulton returned to Belfast Celtic in May 1926 and played enough matches to gain a City Cup medal. He then made a single appearance for Dundalk in September 1926 while waiting to return to London to undertake his exams. Once qualified, Fulton returned home to re-sign for Larne. He quickly drew the attentions of the Irish FA's selection committee, and was capped for the first time in a 4-0 defeat by France in February 1928, featuring in what was a largely experimental line-up.

Bertie had made his Amateur International debut as a Belfast Celtic player on the 11th May 1925. In all he appeared 21 times for the Amateurs, becoming the most capped player (6 more than Cliftonville’s Ernie McCleary and Kevin McGarry.)

Fulton was back at Celtic Park for the 1928/29 season, and it was to be a long and distinguished spell. By the end of his first season he had a second Irish Cup runner-up medal following a 2-1 final defeat by Ballymena (adding to that he had picked up in Larne's defeat by Willowfield in the previous season's final), and his first appearance for the Irish League. The following season Fulton was back in the Ireland team, as Wales were crushed 7-0 at Celtic Park thanks to six goals from Joe Bambrick. From then until the outbreak of the Second World War, Fulton was Ireland's regular left-back, injuries and work-commitments permitting.

Later, when asked to select the best match in which he had played, Fulton selected the 2-1 defeat by England at Goodison Park in February 1935. It was a game in which Ireland played with an uncharacteristic confidence and swagger, and marked by superb football and controversy. Both England 'keeper Harry Hibbs, and his Irish opposite number, Tommy Breen, had superb matches, keeping the goals total down to just three. Ireland only failed to win thanks to Coulter's delayed penalty striking the cross-bar, and a late mistake by Fulton himself gifted England the winner.

In 1936 Fulton was selected for the Great Britain team that headed for the Berlin Olympics. He played in both games, a 2-0 victory over China, and a 5-4 defeat by Poland (some sources crediting him with one of the goals). He could surely have won more representative honours had he not been restricted from featuring in more mid-week matches due to his teaching duties.

Fulton - possessor of a fantastic football brain, a strong tackle, pace and a superb passing range - rejected overtures from the likes of Manchester United to turn professional. He did however go for a trial with Blackpool in October 1933. He never regretted his decision to remain an amateur, and was able to test himself against the likes of Dixie Dean and Stanley Matthews during his 900-odd game career.

On the 19th February 1938 Bertie scored his only goal for Amateur Ireland in the 1-1 draw with England at Leicester – an equaliser in the very last minute!! Incidently this was his first goal in Senior Football. His only goals for Belfast Celtic were one goal in the 8-2 defeat of Glentoran in the Regional League in April 1941 and ironically an o.g. for Glentoran in a 2-1 defeat in the Gold Cup in September 1941.
 The 1942/43 season was to be Fulton's last as a Belfast Celtic player, and it proved a sad end. In the final League game of the season they faced Linfield in a must win game if the title was to return to Celtic Park. With the scored level in the dying minutes Celtic were awarded a penalty, which Fulton stepped-up to take. Facing him between the posts was old pal Tommy Breen, who, as a former club and international teammate, knew Fulton. Breen correctly guessed where the ball would be placed, and his save took the title to Windsor Park.

A third spell back at Inver Park, Larne, brought Fulton's playing career to a close, and he later returned to Belfast Celtic to coach the second eleven. Some consider that Fulton was the tactical brain behind Elisha Scott's great Belfast Celtic side of the 1930s and '40s, putting into action tactics such as four forwards and one winger whilst every other team played a stringent W-M formation.

Captain, star, gentleman, genius?

BBC Story

Ireland Cap Details:
21-02-1928 France.. A L 0-4 FR
01-02-1930 Wales... H W 7-0 BC
20-10-1930 England. A L 1-5 BC
21-02-1931 Scotland H D 0-0 BC
22-04-1931 Wales... A L 2-3 BC
17-10-1931 England. H L 2-6 BC
05-12-1931 Wales... H W 4-0 BC
17-09-1932 Scotland H L 0-4 BC
17-10-1932 England. A L 0-1 BC
16-09-1933 Scotland A W 2-1 BC
14-10-1933 England. H L 0-3 BC
04-11-1933 Wales... H D 1-1 BC
20-10-1934 Scotland H W 2-1 BC
06-02-1935 England. A L 1-2 BC
27-03-1935 Wales... A L 1-3 BC
13-11-1935 Scotland A L 1-2 BC
11-03-1936 Wales... H W 3-2 BC
31-10-1936 Scotland H L 1-3 BC
18-11-1936 England. A L 1-3 BC
17-03-1937 Wales... A L 1-4 BC
16-03-1938 Wales... H W 1-0 BC

Summary: 21/0. Won 6, Drew 2, Lost 13.

Ireland Amateur Cap Details:
11-05-1925 Irish League N D 2-2
07-11-1925 England. A L 4-6
06-11-1926 England. H L 0-3
12-11-1927 England. A D 1-1
10-11-1928 England. H L 0-2
12-10-1929 Scotland H L 0-3
20-09-1930 Scotland A L 0-2
15-11-1930 England. H W 3-1
14-11-1931 England. A L 2-3
23-01-1932 Scotland H W 4-0
28-01-1933 Scotland A L 1-5 (or 0-6?)
18-02-1933 England. H W 4-3
17-02-1934 England. A L 0-4
25-04-1934 Scotland H W 4-1
17-04-1935 Scotland A W 3-2
15-02-1936 England. A L 0-5
22-04-1936 Scotland H L 3-5
13-02-1937 England. H W 5-1
19-02-1938 England. A D 1-1 1 goal
13-04-1938 Scotland H W 2-1
18-02-1939 England. H L 0-1

Summary: 20/1. Won 7, Drew 2, Lost 11.

Great Britain Appearance Details:
06-08-1936 China... N W 2-0 OG
08-08-1936 Poland.. N L 4-5 OG
12-08-1936 Germany. A L 1-4 FR

Summary: 3/0. Won 1, Drew 0, Lost 2.

Photo and additional information by George Glass.


Jim said…
Bertie Fulton was my teacher in McKenna Memorial School Larne abt. 1946. He coached our team. I was center half. I dont remember him teaching us very much. However we were the best team in our category. His son Sean played alongside of me. He was a really nice guy, I think his Dad was hard on him.
Bertie may have been a great footballer but he must have lost a lot of brain by heading the ball too much. I can say, without reservation that he was an unintelligent bully, who literally savaged and terrorized his pupils, sometimes slapping them with both hands on each side of the face, I hated him. I cannot imagine how a grown man could lose his temper so completely and vent it on defenceless kids. well there you have it sports fans. There was another side to Bertie Fulton.
Jim Campbell.
jcd said…
Thanks for your memories Jim. It is sad that a sporting icon was seemingly so flawed off the playing field, but then we see that all the time these days.

If anyone else any memories of Bertie Fulton the man, or of any other players featured on this site, please get in touch.
Unknown said…
Bertie Fulton was my father, and typical in regard to corporal punishment, of his generation. To describe him as an unintelligent bully is arrant nonsense. I was hit harder than anyone else in my class. It would be considered abnormal nowadays. But look at how our society has gone without corporal punishment; it's an absolute disaster. So while it was normal then, the lack of it now is creating an abnormal society which is much worse.
Anonymous said…
Bertie was the principle at St Comgslls where I attended I tend to go with Billy here never seen the tyrant in this man I saw a very integelligent man who loved his kids(charges)and left me with wonderful feelings of joy and thanks to God that I was fortunate enought to be under his charge and those of his team at St Comgalls it is where i got my education to carry me through life ,thankyou Bertie James Meehan the O.Niel brothers ,Alex McMullan the sisters and all the rest of the Fulton staff.I remember Billy nice kid. Ignatius Campbell Florida ex Carrickfergus.
Anonymous said…
hi,does anyone know if bertie had a son of the same name and was also a teacher and played for cliftonville,a bertie fulton was my teacher in the early 70,s in st nicholas sec,carrickfergus
Anonymous said…
He's my great uncle..I thought he was just a local player when I was first told about him..
Anonymous said…
Jim Campbell is talking a lot of twaddle>although never taught by him he was great to me in all that was in the school and I went to both schools. Ask people like those that he helped in life like Tony Hoey who went to Man. United or the children who didn't have a stitch to wear in a Larne which was town with many problems. A true gentleman.
Albert said…
Hello Amigos,

To talk like Jim Campbell there is a debate going on that no one ever heard of Jim Campbell and that he never played with Sean Fulton or indeed did Bertie Fulton ever slap children in the face. Who is Jim Campbell maybe he is Jim Figgerty or someone whose life evolves around yes Jim Campbell...Amazing buffon. Albert
jcd said…
Well, we've had plenty of good character references as to Bertie's conduct, great to hear. One disgruntled pupil or possible troll. Such is life.
Anonymous said…
Bertie Fulton is my great grandfather. This Jim Campbell is speaking a load of rubbish. I may only be twelve but Bertie had 14 children of his own that are all still alive. My grandfather, Sean, is the oldest of those 14 and all of them say he was a wonderful man. Due to all those comments below Mr Campbell's, I'm sure he was. I am currently doing a project on Olympians and of course he is in it. I was doing some research on him when I stumbled among these comments. They all made me happy because it's nice to know that Bertie Fulton was a great man from so many people and he is remembered. This of course is excluding Mr Campbell's comment. My father is currently in Belfast where he is visiting his father Sean Fulton and when he returns I will be excited to show him some lovely comments from people that remember Bertie Fulton to be a great man.

Isobel Fulton
Anonymous said…
Bertie Fulton was no bully. He was an intelligent teacher who cared about his charges. Although he did carry his cane around with him he used it in special circumstances. Anyone who felt his wrathdeserved it, I played football for St, Comgalls and he lent me his CELTIC shirt as we did not have a goalkeepers shirt in school, i also boxed and when the Irish championships were on he made sure i rested and got extra food during the school day. Anyone who is/was negative about this man did not know him.

Margaret Irvine said…
I too went to St Comgallis school starting in the first year and only have fond memory’s of Bertie Fulton and the rest of the staff in those years I remember him telling Tony Hoey not to waste his talent as a football player and always bringing out the best in all the pupils at the school he treated pupils and staff with respect I can truly say my years at St Comgallis set me on the right path for adult life Thank you Mr Fulton your family should be proud of you Margaret Irvine (Smyth Australia in
Margaret Irvine said…
Bertie Fulton was principal of St Comgallis school when I started in the first year of opening he was. No bully fair and respected by both pupils and staff I remember him telling Tony Hoey he had a talent for playing soccer and advising him not to waste that talent as he did with all the pupils under his care he spoke to myself as to what he thought my strong points were and I took it on board My years at St Comgallis I still remember with fondest Thank you Mr Fulton you were NO BULLY your family can be proud of you as I am sure they are Margaret Irnine (Smyth Queensland Australia )
Unknown said…
Bertie Fulton was my grandmother maggies brother there was quite a family of them & great footballers & sportsmen.