Jimmy Bonthrone signed for East Fife on 17th June 1947 from Kinglassie Colliery Juniors, just a day after his eighteenth birthday. Jimmy’s association with the senior game had actually started two years earlier, however, when he signed as an amateur for Partick Thistle from Bowhill West End. When, for a variety of reasons, things didn’t work out at Firhill, he opted to return to Fife to sign for Kinglassie, from where he subsequently made the short journey further east to Bayview. He remained an East Fife player for eleven seasons but, due to being called up for National Service, didn’t pull on an East Fife first-team jersey until fully two-and-a-half years after first putting pen to paper. He eventually made his East Fife debut on 19th November 1949 against Hibs at Easter Road, after having been asked to step in to replace Henry Morris, who was in dispute with the club. Unfortunately, it was not to be a happy baptism for the player, with the Fife losing the ‘A’ Division league clash by four-goals-to-one.
It was to be a further seven weeks before Jimmy made his home debut, in a league fixture with Rangers at Bayview on 7th January 1950, in which the Methil men went down by two goals without reply. Finally, on 8th April 1950, Jimmy Bonthrone scored the first of many goals for East Fife when he netted a late equaliser against Rangers at gale-swept Ibrox to secure a 2-2 draw and deny the eventual champions full league points. Incidentally, history was made that afternoon as Jimmy’s goal secured East Fife’s first-ever league point against the Glasgow giants! Before the season was out, Jimmy had added a further two goals to his credit when he bagged a brace in a 4-3 victory at Motherwell. Despite his form, however, Jimmy was replaced at inside-left on the Saturday following the Motherwell match by the more experienced Allan Brown for the Scottish Cup Final against Rangers on 22nd April 1950.
His first season as a fringe first-team player had been a largely satisfying one, however, having scored three goals in eight appearances. During the following season, 1950/51, Jimmy Bonthrone established himself in the East Fife first team, and won the hearts of the Fife faithful early in the campaign when he scored a hat-trick during the 4-1 demolition of Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park in a League Cup tie on 30th August 1950. The player continued to improve over the following seasons, and continued to be a thorn in the side of Rangers, scoring the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the Glasgow side at Bayview on 5th January 1952; East Fife’s first-ever league win over the light-blues. Later that same year, Jimmy Bonthrone was the goal-hero against Rangers yet again when he scored twice in East Fife’s 3-2 league victory against the Ibrox side on 18th October 1952.
Such goal-scoring feats, especially against one of the big west of Scotland clubs, was bound to come to the attention of the international selectors, and Jimmy Bonthrone was finally called up to the Scotland squad for the “unofficial international” against the British Army at Hampden on Monday 2nd March 1953. Jimmy gave a good account of himself that evening, and played a huge part in the opening goal, as described in the following morning’s edition of the Dundee Courier: “Scotland’s opener in six minutes was a good one. A beautiful square pass from Jimmy Bonthrone gave Johnstone an opening. He swerved past Bond, and neatly side-footed the ball past the helpless Fraser”. Scotland went on to win the match by two-goals-to one, but with the game attracting a paltry crowd of only 15,000 to the national stadium, the event was hailed as a huge flop by the media.
Just over a week later, Jimmy Bonthrone picked up his second international honour when he was selected to play in the Scotland v England ‘B’ international at Easter Road on 11th March 1953, the first such international to be played north of the border. Jimmy almost put Scotland ahead during the early exchanges, but as the match progressed he found the going tough against the English centre-half, Burnley’s Tommy Cummings. The Scotland team played well overall, however, and despite going in a goal down at half-time, the dark blues scored twice during the second half to secure a 2-2 draw. Although Jimmy Bonthrone hadn’t been at his best in the ‘B’ international, he was selected to represent his country for a third time later that same month for the League international against English League at Ibrox on 25th March 1953. There was a problem, however. The arrangements had already been made for Jimmy’s wedding on Monday 23rd March, two days before the match, and under the circumstances the player would be unable to join up with his team-mates at the team hotel in Largs as required on the morning of his wedding day. Despite appeals to the Scottish League officials, Jimmy Bonthrone was dropped from the Scotland team for refusing to cancel his wedding and, consequently, the player was never asked to represent Scotland again!
Jimmy Bonthrone remained at Bayview for a further five seasons, during which time he was part of the East Fife League Cup winning team during season 1953/54. His days as an East Fife player, during which he was never once booked or sent off, ended when he signed for Dundee in March 1958. Just under two years later he was transferred to Stirling Albion, and eventually ended his playing career with Queen of the South. Jimmy Bonthrone’s involvement with the game did not end for several years after he hung up his boots, however. He returned to Bayview as East Fife manager in 1963 and stayed in charge until 1969, when he joined the management team at Aberdeen, where he remained until 1975.
During his time at Pittodrie, Jimmy was also involved with the Scottish international set-up, and managed the Scotland under-23 team for a spell. He returned to Bayview as General Manager in 1980 and, in August 1995, East Fife did Jimmy Bonthrone proud when they arranged a testimonial against Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United; a side that contained several household names including David Beckham and Brian McClair to name but a few! Jimmy passed away on 6th June 2008 aged 78.