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Hornet Heaven Deceased Player of the Month: Jimmy Bowie

Jimmy Bowie was Watford’s ‘Gazza’ before Paul Gascoigne was even born. Olly Wicken explains.


Did you hear the Jimmy Bowie story where, a couple of hours before kick-off at the Vic, he rode a motorbike around the greyhound track to try and beat the lap record?

Jimmy played for Watford in the mid-1950s. He was a prankster, a maverick, a loveable rogue. 

Did you hear the one where he gave up on a cross-country training run and hitched a ride on a milk float?

He was also an exceptionally skilful inside-forward who loved to dribble and lure defenders into rash challenges. One season, he scored ten penalties for Watford most of which he’d won by himself.

Did you hear the story where he asked the trainer to go easy on him because he’d sunk 24 brown ales the night before?

He had a low centre of gravity, quick feet, and an impish demeanour. He excited the crowd.

Did you hear how, during games, he used to get the trainer to signal who’d won the afternoon’s horse races?

He’d played in the top flight for Chelsea and Fulham before he joined us. He’d played alongside big names from the era such as Tommy Lawton and Bobby Robson. 

Did you hear how he was threatened with arrest for not paying a police fine and got the police to come to the ground twenty minutes before a match to collect it knowing that Watford’s board of directors would pay up so he could play in the game rather than be carted off to the cells?

For Watford, he scored on his debut. In 1953 he scored a hat-trick at Shrewsbury which remains the only time a Watford player has scored three and been on the losing side. He clocked up a total of 40 goals in 130 appearances. 

Did you hear how he was involved as a go-between in Watford’s match-fixing scandal in April 1958?

In the opposition penalty area, he would draw a challenge, ‘go down easily’ (in modern parlance), and lie motionless as if poleaxed until the referee whistled for a penalty at which point he’d jump up to take the kick.

Did you hear how he used to wear comedy breasts and leave fish under the seats of his team-mates’ cars? No, wait. That was Gazza, not Jimmy Bowie.

After he left Watford, he played for several non-League clubs. After that, he ran a pub in Northwood, and another in Southend.

Did you hear how he used to drop-kick packets of crisps to customers from behind the bar?

He died in August 2000. He was so popular that there was standing room only at his funeral. In Hornet Heaven, he’s a never-ending source of scrapes and japes and loved for it.

Jimmy Bowie made a cameo appearance in the very first Hornet Heaven audio story. Find out more about the podcast at