From Busby to Brazil - sculpture set to honour football legend

A new sculpture is set to honour Busby-native Thomas Donohoe, the man credited with first introducing football to Brazil in 1894.

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The bust of Thomas Donohoe is being modeled in clay before it will be cast in carbon fibre
The bust of Thomas Donohoe is being modeled in clay before it will be cast in carbon fibre

Commissioned by East Renfrewshire Council, supported by Busby Community Council and funded from the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Fund, it is hoped the sculpture will attract visitors to the village, as well as adding to the cultural and sporting links between Scotland and Brazil.

Thomas married his wife Eliza in 1890, by which time he was a well-established print worker in the local cotton mills.

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Following a decline in the fortunes of the industry in Scotland, Thomas immigrated to Brazil to work in the developing cotton industry there. He arrived in Bangu, which is now on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, in 1894.

One of his living ancestors, Jim McGuire, has done a lot of research on Thomas through the national archives of Scotland.

One of seven children, he lived in a number of addresses in Busby, most notably Riverside Terrace, and playing football in the Scottish local leagues.

The first football match in Brazil was organised by Thomas in August 1894. From that moment he began to organise football matches at the Bangu Mill where he worked and to form local competitions with other migrant groups and workplaces.

From these humble beginnings football has become an essential part of Brazilian culture and Bangu Atlético takes such pride in the Donohue’s contribution it commissioned a five metre statue of him which was unveiled to mark the 2014 World Cup.

Artist Kate Robinson, will design and create the new sculpture to be placed in Busby.

She said: "The international aspect of Thomas Donohoe's story was one of the things that inspired me - the connections between people in Scotland and Brazil. I am creating the bust of Thomas in clay and then the model is cast in carbon fibre. Modelling in clay is like telling a story in three dimensions."

Council leader Tony Buchanan added: “Already honoured in Brazil, I think it is fitting that we pay tribute to Thomas in his home town.

"I look forward to seeing the finished sculpture and would encourage people to visit Busby and discover the great range of local businesses on offer.”

It is expected that finished sculpture will be unveiled at the end of August.