From Busby to Brazil - sculpture set to honour football legend

East Renfrewshire man Thomas Donohue recognised for introducing football to Brazil

Thomas Donohue sculpture

The sculpture is still being finalised and will be unveiled later in 2021

Published: 9 June 2021

A new sculpture is set to honour the contribution of Thomas Donohoe, originally from Busby, East Renfrewshire, credited with first introducing football to Brazil in 1894.

Commissioned by East Renfrewshire Council, supported by Busby Community Council and funded from the Scottish Government's Town Centre Fund, it is hoped that 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 alongside his father, Patrick, who was a block printer in the local cotton mills. Most of his siblings also worked in the mills. 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.

There has been quite a bit of family research done on Donohoe through the national archives of Scotland by one of his living ancestors, Jim McGuire. One of seven children, he lived in a number of addresses in Busby, most notably Riverside Terrace. He played football in the Scottish local leagues alongside and against several players who went on to be professionals and influential individuals in Scottish football.

The first football match in Brazil was organised by Donohoe and took place in August 1894. From that moment Thomas 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 the game went on to become the premier sport of Brazil with Donohoe playing a key role.

Today, football has become an essential part of Brazilian culture and the local Bangu football team, Bangu Atl├ętico, take great pride in the contribution their Thomas Donohoe made to Brazilian football all those years ago. So much so that they commissioned a five metre statue of him which was unveiled to mark the 2014 World Cup, the final of which was hosted in Rio De Janeiro.

Artist Kate Robinson, will design and create the new sculpture to be placed in Busby, said: 'The international aspect of Thomas Donohue'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 said: 'Already honoured with a sculpture in Brazil, I think it is fitting that we pay tribute to football legend Thomas Donohoe, in his home town of Busby.  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 the finished sculpture will be unveiled at the end of August.

Thomas Donohue statue

An image of the statue of Donohue which stands in Rio de Janeiro (Picture credit - Clecio Regis)

Last modified on 18 June 2021