Gilchrist apparently had a mighty conceit of himself, and thought himself far too important to listen to those in authority, or to bother with regular training. He came to Celtic in 1919 from junior side St Anthony's, and had the skill and build to be a really impressive half-back. He went straight into the first team, won his Scotland cap at right half in a 1-0 win over England at Villa Park in 1922, and was an ever-present the following season until January. Then, after several warnings, Celtic lost patience with his 'wilful inattention to training' and lost no time in selling him to Preston North End.
It was the start of a long and slippery slope. Despite a big transfer fee, reported as £4,500, he was a disaster at Preston and almost exactly a year later the club cut their losses and terminated his contract. His next stop was Carlisle United, then in the North-Eastern League, where he was player-coach till the end of the season. In the summer of 1924 he returned to Glasgow with Third Lanark, who soon regretted the move and sold him on to Dunfermline after only three league games; and although this was initially seen as a good bit of business he lasted less than a month in Fife.
He was clearly finished in Scotland, and salvation (of sorts) came from across the Atlantic in the summer of 1925, when he sailed to New York. He joined Brooklyn Wanderers but made just six appearances, then had a year at Pawtucket Rangers, with only three games. That was that, as far as his football career was concerned.
But while John Gilchrist's football talent was thrown away, there is an even bigger mystery as to what happened to the man himself.
Reference books, including the excellent Alphabet of the Celts, all say that he was John Wotherspoon Gilchrist, born 30 March 1899. This is not correct. By studying SFA player registers, I found his address while at Celtic was 4 Balmoral Terrace, in Tollcross. He and his family were at the same address in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, and that was also the address he gave when he married in 1922 (stating 'professional footballer' as his profession). John Gilchrist was, in fact, born in Kirkintilloch on 15 April 1900, with no middle name.
What happened to him later in life is less clear. He was divorced by his wife (she remarried in 1934) and settled in the USA. A newspaper mentioned him making a visit home in 1931 after six years in America, and then in 1940 a reporter wrote that he had bumped into Gilchrist in Glasgow; he had come back to sign up for the Royal Navy as a stoker when war broke out.
After that, nothing. There are football books which suggest he died in Birkenhead early in 1950, but having ordered the death certificate for that man, although the age is correct and he can't be ruled out entirely, there is nothing to link him to the footballer - this was a married construction engineer who died of pancreatic cancer.
I suspect he may have embarked on a maritime career, working on ships from New York, which would explain his absence from US census records; there are some possible links on shipping manifests. However, until proof can be found, the fate of John Gilchrist remains a mystery.