Monday, 14 September 2015

Motherwell Thieves

Now I have never been a big fan of Motherwell, either as a town or a Football Club [and don't get me wrong this goes way further back than when that fat, ignorant get Cowan got on the BBC], and it seems there is precedent. Not only is there a dirty thief from Motherwell in the story, he is also a Motherwell player.

I found this doing my usual, looking through matches, to see if any had played for Falkirk.

The Falkirk Herald - 28th April 1900

Like I say, "Motherwell Thieves"

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Sydney & Leonard Puddefoot

It is well recorded that Sydney Puddefoot signed for Falkirk in the 1920s after having wowed the fans when he was stationed in Scotland during the Great War. The Falkirk fans & the board put all other considerations aside to raise the £5,500 price tag which West Ham had put on him largely to deter Falkirk, it did not deter Falkirk FC.

What is less well known is that during Syd's time at Falkirk his little brother also turned up: Leonard Puddefoot. Unlike Sydney I can find very little written about Len, either as a footballer or otherwise.

Falkirk Team v Hibernian Wed 16th Aug 1922

I do not know why he played for the club, other than this one match I have never found any record of him playing football at any level whatsoever; Perhaps Syd convinced the board to give his brother a trial, perhaps it was part of Syd's contract. All I know is that Len is missing from the usual sources: he is not in John Listser's CD-Rom of Scottish Players' Registration; nor in Michael Joyce's Football League Players' Records 1888-1939. Which would suggest that his main football was with juvenile and non-league football in and around London.

Whatever the case, I found the brothers in the 1911 census, I looked because even though Puddefoot is a very rare name, I had to look because I had very little to go on to be sure that this was another case of a pair of brothers playing for Falkirk FC.

click to see a larger version.

Note -Oops, looking about in the same paper, I found a reason why Len might have been about, though not why he played a league match. I seems he played more than once for Falkirk FC

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Falkirk v Partick Thistle 24th February 1883

Now, I know that I would like to identify every player that ever turned out for Falkirk FC, I also know that that is an almost impossible dream, but I will keep working at it.

What is thankfully bizarre to me is how people like @stuthejag can try to replicate what I do when he comes up against match reports like this -

Falkirk Herald March 3rd 1883

Now, I do not know where to go with this, outside of inventing a time machine, going back and interviewing everybody involved.

Luckily that is not my problem.

Don't think it will happen anytime soon.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Falkirk & District Charity Cup 1885-86

The second edition of the Falkirk & District Charity Cup was only slightly better organised than the first, and although they had had all season to prepare, it was not until April that the matches were scheduled (pretty soon May would become the exclusive reserve of Charity Competitions). On the playing side the tournament had expanded to six clubs: Laurieston and Comely Park replacing the defunct Tayavalla.

The kicked off with a bit of a whimper, as although Camelon drubbed the faltering Grahamston by five goals to nil, it was Grahamston who lived to fight another day. Whether through lack of foresight or mere insouciance Camelon fielded two players who had appeared for other clubs in cups that season, and in accordance with the rules of the time were deemed ineligible: Camelon were disqualified and Grahamston progressed.

In the other First Round match Laurieston, the perennial whipping boys of the cup, had their baptism of fire conceding seven to Falkirk. Comely Park by comparison fared surprisingly well in the first of the Semi-Finals again against Falkirk only losing 4-1 (I say surprisingly as Comely Park were virtually Falkirk's nursery team at this point, so really ought have been outmatched in every position).

Grahamston, so 'fortunate' in the first round came up against "The Hammer" of East Stirlingshire in the other Semi-Final, the Zebras scoring their seven goals at will.

Although the Final was the one the organisers wanted in order to maximise the audience, it was by all standards a bit of a non-event. The simple fact being that the best team in Falkirk District defeated the second best by the standard three goals to nil. What is more notable is that this was the last 'important'match at Camelon's old ground at Camelon House: after the closed season Camelon had relocated to Victoria Park, and left that part of their history behind them.

For the second, and last, time the Charity Cup Committee selected a representative XI for a further charity match (NB - it never claimed to select the best XI), this time the opposition were Linlithgowshire.

First Round

Saturday April 3rd 1886 at Merchiston Park, Bainsford
Grahamston 0 Camelon 2
[Camelon disqualified for fielding ineligible players]

Saturday April 17th 1886 at Chrichton Park, Falkirk
Falkirk 7 Laurieston 0


Saturday May 8th 1886 at Merchiston Park, Bainsford
Falkirk 4 Comely Park 1

Saturday May 15th 1886 at Brockville Park, Falkirk
Grahamston 0 East Stirlingshire 7


Saturday May 29th 1886 at Camelon House, Camelon
Falkirk 0 East Stirlingshire 3

Extra Charity Match

Saturday June 12th 1886 at Brockville Park, Falkirk
Falkirk District XI 1 Linlithgowshire 2

Falkirk & District Charity Cup Home

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Falkirk & District Charity Cup 1884-85

The first edition of the Falkirk & District Charity Cup was a bit of a rushed affair, not so much of an afterthought, yet it was thought up so late in the season that all the arrangements were hurried. I still have no clue about why these five teams were involved and not others, most probably they were simply looking at club size.

The Falkirk Herald - Edition Sat Mar 7th 1885

"The ... business disposed of was the fixing of the clubs to compete for the cup this season. The following were selected:- East Stirlingshire, Falkirk, Camelon, Tayavalla and Grahamston. It was unanimously settled that the proceeds of the competition for the cup should be divided amongst the the charitable institutions of the district."

The Cup served at least to show the last death throws of Tayavalla, this never mighty club, in their last competitive match, were absolutely steam-rollered by the also never mighty Grahamston in the inaugural match. Sadly this must rank as the pinnacle in Grahamston's history, which just about sums up the impact Grahamston had on history, even locally.

First Round

Wednesday April 15th 1885 at Brockville Park, Falkirk
Grahamston 9 Tayavalla 0


Saturday April 25th 1885 at Brockville Park, Falkirk
East Stirlingshire 5 Grahamston 0

Saturday May 2nd 1885 at Merchiston Pk, Bainsford
Falkirk 1 Camelon 2


Saturday May 9th 1885 at Brockville Park, Falkirk
East Stirlingshire v Camelon
[Match abandoned after 77 minutes, score - 2-0 to ESFC]

Saturday May 16th 1885 at Brockville Park, Falkirk
East Stirlingshire 1 Camelon 1

Final Replay

Saturday May 23rd 1885 at Brockville Park, Falkirk
East Stirlingshire 2 Camelon 1

Extra Charity Match

Saturday May 30th 1885 at Brockville Park, Falkirk
Falkirk District XI 0 Rangers 4

Falkirk & District Charity Cup Home

Monday, 20 July 2015

Lost Football Grounds of Falkirk District - Milnquarter Park

I just came across a fantastic new 'thing' on the NLS maps website, where you can look at the 1898 Ordnance Survey map cross-checked with the current bing maps to give it a historical context. So when I was playing about earlier, looking at the parts of Falkirk that I do not have on paper I came across a couple of grounds, some of which I am not sure about and will need to research a bit further, but some I knew but had never looked at on the map.

Football in Falkirk District started in Bonnybridge, but although they were enthusiastic the Grasshoppers never quite had the ability challenge on the field of play. As a result of this they never really managed to establish themselves so paid the ultimate price when the great cull of village clubs came in the wake of professionalism and league football.

Local knowledge has it that Grasshoppers' first ever match was played on a the field where Bonnybridge Library now stands [sometimes known as Bonnyside]. Exactly where the Grasshoppers played over the next couple of seasons is difficult to pin down. Occasional match reports state "Peathill" whilst others state "Highland Dykes" and whilst it is possible they were the same ground it still only vaguely locates it to the area about modern Larbert Road in Bonnybridge.

Around 1880-1881 Grasshoppers moved to what would be largely their permanent home for the rest of their history: Milnquarter Park. The club had relocated to the, then, largely vacant, fields between Bonnybridge and Greenhill. I say it was largely their permanent home because they spent season 1886/87 in Longcroft.

Since I have never come across any descriptions of the actual ground in any match reports I do not know what it was like, but it is fairly safe to assume it was very basic, probably just a roped off area in a field, the teams getting stripped in a nearby pub or similar hostelry. In the map [below] it is quite a bit off the local roads, this would affected access, and the fact that there was unlikely to be any Grandstand would have made it virtually impossible for the club to charge the any crowd for the privilege.

Milnquarter in 1896

According to the OS map it seems that the ground was partly built over the Antonine Wall, which leads one to presume that at least that part had been dismantled by 1880. Another thing which is missing from this map which is in later maps, is that the land immediately to the East on the other side of the railway lines was the home of Bonnybridge Cricket Club, part of which is now the playing area of the Antonine Primary School.

The exact same area taken from Bing Maps 2015

Although Milnquarter was never the greatest of grounds in the district, it was important enough. Several Scottish Cup matches were played on the ground, so we can tell that the ground was up to scratch in the eyes of the SFA, there are countless recordings of teams being forced to replay matches, or play matches away from home simply due to the quality of the ground.

I must admit to ignorance at this point though, I am not completely sure if the ground was shared in latter days with Bonnybridge Juniors, and even if so, how long football was played on the ground after Grasshoppers became defunct. I will get round to looking up these things in time, but for the time being I'd like to think that the ground was at least being used in the Junior Cup matches until it was finally built over.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Lost Grounds of Falkirk District - Merchiston Park

I asked Drummond Calder of The East Stirlingshire Supporters Society to write a piece on the 'Shire's old ground Merchiston Park, knowing that he would have researched in far more detail than I would ever get round to doing, and he did not dissapoint. -

Action Shot from (New) Merchiston Park

Merchiston Park was the home to East Stirlingshire from the 1880s to the 1920s and is actually the story of 3 grounds. East Stirlingshire had previously played at Burnhouse and then at Randyford before returning back to Bainsford in March or April 1882. The club’s 3rd ground, which they played on from then until the end of season 1882/83, was basically a playing field in Bainsford which was rented from Mungal Farm.

At the start of season 1883/84 East Stirlingshire had moved again to their 4th ground, which was adjacent to one they had just vacated, and it was formally opened with a match against Our Boys (from Dundee). This east/west ground was rented from the owner of Mungal Farm, James Young, who would shortly afterwards become the Baillie for the Northern Ward of the town which included Bainsford. He was also the club’s 1st President from at least May 1883. Initially the ground was just a playing field but the club gradually improved it. Originally it did not having a name (it was known only as “the ground at Bainsford”) by the end of season 1885/86 it was referred to as “Bainsford Park”. At the end of that season extensive ground improvements were made, including levelling the pitch, and from the start of season 1886/87 the ground was formally named Merchiston Park with the club playing a friendly against Aston Villa in August 1886 to celebrate the occasion. Merchiston Park during its’ history did have a “Match box” stand but after the great Ibrox disaster in 1902 along with other clubs in the district (Falkirk excepted) it was condemned. In the early years on the 20th Century Bainsford was continuing to be developed rapidly and one consequence was that the ground had to make way for a railway line to an iron foundry. So at the end of season 1905/06 the ground closed its gates for the last time.

Edinburgh Evening Telegraph - Thursday August 26th 1886

After losing their ground to the railway line over the 1906 close season the club moved back to the playing area used by the club from March/April 1882 to April 1883 (East Stirlingshire’s 3rd ground) and built a new ground, their 5th, called New Merchiston Park (though latterly it was just known as Merchiston Park). New Merchiston Park was a substantially more developed from the playing field that was the 3rd ground, it would been more like some of the more basic Junior grounds we find today (without the toilets !). The club would play at this ground from of start season 1906/07 to the end of 1920/21 when once again they were forced to find a new ground. The East Stirlingshire club booklet gives us the following information about what happened after the club moved from Randyford back to Bainsford which confirmed the link between the 3rd and 5th grounds;

“...after which they took up their quarters at Merchiston Park, on the identical site of the field which they were forced to leave two years ago. This fact is known to only a few of the present-day followers of the club, whose reminiscences go no further back than the time when East Stirlingshire played on the pitch slightly to the north, which had to be vacated in 1907 owing to the construction of a new railway.”

The following two maps show the actual locations of the club’s grounds from March/April 1882 to May 1921 (Grounds 3 to 5).

The first Ordnance Survey map from 1897 shows the location for Ground 4 (Merchiston Park). The basin just south of the ground was Burnhouse Basin. Church Street, to the East of the ground is the current Smith Street. The ground was entered from the East side through Black Close, just off the Bainsford Main Street.

The following 1922 Ordnance Survey map shows the location of Ground 5 (New Merchiston Park) that the club played on and this area was also where Ground 3 was situated. Note the location of Mungal Cottage (where the club’s’ first President, James Young, lived) in the top left-hand corner of the map. It can be seen that the ground was situated south of the 4th ground and was a lot closer to the canal. The railway line where the old ground was can be seen as well. The ground was directly north of Burnbank Iron Foundry and the east side of the ground backed onto Burnhouse Basin.