Sunday, 14 September 2014

Clubs from Falkirk District - Comely Park

Now, first things first, I do not come to this from a completely unbiased position, as a febrile youth I attended Comely Park Primary School, so I was brought up in the same part of Falkirk in which this team played, so I have a wee bit of affection for them.

One of myriad short lived senior football clubs from the 1880s Comely Park were one of the few clubs that played South of the High Street in the town. It is unclear exactly where they played their matches, apart from the vague 'within the policies of Comely Park House'. This is a large area, and in the 1880s much of it was not as built up as it now, but two places stick out, there was a patch of ground, modern Cochrane Street which developed into the current Bowling Club, and which was later used by several Junior Clubs, and there was a football ground later used by Falkirk Amateurs which was on the area of land roughly occupied by the car park directly East of Kemper Avenue [as an aside Kemper is the local dialect spelling of Quimper, France [oh I read far too much]], I tend to go for the second, but this is mainly because in one match Comely Park advertised "Entrance via Burnfoot Lane". Again things have to be contextualised, nowadays there is a large area [now a carpark] on Williamson Street, but back then Williamson Street was all tenaments, so it had to be further out. It is possible that you could access modern Cochrane Street from Burnfoot Lane before St Crispins Avenue was built, but to me the fact that Burnfoot Lane veers to the East makes me think it is more likely that they played on what was to become Tannery Park, but this is all conjecture.

Falkirk FC used Comely Park like a nursery club, much in the way they would later do with Falkirk Amateurs, and the overlap does not end there. The Gillespie brothers were as steeped in Comely Park and in Falkirk Amateurs as they ever were with Falkirk FC [there is an inkling in my mind that they may have been instigators of both clubs] - Alex & William played for Comely Park, Robert & George played for Falkirk Amateurs, John played for both. so what is known is that there was a lot of overlap with players between Falkirk & Comely Park. However it must be noted that Falkirk never took the club seriously only sending the second XI to play them.

One of the problems which football clubs in Falkirk have faced is that Falkirk FC simply got there first, so have been on the losing end of a circle of diminishing returns, fewer fans than the bigger clubs mean smaller gates, smaller gates means a smaller kitty for upkeep of ground, shabbier grounds means fewer good players wish to turn out for them, meaning it is made difficult to get good results, meaning the fickle fanbase are less likely to turn out, and it starts again [remember, Comely Park spent their entire time during the amateur era, but even then financial constraints mattered, if not for players' wages].

It was an interesting experiment, and although I love the fact my football club so simple that it is the name of my town, I occasionally hanker to support a club with a slightly exotic name, something local, something from left-field [something every ESFC fan must get when they rage at stupid reporters from South of the Border who lazily assume that they are from Stirling], but as I said, Falkirk FC got there first, besides if I were to support a team on the basis of name alone I would be a Tayavalla fan, even though I am not [and would never wish to be] from Tamfourhill.

All in all, Comely Park existed, they never shook anything up, they barely got recognition within Falkirk, never mind the wider world, but the chaps who turned out for them tried their hardest, and it was hardly their fault that those which showed any promise were pilfered by either Falkirk or East Stirlingshire, or even by Grahamston FC, the sad fact is that even by the 1880s football was so commercialised that a small, locally based football team could not survive [never mind compete] even at a local level before the advent of junior football, and I will point again to those of us knowledgable of Falkirk of the historical dearth of football South of the High Street.

Known Matches played by Comely Park FC



Sat Nov  3rd 1883 v Grahamston                (H)   4-1        Friendly
Sat Nov 17th 1883 v Tayavalla 2nd XI          (H)   2-1        Friendly
Sat Dec  1st 1883 v East Stirlingshire 3rd XI (H)   0-2        Friendly
Sat Feb  9th 1884 v East Stirlingshire        (H)   1-9        Stirlingshire 1st Rd
Sat May 17th 1884 v Carron                    (A)   3-3        Friendly
Sat Oct 18th 1884 v Strathblane               (A)   withdrew   Stirlingshire Cup 1st Rd
Sat Nov 15th 1884 v Laurieston                (A)   2-2        Friendly
Sat Mar 28th 1885 v Grangemouth               (A)   0-3        Friendly
Sat May 16th 1885 v Laurieston                (H)   2-3        Friendly
Sat Jun  4th 1885 v Grangemouth               (H)  11-1        Friendly *
Sat Sep 19th 1885 v Falkirk 2nd XI            (A)   1-8        Friendly
Sat Sep 26th 1885 v Stirling Olympic          (H)   7-0        Stirlingshire Cup 1st Rd
Sat Oct 17th 1885 v Falkirk Cricket Club      (H)   3-1        Friendly
Sat Nov  7th 1885 v Laurieston                (A)   1-1        Friendly
Sat Nov 21st 1885 v Campsie Central           (H)   1-1        Stirlingshire Cup 1st Rd
Sat Nov 28th 1885 v Campsie Central           (A)   3-6        Stirlingshire Cup 1st Rd Replay
Sat Dec  5th 1885 v Laurieston                (H)   0-5        Friendly
Sat Dec 19th 1885 v Falkirk Harp              (A)   1-1        Friendly
Sat Dec 26th 1885 v Camelon 2nd XI            (H)   3-1        Friendly
Sat Jan  9th 1886 v Falkirk 2nd XI            (H)   3-0        Friendly
Sat Mar  6th 1886 v Black Watch               (H)   2-1        Friendly
Sat Mar 20th 1886 v Falkirk Harp              (H)   6-3        Friendly
Sat Apr  3rd 1886 v East Stirlingshire 2nd XI (H)   2-1        Friendly
Thu May  6th 1886 v East Stirlingshire 2nd XI (A)   1-2        Friendly
Sat May  8th 1886 v Falkirk                   (A)   1-4        Falkirk District Charity Cup Semi-Final
Sat May 22nd 1886 v Partick Thistle           (H)   4-5        Benefit * #
Sat Sep 25th 1886 v Grangemouth               (H)   withdrew   Stirlingshire Cup 1st Rd

* Comely Park played on these occasions with the explicit assistance of players from other clubs [mainly Falkirk FC]
# Benefit for the funds of Comely Park FC

NB - I have found several matches by Falkirk FC which were not reported in the Local press, so there is the massive possibility that Comely Park played more matches about which I have no clue, and no real way of knowing.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

East Stirlingshire 1890/91


Sterling work [or luck] by the folk over there at 'Shire Towers in coming across a long lost picture of one of the mighty Zebra teams from the 19th Century, especially for me as it includes two former Falkirk players [Michael Harley & John Mercer] of whom I had no pictures, my only surprise was there were only two players that played for both teams in the picture [Michael's wee brother Tom was with the ES for example]. During this era, I doubt if I have ever come across a team pic from either club that did not have at least one player who had played for both teams.

NB - After posting this, I noticed the picture also included Harry Reid [who played in 4 friendlies for Falkirk FC, so I am slightly happier].


However the best [and often most annoying] thing about images of football players is their strips. Until you look at it closely few things are obvious. Then look at Johnnie Mercer ..... The only thing that gives him away as a goalkeeper is a slight variance in the collar of his shirt. Then look at their shorts, never mind that they are knee-length, that is just fashion, the first thing that struck me is that they all have pockets!! Of course, there would be no major dealers in football strips, so apart from the shirts, the players would doubtless be wearing converted workwear. The third part of the strip which to me was conspicuous, is striking by its absence. Apart from a couple of players, and then only just, I cannot see a pair of socks: stockings made up part of the club colours which were listed in the SFA Annuals of the time! Never mind the fact that it is now against the laws to wear shin-pads over the socks.

Finally, a couple of little things for the purists, the fad for wearing caps was ebbing away, apart from Archie Ritchie rightly showing off his newly earned Scotland Cap, only Kadie is wearing a cap, yet several could have worn their Stirlingshire caps. There is no club insignia anywhere, in fact apart from things that only a fan or a historian could have known, there is no way of knowing which club it is and when it was taken! Finally, who is the Captain? I am guessing David Alexander, not because he is front and centre [he was a Centre-Forward after all] but because of his proximity to the ball, but that is still just a guess.

Read more over at the official East Stirlingshire Website.

Monday, 1 September 2014

A Whole New Country

OMG, can I say that again, OMG

Cate Dickinson-Byrne just got in touch with me about her Grandfather "James Robertson" who was a legendary Falkirk Centre-Forward from 1910 to 1914 [and from that point continued to play for Falkirk, but you have to admit world politics got in the way of Falkirk's selection policy]

Anyway, Cate tells me that James signed up again in 1939, which means I might have to make a new page about Falkirk players who served in both wars [but I suspect there might only be one chap] I give to you, all you who sadly forgot him James Robertson


James Robertson
b 15th March, 1885,Alexandria, Dunbartonshire

d 26th April 1968, London, Middlesex
Debut – Saturday February 18th 1911 v Clyde (H) Scottish League Division 1
Positions – Centre-Forward
Club Honours – Scottish Cup W 1912/13, North-Eastern Cup W 1911/12, RU 1910/11, Dunedin Cup W 1913/14, Dewar Shield W 1913/14, Falkirk District Charity Cup W 1913/14, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1912/13, 1913/14
Falkirk Leading League Goalscorer 1911/12 [12], 1912/13 [12], 1913/14 [21], 1914/15 [11]
Scottish League Division 1 Matches/Goals [160/75]
Scottish Cup Matches/Goals [11/2]
Scottish Victory Cup Matches/Goals [2/-]
Minor League Matches/Goals [1/1]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [26/20]
Scored [2] on his League Debut
Hat-Tricks – 1 [Division 1 [1]]
Known Career – Vale of Leven [1904/05], Distillery, Blackburn Rovers [1905/06-1907/08], Brighton & Hove Albion [1908/09], Vale of Leven [1909/10-1910/11], Falkirk [1910/11-1918/19], Dunfermline Athletic [1915/16], Vale of Leven [1918/19-1920/21], Dumbarton Harp
Played for Home-Scots v Anglo-Scots, Scottish International Trial at Glasgow, 18th March 1913
Awarded the Croix de Guerre in February 1918, Awarded the Military Medal in December 1918
Possibly one of Falkirk FC's best ever 'signings', coming as part of Jock Simpson's transfer to Blackburn Rovers, Jimmy Robertson went on to score over 100 goals in all matches for the club
Height - 5 ft 8 in: Weight 13 st 0 lbs [1913]


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Junior Hell - Heather Rangers 1897/98

Although I mainly concentrate on Senior Football in Falkirk District, as a sideline I do note down all football in the town & its suburbs. So I have reems & reems of results from all manner of 'clubs' from proper Junior clubs down to scratch XIs representing anything from streets to the various Co-Operative Societies. And this is where it Hell. To this day I do not fully 'get' Junior Football: Dunipace Juniors play in the West Region; Camelon Juniors play in the East Region; Falkirk Juniors [who actually play in Grangemouth further East than Camelon] play in the Central. On top of this there are all manner of bizarrely named cups which seem to go on until the week before the next season.

Excuse my ignorance, I was just not brought up following the Junior game. But in my researches this week into the 1897/98 season and trying to put together an idea of the local Junior teams & Competitions has given me an inkling into why Junior football is so byzantyne. One club: Heather Rangers of Stenhousemuir.

In 1897/98 Heather Rangers competed in the Scottish Junior Cup, the stirlingshire Junior Cup, the Falkirk District Junior Cup, The Falkirk District Junior League, the Falkirk Cottage Hospitals' Junior Shield, the Stirling District Junior Cup & the Stirling District Junior League [nb - The Stirling District Junior Cup was two legged, and both the Stirling District Junior competitions did not start until after Christmas].

Now, you will obviously be shocked that they did not fulfill their fixtures [some of the cup matches having to be played in the next season], but this is a bugbear of mine, very little is known of these competitions, and even though some of us are trying to record them, so little was published that it is nearly impossible from this remove. And another, will Stenhousemuir make up its mind as to whether it is in Falkirk District or Stirling District.

Known Matches by Heather Rangers in 1897/98

Aug 21    Airth Castle Rangers        3      Heather Rangers             1      Friendly
Sep 4     Forth Rangers               0      Heather Rangers             1      Falkirk District Junior League
Sep 11    Heather Rangers             1      Falkirk Hawthorn            2      Falkirk District Junior League
Sep 18    Heather Rangers             5      Forth Rangers               3      League?
Sep 25    Heather Rangers             5      Falkirk Excelsior           1      Scottish Junior Cup 1st Rd
Oct 2     Gairdoch Junior             -      Heather Rangers             -      Falkirk District Junior League [Heather did not turn up]
Oct 9     Heather Rangers             5      Falkirk Excelsior           4      Falkirk District Junior Cup 2nd Rd
Oct 16    Heather Rangers             2      Slamannan Swifts            3      Stirlingshire Junior Cup 1st Rd [protest]
Oct 23    Gairdoch Juniors            2      Heather Rangers             0      Hospitals Shield?
Oct 30    Artizan Thistle             2      Heather Rangers             1      Scottish Junior Cup 2nd Rd
Nov 6     Heather Rangers             3      Slamannan Swifts            3      Stirlingshire Junior Cup 1st Rd
Nov 20    Slamannan Swifts            6      Heather Rangers             2      Stirlingshire Junior Cup 1st Rd Rep
Nov 27    Forth Rangers               2      Heather Rangers             1      Falkirk District Junior Cup Semi @Merch
Dec 18    Gairdoch Juniors            3      Heather Rangers             2      Falkirk District Junior League
Dec 25    Heather Rangers             3      Larbert Broomage Albion     2      Friendly
Jan 15    Longcroft Thistle           1      Heather Rangers             2      Stirling District Junior Cup 1st Rd 1st Leg
Jan 22    Heather Rangers             4      Longcroft Thistle           1      Stirling District Junior Cup 1st Rd 2nd Leg
Jan 29    Heather Rangers             3      Falkirk Excelsior           3      Falkirk District Junior League
Feb 5     Heather Rangers             7      Rising Star                 1      Falkirk District Junior League
Feb 19    Heather Rangers             3      St Ninians Thistle          2      Stirling District Junior Cup 2nd Rd 1st Leg
Feb 26    St Ninians Thistle          2      Heather Rangers             1      Stirling District Junior Cup Aband
Mar 5     Tillicoultry Victoria       2      Heather Rangers             2      Friendly
Mar 19    St Ninians Thistle          1      Heather Rangers             4      Stirling District Junior Cup 2nd Rd 2nd Leg
Apr 2     Heather Rangers             0      Bannockburn                 2      Stirling District Junior Cup Semi 1st Leg
Apr 9     Bannockburn                 5      Heather Rangers             2      Stirling District Junior Cup Semi 2nd Leg
May 7     Rising Star                 1      Heather Rangers             1      Falkirk District Junior League
May 14   Falkirk Excelsior            0      Heather Rangers             1      Falkirk District Junior League
I have to add to this that the Falkirk Herald did not publish every football result, it was dependant upon the club sending in match reports/results. I know this as they occasionally published the Falkirk District Junior League Table and the table did not tally with the published matches, but I can only go on what was reported.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Football & Alcohol - James Tennant


The victorians were weird people, well some of them were anyway. If you read enough into it their morals were generally projected upon the working classes in a "do as I say; not as I do" sort of way. Temperance movements abounded, whilst at the same time "Gentlemen's Clubs" existed within which all manner of lasciviousness occurred beyond the prying eyes of the common or garden pleb, and handily beyond the reach of the licensing laws placed upon the Public House.

These victorian values even stretched their long arms into the realms of football [Dunipace FC, were literally formed as Dunipace Temperance Association Football Club], this was brought to mind when I came across this interesting case brought before the Falkirk Burgh Police Court on Tuesday 25th of September 1897 involving Falkirk FC's Centre-Forward of the time: James 'Midgy' Tennant.


My antipathy towards the police, plus the fact that Tennant scored more than a hundred goals for my beloved football club makes me want to side with 'midgy' ... however ... in an extract from the same paper, another Falkirk FC player Bobby Fearns pleaded guilty to the charges, also James Tennant once signed professional forms for East Stirlingshire, claiming it was a mistake as he was drunk out of his head when he did it. Hmmmm.


Still, when he was playing for Falkirk, he was good.

James 'Midgy' Tennant

b c1872, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
d 25th September 1926, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Debut – Saturday January 10th 1891 v Battlefield (H) Friendly

Positions – Centre-Forward, Inside-Right, Inside-Left

Representative Honours – Stirlingshire v Forfarshire 1894/95

Club Honours – Midland League W 1894/95, RU 1895/96, Stirlingshire Cup W 1894/95, 1895/96, RU 1891/92, 1897/98, Falkirk District Charity Cup W 1891/92, 1893/94, RU 1894/95, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1891/92, 1892/93, 1893/94, RU 1895/96

Scottish Cup Matches /Goals [7/4]
Scottish Qualifying Cup Matches /Goals [8/4]
Minor League Matches/Goals [73/33]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [43/21]
Other Matches/Goals [87/45]

Hat-Tricks – 6 [Midland League [1] Stirlingshire Cup [2] Other [3]]

Known Career – Burnhouse, Falkirk Athletic, Falkirk [1890/91-1897/98], Camelon [1898/99]

NB - he was called Midgy due to his alledged rotundity .....

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Town v County - 1902


In the aftermath of the Ibrox disaster nearly all of Scottish Football pulled together in aid of the benevolent fund and the Stirlingshire Association did their bit along with the others. A while back I wrote a weepost about the tournament at the start of the 1902/03 season, which was in effect an extra Stirlingshire Cup, the proceeds going to the fund. But before that there was a match played at the tail end of the 1901/02 Season for the same cause.

On Tuesday 15th April 1902 at Merchiston Park [the home of East Stirlingshire FC] the Stirlingshire FA organised two representative teams for a challenge match. Unlike previous matches this was not played by a Stirlingshire XI against a large club or another representative team, instead the sides were chosen along the lines of Town v County, in other words Falkirk against the Rest of Stirlingshire.

Besides the football entertainment was provided by the Carron Works, the Wright Memorial and the Falkirk Burgh Brass Bands, and a there was a "very large attendance of spectators". On the field the Town side wore the Black & White of East Stirlingshire, while County wore Red Jerseys and White shorts.


Town - Allan [FFC]; Hill [FFC] & Gillespie [FAFC]; Scott [FFC], Fish [ESFC] & Rae [ESFC]; Low [FFC] & Kellock [FFC], Leishman [FFC], Dobbie [ESFC] & White [ESFC].

County - McCrory [KPFC], Leishman [CFC] & McLeod [SFC]; Reid [CFC], McBride [SFC] & Campbell [CFC]; McNair [SFC] & Clarkson [SFC], Baird [SFC], Carrigan [CFC] & Rae [CFC].

The match itself was very competitive, although I suppose the tackling was less intense than in a more competitive fixture, and was very end to end. The first side to strike was County, who on the counter attack passed the ball to Baird who hit the leather so hard that Allan could not hold on to to it and let it slip over the line. However within three minutes Town had equalised, scorer missing. For the rest of the half County were on the ascendancy but the Town defence stood form. Half Time 1-1.

Within three minutes of the resumption Town's Centre-Forward Robert Leishman nipped in behind his wee brother William Leishman on the County side to sent Town into the lead. After some exciting goalmouth skirmishes at both ends Baird again put the teams level. But almost straight from the kick-off Dobbie took a long shot that slipped between McCrory's hands and put Town back ahead. For most of the remaining time play was camped in the Town half, but this time William Allan was on the form that was to become common for the next two decades between the sticks. Failing light brought the players off some ten minutes before the scheduled 45 minutes had been played; the result standing Town 3 County 2.

The gate reciepts were reported as £18 6s 1d, but collections made in the ground added to the sum to be given over to the Ibrox Fund.

This is the last time that I have come across a representative Falkirk [geographical] side, but I dare say that were one to compete against the County today an FFC/ESFC XI could have a decent tussle against a SAFC/SFC XI, but I am a hopless romantic and think such matches are the best way to play Benefits, Testimonials & Charity matches, far better than the same two clubs who might have played several times within the last year. I live in hope.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Clubs in Falkirk District - Gairdoch


Long before the current situation, in about the 1880s/90s if you were to ask a local who was the third biggest team in Falkirk District [clearly 'Shire then Falkirk [in that order] would be 1 & 2] they would probably look at you then say "Camelon" with the unsaid "ya div" left hanging in the ether.

If you were to ask who was fourth, it would be murkier, but I would lay a bet that they would more likely say Gairdoch before Stenhousemuir.

The village of Carronshore is not where you might find a really good football team [do not get me wrong shoreites, the village produced many good footballers, many who eventually joined other, bigger clubs] but it is too small to attract a big enough crowd to pay them players. They were helped by the fact that T.D.Brodie [their Patron] let them play at Dovecote Park without paying rent.

But even that could not stem the tide of professionalism, eventually FFC, ESFC & clubs further afeild pilfering their best players meant they collapsed into nothingness: they were reborn into a junior side, but even that could not sutain itself.

It is sad, as they really did produce some good players.

I have never tracked down the exact location of Dovecote Pk, but get the feeling that it might have been somewhere close to the Dovecote.