Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Falkirk District Works Cup 1898

There have been many football competitions in Scotland from the international to the ultra-local, the best overall coverage of these competitions is on the Scottish Football Historical Archive. Research into these cups is ongoing, and in many places patchy is about the best compliment that can be paid. This is not to cast aspersions upon the many researchers and local historians beavering away at the coalface of Scottish Football History, the fact is that most of the games were simply not reported, and even when they were they were not reported adequately.

Which brings me to the latest obscure competition that I have been looking into, the rather clumsily titled Falkirk & District Junior Works Cup [I think]. Like I said coverage was patchy, it was reported that a Falkirk Works Junior Association had been formed in order to have a competition between the major companies in the district. The Falkirk Herald reported that the new FA was to be affiliated to the Falkirk & District Junior FA and the Competition would be played to their rules.

This brings up many unanswerable questions: since the Falkirk Junior FA was affiliated to the Stirlingshire Junior FA and therefore in turn also affliated to the Scottish Junior FA, were the players not cup tied by the tail-end of the season, or were they given an exemption, or did the teams only use players not already with the Junior Clubs of the District?

Like I said, this is completely unaswerable from this remove, since there were no reports as such, most of the games were only mentioned in passing in the Junior part of the 'Football Intelligence' columns [read 'Gossip columns'] of the local papers. I am not even completely sure that I have been able to find the complete competition since none of the draws were reported, however the matches that I have found do not bring up any glaring problems to what I believe the basic structure of the Cup was, though there is the possibility that some of the games here may have been replays of previous unreported matches.

First Round

Apr 12    Falkirk Foundry             3      Larbert Foundry             3
Apr 19    Abbots Foundry              5      Springfield Foundry         0
     Played at Merchiston Park, Bainsford [ESFC]

There is clearly something missing from this round, most probably a replay for the Falkirk Foundry v Larbert Foundry match, however it is also possible that Larbert Foundry withdrew or were thrown out for an infringement, either way only Falkirk Foundry made it through to the next round.
I presume that Carron Foundry & Castlelaurie Foundry were given byes, however there is the possibility that they played [and won] matches against two [as yet] unknown opponents.

Semi-Finals

May 11    Carron Foundry              5      Abbots Foundry              6
     Played at Merchiston Park, Bainsford [ESFC]
May 16    Falkirk Foundry             0      Castlelaurie Foundry        0

May 23    Falkirk Foundry             3      Castlelaurie Foundry        4
     Replay, Played at Merchiston Park, Bainsford [ESFC]

Slight clarification needed here, the first two of these matches were referred to as Second Round matches, it was only in the replay that the papers stated Semi-Final, but it seems most likely that was just poor word choice.

Final

Jun 6     Abbots Foundry              3      Castlelaurie Foundry        2
     Played at Merchiston Park, Bainsford [ESFC]

One last thing to touch upon, of the six matches I can trace, four were reported to have taken place at Merchiston Park, for the other two there was no mention of the ground, I think it was quite likely that all the matches were played at Merchiston Park, the fact that none of the known matches took place on the same date gives this some traction, but I doubt if that will ever become clear, or will ever be relevant.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Falkirk FC Team Pic Date Unknown

I have very little to go on with this picture


I can tell you that the chap three in from the left IS a young Jock Drummond, and that Falkirk FC are displaying Two Cups. This can only mean that this photo was taken during the era of Jock Drummond - [1886/87-1892/93] and that Falkirk only held two cups in that period between the end of 1889/90 and the end of 1890/91, so it must have been about then.

Otherwise I do not have a clue as to who the rest of the players are!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

So close yet so far

When I research Falkirk players, sometimes the things I find are tantalisingly close to getting some facts. However, names are one thing, the ancestry [and even the government websites, all hide behind paywalls], we have already paid for our records to be stored, and made public.

I found this statement on a website about Central Scottish mining accidents

"13 December 1933

Miner Electrocuted In Fife Pit - Francis Kane (19), residing at 170 Pittencrieff Street, Dunfermline, met with his death by electrocution while employed in the Lochgelly splint seam of the Lady Veronica pit, Blairhall Colliery, Fife, yesterday forenoon. His body was found lying near some electrical machinery, and efforts to restore respiration by the colliery ambulance staff, using the oxygen apparatus were unavailing. Kane was a prominent member of the Blairhall Junior Football Club. His services recently had been inquired after by several senior clubs. His father, Edward Kane, is an old Cowdenbeath and Falkirk player." [Scotsman 14 December 1933]

I need to go look at better sources to see if this was also the home of Ed Kane ... but may have to wait until 2031 for the censuses to catch up.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

When is a Bairn a Bairn?

Now I have always been a bit of a purist when it comes to 'Bairns' [that is people from Falkirk for the rest of the World] but I was surprised to be outdone by the correspondent of the Falkirk Mail in 1893 about this.

Falkirk Mail Feb 18th 1893

"It may interest some of our readers to know that of the eleven players who compose the Falkirk team, eight of them are "bairns". The other three belong to the shire - McGregor hailing from Slamannan, Lees from California and Smith from Carronshore. It is a long while since so many "bairns" figured in the Falkirk first eleven. and the fact is worth noticing."
I am not the first "bairn" who was parochial in his outlook, and glad that I am not as parochial as he was!

I personally would never include Slamannan or California as Falkirk, but Carronshore is a grey area, but now I know now that historical precedent says they are not!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Alex Stark?

This very morning I got an e-mail from Gavin Bertram from New Zealand about a photo he had found in New Zealand which might be from the marriage of Falkirk's very own legend Alex Stark.

Now some provisos, The person who played for Falkirk FC may not have been the only Alex Stark in Christchurch, New Zealand at this point and I have no pictures of Alex Stark so cannot compare this picture with anything else.

All this understood, this might be the first time for more than a Century that Falkirk fans can look upon possibly their best ever players and perhaps know who it is.

From the [Chrischurch] Weekly Press - January 1899.


I really hope this is the great Alex Stark [formerly of Kerse Lane, Falkirk]

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Alas Three O'Clock Saturday Afternoon


Fixture congestion! Avoiding clashes with other matches! We have all become enured to football matches being played at random times times [usually at the behest of the broadcasters] instead of what was some would have us believe happened back in the good old days, when all the clubs across the country kicked off at 3 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, but of course, like everything else the pundits are again talking rubbish!

Football matches have always kicked off when it was most convenient to the sides playing, and I found a match which I found rather interesting [well to me anyway]: A match between the Lawyers' Clerks and the Press Clerks of Falkirk in April 1896 which kicked off at 7 o'clock of a Wednesday morning. Of course it makes sense when you think about it ... The match was played on one of the few parts of central Falkirk where a proper game of Football could be played: Brockville Park, the evenings were taken up with Charity Cup or Benefit matches, and the Clerks would have to work from about 9 to 5 during the day, so morning would be the best time for the match.


However it still seems a bit weird, imagine a lawyer's clerk turning up at 9:00 in the morning having only finished a game of football about 15 minutes earlier, it certainly puts into perspective those office workers who cycle into work before showering and taking their place at their desk. Of course it is possible that the players were allowed to come in an hour or so late, in order to go home and bathe [I can almost guarantee you that none of them had showers in 1896] before turning up at work, but it is still a bit bizarre.

The next time that your club is asked to play a match on a Sunday at 7:00 in the evening, just think before you say that the World has gone mad: Football matches have been going on at strange times for over a century!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Bury v Falkirk - 19th Dec 1896


Not one of the most illustrious notes in the history of Falkirk Football Club, but still a match worthy of noting was Falkirk's 0-9 crushing at the hands of Bury at Gigg Lane in December 1896, notable because it was Falkirk FC's first match outside of Scotland. Of course the club were out of their depth, Bury were a serious force in the English League, whilst Falkirk were a middling team in the Scottish Combination [a league made partly of provincial sides and partly of City Clubs' reserve sides].


The result looks a bit embarrassing at first glance, but the gulf in the teams probably was about that size. Plus there were other things to take into account, for example there were significant differences between the laws in Scotland & England and this game would have been under laws that Falkirk had never played under before. And it must be said this was a bit of a makeshift Falkirk side [for example David Robertson [the Albion Rovers RB playing because his brother was at Bury and he was visiting]].



There is little doubt that John Pray had something to do with this match taking place, as the then Bury centre-half was a Falkirk lad and had risen to prominence in the centre of the Falkirk Half-Back line before going down south by the even back then circuitous route by way of Govan: there is nothing new in Scottish Football.


However, the thing I like most about this is the way the team never went straight to Bury on the train, and instead stopped by way of Pendleton [birthplace of John Simpson] to visit the Scotia Foundry, where there were many a Falkirk Bairn [and quite a few Bainsford folk too], this link between Falkirk/Bainsford & Pendleton has largely been overlooked now that the steel & iron is dead in both communities, but back then was so pronounced that it was not unknown for the Falkirk Herald to carry reports of inter-foundry matches from Pendleton depending upon the amount of locals involved.