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.





Monday, 6 July 2015

Football "Up the Braes"

Rumford Rovers & Redding Athletic

From Laurieston to Maddiston there is now a nearly contiguous line of villages just seperated from Falkirk because of Callendar Park.

Back in the 19th Century they existed relatively apart from one another and all based upon their own colliery and/or foundry.

The villages were [indeed still are] Laurieston, Westquarter, Redding, Reddingmuirhead, Brightons, Rumford & Maddiston. With the exception of Laurieston very few senior clubs came out of these 'outskirts', especially when compared to the intense rivalries to the West of Falkirk.

Rumford Rovers

This club, at the very least, began life as a serious club sometime during the summer of 1887, but toward the end, they were simply a laughing stock, if not simply a sham club.
Playing their matches at Wallacelea Park, Rumford were always going to struggle against clubs from bigger town when in the Stirlingshire Cup, never mind the Scottish Cup.
It must be said that not only did Rumford not provide a huge pool of players, but the local clubs largely shunned them when it came to friendlies, only the odd match against the 2nd XI being played. And without good matches they fell by the way. However by the time of professionalism they were still appearing on the rosters of the Stirlingshire & Scottish FAs, the only problem being that they never fulfilled any of their later fixtures.
In fact, there was often controversy, even intrigue, in the local press as to whether they existed as a club at all. The two main theories being that a local un-named politician was paying for the upkeep of the club in order to garner votes in local elections: or that somebody was maintaining a 'paper club' to retain voting rights on the SFA Council, either way both the Stirlingshire & Scottish FAs got too suspicious of their lack of playing record and forcibly ejected them.

Redding Athletic

Unlike their cousins up the Braes, Redding Athletic were never involved in any controversies, like Rumford they were rather inept at football at the senior level. Formed slightly before Rumford [they played their first recorded match on March 2nd 1887] at the end of the 1886/87 Season.
I have no record as yet where they played their home matches, but did read once that they played on the playing fields at the southern tip of Laurieston.
The most famous event in the short history of the club was hosting the largest home defeat in Scottish Senior Football, losing 0-17 to Camelon later in 1887.
Redding suffered from the same problems as Rumford, not enough local talent, not enough of a support base, not enough matches against larger clubs to get a regular income. Without the income they just fizzled out during 1892. Not with a bang like Rumford Rovers, they just stopped, with no announcement, being in the papers.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Lost Football Grounds of Falkirk District - Victoria Pk Camelon

The Second Home of Camelon [in their first Season there is mention of them playing on 'the Policies of Camelon House'] was that of Victoria Park. Known as Victoria Park because, frankly, the times demanded it, there were very few features that described it in the reports, other than it was 'in a hollow'.

The ground [as far as I can tell] was in use for about twenty years, from the early 1880s until the early 1900s, when it was built over by a foundry, one which famously made Mills grenades during WWI.


 
The ground as a football ground was, seemingly, ever-problematic, costing as village side like Camelon more than they could reasonably bring in in gates per season. It was only that Victoria Park was easily the third most important grounds of Falkirk District, easily recognised by the fact that it hosted most of the neutral matches between East Stirlingshire and Falkirk, that it continued so long: two local Cup Finals [Falkirk District Charity Cup & Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Infirmary Shield] that kept it going so long.

The ground though, by all reports was quite impressive, laid in a 'natural amphitheatre' between Glasgow Road to the South and the Railway line to the North, and with an incline from the Stirling Road to the East, it's beauty was often commented upon, the simple fact was that Camelon could not support a team to support the ground. Later Junior clubs returning to, Camelon House & Carmuirs Park.

In the 1897 map, the ground is at the very west of old Camelon.



This is the current google map of the area.



Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Lost Football Grounds of Falkirk District - Tannery Park

The original home of Falkirk Amateurs, so called - because it was right next to a tannery. This ground is one of the easier grounds to find even though it is not on any of the OS maps. But it was described in Jimmy Henderson's Obituary as being on the policies of Comely Park House and that the East Burn ran down one side of it.

This places the ground in between the Callander Walls and Kemper Avenue [the East Burn is now piped under Kemper Avenue] ie, the car park across from the Claddan.

This is almost certainly the same ground as Comely Park had used previously, even the Ams called it Comely Park occasionally, but also adverts for Comely Park matches stated "entrance via Burnhead Lane"



The ground was also used by various junior clubs.

Five-a-Side Tournaments

Back in the day, back when leagues were small and top class fixtures were thin on the ground, the notion of the pre-season friendly did not exist. It was not until the turn of the Century that football clubs began their season with a match against a Junior Club followed with some inter club practice matches: Falkirk for example would play Falkirk Juniors then a match of Attackers v Defenders, then a 1st XI v 2nd XI match.

Before this the clubs relied upon 5-a-side tournaments to get their players into shape. Normally these would be held in the 2-3 weeks coming up to August [the official start of the season]. In Stirlingshire [where I know most], these would be held all over the place and by many different organisations: in Kilsyth & Slamannan; Stirling & Grangemouth; Falkirk & Dunipace; by East Stirlingshire Bicycle Club & Falkirk Football Club; by Airth Brass Band & Redding Colliers; by Lennoxtown Alum Works & Grangemouth Docks.

They all attracted fives from all levels of football [the senior clubs generally entered two teams], from serious teams to a smattering of made up teams who just wanted 'a go'.

So I picked up a folder of football results [in this case 1894/95] and the first 5-a-side I came across was the Stenhousemuir FC of 1894, the Falkirk Herald had only the barest of details, but the Falkirk Mail carried this report -

Only two ties were drawn for the first round, but none were played, as Clackmannan & Dunblane failed to turn up, and the second round was then proceeded with.

Heather Rangers v Albion Rovers - This turned out to be one of the best ties of the day. The Rangers made a pluck stand, but in the second half the Rovers secured a point, and the "Heather" lost, after hard lines, by 1 point to 0.
Dunipace v Gairdoch came next. Gairdoch put out a strong team, Wilson (Stenhousemuir) and Rae (Falkirk) being in the team. Gairdoch opened well, and scored off Smith. Although the "Gairs" had many other chances the score remained unaltered. Gairdoch 1 Dunipace 0.
Stenhousemuir No.1 v Roamers - The Roamers were a scratch lot, and included Stoddart (ES) and Clarkson (Stenhousemuir). The "Warriors" had no difficulty in disposing of this lot, winning by 2 goals 1 point to 0.
East Stirlingshire No.1 v Abercorn - Abercorn had some splendid opportunities in the first half, but they failed to take advantage of them. On the restart Alexander made away up the field and finished with a lovely goal, followed by a point before time from the same player.
Windsor v Stenhousemuir No.2 - The Muir's second lot were Gillespie (Denny), Duff (Alloa), Thomson, McInnes, and Marshall (King's Park). After a drawn game Stenhousemuir got into the third round by 1 goal 1 point to 0.
Carron Rangers, St Mirren and ES No.2 walked over, Clackmannan No.2, Grangemouth and Corithians failing to turn up.

Third Round

East Stirlingshire No.2 v Gairdoch - E.S. opened well, and Brock put in some splendid work, but failed to score, and the game ended in a draw. Other two drawn games were played, but in the fourth game Smith secured a point, but Brock, with a long shot scored a goal, E.S. winning by 1 goal to 1 point.
Stenhousemuir No.1 v Carron Thistle - Stenhousemuir took matters easily, and won by three goals to 0. Cochrane and Duncan (Gairdoch) played well for the Thistle.
East Stirlingshire No.1 v Albion Rovers - Kennedy was called upon to save from the very start, and the Rovers managed to score 2 goals to their opponents 1.
Stenhousemuir No.2 v St Mirren - St Mirren had this tie easily, winning by 2 goals to 1 point.

Semi-Final

St Mirren v Albion Rovers - Albion Rovers opened well. They played better every tie, and made strenouos  efforts to get into the final, but after a drawn game of one each the Rovers appeared fagged, St Mirren running out winners in the re-play by 3 goals to 1.
East Stirlingshire No2 v Stenhousemuir No.1 - This tie was very shortly begun when Scott put E.S. on the lead by scoring a goal. Stenhousemuir returned and scored. The referee awarded a goal, but E.S. maintained that it was only a point. After a long dispute it was ultimately decided to re-start the game. Not long after the re-start Brown shot. The referee awarded a point, but E.S. again claimed that it went past the side. The referee stuck to his decision, and E.S. left the field.

Final

St Mirren v Stenhousemuir No.1 - The Saints pressed at the outset, but Reid relieved, and ran the ball well up the field, but his parting shot went over the goal. Another run by Reid resulted in Brown scoring. Scott saved splendidly, and half-time resulted with the "Muir" leading by 1-0. Keeping up the pressure in the second half the home lot had numerous chances, but nothing was gained. The Saints pressed towards the finish but the score remained unaltered. Result - Stenhousemuir No.1 1 goal ; St Mirren 0."

Interestingly both The Falkirk Herald & The Falkirk Mail printed Carron Rangers then Carron Thistle in their articles, I can not be sure which is the correct name.

For all those out there who claim that things are not like they used to be I would just like to quote the following from the Falkirk Mail's Athletic Gossip -

"There have been some complaints regarding the foul language that was heard around the ropes. I heard it on all sides, and as did also some of the committee, who, if they had done the right thing, would have shown the offenders to the outside of the field."

Well what can I say, people swore at the  football then, as they do now, people complained then as they do now, get over it!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Shortest Falkirk FC players before WWII

Since I had the info and done the research to find out for my previous post on the tallest Pre-WWII Falkirk FC players, it stands to reason that it would be as simple to look for the shortest players too. And so it was, like last week, this list really does not signify much, people were shorter back then on average, and I only have the heights of roughly a quarter of the players from the time.

Height    Name               pos Career
5' 5"     George McNicol     IR  1898/99
5' 5"     James Conlin       OL  1899/00-1900/01
5' 5½"    Patsy Gallacher    IR  1926/27-1931/32
5' 6"     Robert Orrock      LH  1908/09-1916/17
5' 6"     Daniel Paterson    OL  1924/25-1928/29
5' 6"     William Cox        OR  1927/28-1928/29
5' 6"     Thomas Robertson   OR  1936/67
5' 6½"    Alex Heeps         IR  1925/26-1928/29
5' 6½"    James McNeill      CF  1926/27-1927/28

Again I have included those players whose heights were within an inch of the above players, the simple fact is I do not trust anything measured in that weird imperial stuff, nor do I trust those doing the measuring to be too rigorous in their methods. For Example, the Falkirk Herald reported that the 20 yo Alex Carruthers was 5' 8" in 1935, but the same paper in 1939 recorded that he was now 5' 9"!

5' 7"     James Croal        IR  1910/11-1918/19
5' 7"     John McNaught      OR  1911/12-1915/16
5' 7"     Robert McDougall   OL  1915/16-1920/21
5' 7"     William Agnew      IR  1919/20-1920/21
5' 7"     John Hunter        IR  1920/21-1927/28
5' 7"     Robert Kennedy     CF  1926/27-1927/28
5' 7"     Thomas Gilroy      LB  1927/28-1929/30
5' 7"     Richard Duffy      IL  1936/37-1945/46
5' 7"     Ian McLachlan      IR  1938/39
5' 7½"    Michael Gibbons    IR  1910/11-1918/19
5' 7½"    John Rattray       CF  1910/11-1912/13
5' 7½"    William Millar     RH  1913/14
5' 7½"    Alex Thomson       CF  1913/14-1915/16
5' 7½"    Thomas Scott       RB  1917/18-1928/29
5' 7½"    Thomas Batchelor   RH  1932/33-1936/37
5' 7½"    Hugh Hamill        CH  1929/30-1936/37
5' 7½"    Robert Nisbet      RB  1932/33-1938/39
5' 7½"    Peter Cabrelli     IL  1934/35-1935/36
5' 7½"    David Cowan        IL  1934/35-1936/37
5' 7½"    George Anderson    OR  1936/37-1942/43