Saturday, 25 February 2017

Lost Football Grounds of Falkirk District - Blinkbonny Park

For most of this week I have been looking for the location of Falkirk FC's second permanent home: Blinkbonny Park. All of my life the only Blinkbonny Park in Falkirk has been a public space between Gartcows Road and the railway line close to the High Station. Now there is a substantial problem with this being the ground where Falkirk played teams such as Dumbarton and Renton in Scottish Cup matches over nearly three and a half seasons, namely that most of the sporting references to this Blinkbonny Park in the local press are about tobogganing!


Yes, it has a very pronounced slope.

The biggest problem that we have is that Falkirk played at Blinkbonny almost exactly halfway between the 1860 and 1896 OS surveys, so the ground is missing from the best sources available. A secondary problem is that Blinkbonny [and variant spellings] is a somewhat common name, so much so that there was another one [and another Blinkbonny Park] in the district, in Slamannan. So sorting out which references were to which Blinkbonny/ie took time and patience, plus the multiple references to sales of Turnips at Blinkbonny Farm never once mentioned its location.


Blinkbonnie, and Blinkbonnie Park, Slamannan 1896.

Therefore, as ever, you have to look wider than the football to find the parts of the jigsaw puzzle not staring you in the face. And so some five years after Falkirk FC had moved to Brockville, in 1890, Falkirk Town Council started looking for a suitable piece of land in order to create a public park for the residents of the town. In the reports of the Falkirk Herald of the time it was reported that they had had several possibilities and had sounded out the landowners as to the terms were a purchase to be necessary: among the possibilities was Blinkbonny.

On Saturday April 19th 1890 the FH reported that

 "... the committee were strongly of opinion that they could not get a better site for a park than the ground at Blinkbonny. It was splendidly situated, and its only drawback was its distance from the town. The Committee had visited Blinkbonny, and they were of opinion that if they could get that part lying to the west of the road leading to Greenhorn's Well, it would make a splendid park. The land was very similar to the town's muir, and if they could make arrangements with Mr Forbes [of Callendar] in the way of excambion, they might get the one for the other. The land had special advantages for a public park. In one corner was situated Greenhorn's Well, and near it was a natural hollow, which by being flooded, would make a splendid skating pond. ... The northern boundary ran along the Bantaskin wall, and formed a natural boundary".

The simple fact that they were looking at the land west of Greenhorn's Well, and that Blinkbonny was bounded to the South by the Railway Line and to the North by the Bantaskine Estate, and stretching from Drossie Road presumably to the estate of Glenfuir House means that Blinkbonny (Park) in the 1880s and 1890s was much bigger than the current park.


The area known to Falkirk Bairns as Blinkbonny in the late 19th Century

This, though, is still a huge piece of land, and just because a passer-by in 1882 would notice the throng of a football match, means nothing to anybody nowadays, the entire area is built over by the Windsor Road housing estate, and very little of it looks remotely suitable for a Scottish Cup Match.

And it was here that I was incredibly fortunate in coming across an article about a dispute over several 'rights of way' which were regularly used by Camelonites going to and from the different parts of Falkirk. In the summer of 1891 some of these 'rights of way' were blocked by the landowners and it took the law to settle which parties were in the right.

The single most important path/right of way here

"opens from the southern bank of the Forth & Clyde Canal near to Lock 16, at Glenfuir Lodge and passes between the estates of Glenfuir and Bantaskin, and thence through the estate of Callendar, joining Maggie Wood's Loan, near Blinkbonny. The thoroughfare is still open from the entrance at Glenfuir Lodge till a point a little beyond East Bantaskin pit, a new working which is presently being formed". [Falkirk Herald Sat 25th July 1891]

The part here from the Lodge to the mine is shown clearly as a path on the 1860 map, and equates exactly with modern day Blinkbonny Road.


1860 - Ordnance Survey


2017 - Google Maps

And the second part of the 'right of way' from the East Bantaskin Pit [renamed Camelon Pit No. 2 when opened in 1895] to Maggie Wood's Loan follows the path, almost exactly of the current Windsor Road.


1896 - Ordnance Survey & 2016 - Bing Maps Hybrid from the marvellous NLS Maps Site.

The reason that the course of this 'right of way' is so important to Falkirk fans and Scottish Football historians in general is what the Falkirk Herald went on to report.

"On Wednesday one of our representatives visited the district, and passed along the disputed road. Judging from its appearance, it appeared to have been in use for a considerable period. At one side of the thoroughfare is a hedge, while the other side is not fenced. The road does not appear to have been largely used of late, judging from its grassy surface. It passes along the north side of the park which was formerly occupied by the Falkirk Football Club, and when matches were played at Blinkbonny a great number of the spectators came from Camelon and Lock 16 by the road which has now been closed. Since the club left Blinkbonny the road has been chiefly used as a nearer approach to the High Station, and if it be closed great inconvenience will, it is stated, be caused to those who have been in the habit of using it for that purpose. ... our representative was informed that the road was formerly known as "the old mill road" and was largely used by people going to the Union Canal and the High Station".

If I have added everything correctly, and not misread everything, this would put the Blinkbonny Park somewhere in the vicinity of Balmoral Street, Falkirk - Google Street View.

After Falkirk FC left Blinkbonny the ground was taken over by Erin Rovers [who themselves were born out of Falkirk Harp] the local "Irish" team who did not last for much more than a season.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Alva, Stirlingshire?

You often hear about people's favourite moment in sport, whether it be a player droning on about such and such a goal, or a fan droning on about how [insert team/player] beat [insert team/player] and it is frankly dull IMHO.

I am a bit weird that way, I like interesting things, so I cannot relate first hand about my favourite moment in sport, partially because I have considered it, but mainly because I was not there, and it happened nearly a hundred years before I was born.

In August 1891 the Boundary Commission for Scotland transferred Alva, previously an enclave of Stirlingshire, to Clackmannanshire [where it now resides].

This, I hear no-one say, does not seem like one of the most important anythings in anything. Perhaps not, but it was pretty important for the Stirlingshire FA.

It was implicit in the Stirlingshire F.A.'s rules, that not only must the clubs be within Stirlingshire, but that the players be born in, or reside within the county to be eligible for matches.

This would be fine, had the Boundary Commission made their decision even a month previously, but now the season had started, Alva were members of the Stirlingshire FA, Alva had been drawn against Campsie in the first Round of the Cup, but Alva were not eligible to compete in the cup, yet most of their players were.


In the end it was simple for the Stirlingshire FA, they ruled that since the Glebe Park [below] was now in Clackmannanshire, the club [who were the members of the Association] could not play, Campsie [from Lennoxtown [yes, Lennoxtown was in Stirlingshire back then]] were awarded the win in the First Round, and Alva never re-entered the Stirlingshire Cup.


Glebe Park, at the East End of Stirling Street, Alva, as of 1891 now definitely NOT in Stirlingshire.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Plagiarism

I find it frankly sad when the supposedly educated people at Edinburgh University take my own, shoddy, work and try and pass it off as their own.

The devil is in the very last sentence of both articles, which I added to this blog beyond the article.

Me http://www.falkirk-football-history.co.uk/2013/06/charlie-stirling-prisoner-of-war.html

Edinburgh University http://archive.is/Irtw9

Never trust one of their history degrees, they probably read it on the internet.

(Hey, Kids at Edinburgh, a reference would have done it) 

James Laing WWI

I haven't posted anything in a while mainly because I like to space posts out and because I have been taking advantage of Ancestry's free weekend to look up stuff [for example I found four Falkirk players that served in WWI that I never knew about].

I mean who would have known that Peter Gardiner was in the Army Pay Corp 1914-1918?, or that Thomas Bellingham [who played in the 1880s] at the age of 58 signed up for the Royal Defence Corps, or that Robert Terris was a mechanic in the Fleet Air Arm at HMS Daedalus?

Anyway I'm posting now because I found one of the worst examples of beaurocracy from the Army, ever, on James Higgins Laing's record:

On his conduct sheet, under "Offence"


I'm pretty sure, with a bit of thought, N/A, would have been applicable.

NB - Just for accuracy the other one was John Hotchkies in the A & S Highlanders.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Eben Taylor - Falkirk FC 1902-1903

When researching football players in the dim and distant past I often have to try to find out about their lives outside of football, this can help since it adds more than just puting a players name and clubs into your friendly search engine. When you throw in an adress/spouse's name/employment it just gives more options to explore.

Which is why I was very impressed when I stumbled across the army record of Ebenezer Taylor on one of those stupidly expensive genealogy sites [however I was "researching" on a day when they were giving free access to their military papers last week ;)], and most impressed when I found a letter from his employers Aitken's Brewery to the Army stating that they would re-employ him upon his demobilisation.


From his papers also came lots of biographical details, including his family, and, interestingly [to me anyway], a paper stating that he had been a P.O.W. towards the end of the War.


Now this has got me puzzled, it has the date and place of capture 28th March 1918 at Monchy [which I assume is Monchy-le-Preux], and that he was last interned at what looks like "Wallers", and it is this last name that puzzles me, I can find nothing like this name in the list of Prisoner of War centres used during the War....

As a player he seems to have been good enough, if not setting the world ablaze, and dissapeared from the team as quickly and as anonymously as he appeared. All I know about his past was a throw-away remark on his debut match about him being "a Stirling Junior", and as far as I'm aware he never kicked a ball in anger after leaving Falkirk.

He is occasionally mentioned in the Falkirk Herald, living in Penders Lane,  usually in connection with the brewery, up until 1934, when he simply dissapears, and then in 1943 he is noted as the Late E.Taylor on the occasion of the marriage of his youngest daughter. But in between I have found nothing. Looks like I'm going to have to look to the Falkirk Mail to save the day [again].

Ebenezer Taylor

b c1882, Stirling, Stirlingshire

Debut – Monday August 4th 1902 v Alloa Athletic (A) Stirlingshire Coronation Cup 1st Rd replay
League Debut – Saturday August 16th 1902 v Clyde (A) Scottish League Division 2

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

Club Honours – Stirlingshire Consolation Cup W 1902/03

Scottish League Div 2 Matches/Goals  12/2
Scottish Qualifying Cup Matches/Goals  1/-
Stirlingshire Cup Matches/Goals  1/1
Stirlingshire Consolation Cup Matches/Goals  2/-
Stirlingshire Coronation Cup Matches/Goals  1/-
Falkirk Hospitals Shield Matches/Goals  1/-
Other Matches/Goals  1/1

Total Matches/Goals  19/4

Known Career – Falkirk [1902/03-1903/04]

Played in Falkirk's first ever Scottish League Match v Clyde (A) Scottish League Division 2, 16th August 1902

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Robert Godfrey signs up for McCrae's Battalion 1914

After digging about on the internet today, I came across the attestation papers of Falkirk FC's Robert "Bob" Godfrey, one of the Falkirk players who joined the 16th Royal Scots in the very early days of the war.


A local lad, the family living on the Tryst Road, 'Bob' had just made the step up from junior football in 1912, and was begining to settle into the Falkirk side as a regular as war was breaking out.

Although normally a centre-half, he occasionally played at right-half, and was Falkirk's emergency goalkeeper [in fact he played a number of games between the sticks for the reserves].

After eventually being given a medeical discharge for having "hammer toe", Bob assisted Stenhousemuir before rejoining the Bairns for a season or two. Then he set off on a journey round many of the Scottish Second Division in the immediate post-war years.

Robert Godfrey

b c1891, Larbert, Stirlingshire

Falkirk Debut – Wednesday September 4th 1912 v Heart of Midlothian (H) Benefit Match
Falkirk League Debut – Saturday April 11th 1914 v St Mirren (A) Scottish League Division 1

Positions – Centre-Half, Right-Half, Goalkeeper [occ]

Falkirk Club Honours – Stirlingshire Cup RU 1913/14, 1914/15, Stirlingshire Consolation Cup W 1912/13

Known Career – Longcroft, Kirkintilloch Rob Roy, Banknock Juniors, Falkirk [1912/13-1914/15], Stenhousemuir [WWI], Falkirk [1918/19], Bathgate [1919/20], East Stirlingshire [1919/20-1920/21], Bathgate [1920/21], Ayr United [1920/21], Alloa Athletic [1920/21], Dumbarton [1921/22], St Bernards [1921/22], Vale of Leven [1922/23], Clackmannan [1922/23], East Stirlingshire [1922/23]

NB- I have read that Robert was the Grandfather of St Mirren & Falkirk's Peter Godfrey, but have been unable to find any definitive proof of the link.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

John Rattray - Falkirk FC 1910-1913


John Rattray

b c1891, Ballingry, Fife
d c1958

Debut – Saturday December 24th 1910 v Raith Rovers (A) Scottish League Division 1
Positions – Centre-Forward
Known Career – Lumphinnans Swifts, Falkirk [1910/11-1912/13], Raith Rovers [1913/14-1914/15], Dunfermline Athletic [1915/16], Ayr United [1915/16], Raith Rovers [1915/16-1920/21], Dumbarton [1918/19], Bethlehem Steel (USA) [1921/22-1923/24], Raith Rovers [1924/25], Dumbarton [1925/26]
Notes – Scored on his League Debut
Height - 5 ft 7½ in: Weight 12 st 0 lbs [1913]