Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Sunday Football in Stenhousemuir 1890

Falkirk Herald - 1st March 1890

Stenhousemuir Local News


"The craze for this not particularly elevating pastime appears to be developing beyond the bounds of common decency. This was evidenced by the fact that number of young lads of ages ranging from 12 to 18 years were seen engaging in a game at football the other Sunday evening. A long game was engaged in, and though asked by young lady passer-by to desist, little or no attention was given. About a month ago some of this playing was going on previous to the evening service, it was viewed without murmur by about 200 spectators."

Monday, 24 December 2018

Did Falkirk FC invent the diamond formation?

Falkirk FC were undergoing one of their regular poor seasons in 1892/93 - Their demon Goalkeeper John Patrick had been poached by St Mirren, John Drummond had been theived by Rangers, John Gillespie pilfered by Queen's Park, Thomas McDonald had gone off in a strop to Slamannan Rovers and Danny Daye had got a real job in a foundry.

Falkirk had adequate replacements for most of these players, except McDonald & Daye, Inside-Right and Centre-Forward respectively. For the early part of the season Falkirk had used Robert Fearns, normally a Right-Half to cover in the Inside-Right position, and a continuation of transient journeymen, all failures at Centre-Forward. But all was not going well, the club were in the bottom half of the Scottish Federation, and not looking like climbing the table anytime soon.

Then in January, Fearns got injured. Falkirk then used a trialist who proved a "total frost" at Inside-Right in the Cup game against Campsie Falkirk losing 4-3 - a disaster only averted by the fact that Campsie had played a Left-Back who had played in the Army Cup that season (the lack of clarity in the SFA rules as to whether the Army Cup constituted a cup saving Falkirk this time), therefore the game was ordered to be replayed.

In the rematch Falkirk played their usual Centre-Half, John Pray, at Inside-Right, hoping he would emulate Fearns' promotion [it has to be said Pray had previously covered at Centre-Forward with mixed success], at the same time Falkirk promoted Paddy Wemyss from the 2nd XI to play at Centre-Half.

Reading the match reports, Pray was not particularly impressive at Inside-Right and in the second half was ordered to play in his usual Centre-Half role. Falkirk were playing with no Inside-Right and two Centre-Halves, however Pray was given licence to come forward linking the Half-Back line with the forwards, whilst Wemyss retained a more defensive central position, Falkirk went on to win the cup tie, though not necessarily by dint of Falkirk's tactical fudge.

The very next week Falkirk played almost the same line-up, except Pray and Wemyss had been reversed. Seemingly the selecting committee hoping Wemyss would prove a better Inide-Right. But it was not to be so, within 15 minutes of the match against Kilsyth Wanderers Pray & Wemyss again swapped, with Pray again given the role of an extra Centre-Half with licence to link between the halves and the forwards.

Falkirk continued to play two Centre-Halves in their matches for about a month and a half, always Pray going forward and Wemyss staying back, with a Right-Half and a Left-Half this is clearly a diamond in the midfield.

As an experiment it was certainly more successfull than Falkirk's form in the first half of the season, however it fundamentally relied upon Falkirk's best player of the time Alex Stark controlling the whole of the Right-Wing on his own, therefore when Alex started missing matches because of work commitments (it was pre-proffessionalism) it quickly fell apart.

Eventually, Fearns, plus veteran John "Sodger" McDonald (and even the prodigal Thomas McDonald) became available towards the end of the season, Fearns returned to Right-Half, Falkirk played a regular 2-3-5 and their "extra Centre-Half" experiment was given up. Although it came about by pure necessity and not through tactical innovation it would seem Falkirk had stumbled upon playing a defensive central midfielder with an attacking central midfielder decades before it became a recognised tactic.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Kick meaning Kink

There is thing in Cartographic Archeology called a "kick", the word is etymologically from the same source as kink, it is wherein a normally straight road deviates because of a feature, be it natural or because of a landowner.

Recently I have resolved why East Stirlingshire played at Randyford Park, when East Stirlingshire were formed in 1881 [Britannia in 1880] there was no direct road to Ladysmill, so it seems daft.

But I looked at yer old maps, and guess what?

So, back in 1817 there was a direct road between Bainsford Bridge and Randyford [after all Bainsfordites wouldnt want to go to Falkirk].

The idea that Thornhill Road continued to Bainsford Bridge is confirmed by the 1897 Map where you can see the road in the property boundaries compared to the new Falkirk Iron Works.

I guess that Thornhill Road was an even older road than Graham's Road because Graham's Road is buckled so must go around property, whereas Thornhill doesn't. That and it connects Bainsford with the historic route from Falkirk Parish Church to the site of the Abbot's Grange.

William Ritchie or Finnigan

Sadly footballers are human beings too, therefore suffer from the same foibles we do. This occasionally meanders into the territory of what we call a person, and that that can differ from what the state recognises as that person's name.

Families are complicated things at the simplest of times, but when it does not work in the Nuclear fashion the state has little concept of how we feel as people. So when I am given the most scant information about a Falkirk FC player [given name and family name] that is all fine until that person's outlook changes in the Real World.

The boy that started playing with Queensferry Hibernian as William Ritchie in the mid 1880s as a man decided to be known as William Finnigan by 1891, yet retained the name Ritchie in football.

All I know is that Ritchie was his Mother's surname, that Finnigan was his Father's surname and that he was born out of wedlock in the parish of Abercorn, Linlithgowshire. Other than that I know not why he felt it necessary to change name.

Were it not for a protest from Bo'ness FC to the East of Scotland FA over this discrepancy I would have remained ignorant of William's identity.

William Ritchie

b 3rd January 1869, Abercorn, Linlithgowshire


Falkirk Debut – Saturday September 10th 1892 v Clydebank (H) Scottish Federation

Positions – Goalkeeper, Right-Back, Centre-Forward

Club Honours – Falkirk District Charity Cup RU 1894/95

Known Falkirk FC Career
Scottish Cup Matches/Goals [1/-]
Scottish Federation Matches/Goals [6/-]
Midland League Matches/Goals [3/-]
Stirlingshire Cup Matches/Goals [3/-]
Falkirk & District Charity Cup Matches/Goals [2/-]
Falkirk Infirmary Shield Matches/Goals [1/-]
Other Matches/Goals [7/-]
Scottish 2nd XI Cup Matches/Goals [2/-]

Known Career – Queensferry Hibernian, Bellstane Birds [1888/89-1889/90], Falkirk [1892/93-1894/95], Camelon [1893/94], Grasshoppers [1894/95], Falkirk [1895/96].

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Charles Edward Napier

Last summer, when I was out and about in Grandsable Cemetery I found the stone of a man that was far more famed in Scotland when playing in the Green & White Hoops than in Falkirk's Navy Blue [never mind his time in England]. Such is the manner of Scottish Football.

I am talking about Charles Edward Napier, son of the former Falkirk FC Secretary Charles Edward Napier. Yes, he had Falkirk FC in his blood before he left Alva Albion Rovers for Celtic. Not saying a word against our brothers in Glasgow but Chic Napier was a Falkirk boy, and when European conflict sent him home he came to Falkirk.

Picture 'thefted' from the Celtikwiki: I hope they forgive me.

All in all Charles [as the local Falkirk Herald respectfully called him] played in more than a hundred matches and scored [from midfield] nearly 50 goals for Falkirk: these are figures that shame some of our best centre-forwards of recent years [written 2018]. There are those out there that might say his 'home club' was East Stirlingshire, but as the 'shire 'wound up for the war we were the local team.

We can say very little about Charles' time at Falkirk as, as anyone who has tried to research football during the War will know football reporting was limited from both sides, both from physical limitations on the amount of paper and from the Home Office limiting the facts that could be said.

But facts speak more than my words and these are the facts of Charles Napiers' time at Falkirk.

Charles Edward Napier

b 8th October 1910, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
d 5th September 1973, Laurieston, Stirlingshire

League Debut – Saturday October 28th 1939 v Cowdenbeath (H) Scottish League [N/E]
Positions – Inside-Left, Centre-Forward, Right-Half

Club Honours – Scottish League RU 1939/40, Scottish League [North/East] W 1939/40,

Southern League Matches/Goals [64/17]
North/East League Matches/Goals [23/21]
Southern League Cup Matches/Goals [6/1]
Dewar Shield Matches/Goals [5/-]
Emergency Cup Matches/Goals [4/2]
Other Matches/Goals [5/2]
North Eastern League Matches/Goals [2/-]
North Eastern League Cup Matches/Goals [1/-]
Hat-Tricks – 3 [North/East League [3]]

Known Career – Grangemouth Sacred Heart [School], Cowie Thistle [Juvenile], Alva Albion Rangers [Junior], Maryhill Hibernian [Loan from Celtic], Celtic [1928/29-1934/35], Derby County [1935/36-1937/38], Sheffield Wednesday [1938/39-1945/46], Falkirk [1939/40-1940/41, 1943/1944, 1945/46], Stenhousemuir [1946/47-1947/48]

Played for Scotland v England, Wartime International at St James' Park, Newcastle, 2nd December 1939
Son of Charles Napier [Falkirk FC Secretary 1898/99-1899/00]

Friday, 5 January 2018

Lost football Grounds of Falkirk - Randyford

Nobody knew where Randyford was, for a long time I believed Randyford was the same as Woodburn Park which was a Junior ground in the Modern Day Boag used by several minor teams in the 1890s.

But I have been convinced otherwise. The term Randyford means little in modern Falkirk parlance, but is mostly guided by Randyford Street in the Boag [which I might as well add runs parrallel with the Grangemouth Rd. But to understand Falkirk Football Club in 1878 we have to understand Falkirk in 1878.

The earliest I can reel it back without going too far is the map of Falkirk created for the Great Reform Act of 1832. There, on the Grangemouth Road is the Randyford Farm.

 The next record of Randyford is in Scotland's record Books.

In case you are not good at Copperplate, that says:

"A farmsteading one storey high. slated and in good repair Property of William Forbes Esq. Callendar Ho [House] Falkirk"

The farm had moved place by the 1890s to across the road. Yet the farm named Woodburn in 1891 is clearly the farm named Randyford in 1832

But this doesn't prove where Falkirk FC played,

I mean I can't prove Falkirk FC played here.

Now there is no doubt that both Falkirk & East Stirlingshire played at Randyford [historical record], but this does not tell us where, then the actual ground was.

Then Drummond of the Shire sent me a copy of a letter sent in to the Falkirk Herald in 1948...

The letter resolves some issues, but also raises some, for example the dates are wrong. However, given that this letter was published some 65 years after the very facts we can give a bit of leeway on the odd year.

The most important fact is that a player then states what was there in 1948, "where the Ice Rink now was [sic]" This places Falkirk & East Stirlingshire Ground North of the Grangemouth Road and between the Burn and the farm track to Middlefield.

As to its alignment?

Sunday, 3 December 2017

The Curious Case of Johnny Dora

I wrote a blog post about John Dora a long time back, he was a Centre-Forward Falkirk signed from Arbroath who scored 2 goals in 3 games before breaking his leg and disappearing from the game.

The very little information about him was confusing, for example the Falkirk Herald said he was Italian, while the Arbroath Herald had stated he was born in Arbroath but his parents were from Italy.

Anyway, since his playing career was just under a century ago, this means that most of the usual sources [censuses etc] are still confidential, so I had sort of given up on finding more details without stumbling over it.

So I was a bit surprised when I was sent an e-mail the other day, written in Italian and titled "John Dora o Giovanni Dorà" it linked to an article on the history of Borgotaro Football.

In one of the chapters it tells the story of Borgotarese player Giovanni 'Johnny' Dorà being called up to play in the Italian Championship for Parma in 1925.

In the text of the article Johnny is described as "Tall, wiry, in his long stays in Scotland [he] had learned the game of foot-ball managing to graft into his Latin fantasy, the solidity and the concreteness of the British style." and that "Some time later, while in the newspapers there was talk of the interest of Bologna and Inter, Dorà returned to Scotland." [apologies for the translation].

So the Dorà that played for Borgotarese and Parma certainly had Scottish Connections but it is unclear where he was from, and even if this was the same person. but there is clearly something there.

Crucially in the article there was a picture of a Johnny wearing a Parma top.

The best picture I have of John Dora was from 1930 and there are certainly facial similarities, although this could just be a family likeness.

Last night I had a good dig about the internet looking for more info, and luckily Italian wikipedia had more, though it is interesting to note that the Italian Wiki is as flawed as the English one.

Giovanni Dorà it claims was born in Borgo Val di Taro [Borgotaro] on the 29th of May 1905, and that he was a defender, however on a website on the history of Serie A where line-ups are given, he is only ever listed in the Inside-Left or Centre-Forward positions [even though by this time Italian Football was under the influence of the Danubian School, it was not so radically different that a number 10 was playing in defence].

So there we are, in 1925 the Arbroath papers said that John Dora had joined Ardenlea from Parkhouse Half-Holiday, while the Italian papers are carrying reports of Giovanni Dorà joining Parma from Borgotarese: it was not unknown for Scottish-Italians to split their time between the two countries back then, it is well documented that Peter Cabrelli split his time between Scottish & Italian football. Until I find something definitive it will have to remain in the possibly category.


I had a wider root about in the newspapers for more information, and found an obituary in the Press &  Journal of 8 February 1971. Although it doesn't really clear things up, it backs up his birthplace as being Arbroath, but it claims that he ended his football career with Parma, rather than the other way around, of course he could have had two different spells at Parma!

I have now had confirmation from the family that the date of birth on the Italian Wikipedia page is correct, however the place of birth was incorrect, he was indeed born in Arbroath.

John Paul Dora

b 29th May 1905, Arbroath, Forfarshire
d February 1971, Arbroath, Angus

Known Career – Parkhead Half-Holiday, Arbroath Ardenlea [1925/26-1928/29], Borgotarese [1925/26], Parma [1925/26], Arbroath [1929/30], Falkirk [1929/30]

Parma Debut – Sunday October 25th 1925 v Reggiana (H) Campionato Italiano, Lega Nord, Girone B
Positions - Inside-Left, Centre-Forward
Campionato Italiano Matches/Goals [12/-]

Arbroath Debut – Saturday August 10th 1929 v Clydebank (H) Scottish League Division 2
Positions – Centre-Forward
Scottish League Division 2 Matches/Goals [21/15]
Scored a Hat-Trick on his Debut.

Falkirk Debut – Saturday January 18th 1930 v Buckie Thistle (A) Scottish Cup 1st Rd
Falkirk League Debut – Saturday January 25th 1930 v Morton (A) Scottish League Division 1
Positions – Centre-Forward
Scottish League Division 1 Matches/Goals [1/1]
Scottish Cup Matches/Goals [2/1]

NB - Thanks to Arbroath FC for putting this on their Facebook page, without which ...