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.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Falkirk FC Graves - William Ferguson


Oh Dear, my atrocious filing system does me again. The other day whilst looking through the many pictures I have taken in Camelon Cemetery to try and cut down the sheer number of files on my computer I came across one I had no memory of - that of William Ferguson.

You see, when looking for the gravestones of former Falkirk players, I also take pictures of the headstones of people with the same name whose timescale is roughly similar to that of the Falkirk player, with the intention of having a closer look when I get home, the problem being that many of the pictures get lost in the mass of timestamped jpegs in the folder.

Well, I clearly overlooked the headstone of William Ferguson, so now I have forgotten in which part of the cemetery it lies, oh well ....


The big brother of Falkirk's first proper goalscorer Sandy Ferguson, Willie started out as a winger, but he never really shone in that position, and quickly settled down into his regular position of Right-Half. To be there is little to go on, as even though his career lasted over four seasons at the club, there is such scant information on most of the games in the early seasons that his 18 known matches only tell half the story. Most of the games back then have no information whatsoever about who played in most of the matches at all.

Right-Half was an unglamorous position even back then so very little was said of them unless they scored or had a particularly great game, it would seem William did neither, he played regularly until 1883, then a cameo appearance a couple of seasons later. I cannot say exactly why he dropped from the team for a while, but according to the 1881 census he was an Iron Moulder [another one: in Falkirk!] therefore it is entirely possible that he obtained a place in a foundry somewhere else, perhaps even down south as many others did at the time [for example the only reason that Jock Simpson was born in Pendleton, Lancashire, was that his Father who had lived in Campfield Street was working there].

I can not tell exactly what was going on, I have learned however that workers did move about much more than I previously believed, but until someone finds a William Ferguson playing for a local team in another area known for Iron Founding it will be almost impossible to prove either way, but, you know, I will keep looking.


William Ferguson

b 23rd December 1855, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
d 8th November 1911

Debut – Saturday September 6th 1879 v Kirkintilloch Athletic (A) Friendly
Competitive Debut – Saturday September 27th 1879 v Grasshoppers (H) Scottish Cup 1st Rd

Scottish Cup Matches/Goals [4/-]
Other Matches/Goals [14/-]

Known Career – Falkirk [1879/80-1882/83, 1885/86]

Monday, 5 January 2015

Football Player History


The bizzare thing about the History of Football is that often it is better to read history backwards than forwards, for example after a club, such as Falkirk, sign a Junior player, you can only find out certain things about that player by going back and checking the reports of his junior games than going forward and checking his later career.

For example: often that player played with a brother at the junior level, the other player not making it to senior, which gives you a clue to finding him in the census, so you need to look up stuff of his exploits in the Falkirk & District Junior League.

Another problem is, of course: Births, Deaths and Marriages, I often find players in this section from when they became benedicks before they became Falkirk FC players, deaths is not so usefull for later players, but if they were from well enough to do families the births can help. Of course, the previous junior club can help in where to look, a player with Falkirk Excelsior [d'oh], but with players from outwith Falkirk District, and there are loads, well the Junior Club tells us where to look.

Sometimes it takes us a long time to research stuff. But I tell it here.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Sorry

I am sorry, I have not posted in quite a while, I am sad to say I took my eye off the ball, I am glad to say that I took my eye off the ball because the GF gave me the book of all the English League players from 1888/89 to 1938/39, and I have been busy cross-referencing it with the other info that I have.

Mostly it has been about adding dates of birth/death that I did not know, but it has also revealed the identities of several trialists, who although only playing in one friendly, or minor cup match, still played for Falkirk FC [which is one more match than I will ever get]. It is a big book and it will take me some time [since after I go through the book looking for players who played for Falkirk, I will then go through it looking for the names of known Falkirk players].

But bear with me, I will be back writing about the more pointless [yet interesting to me] points of fact in the history of football in Falkirk District.

Then I will do it all again looking for 'shire players [I love it really].

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Cigarette Cards


Never have been a big fan of collecting cigarette cards, for a start there were always too few Falkirk Players [never mind next to no ESFC players], and to get players once with Falkirk [or 'shire] now with some English team [no offence against the English, just none of you have ever won the Stirlingshire Cup!] seemed wrong. I would try to buy every player connected with Falkirk, but hey, I do have alcohol & tobacco to buy too!!!

I do however monitor, in passing, the trade in cards on ebay etc, and occasionally will try to get a card of a Falkirk player if it seems reasonable, it was with this I came across a card of the legend that was Jock Simpson. With Blackburn, and obviously dated from 1911 [whether later 1910/11 or early 1911/12 I can't say] but since he was born Christmas Day and joined Blackburn in January 1911, it just takes a bit of counting.


I like this, because it gives me his height and weight which I never knew before, and keep records [when I can find them] on a different sheet. And this within a year of signing for Blackburn from Falkirk allows me to crowbar it into my notes.

As it says, he was born in England, but was brought up just outside Falkirk, so couldn't play for Scotland by the rules of the day, and if I am correct in December 1910 became only the second person selected for an England Representative match whilst playing in Scotland after Henry Hammond who was selected whilst being a Master at Blairlodge and a player for East Stirlingshire in the 1890s.

Nota Bene

Just the other day I was looking for Falkirk cigarette cards on ebay, and I came across another one of Syd Puddefoot which I had not seen before, so [obviously] I copied it [I am not paying silly money for a bit of old card]. Here it is -






Sydney Puddefoot c1922

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.