Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Falkirk FC & the Local Press
Oh how things change, ask any East Stirlingshire or Stenhousemuir fan over the treatment that their respective clubs are given in the modern Falkirk Herald and they will no doubt [rightly in my opinion] grumble about the paucity of coverage given in comparison to the greatest team in Stirlingshire [if not the World], ah well.
But I am here to say that the lovey-dovey relationship between Falkirk FC and the Falkirk Herald has not always been so, in fact in my opinion the Falkirk Herald always had a more East Stirlingshire bent in the 1890s in comparison to the Falkirk Mail which had more of the Falkirk leanings.
Below I reproduce letters between the Club Secretary of Falkirk FC & 'Scrutator' [the sports editor of the Falkirk Herald], both published in the Falkirk Herald in November 1889, at possibly the lowest point in the relationship, in my opinion Falkirk Football Club were being far too puerile in their complaints, but you can decide for yourselves.
Falkirk Herald - Edition Saturday 2nd November 1889
Gentlemen, I am authorised by my committee to draw your attention to the following clippings taken from your 'football nonsense' column Saturday last:-
"Overheard in the crowd on Saturday- "Fa'kirk would hae been better wi' Starkey half-dead than Sandy Gillespie livin'. Rough a bit, but a decided compliment to 'Buttons'"
And to inform you that such bye-names and jeering remarks anent our players and officials cannot be longer tolerated, and that unless these unseemly writings are stopped at once, other measures than simply writing you a letter will be adopted to attain that end.
This paragraph- "A Bainsford correspondent wants to know how many umpires Falkirk had on Saturday? He thinks Gillespie appeared to be one, as Bishop's hand went upthe moment Gillespie held his handkerchief aloft, and that was whenever he took the notion."
Allows for only one meaning being taken out of it, and that is that the Falkirk umpire was dishonest.
The paragraph objected to, and all others of a like nature, have nothing to do with a criticism on football matters, and are liable, and have been known to do injury to our players and officials in the pursuit of their daily occupation.
I have to state that unless your reporter sees fit to deal with our matches in a fairer spirit than he has done for the past three years, we will be under the painful necessity of debarring him from entering our grounds. We do not care what you say about our players regarding their play, and always using proper play, our players have feelings just like ordinary human beings, and our committee have decided that these shall not be tampered with by a newspaper correspondent or reporter whenever they think it.
Yours Truly for the Committee, Falkirk FC
Robert Bishop, Secy.
Some notes before the reply
Football back then had two Umpires [linesmen] and [only in big games] a referee [to seperate disagreements between the umpires], the umpires were provided by the two competing teams, thus Bishop, the Umpire mentioned above was also the the Falkirk FC club secretary, and author of the above letter. He went on to be a renowned referee in Scottish circles.
The match in question was a 5-2 away victory over East Stirlinshire in the Stirlingshire Cup coming hard on the heels of 6-1 home defeat against the same opposition in the Scottish Cup the week before.
For the uninitiated the Bainsford reference comes from the fact that originally East Stirlingshire hailed from that part of Falkirk, for us it is an easily decoded message in early publications about which team is being referenced.
Sandy, or Buttons refers to Alex Stark [I still really want to know how he got that nickname], Gillepie was John Gillespie, one of five Gillespie brothers to play for Falkirk [oh and he played for Scotland too, but since he was at QP at the time it doesn't count]
Falkirk Herald - Edition Saturday 9th November 1889
Sir, ... I would feel obliged if you would allow me publicly to ask to specify any inaccuracies he may find, either inaccuracies of omision or commision, in reports made by me in regard to anything relating to Falkirk Football Club. Mr Bishop throws plenty of mud in a general way. However he singles out two paragraphs in particular. Now, what do these paragraphs selected amount to? Simply this, that one contained the essence of a remark heard on the Falkirk football field, and the other a question asked by a correspondent. The objection to the first paragraph seems to be that I referred to Stark by the name of 'Buttons'. Now, if there had been anything objectionable in the nickname, or if I had been the first to use it in reference to Stark there would have been considerable force in an objection being taken to it: but, as a matter of fact, it is a term of endearment, so as to speak, used by the Falkirk members to their justly popular right winger. Not only so, but Stark's partner in the team, has addressed him on the field by that bye-name whwn asking him to pass the ball. I know, without Mr Bishop or any other person requiring to inform me, that football players have feelings, and it would be far from my purpose to hurt Stark's feelings, who has received a greater meed of praise in the column under my charge than any other player in the district.
As to the second paragraph spoken about, I surely do not require to inform "an old hand" in football news like Mr Bishop that it was his place to reply to the question of the correspondent. I am sure the paragraph was commenced in a way of which there was no chance of doubt.
As to his remarks about unfair reports, I would ask him to point out anything he may have seen that is untruthful, I don't believe in generalities; I believe in pointing to a fault. If there is one, I would thank Mr Bishop to point it out. When that is done, then I can answer the remainder of his letter. But, sir, I may be permitted to state, without being egotistical, that frequently I have observed the reports of Falkirk football matches copied into other prints, and that, too, with slight alterations in the phraseology,- I am, &c.,
No other correspondences between the parties were published again, they may have continued in private ... I still think Falkirk Football Club came out the worst, sounding churlish at best. But this doesn't placate those of ESFC & SFC leanings nowadays, all I am saying is that it was not always so nice.
Allow me for a bit of conspiracy, I always believed that 'scru' was a Shire fan, but i never thought he was particularly anti-Falkirk.