Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Falkirk & District Junior League 1894/95

Those of you who read this blog regularly may have noticed that I have a bit of a thing for the obscure. Instead of banging on about the obvious things like the Scottish League, I have posted about a goalie who only played in one match [a friendly] and conceded eight goals [against the 'shire FFS], about the grave of another who only played in one competitive match, about a whole season of the reserves and much more random nonsense.

Well here is another [this time non Falkirk FC related] bit of Falkirk footballing obscurantia [my own word]. Centred around the abortive Falkirk & District Junior Association in 1894/95.

[Note for non-Scots: junior football in Scotland does not mean youth football, it is a strange semi-professional parallel to the senior game. It is strong in many villages & small towns who are too small to support a Scottish League club, but there are also clubs in the cities, it is very community orientated. It was born out of clubs who played on public parks and therefore were excluded from the SFA who organised themselves into local [often county] Associations, and then into a national junior association.]

Well, I started out with the intention of detailing [yet] another obscure, short-lived local competition and it's instigators the short lived Falkirk Hibernian, but it grew a bit, because as we know nothing exists in a vacuum and it there was no single reason why 1894/95 nearly broke Junior Football in Falkirk.

But for this post I will be concentrating on the Falkirk District Association and it's clubs.

Club Location Home Ground Approximate Formation
Crosscroes United Standburn Public Park Formed cAug 1894
East End Rovers Grangemouth Zetland Park Formed cFeb 1890
Falkirk Hibernian Falkirk Prince's Park Formed cSep 1894
Gairdoch Juniors Carronshore Gairdoch Park Formed cAug 1894 [May 1886]
Heather Rangers Stenhousemuir Goschen Park Formed cNov 1890
Longcroft Thistle Longcroft Public Park Formed cJan 1893
Rising Star Skinflats Bothkennar Park Formed cNov 1886 [continued sporadically]
Vale of Carron Carron Inns Park Formed cJul 1894

Junior football was not new in the Falkirk region in 1894, several teams had a fair bit of history already and many were well involved in the Stirlingshire Junior Association which was more than five years old by this time, in addition a few of the clubs also had affiliated with the Scottish Junior Football Association so were entered into the Scottish Junior Cup.

But 1894/95 started very slowly for the juniors, with very few early matches to note. No teams had thrown themselves into the hurly burly of a season proper and it was not until October that anything like a busy schedule got up and running.

Date Home

Away

Notes
18th Aug 1894 Falkirk 2nd XI 3 Heather Rangers 3 Friendly
22nd Aug 1894 Vale of Carron 2 Whitefield Swifts 0 Friendly
25th Aug 1894 Heather Rangers 1 Longcroft Thistle 1 Friendly
25th Aug 1894 East End Rovers 8 Rising Star 1 Friendly
1st Sep 1894 Vale of Carron 5 Roselea 1 Friendly
1st Sep 1894 Gairdoch Juniors 2 Gairdoch Ancients 6 Friendly
15th Sep 1894 Vale of Forth 6 Vale of Carron 4 Friendly
15th Sep 1894 Longcroft Thistle 1 East End Rovers 1 Friendly
15th Sep 1894 Heather Rangers 4 Grasshoppers 2nd XI 1 Friendly
22nd Sep 1894 Vale of Carron 11 Alma Athletic 0 Friendly
22nd Sep 1894 Alloa Thistle 9 Heather Rangers 3 Friendly
29th Sep 1894 Falkirk Hibernian 0 Slamannan Swifts 6 Friendly
29th Sep 1894 Vale of Carron 3 Seafield Thistle 1 Friendly
29th Sep 1894 Heather Rangers 3 East End Rovers 1 Friendly

Two important events had happened almost unnoticed in September though. First for a reason never fully explained in the press, Slamannan Swifts [the Stirlingshire Junior Cup holders] were left out of the draw for the 1894/95 competition. It seems from putting pieces together that the Swifts never sent a representative to the first meeting of the season and the other representatives assumed that the club had let their membership lapse. But this was 'grist to the mill', for the Slamannanites.

Relations have always been 'distant' between Falkirk and Slamannan, the two town may share the same county, and Slamannan may be in Falkirk district, but quite simply until relatively recently it was far easier to get to Airdrie or Bathgate than Falkirk for residents of Slamannan [in fact the first Glasgow-Edinburgh railway line in Scotland linked Airdrie & Bathgate through Slamannan, whilst later Falkirk was linked to the two cities by a completely separate line some years later, effectively widening the gap between the two].

Needless to say Slamannan Swifts took their omission as a slight, and appealed to the SJFA. At around the same time a meeting was held in Rankin Lane, Falkirk, which brought into existence the first attempt at a serious football club to the south of Falkirk High Street: Falkirk Hibernian. Led by their enthusiastic secretary Patrick McSorley they were, during their brief existence, at the forefront of trying to put Junior Football in Falkirk on the map.

The Stirlingshire Junior Cup ties were to go ahead as per the original draw, whilst during October the teams of the District suffered very badly in the First round of the Scottish Cup, only Longcroft Thistle [bye] and Heather Rangers [by knocking out neighbours Larbert Windsor] surviving. Things were not looking good and it looked like most teams were going to be without serious matches, and there were still seven months of the season to go.

Date Home

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Notes
6th Oct 1894 Falkirk Hibernian 2 Falkirk Hawthorn 1 Friendly
6th Oct 1894 East End Rovers 5 Gairdoch Juniors 1 Friendly
13th Oct 1894 Campsie Black Watch WO East End Rovers scr Scottish Junior Cup 1st Rd
13th Oct 1894 Kilsyth Rangers 5 Slamannan Swifts 1 Scottish Junior Cup 1st Rd
13th Oct 1894 Heather Rangers 5 Larbert Windsor 1 Scottish Junior Cup 1st Rd
13th Oct 1894 Stirling Emmet 4 Falkirk Hibernian 4 Friendly
20th Oct 1894 Vale of Forth 1 Heather Rangers 1 Friendly
27th Oct 1894 Longcroft Thistle 2 Kilsyth Rangers 2 Scottish Junior Cup 2nd Rd
27th Oct 1894 Campsie Black Watch W Heather Rangers L Scottish Junior Cup 2nd Rd
27th Oct 1894 East End Rovers 1 Camelon 2nd XI 1 Friendly
27th Oct 1894 Rising Star 5 Gairdoch Juniors 2 Friendly

On November 10th the Stirlingshire Junior Cup began with a whimper, with only one of the matches surviving the vagaries of the Scottish climate. Two days later, the representatives of several junior clubs met in the Crown Hotel, Falkirk High Street to form the Falkirk & District Junior Association. The new Association started off with immediate controversy with the decision limiting membership to clubs situated within four miles of the town. This effectively barred both Slamannan Swifts & Slamannan Blue Bell [who had both been invited]. Both clubs complained that Longcroft was more than four miles from the town [they may have had a point], but to no joy, another slight for Slamannan.

The main argument against their inclusion was that Slamannan “is too far away and difficult to get at”, the Slamannan clubs countering that “they would be the greater sufferers as they would have to travel down to Falkirk eight times”, compared to the two trips up the braes by the other clubs, which they were willing to bear, but the Falkirk clubs were resolute.

The first matches were down for the following Saturday [Nov 17th], only two were scheduled for that day because of the postponements in the first round of the Stirlingshire Cup ties.

In the end only one of these matches was completed, darkness prematurely ending Vale of Carron' match with Falkirk Hibernian, Rising Star comfortably beating Crosscroes in the other.

Then the Slamannan Swifts influence came to bear, the SJFA ruled it had been 'inappropriate' to omit the club from the Stirlingshire Junior Cup. The Stirlingshire Association grudgingly agreed to add the Swifts to the first round byes, but under protest from the clubs already knocked out of the competition and under SJFA advice the cup, and all completed matches from the cup were declared null and void, and the competition completely redrawn [irony of ironies, Slamannan Swifts, of course, received a bye in the new first round].

This of course threw the rudimentary Falkirk & District League fixture list into turmoil, the Stirlingshire Cup matches taking priority, it being the senior Association [and it has to be remembered that although the clubs had few competitive matches in their calendars they still had binding agreements for several 'home & away' matches with other clubs].

Date Home

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Notes
3rd Nov 1894 Kilsyth Rangers 4 Longcroft Thistle 2 Scottish Junior Cup 2nd Rd Replay
3rd Nov 1894 Crosscroes United 3 Falkirk Hibernian 0 Benefit Match
3rd Nov 1894 Vale of Carron 1 Gairdoch Juniors 4 Friendly
3rd Nov 1894 Rising Star 3 East End Rovers 1 Friendly
10th Nov 1894 Falkirk Hibernian 3 Rising Star 6 Stirlingshire Junior Cup [Abandoned]
10th Nov 1894 Heather Rangers 4 Campsie Black Watch 4 Stirlingshire Junior Cup [Void]
10th Nov 1894 Kilsyth Rangers 1 Larbert Windsor 0 Friendly*
10th Nov 1894 Longcroft Thistle 3 East End Rovers 0 Friendly*
10th Nov 1894 Vale of Carron 5 West End Athletic 1 Friendly
17th Nov 1894 Longcroft Thistle 4 East End Rovers 3 Stirlingshire Junior Cup [Void]
17th Nov 1894 Vale of Carron 5 Falkirk Hibernian 1 Falkirk Junior League [Aband 75 mins]
17th Nov 1894 Rising Star 6 Crosscroes United 2 Falkirk Junior League
17th Nov 1894 Gairdoch Juniors 1 Heather Rangers 4 Friendly
24th Nov 1894 Gairdoch Juniors 3 Rising Star 2 Falkirk Junior League
24th Nov 1894 Heather Rangers 6 Vale of Carron 3 Falkirk Junior League
24th Nov 1894 Falkirk Hibernian 2 Rumford Rovers 1 Friendly
24th Nov 1894 Grasshoppers 2nd XI 1 Longcroft Thistle 4 Friendly

The new Stirlingshire Cup was scheduled to start in December, it largely went to plan, the only problem being the Gairdoch Juniors v Rising Star match, which was twice abandoned because of the crowd encroaching on the field of play [the second time with only two minutes to go]. Other than this and a League match being cancelled due to the state of the pitch, the schedule went as well as could be expected under the circumstances. December was by far the closest the League came the closest to functioning properly.

About the most interesting match of the season happened in December when Falkirk Hibernian took the field against Gairdoch with only nine men, and finding themselves five goals down at half-time. On change of ends and the Hibernian now playing down the slope [and locals will attest there is a very pronounced slope on Prince's Park, so much so that it is difficult to imagine a football match on the modern park], took the game to the 'Gairs, winning the game 6-5!

Date Home

Away

Notes
1st Dec 1894 Vale of Carron 4 East End Rovers 1 Stirlingshire Junior Cup 1st Rd
1st Dec 1894 Falkirk Hibernian WO Campsie Black Watch scr Stirlingshire Junior Cup 1st Rd
1st Dec 1894 Heather Rangers 6 Larbert Windsor 1 Stirlingshire Junior Cup [Protest]
1st Dec 1894 Gairdoch Juniors 0 Rising Star 3 Stirlingshire Junior Cup [Aband 65 mins]
8th Dec 1894 Rising Star 2 Vale of Carron 2 Falkirk Junior League
8th Dec 1894 Gairdoch Juniors 3 Crosscroes United 0 Falkirk Junior League
8th Dec 1894 Longcroft Thistle 12 Heather Rangers 0 Falkirk Junior League
8th Dec 1894 Tillicoultry Victoria 4 Falkirk Hibernian 2 Friendly
15th Dec 1894 Falkirk Hibernian 6 Gairdoch Juniors 5 Falkirk Junior League
15th Dec 1894 East End Rovers 5 Longcroft Thistle 1 Falkirk Junior League
22nd Dec 1894 Heather Rangers 11 Larbert Windsor 0 Stirlingshire Junior Cup 1st Rd
22nd Dec 1894 Whitefield Swifts 1 Kilsyth Rangers 2 Stirlingshire Junior Cup 1st Rd
22nd Dec 1894 Rising Star 3 Gairdoch Juniors 4 Stirlingshire Junior Cup [Aband 88 mins]
22nd Dec 1894 Falkirk Hibernian 6 Crosscroes United 0 Falkirk Junior League
22nd Dec 1894 Dunipace 2nd XI 7 Vale of Carron 0 Friendly
29th Dec 1894 East End Rovers 1 Falkirk Hibernian 1 Friendly*
29th Dec 1894 Falkirk 2nd XI 3 Heather Rangers 2 Friendly
29th Dec 1894 Rising Star 4 Whitefield Swifts 1 Friendly
31st Dec 1894 Whitefield Swifts 2 Heather Rangers 2 Friendly

In order to raise funds for the new League a New Year's match was arranged against the Stirlingshire Association to be held at East Stirlingshire's Merchiston Park on Wednesday the 2nd of January. The result showed the potential strength in the Junior Game in Falkirk, with the League side beating the Association side 4-0.

Falkirk District League – Reid [Vale of Carron]; Grant [Rising Star] & Dunn [East End Rovers]; Archibald [Vale of Carron], McIntosh [Vale of Carron] & Murray [Crosscroes United]; Fish [Heather Rangers] & Lorne [Heather Rangers], Muirhead [East End Rovers], Leyden [East End Rovers] & Thomson [Vale of Carron].
Stirlingshire Association – Murray [Heather Rangers]; Stirling [Kilsyth Rangers] & Omit [Larbert Windsor]; J.McSorley [Falkirk Hibernian], Reid [Vale of Carron] & Nugent [Kilsyth Rangers]; Sinclair [Falkirk Hibernian] & Mitchell [Falkirk Hibernian], Walker [Falkirk Hibernian], Parrot [Vale of Carron] & Laird [Rising Star]

As if the reorganisation of the Stirlingshire Cup had not already added to the League's problems, in January one of the worst winters then struck, calling off matches all over the country. This, of course hit junior clubs more than the senior clubs who had largely enclosed their grounds and employed a groundsman to take care of it.

There were weekends weekends with no matches reported in the local press, and some throughout January and February when only the biggest and most important of matches survived.

It was not until January that the first round of the Stirlingshire Cup was completed, the Association forcing Gairdoch and Rising Star to play their tie at Ochilview Park [Stenhousemuir FC] because of the previous abandonments. But every week brought new postponements pushing the fixtures further & further back. It was becoming more & more difficult to fit in the backlog of matches around already scheduled matches.

Date Home

Away

Notes
2nd Jan 1895 Falkirk Junior League 4 Stirlingshire Junior Ass 0 Benefit Match
2nd Jan 1895 Heather Rangers 6 Crown Athletic 1 Friendly
5th Jan 1895 Vale of Carron

Longcroft Thistle

Longcroft No show
19th Jan 1895 Gairdoch Juniors 4 Rising Star 2 Stirlingshire Junior Cup 1st Rd
19th Jan 1895 Longcroft Thistle 1 Slamannan Swifts 3 Stirlingshire Junior Cup 2nd Rd
19th Jan 1895 Camelon 2nd XI 6 East End Rovers 0 Friendly
19th Jan 1895 Falkirk Hibernian 0 Vale of Carron 2 Friendly*
19th Jan 1895 Crosscroes United 3 Whitefield Swifts 1 Friendly
26th Jan 1895 East End Rovers 0 Falkirk 2nd XI 2 Friendly
2nd Feb 1895 Gairdoch Juniors 6 Falkirk Hibernian 2 League [protest]
2nd Feb 1895 Vale of Carron 4 Heather Rangers 3 League [protest]
2nd Feb 1895 Rising Star 4 Dunipace 2nd XI 4 Friendly
16th Feb 1895 Grasshoppers 0 Longcroft Thistle 7 Friendly
16th Feb 1895 Vale of Carron 8 Bainsford Blue Bell 1 Friendly
23rd Feb 1895 Crosscroes United 2 Gairdoch Juniors 2 Stirlingshire Junior Cup 2nd Rd
23rd Feb 1895 Rising Star 3 Longcroft Thistle 1 Falkirk Junior League
23rd Feb 1895 East End Rovers 3 Heather Rangers 2 Friendly*
23rd Feb 1895 Vale of Carron 3 Vale of Grange 2 Friendly

By March it seemed like most of the clubs had given up the ghost with the nascent league, only Falkirk Hibernian [when possible] trying to keep anywhere close to the agreed fixtures, several matches being called off at the last minute. In the end only two matches being played in the whole month.

Date Home

Away

Notes
2nd Mar 1895 Kilsyth Rangers 10 Heather Rangers 0 Stirlingshire Junior Cup 2nd Rd
2nd Mar 1895 Falkirk Hibernian 0 Vale of Carron 10 Stirlingshire Junior Cup 2nd Rd
2nd Mar 1895 Gairdoch Juniors 4 Crosscroes United 1 Stirlingshire Junior Cup 2nd Rd
2nd Mar 1895 East End Rovers 3 Rising Star 2 Friendly
9th Mar 1895 Falkirk Hibernian 2 Longcroft Thistle 5 Falkirk Junior League
23rd Mar 1895 Vale of Carron 2 Kilsyth Rangers 2 Stirlingshire Junior Cup Semi-Final
23rd Mar 1895 East End Rovers 6 Falkirk Hibernian 3 Falkirk Junior League
23rd Mar 1895 Rising Star 4 Vale of Grange 1 Friendly
30th Mar 1895 Kilsyth Rangers 4 Vale of Carron 2 Stirlingshire Junior Cup Semi-Final Replay
30th Mar 1895 Rising Star 2 East End Rovers 2 ?????
30th Mar 1895 Stenhousemuir 2nd XI 4 Heather Rangers 2 Friendly

April spelt the death of the league, it was clear that the remaining matches were never going to be fulfilled, even the enthusiastic Falkirk Hibernian, though continuing to play, could only turn out shadow sides, and were a far cry from the side that had rallied in that second half against Gairdoch only a couple of months previously. The rest of the season being mainly given over to ensuring the completion of the Stirlingshire Cup.

Date Home

Away

Notes
6th Apr 1895 Rising Star 8 Falkirk Hibernian 1 Falkirk Junior League
13th Apr 1895 Gairdoch Juniors 2 East End Rovers 4 ????
13th Apr 1895 Kirkintilloch Rob Roy 1 Longcroft Thistle 0 Friendly
13th Apr 1895 Stenhousemuir 2nd XI 7 Vale of Carron 1 Friendly
20th Apr 1895 Slamannan Swifts 3 Gairdoch Juniors 2 Stirlingshire Junior Cup Semi-Final
27th Apr 1895 Camelon 2nd XI 4 Gairdoch Juniors 5 Friendly
2nd May 1895 Falkirk Hibernian 2 East End Rovers 4 Falkirk Junior League
11th May 1895 Rising Star 5 Woodbine Rovers 1 Friendly
16th May 1895 Kilsyth Rangers 3 Slamannan Swifts 1 Stirlingshire Junior Cup Final
18th May 1895 Rising Star 2 East End Rovers 0 ????

This season effectively encapsulated the life of Falkirk Hibernian, they played a couple of friendlies at the beginning of the next season, but then they just faded away. The other clubs involved continued playing with varying levels of success, but they were all village teams so rooted in a community, whereas Falkirk Hibernian's natural support [I don't even have to say it] was spread throughout the town, with clusters in the Howgate & Silver Row [both formerly poor areas of town, now built over by shopping centres!]. However the small populations of Standburn, Skinflats & Longcroft meant that these clubs could rarely compete, even at a local level. To this day, only the Gairdoch club survives in any form [though it is, technically, a different club].

In hindsight many factors came together to hinder the proper organisation of the Falkirk & District Junior Association: the late start was bad enough; the redrawing of the Stirlingshire Junior Cup added to the fixture pressures; but the straw that broke the camel's back was the disruption to the fixtures caused by the severely cold weather in January and February. Every Cup and League fixture had a cascading effect which eventually became unrecoverable, and after May nothing was heard of the League ever again.

No champions were ever pronounced, quite correctly it does not really exist in any histories of the junior game in Scotland, Stirlingshire or Falkirk, but then again only Falkirk Hibernian completed as many as half of their matches. Correspondingly no final table was ever published, but from what I know I have been able to put together the following. There were other matches which may have been League matches but it is too unclear to be certain and some matches may have been played but gone unpublished due to the eventual lack of interest.

Falkirk & District Junior League
P
W
D
L
F
A
Pts
Rising Star
5
3
1
1
21
10
7
Gairdoch Juniors
4
3
-
1
17
10
6
East End Rovers
3
3
-
-
15
6
6
Vale of Carron
4
2
1
1
9
11
5
Longcroft Thistle
4
2
-
2
19
10
4
Falkirk Hibernian
7
2
-
5
22
34
4
Heather Rangers
3
1
-
2
9
19
2
Crosscroes United
3
-
-
3
2
15
-

This was the chaos that happened when eight of the best junior clubs in the region tried to organise themselves. To try to put some kind of perspective on that, and how mental it could have been, here are the names of 79 other clubs who were reported playing matches during the 1894/95 season in and around Falkirk.

Alma Athletic
Alma Thistle
Alma Wanderers
Back Row
Bainsford Blue Bell
Bainsford Bridge Thistle
Bainsford Northern
Bank Street
Bantaskine
Beancross Athletic
Bo'ness Road Thistle
Britannia
Blinkbonny Thistle
Bonnybridge Thistle
Boyd Street Wanderers
Campfield Rovers
Carron Thistle
Cockburn Street
Cow Wynd Rangers
Cow Wynd Wanderers
Dalderse Swifts
Garrison Swifts
Glebe Rangers
Glebe Star
Glebe Thistle
Glen Rangers
Grahamston Albert
Grahamston Star
Grahamston Swifts
Grahamston Thistle
Grange Thistle
High Station
High Station Rovers
High Station Star
Honeymoon Swifts
Honeymoon Terrace
Howgate Hibernians
Falkirk Celtic
Falkirk East End
Falkirk Hawthorn
Falkirk Minerva
Kerse Lane
Kerse Rangers
Larbert Wild Rose
Larbert Windsor
Laurieston Rovers
Laurieston Swifts
Merchiston Swifts
Munro Street Rangers
Northern Star
Oakleaf
Parkfoot Rangers
Persian Rovers
Pleasance Star
Redding
Roselea
Royal Oak
Rumford Rovers
Slamannan Blue Bell
Slamannan Strollers
Slamannan Swifts
Slamannan Thistle
Springfield Rovers
Springfield Wanderers
Star of Grange
Station Star
Thornbank Swifts
Thornhill Swifts
Thornhill Wanderers
Union Jack
United Star
Vale of Grange
West End Hibs
West End Swifts
Western Athletic
Whitefield Swifts
Woodbine Rovers
Woodvale Rovers
Zetland Swifts