Thursday, 6 June 2013

Lawrence McLachlan


I came across the grave of Lawrence McLachlan the other day, there is not much I can say about him or his Falkirk career. He played in one friendly [v King's Park, 17th November 1883] he scored, then he came back to haunt us too often.
So it is with very kind permission of Drummond Calder that he allowed me to republish his article from the East Stirlingshire programme on the 100th Anniversary of his death. 



Lawrence “Laurie” McLachlan – A True East Stirlingshire Great


Although Laurie was born on 20th August, 1862 in Stane, near the lost village of Shotts Iron Works, he was a product of Bainsford. His father had been a solider but left the army and found work as an iron moulder. He moved from Bainsford to work in the iron foundry at Shotts Iron Works at the time Laurie was born. During the 1800s Falkirk and Shotts were main centres of iron production in Scotland and families moved from one foundry town to another in search of work. By the start of the 1870s the family were back living in Bainsford and over the next 10 years Laurie was brought up there. During Laurie’s life, although he would live in Falkirk from at least 1883 to his death in 1912 and at various times before this, his ties with the village of his birth would never diminish and were further cemented in 1886 when he returned back to Stane to marry his childhood sweatheart. Laurie’s early footballing career is somewhat unclear. It is unknown if he was living in Bainsford when football arrived in the village in 1879 with the formation of the Gentlemen of Bainsford (Bainsford’s 1st recorded football team) and then Britannia in October 1880. Although Laurie was 18 years old at the time our club was formed he was living in Shotts in April 1881 there has been no evidence uncovered yet that he was involved with the club at the outset. He may have played for East Stirlingshire then although we have no confirmation of this or may just not have played football at this point. One thing is known is that Laurie did play for the Glasgow club, Cowlairs and this would have been most likely been during the period from 1881 to 1883, he certainly played for them in season 1882/83. He also played 1 known game for the Hibernians in 1884. It is unknown if he was still living in Bainsford at that time or living elsewhere, which is more likely. However, at the end of 1883 he appears to have returned to Bainsford and was looking for a football club. He played one trial game for the Stirlingshire giants at that time, Falkirk, on 17th November before joining East Stirlingshire in December 1883. It may well have been that Laurie played for East Stirlingshire in the games against Partick Thistle and Vale of Teith in October and November 1883, though it cannot be said for certain. Laurie’s 1st known game for E.S. was on 15th December, 1883 at Bainsford against Hampden XI (Queen’s Park). 1883/84 season proved to be the “breakthrough” season for the club and Laurie was at the forefront of the improvement in the club’s play and standing. There is a remote possibility given the lack of details from the club’s games in the 1st three seasons that he had played for the club as far back as the first ever season.

The signing of Laurie was without a doubt one of the greatest signings that the club has ever made. From his known debut in December 1883 then until end of season 1889/90 he would be a permanent fixture in the club’s 1st XI. At the time Laurie joined East Stirlingshire the standard team formation was 2-2-6 with the forward line being made up of an outside and inside right and left players and two centre forwards. As the game moved into the mid 1880s the formation changed to 2-3-5 with only one centre forward. Laurie was the club’s star centre forward in the 2nd half of the 1880s but he was more than that. He was the catalyst, an inspirational captain, driving the club forward, who took a small local club that were yet to make their mark into the one which dominated the whole county of Stirlingshire and help the club start making its’ mark on the national stage. In doing so Laurie would become the club’s, and even the districts’, first footballing superstar, hero worshipped by the East Stirlingshire fans and admired by everyone else. Certainly Laurie would go on to be the club’s Captain and very likely the all-time record goalscorer (many goals in the games he played in the mid 1880s did not have recorded scorers as the centre forward Laurie would have scored the majority of these unknown goals) scoring 135 known goals for E.S. in 179 known appearances. In reality his goals tally for the club would have been most likely nearer the 200 mark. Laurie was much more than a goalscorer. He was a player that the spectators paid money to come to see and admire. Even 50 odd years on after he had finished playing he was he was still held in upmost regard for his footballing skills as is evidenced from the comments attached to a reproduction of an East Stirlingshire team photograph in the Falkirk Mail in 1942 which said “The famous Laurie McLachlan is in this team; he was a great and clever centre forward.”
From “Reminiscences from 50 years in football” by John M. Harley (written in the mid 20th Century), reproduced in the Scottish Football Historian issue no. 22 (July/August 1985) further insight into Laurie can be gained;
To the juvenile eye there was never such a team at (as) that East Stirlingshire of long ago led by Laurie McLachlan. Never its equal but in our more tolerant moments we give way to the great Queen’s Park who had the felicity of wearing “our” colours.......Laurie McLachlan has been mentioned. Distance may lead enchantment, to the view but a picture remains of that stockily built centre forward, with his danty like steps, dribbling his way to the opponents’ goal – and the culminating shot remain a vivid memory. It is difficult to assess what would have been his value in present day football. They were artists in those days with their individual control of the ball and close passing movements which made the forward line sweep forward in unison quite unknown today. It was an art then, but now a science which makes the ball do the travelling to the exclusion of the prettier form of the game”.
Also, from the East Stirlingshire Club’s 1922 booklet;
Older supporters of the club will still remember Lawrie McLachlan, one of the finest centre-forwards of his day”.
Laurie would go on to win with East Stirlingshire, 9 Cup winners Gold Badges, 3 Cup runners up medals, play in 10 representative matches (scoring 8 goals) with the Inter-County team and also play in 2 representative matches for Falkirk District and in the course becoming the 2nd most decorated E.S. player ever. Laurie also was recognised at national level when he played for the Scottish Crusaders in 1886. He was the 1sr ever player from the district to receive such an honour. Later he was put forward for a tational team cap but never got the nod. During season 1885/86 he would become East Stirlingshire 1st eleven captain, a position he would hold for the next 5 seasons.

Once Laurie had hung up his boots for the last time he still was involved in East Stirlingshire being on the cub committee for a number of seasons. He also tried his hand at refereeing. Laurie’s other great sporting love was cricket and he played for a number of seasons in the late 1890s with Caledonia in the Falkirk Cricket League.

In keeping with footballer players of the time, Laurie played for East Stirlingshire as an amateur. It wasn’t until 1893/94 that the club started to pay their players. Laurie earned a living as a moulder, very likely in Falkirk Iron Works and sadly the harsh working conditions appear to have contributed to his early death at the age of 50. His passing was announced in the Falkirk Herald:
On Thursday last there passed over to the great majority Mr Lawrence McLachlan, who will be well remembered by those who took an interest in football in the early days of the Stirlingshire Association. 'Laurie' as he was familiarly called was working up to almost the last day of November. An Internal trouble then developed, and he died, as stated, on Thursday, in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. The deceased, in the opinion of many was the best centre-forward that ever toed the leather in the 'shire. He was a most prolific goal-scorer and as neat a dribbler of the ball as one could wish to see. Many honours fell to the East Stirling during his connection with the club, and he was a winner of many trophies, a considerable number of these being secured in four-a-side and five-a-side games.”

Lawrence (Laurie) McLachlan – Facts and Player Statistics
Born – 20/8/1862, Charlotte Square, Stane
Died – 26/12/1912, Edinburgh
Debut – 15/12/1883 v Queen’s Park (Hampden XI) (h) Friendly
Positions – Centre-forward, Outside-right, Inside-right
Representative Honours – Stirlingshire v Fife 1884/85, 1885/86, 1886/87 (scored 1 goal), 1889/90 (scored 2 goals) Stirlingshire v Forfarshire 1887/88 Stirlingshire v Lanarkshire 1883/84 (scored 1 goal), 1884/85 (scored 1 goal) Stirlingshire v Linlithgowshire 1885/86 (scored 3 goals), 1886/87, 1888/89 (scored 1 goal) Falkirk District XI V Linlithgowshire (Benefit Match) 1885/86 Falkirk District XI V Rangers (Benefit Match) 1884/85
Club Honours – Stirlingshire Cup W 1885/86, 1886/87, 1887/88, 1888/89 RU 1883/84 Falkirk & District Charity Cup W 1884/85, 1885/86, 1886/87, 1887/88 RU 1888/89, 1889/90 Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield W 1889/90
Known Career – Cowlairs (1882/83), Hibernians (1883/84), Falkirk (1883/84), East Stirlingshire (1883/84 to 1889/90), Tayavalla (1884/85 – played as a guest), King’s Park (1888/89 – played as a guest), Shotts Select (1890/91 – played as a guest)
Played for Probables v Improbables, Stirlingshire Trial Match at Brockville Park, Falkirk, 15/4/1884 (scored 3 goals)
Played for Probables v Improbables, Stirlingshire Trial Match at Bainsford, 7/3/1885
Played for Probables v Improbables, Stirlingshire Trial Match at Brockville Park, Falkirk, 21/4/1886 (scored 2 goals)
Notes - Became the East Stirlingshire 1st eleven Captain by Jan 1886. Was elected 1st eleven Captain at the June 1886 AGM and was club Captain for a total of 5 seasons. Also played for East Stirlingshire 2nd XI (1889/90). Played cricket for Caledonia (1898).

Scottish Cup
Stirlingshire Cup
Falkirk & District Charity Cup
Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield
Friendly
Benefit Match
TOTAL


Season
Apps
Goals
Apps
Goals
Apps
Goals
Apps
Goals
Apps
Goals
Apps
Goals
Apps
Goals
1883/84


2
1




2
0


4
1
1884/85
1
0
4
1
3
2


7
4
1
1
16
8
1885/86
3
1
6
9
2
2


17
11
6
3
34
26
1886/87
2
1
3
3
3
2


24
19
2
1
34
26
1887/88
4
5
4
7
3
2


27
26
2
0
40
40
1888/89
5
6
4
7
3
0


19
11


31
24
1889/90




3
2
2
1
15
7


20
10
TOTAL
15
13
23
28
17
10
2
1
111
78
11
5
179
135
Note: 5/4/1884 Stirlingshire Cup Final - Recorded this as a Lawrence McLachlan goal although this might have been a goal by Robert Sharp. Falkirk Herald said this was a Sharp goal from a shot. However, The Stirling Observer gives the goal to L. McLachlan, who scored from a slight scrimmage after Sharp had put in a good cross from the left.