Saturday, 29 June 2013

Not the First Ever Falkirk FC Match

Yes, that is what I meant, this is not about the first ever match played by Falkirk Football Club. Sadly, it would seem that match has been completely lost to the ravages of history. This is, however about the first match by the club when there was a report published in the Falkirk Herald.

The date of publication was Saturday March 30th 1878, and it leaves a lot to be desired, but then again football was nowhere near the established game it is these days.

First of all it was clearly written by a 'reporter' and not submitted by one the club secretaries as was usually the case before the Herald got a permanent football writer.

What is more the reporter was not, yet, a devotee of football in Falkirk District. This is evidenced by the fact that Falkirk were playing 'Bonnybridge' and not Grasshoppers who were the only club from the village. It is clearly not Falkirk's first match, since it is described as a 'return match' [I have looked everywhere I can think for evidence of the first match, Stirling papers, Kilsyth papers, Airdrie papers, but no joy].

The match was played at 'Campfield'. There are only two possibilities for a 'Campfield' in Falkirk, one is in the middle of Grahamston [as seen by the modern Campfield Street. But Grahamston was then seen as distinct from Falkirk [certainly by the Falkirk Herald]. The other Campfield was the traditional location of the Government Army encampment prior to the second Battle of Falkirk in 1746, which was land West of Today's Hope street [as seen by the modern Campfield House on Wellside Place]. The second of these is most likely as not only is it in Falkirk, but also the Falkirk Summer Sports events had often been held on the field at the foot of Hope Street [NB - this does not make it the same as Brockville, but it is very close, and most of that area was built up by then, except where Brockville was to be].

"As this is the first football match that has been played in Falkirk". This statement is just wrong. The Falkirk Herald itself on Saturday December 15th 1877 had published a report of the 'first football match in Falkirk', this match, played on the grounds of Mayfield House [near the modern Bantaskine Housing Estate] was between Kelvinbank and a "team composed of Falkirk 'Bairns' presently located in Glasgow ... were drafted from various clubs in Glasgow, they had never previously played together".

The report of the actual game is perfunctory at best, "Grasshoppers had the best of the first half, scoring twice: Falkirk rallied in the second half also scoring twice" is a good way to boil it down

For some reason the line-ups were listed backward, it was already the norm in the mid 1870s to list teams as - GK: RB & LB: RH & LH: OR & IR, CR & CL, IL & OL [note the 2-2-6 formation so strange looking to modern eyes]. In the team line-up also it has the Falkirk goalkeeper as 'A.McQueen', this is obviously the error of a scribe writing down the details by ear from a club source and mishearing, as for the rest of the season the Falkirk goalkeeper was Angus McEwan. There are also two J.Taylors which helps no-one.

This is just an interesting bit of history, but it shows how many daft little complexities can be introduced by one little match report, filed by a journalist covering something he probably thought was of little, but passing local interest. As I said at the start, this was before football had become so ingrained in Scottish culture. No one knew if Falkirk FC [or even Football] would still be going nearly 150 years later on, in fact Grasshoppers were the more established club [formed in 1875] they had already played several Scottish Cup matches.

But if it was simple there would little space on the internet for obsessive compulsive little historians like me.