Saturday, 11 May 2013

Why Falkirk's Biggest win should have been bigger


I have often thought in my moments of weakness that I was brought up to support the wrong team, my lack of faith is enhanced by the tales that other teams can tell, such as the Raith Rovers team being sunk on the way to the Canary Islands, Third Lanark touring Argentina [twice] in the 1920s, Stanley Matthews playing for Stenhousemuir, we did none of that. But we did have our high points – This is not one!

Other teams have great, or even interesting, biggest victories, that of Falkirk seems lame, [as recently as 1984 Stirling Albion put 20 past Selkirk].

Falkirk FC [the best team in Stirlingshire, if not the world] recorded their best best ever victory [in terms of goals] against Bridge of Allan, in the Midland League, 15-0.

Now, I know, 15-0 is bloody good [better than most] but it is the nature, and the fact it could have been better that irks me.

The date was the 28th of April 1894, the place was Brockville Park, and a very strong Falkirk side was up against a very weakened Bridge of Allan side.

Falkirk – R.McNeil; T.Turnbull & T.McFarlane; H.McKinnon, J.Pray & R.Fearns; A.Stark & F.Kenny, J.McLaren, J.Tennant & A.Hamilton.
Scorers – J.Pray, R.Fearns 2, A.Hamilton 2, J.Tennant 2, J.McLaren 2, A.Stark, H.McKinnon 3, F.Kenny 2

Bridge of Allan – Anderson; Ferguson & Smart; McPherson, Silver & Carmichael; Kinross & Hoggart, Thomson, Noble & Reid.
Scorers - None

Falkirk went straight on the offensive and were three goals to the good by the ten minute mark. Constantly pressing there was only one team in it and Falkirk were eight goals to the good by the break. Falkirk were looking on form and this could be a rout, then somebody took a mental turn. With Bridge of Allan on the ropes Falkirk completely altered their formation.

In the second half Falkirk turned out as

J.Tennant; A.Hamilton & A.Stark; J.McLaren, F.Kenny & R.McNeil; T.Turnbull & H.McKinnon, J.Pray, T.McFarlane & R.Fearns.

Yes, I know, this re-organised team scored almost as many as the proper eleven had in the first [Hugh McKinnon even scored a second half hat-trick], but I will always want to know what that front five might have done to a tiring and demoralised Bridge of Allan side [according to my calculations that five score 423 goals for Falkirk between them [Kenny the weak link with only 24!!]], I know they could have done much better, but it was not to happen, it ended 15-0 and that is that.

To this day it stands as Falkirk's biggest ever win, I think it should have been bigger.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Forgotten Derbies – Falkirk v King's Park

Falkirk's obvious rivalry is with our neighbours East Stirlingshire, and for a while this was quite a serious derby in these parts, but circumstances have meant the two clubs rarely play each other in competitive matches so it has ebbed.

It is well known the enmity between the fans of Falkirk & Dunfermline Athletic, and this is what most would recognise as our current main rivals in the so-called “Kincardine Bridge Derby”.

But I was recently looking through Falkirk's New Year Holiday matches and noticed a fixture popping up on a very regular basis which has now gone the way of most history.

The opponents were King's Park and the match was played invariably played in Stirling in the first week of January, usually the first Monday. This was an arrangement which never occurred with East Stirlingshire which is itself interesting.

The rivalry [perhaps a creation of the two teams to try to have a lucrative annual match we will never know] is obvious with hindsight. These were the two oldest and longest established clubs in Stirlingshire [Bonnybridge Grasshoppers were older but they had a precarious existence and had long spells of inactivity] both coming into existence in the mid 1870s. There was possibly also a slight element of snobbery in the fixture, both clubs probably looking down on other relative newcomers to the local football scene.

The earliest found match between the two clubs dates back to April 1878 [though there might have been an match earlier that season which was not noted in the press] when the young bloods of Falkirk travelled to the county town and came away with a very creditable scoreless draw. Over the next decade the reciprocal friendly matches were complimented with the odd meeting in the Scottish & Stirlingshire Cups and largely meetings were very even, only the odd large victory being obtained by either team.

The first recognisable 'holiday' match between the two teams took place on Monday the 4th of January 1892 [this was the first season Falkirk played any special 'holiday' matches [unless the 1887/88 'tour' of the North be can counted]], King's Park winning by two goals to one.

With the exception of 1900 and 1901 [when the match was played as part of the Falkirk & District League schedule] the annual match continued to be played almost every year [several were not played because of the Scottish January weather] until Falkirk joined the Scottish League in 1902 when the fixture list meant there was no space for the match.

But this just meant a switch to May when the two clubs played a benefit or charity match for a worthy cause [though later the worthy cause more increasingly became King's Park itself]. Even these matches were dying by the outbreak of the Great War and never came out of the other side.

Between the wars matches the clubs were restricted to Stirlingshire Cup or Stirlingshire Consolation Cup matches with the odd benefit here or there. But by this time Falkirk had long since stopped treating the Stirlingshire cup with anything like seriousness and in many of these later matches Falkirk played either their reserves or a very weakened side, and King's Park were themselves withering, to the point that it was decided by the directors that they were wound up as an entity during WWII and the relationship between the clubs finally ended.

I cannot say from this distance what this relationship between Falkirk and King's Park was like or how the two sets of supporters felt about the other club. It was quite unlike the Falkirk/East Stirlingshire relationship which could get quite hostile at times. And it is slightly a pity that the club never resumed after the war.

Below is as complete a picture as I can give to the fixture.

Scottish Cup
FFC
Draw
KPFC
FFC
KPFC
In Falkirk
4
1
-
18
6
In Stirling
1
-
-
3
1
Total
5
1
-
21
7
Midland League
FFC
Draw
KPFC
FFC
KPFC
In Falkirk
3
-
-
20
4
In Stirling
1
-
2
7
8
Total
4
-
2
27
12
Central Combination
FFC
Draw
KPFC
FFC
KPFC
In Falkirk
4
1
-
20
10
In Stirling
2
-
3
10
10
Total
6
1
3
30
20
Stirlingshire Cup
FFC
Draw
KPFC
FFC
KPFC
In Falkirk
7
3
3
47
30
In Stirling
4
3
5
24
28
Total
11
6
8
71
58
Redding Pit Disaster Cup
FFC
Draw
KPFC
FFC
KPFC
In Stirling
1
-
-
1
-
Total
1
-
-
1
-
Stirlingshire Consolation Cup
FFC
Draw
KPFC
FFC
KPFC
In Stirling
1
-
2
3
6
Neutral
2
-
-
10
2
Total
3
-
2
13
8
Falkirk & District League
FFC
Draw
KPFC
FFC
KPFC
In Falkirk
1
1
-
5
1
In Stirling
1
-
1
4
6
Total
2
1
1
9
7
Friendlies
FFC
Draw
KPFC
FFC
KPFC
In Falkirk
7
1
1
15
4
In Stirling
10
3
5
45
31
Total
17
4
6
60
35
All Matches
FFC
Draw
KPFC
FFC
KPFC
At Falkirk
27
7
8
128
61
At Stirling
20
6
16
94
84
Neutral
2
-
-
10
2
Total
49
13
24
232
147

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Old Falkirk Football Club Photo - 1900


I recently found this rather poor quality photo of Falkirk Football Club, for once I have the names of the players though [if the caption is to be believed]


The players in the picture were named as

Standing - Thomas McFarlane, John Smith, Alex Thomson, David Morton, Livingstone Rae, Patrick McWilliams.

Seated - John Christie, John Conway, George Drummond, Andrew Burt, James Conlin.

If this is correct [and I have no reason to disbelieve it] then the only time Falkirk ever played this exact team was on Wednesday 16th August 1900. Falkirk winning 6-5 with Conway and Conlin scoring one each and Burt scoring four [one penalty].

I have previously blogged about Thomas McFarlane, Livingstone Rae & Andrew Burt.

I will think about the others ....

Falkirk FC Graves - James Callander

I, literally just walked past this gravestone this afternoon, and thought, "whoa .... that rings a bell". So I had a closer look. I was very happy that it was the player that I thought it was because this is a very special Falkirk player.


Camelon Cemetery

Jimmy Callander should be the merest footnote in the history of Falkirk FC, he played in four matches in total, spread over several seasons only scoring once.

May 26th 1897 v East Stirlingshire (A) Benefit Match 0-3
Nov 5th 1898 v Alloa Athletic (A) Central Combination 3-3
May 17th 1900 v Camelon (A) Falkirk & District League 1-4
May 6th 1901 v East Stirlingshire (H) Falkirk & District League 2-4

He played at Inside-Right in all, scoring his only goal for the club in the last of these matches, but as you can see he was hardly our good luck charm.

The reason for the scarcity of matches for the club is quite simple. He was not a Falkirk player. Throughout this period he was was playing as regularly as he could for his main club : Falkirk Amateurs.

Football has never been the most reliable of trades for those who ply it so James instead studied to be an architect. With very good reason, because it seems he was rather good at it. Many of his designs survive to this day.

Most prominent among his clients was the Falkirk Co-operative society, and the old Co-op store on the corner of Kirk Wynd and Bank Street [now a Clydesdale Bank] is his most recognisable achievement. But those of you who have an eye for the Art Deco style of the 1920s & 1930s can also see his hand in the cinema on Princes Street [now a nightclub], the shops in Callandar Riggs [coincedence] at the Bus Station, and the Callander Arms pub across the road.

He also helped design or alter buildings which no longer exist such as part of Aitken's Brewery and several of the foundry offices around the town.

But, for a Falkirk Football Club history blogger like me, by far and away the jewel in the crown is that James Callander not only played for the club, he also designed the old grandstand at Brockville Park. I like the circularity of that.

Sadly though I have no picture of him, I will keep searching.

Note, today [28/07/2015] I was sent an image of James Callander by his Great Neice [thanks Jean], though not in his footballing days. It seems he was a founding member of Glenbervie Golf Club, and he is in a picture on their website.


James Callander

b 14th May 1881, Shotts, Lanarkshire
d 6th March 1942, Edinburgh

Known Career – Falkirk Excelsior, Falkirk Amateurs [1896/97-1900/01], Falkirk [1898/99-1900/01]

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Falkirk FC 100 Club - Andrew Burt

An'ra Burt was yet another of those legendary players for the club who through time and circumstances seem to have been overlooked with time. Little wonder, it is well over a century since he played his last match, and during his best years Falkirk was playing mostly at a local level.

Andrew came to prominence in the Slamannan Rovers side which was trying to switch from junior to senior football. But was coming up against the same problems they had in the junior game [lack of structured competition, lack of easily accessable opponents, population too small to sustain a consistently competitive side] and any gems the Rovers did unearth were quickly picked off in the newborn era of professional football.

It may have helped that alongside him in that Slamannan Rovers side was his elder brother, Adam, who had had a spell as Centre-Half with Falkirk FC, but the Bairns were themselves in need of replenishing their side due to even bigger clubs cherrypicking their better players.

Starting off as a Centre-Forward, Andrew soon found his place at the club at Inside-Left and scored consistently for the next five years. And this was a period when Falkirk had several consistent scorers in their ranks.

I am not sure why he was never tempted to move to a larger club who might have offered him league football and probably better pay. Perhaps he had a very good job in Slamannan, or maybe no other clubs wanted him, but he stayed with Falkirk for the rest of his career.

It is a true shame that his last proper season at the club was the club's first in the Scottish League as he was, according to match reports, slightly past his best, so his record of ten league matches with one goal looks very poor in comparison with those that came later, and of course is very deceptive as to his importance to the history of Falkirk FC.

He was brought back in an emergency in 1905 to make up the numbers in a Stirlingshire Cup match v Falkirk Amateurs, but he was well 'out of the game' according to the local papers [even though Falkirk strolled the game winning 9-0 he never got on the scoresheet] this slight blemish again is a bit of a shame.

In the club picture at the beginning of the 1902/03 season Andrew is pictured front & centre with the ball between his legs, in club pictures of the time this normally signifies that the player was captain. Since I have no record of the captain for this season it may be so, but it may also have been honorary due to his service and longevity, either way.

Again, nowadays people may question the inclusion of friendlies in his career figures, but one has to understand that the leagues of the time only allowed for at most twenty-two games a season and due to the fickle nature of cups, the season had to consist of a large number of 'ordinary' matches but these were in no way pre-season warm ups, they were proper fixtures usually arranged on a home and away basis.


Andrew Burt 1902/03

Andrew Burt

b 30th April 1873, Slamannan, Stirlingshire
d June 1951, Glasgow

Andrew Burt's Falkirk FC Career

Debut – Saturday September 21 1895 v East Stirlingshire (A) Friendly

Positions – Inside-Left, Centre-Forward, Inside-Right

Representative Honours – Stirlingshire v Forfarshire 1896/97

Club Honours – Central Combination W 1899/00, RU 1900/01, Midland League RU 1895/96, Stirlingshire Cup W 1895/96, RU 1897/98, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1901/02, RU 1895/96, 1897/98, 1900/01, Stirlingshire Consolation Cup W 1901/02, RU 1900/01

Scottish League Matches/Goals [10/1]
Scottish Cup Matches/Goals [6/2]
Scottish Qualifying Cup Matches/Goals [24/15]
Minor League Matches/Goals [110/54]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [43/24]
Other Matches/Goals [78/44]
Total Matches/Goals [271/140]

Hat-Tricks – 8 [Scottish Qualifying Cup [2] Central Combination [1] Stirlingshire Cup [2] Other [3]]

Known Club Career – Slamannan Swifts, Slamannan Rovers [1892/93-1894/95], Falkirk [1895/96-1902/03, 1905/06]

Notes
Falkirk’s first substitute, replacing the injured George Drummond v Vale of Leven (H) Nov 28th 1899, Friendly.
Brother of Adam Burt [Falkirk 1891/92].

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Falkirk FC Graves - Livingstone Rae


Livingstone 'Livvy' Rae is another of those stalwarts of football in the town. He played for the three clubs in Falkirk immediate area [Falkirk, Falkirk Amateurs & East Stirlingshire]

From a well known family in Larbert [to this day you will find several Livingstone Raes in Larbert Parrish Church Graveyard.

This Livingstone is buried in Falkirk Cemetery [many people call the cemetery that I call Falkirk Cemetery, Camelon Cemetery. Though Falkirk Cemetery is completely within Camelon, and there is no municipal cemetery in Falkirk, the official name of the municipal cemetery in Camelon is Falkirk Cemetery].


An amateur throughout his career, Livvy did not play as often as others as it seems he was a School teacher in the real world [records of school teachers in the district escape me].

He played in the period coming up to joining the League, and should be appreciated as one of the [many] people who caused it to happen.


Livingstone Rae

b 28th April 1877, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
d 14th December 1953, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Debut – Saturday March 9th 1895 v Paisley Academicals (H) Friendly

Positions – Left-Half, Left-Back, Right-Back

Club Honours – Central Combination W 1899/00

Scottish Cup Matches /Goals [1/-]
Scottish Qualifying Cup Matches /Goals [5/-]
Minor League Matches/Goals [43/3]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [5/1]
Other Matches/Goals [19/-]
Total Matches/Goals [73/4]

Known Career – Falkirk [1894/95-1895/96], East Stirlingshire [1896/97-1897/98], Falkirk [1897/98-1900/01]