Saturday, 29 June 2013

John Pray

My little life was brightened, yet saddened at the same time when I found a picture of Bury FC from 1894/95 on t'web the other night. Brightened because it had a picture of John Pray in it, and a picture taken only a couple of years after he had left the club. Saddened because the article mentioned signing him from Rangers [he spent a derisory time at Rangers, most of his time in Scotland being spent with Falkirk].

Born in the greatest town in Stirlingshire on the 17th of March 1872, it would seem Jock Pray was brought up by his Grandparents [according to the 1881 census, I know nothing the parents], living in George Street [the street in Grahamsmuir running East from the North end of the old Brockville Park] he was definitely a local.

The first time he is noted in the local press was as part of the Falkirk & District Junior Cup winning side, Falkirk Excelsior, of 1889/90 [nearly everybody in that team went on to play for Falkirk FC, making me think it was just a Falkirk FC youth side, but there is no proof to back up my suspicions].

By September of the 1890/91 season John had made his debut in the Falkirk first XI. Playing mainly at his famous position of Centre-Half [though occasionally filling in at Right-Half or Right-Back] he quickly became a regular.

He did not score in his first season, so in his remaining three seasons at Falkirk he must have been developing into an attacking midfielder of a Centre-Half when he left the club [probably why he left the club, the lure of Full-Time League football must have been great].

He was also the first Falkirk player I know to have been sent off in a Scottish Cup match [v Bathgate Rovers (H) 3rd Rd Replay, 24th October 1891]

After his football career was over John emigrated to Canada, where he died about 1948, it saddens me that for a player who went on to great things from the Falkirk youth ranks, his nearly 150 matches for the club are often overlooked.

Representative Honours – Stirlingshire v Fife 1893/94
Club Honours – Falkirk District Charity Cup W 1891/92, 1893/94, RU 1890/91, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1891/92, 1892/93, 1893/94, RU 1890/91

Scottish Cup Matches/Goals [9/1]
Scottish Federation Matches/Goals [25/3]
Midland League Matches/Goals [13/1]
Stirlingshire Cup Matches/Goals [12/4]
Falkirk District Charity Cup Matches/Goals [10/2]
Falkirk Infirmary Shield Matches/Goals [9/4]
Other Matches/Goals [60/4]
Total Matches/Goals [138/19]

Known Career – Falkirk Excelsior, Falkirk [1890/91-1893/94], Rangers [1893/94-1894/95], Bury [1894/95-1901/02], St Bernards [1903/04]

Other matches played while at Falkirk FC
Played for East Stirlingshire v Gairdoch, Friendly at Gairdoch Pk, Carronshore 5th August 1891
Played for Grangemouth v Glasgow Wanderers, Friendly at Caledonian Pk, Grangemouth, 4th April 1892
Played for East Stirlingshire v Airdrieonians, Scottish Alliance at Broomfield Pk, Airdrie, 9th April 1892
Played for Grangemouth v Falkirk District XI, Benefit Match at Caledonian Pk, Grangemouth, 28th April 1892
Played for Port Glasgow Athletic v East Stirlingshire, Friendly at Merchiston Pk, Bainsford, 5th January 1893
Played for Camelon v Laurieston, Friendly at Zetland Pk, Laurieston, 11th February 1893
Played for Stirlingshire XI v Grangemouth, Benefit Match at Caledonian Pk, Grangemouth, 9th May 1893

Edit - June 2016

Somebody over there in Canada took a picture of his grave and put it up on the internet recently, here it is.

He died in Hamilton, Ontario on the 14th of May 1947, the military cross representing his service in the Canadian forces during WWI.

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.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Mistakes get Expanded

I was reminded by my fellow historian/researcher Drummond Calder the other day what we are often up against. We take books written by other people as sources for our research, but from knowledge, even those who get published make huge mistakes, and these get spread.

Now I am not asking for a system of references [by s**t, I hardly ever reference where I 'borrow' information from, but Drummond is better at that than me.] I have, on my own file [which I shared with Drummond] that Hugh McKinnon played for ESFC. For this assertation I was reliant upon George Park's "St Bernard's Football Club: or when the well ran dry".

Drummond disputes there was such a player for ESFC in this era, and thinks it might be getting mixed up with a back called McKinnie. All I can say is I have already spread the myth that Hugh McKinnon played for ESFC, and now I have to check things more, because I don't know. These mistakes grow, and are repeated by people who do something similar for other clubs. Douglas Lamming's book is a great source of information, but it wasn't until I came across Jock McTavish's Obituaries in the Falkirk Herald and Falkirk Mail that anyone pointed out that the date he supplied was ridiculous. I was not the first to find an error, and I am sure I will not be the last. This does not decry the importance of Douglas Lamming's book. It is hugely important. If I were to claim never to have made a mistake, then I would properly be ridiculed. I have made many [I once mixed up the brothers Gibson [1880s] with a whole different family], it happens. What I am saying is that, we who trawl archives, are in a trusted position, and we trust each other, but we are simply human, we make mistakes. But these mistakes have repercussions which are hard to fix [especially when they get on wikipedia].

It seems when we do this stuff without proper research we are only spreading misinformation. Myself, I like to be corrected, but that is because it allows me to change my spreadsheets [there is always a first name of a reserve player to be altered, always a newly discovered middle name [I hate to use the word discover as it was obviously known before, yet do not feel "find" is good enough]].

In the way that neither Amerigo di Vespucci, not Cristoforro di Colombo 'discovered' South America [the fact being given away by the fact that there were people living there [who had presumably 'discovered' it earlier]] I do not discover biographical details of Falkirk players: it is just new to me. I suppose in thinking "find" is about the best the English language can offer. In Spanish there is a word more like 'uncover' = to make clear something which has been obscured. But I do not wish to write this blog in Spanish quite yet ¡ojala!.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Falkirk FC Graves - Samuel Roper

To write about Sammy Roper is difficult, he was never a first team regular, but was with the club for nearly a decade.

Sammy Roper was one of Falkirk FC's most loyal fringe/squad players, playing mostly in the reserves for his local team [he lived in the Cow Wynd], but he was always at the beck and call of the first eleven.

Obviously I never saw him play so can not make any proper judgements, but whenever one of the first team was injured he was there, perhaps Falkirk & football in general need more players like him.

Only 28 games over nearly a decade [about three games a year] means Sammy either just accepted his place in Football, or the absolute opposite, maybe he never gave up trying. I don't know, I like to think the latter.

Here is to all fringe players, clubs could not exist without them.

There is no chance in hell of me having a contemporary picture him, but I did notice his grave on my travels.

Camelon Cemetery

Samuel Roper

b 8th September 1873, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
d 25th January 1937, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Falkirk Debut – Saturday December 24th 1892 v Laurieston (H) Friendly

Positions – Outside-Right, Outside-Left

Minor League Matches/Goals [11/1]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [3/1]
Other Matches/Goals [14/6]
Total Matches/Goals [28/8]

Known Career – Falkirk [1892/93-1900/01],
Played for Queen's Park Strollers v Falkirk 1st May 1897 (H) Scottish Combination.

Charlie Stirling - Prisoner of War

I do not always blog about Falkirk FC and this is the case for this post. Over the last couple of weeks in my spare time I have been reading quite a bit about "The Great War", and sometimes trying to research the role of some Falkirk players in that struggle.

In doing so I remembered from somewhere in the back of my mind reading about an East stirlingshire footballer's travails in a German POW Camp, so I had a rake through a big box of pages and pages of football-related stuff that I just can't throw away [for which I seriously need to take a week off to put in some kind of logical order]. Anyway I found the article, and since it was published in a now defunct paper which is not available online yet, I have decided [lazily as it means I do not have to write anything original] to reproduce it here.

It is a bit awkward reading the last paragraph, as it shows a definite level of ignorance in Britain of how football had been an international success since the late 19th Century; The Home Nations being amongst the least 'international' the Countries where football was established.

Falkirk Mail - Edition - 18th January 1919

“Pte. Charles Stirling , of the A. and S.H., who for a season or two played left half-back for the East Stirlingshire F.C., has just returned, after four years captivity in Germany, to his home in West Main Street, Stenhousemuir.
Interviewed by a 'Mail' reporter regarding his experiences in the enemy's hands, Pte. Stirling had much to tell of Hun brutality and coarseness.
Captured on 21st October 1914, he was first taken to Göttingen Camp, where he spent eight long months of torture and privations. The food, of course, was very poor, being merely black coffee, a little bread, and turnip water, or, as the Germans liked to term it, “soup”.
About the beginning of 1915 Pte. Stirling was an eye-witness of many horrible cruelties. A Glasgow man, the name of McEwan, who was in the Scots Guards, was one day going to see the doctor about an injured ankle at the same time as a party of 300 Englishmen were marching out of the camp to work. A sentry seeing McEwan thought he was a member of the work party, and had slipped out of the ranks in an attempt to evade the toil. He accordingly challenged the Glasgow man, who explained that he was on his way to see the doctor, at the same time showing his injured ankle.
The sentry refused to believe the explanation and lifting his rifle shot the man through the heart. It was deliberate murder, and when the rest of the Scots in the camp heard of it their rage knew no bounds, and many threatened to “do in” that sentry.
For three hours on end during three successive days Pte. Stirling was forced to stand at attention for attempting to evade work one day.
In the cook-house, where many stores were kept, only Belgians and French were allowed to work. The Germans were afraid that the Britishers would thieve too much foodstuffs, and so prevented them from coming near. Pte. Stirling, along with some others, donned a Belgian's cap and other uniform, and watching their chance, slipped in, grabbed as many potatoes and as much bread as they could safely stow away on their persons, and when an opportunity presented itself dodged out and away.
Many times prisoners were caught in the act by the Germans in charge, and were unmercifully beaten with large sticks before being sent to the cells to stay for five days on bread and water.
While at Beinrode Camp, near Brunswick, Pte. Stirling was forced to work in a salt mine about half a mile deep. The heat was dreadful, and the prisoners had to work clad only in their trousers and boots.
In this particular mine one German scientist was experimenting with the minerals and attempting to form poison gas for bombs out of the salt.
While at Celle Camp, where he was taken for refusing to work, Pte. Stirling organised a football team among the Scots, and on one memorable occasion defeated the English team by 4 goals to 3. The Belgians and the French took to the game like young ducks to water, and even the German soldiery evinced a keen interest, and played the game amongst themselves.
Pte. Stirling considers that when conditions have begun to settle the Belgians and French will run international matches on much the same lines as we do in this country.”
Note - The first Belgium v France International Football Match was played in Brussels on the 1st of May 1904, the two Countries played each other on an annual basis until the outbreak of the war....

Monday, 17 June 2013

Falkirk FC Graves - Robert Fearns

Another of the many players who seem to have slipped through the cracks in the history of the club, Robert "Bobby" Fearns was Falkirk FC's regular Left-Half from 1892 until 1895. However he was often used across the half-back line when circumstances need it. Again will not pretend he was great, but he spent along time with the club for the time, and his 150+ matches for the team was a lot back then [it is quite a lot today].

Towards the end of his time with Falkirk he was being tempted by offers to sign for Stenhousemuir, and although he did play one game as a guest for them he may have signed after his time with Falkirk FC, I just don't know.

He is interred in Camelon Cemetery. Like many of the Falkirk players of the time were.

Again I do not have a photograph of him, but am always looking for one.

Robert Fearns

b 3rd September 1871, Redding, Stirlingshire
d 22nd October 1962, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Debut – Saturday August 30th 1890 v Laurieston (A) Friendly

Positions – Left-Half, Right-Half

Representative Honours – Stirlingshire v Fife 1894/95

Club Honours – Midland League W 1894/95 RU 1895/96, Stirlingshire Cup W 1894/95, 1895/96, Falkirk District Charity Cup W 1893/94, RU 1894/95, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1892/93, 1893/94, RU 1895/96

Scottish Cup Matches /Goals [7/1]
Scottish Qualifying Cup Matches /Goals [1/-]
Minor League Matches/Goals [58/6]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [29/6]
Other Matches [69/11]
Total Matches [164/24]

Known Career – Burnhouse, Falkirk [1890/91-1895/96]
Played for Stenhousemuir v Bo'ness, Friendly at Ochilview Pk, Stenhousemuir, 26th August 1893
Variable spellings - Ferns, Fernes, Fearnes

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Will the Real Mr Shankly Please Stand Up

I am tired of hearing how great his brother was, I am tired of his brother, before Bill Shankly began that thoughtless nonsense at Liverpool, his brother Bob was playing at Falkirk. Moving from Alloa he had previously tried his hand at Endlish Non-League football with Tunbridge Wells. A big player,

he was equally as good at Centre-Forward as at Centre-Half [but mainly at Centre-Half]. He played more matches for the club during WWII than anyone else.

I am really not interested in his brother, this chap played more than 400 matches for my club, end of.

Later he went on to manage the club, only him & John Hughes have both played and managed the club 200 times.

Robert Shankly

b 25th February 1910, Glenbuck, Ayrshire
d 1982, Glasgow

Debut – Saturday August 12th 1933 v Third Lanark (H) Scottish League Division 1

b 25th February 1910, Glenbuck, Ayrshire
d 1982, Glasgow

Positions – Centre-Half, Right-Half, Inside-Left, Centre-Forward
Club Honours – Scottish League Division 2 W 1935/36, Dewar Shield W 1938/39, RU 1935/36, Stirlingshire Cup W 1934/35, 1938/39, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1933/34, 1934/35, 1935/36, 1936/37, 1937/38, 1938/39

Scottish League Division 1 Matches/Goals [181/4]
Scottish League Division 2 Matches/Goals [34/-]
Scottish League North-East Matches/Goals [30/-]
Southern League Matches/Goals [82/5]
Scottish Cup Matches/Goals [18/-]
War Emergency Cup Matches/Goals [4/-]
Southern League Cup Matches/Goals [26/4]
Summer Cup Matches/Goals [9/-]
Victory Cup Matches/Goals [1/-]
Dewar Shield Matches/Goals [8/-]
Stirlingshire Cup Matches/Goals [12/1]
Falkirk Infirmary Shield Matches/Goals [9/-]
Other Matches/Goals [14/1]
Total Matches/Goals [428/15]

Known Career – Glenbuck Cherrypickers, Tunbridge Wells, Alloa Athletic [1930/31-1932/33], Falkirk [1933/34-1945/46]

Falkirk Manager [1950/51-1956/57]

Height - 5 ft 9½ in: Weight 12 st 3 lbs [1935]

Monday, 10 June 2013

Unsung Players - Jimmy Fiddes

I was driven to write this by the fact somebody misspelt his name on a forum recently, and although I normally never cover players from the post-war period Jimmy Fiddes played for Falkirk FC during the war so I can count him.

Jimmy Fiddes played in nearly every position [except Goalkeeper] in the post war period, little was written about him, but I would say the same was true about Scott MacKenzie when I was growing up, players who do the job never get the publicity.

Jimmy had been with Rangers in the period up to World War II, but came to the fore when he moved to Falkirk during the war, originally a winger, with the march of time he progressively became a Right-Half, then Right-Back. He played well over 200 matches for the club, he sadly he is not in the Falkirk FC Hall of Fame due to the club's bizarre concept that 200 League appearances is the qualification [so are you telling me Alex Stark [Falkirk 1885/86-1894/95] was not one of our greatest players just because he played before we joined the League?].

Jimmy Fiddes was [like Scott MacKenzie] the most reliable player we had in the late 1940s, often playing out of position for the team, a true professional.

James Fiddes

b 3rd October 1916

Debut – Saturday August 17th 1940 v Heart of Midlothian (A) Southern League

Positions – Right-Half, Outside-Right, Inside-Right

Scottish League Division A Matches/Goals [134/15]
Scottish Cup Matches/Goals [9/4]
Scottish League Cup Matches/Goals [27/4]
Southern League Matches/Goals [31/1]
Victory Cup Matches/Goals [4/-]
Southern League Cup Matches/Goals [6/1]
Summer Cup Matches/Goals [1/-]
Dewar Shield Matches/Goals [9/2]
Stirlingshire Cup Matches/Goals [9/1]
Stirling & District Charity Cup Matches/Goals [1/-]
Other Matches/Goals [8/1]
Total Matches/Goals [239/29]

Known Career - Rangers [1934/35-1940/41], Dunfermline Athletic [1939/40], Blackpool [1940/41], Falkirk [1940/41-1951/52], Ross County [1951/52], Stenhousemuir [1951/52-1952/53]

Forgotten Heroes - James Bartram

Jimmy Bartram was a classic 1930s Centre-Forward [big, burly, great sholders] who earned the apt soubriquet "Battering Ram" in his short time at the club. Top scorer in each season he spent at the club, I am clueless as to why he never went on to bigger and better things [either up here or down south], but I suspect it may have something to do with our wingers. He was well served by the Falkirk wingers. No reason was ever given as to why he left the club, perhaps he just wanted to go home, I do not know.

I do know that he had a scoring record not matched since Clyde Skene, Evelyn Morrison or Jimmy Dyet [in my opininion high praise indeed]. [I need to write about the sad case of Jimmy Dyet who was reserve Centre-Forward to Evelyn Morrison [only sad because such a good Centre-Forward was playing at the same time as Evelyn], I will do soon].

I was speaking to an older gentleman in the Library a year or two ago, and he said his Dad was in awe of Jimmy Bartram. It would not be allowed now, but he just took out the goalie. He was not given his nickname just because it is close to his surname. It is a travesty that there was no footage [that I know of] taken of him in play for Falkirk, as I would love to see someone score six goals in a match for Falkirk.

Both the Falkirk Herald and Falkirk Mail showered him with praise. Given a season or two more he would easily be amongst the players who scored 100+ goals for the club, but he did not. However I think a player who scored 76 goals in 81 matches [strangely he never played in a friendly or a benefit] is worth a lot of respect.

James “Battering Ram” Bartram

b 8th March 1911, South Shields, Durham
d c1987

Debut – Saturday December 31st 1932 v St Mirren (A) Scottish League Division 1

Position – Centre-Forward

Club Honours – Stirlingshire Cup W 1934/35, RU 1932/33, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1932/33, 1933/34

Falkirk FC Leading League Goalscorer 1932/33 [17], 1933/34 [25], 1934/35 [20]

Scottish League Division 1 Matches/Goals [68/62]
Scottish Cup Matches /Goals [5/6]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [8/8]
Total Matches/Goals [81/76]

Scored [2] on his Debut

Hat-Tricks – 7 [Division 1 [6] Falkirk Infirmary Shield [1]]

Known Career – Portsmouth [1932/33], North Shields [1932/33], Falkirk [1932/33-1934/35], Northampton Town [1935/36], Queen of the South [1935/36], Morton [1941/42]

Scored six goals in the Scottish League Division 1 v Ayr United (H) October 20th 1934

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Falkirk FC 1933

Here is another obscure photo of Falkirk FC that I have feretted?? [really don't know how to spell that] out of the archives.

This is "Falkirk FC in pre-season training, 1933"

I recognise several players, like Ned Weir, top left [looking older than he should], Jimmy Dougal with William Anderson's hands on his shoulders, next to William Anderson is Geordie Mason [right], to his left, from our perspective I believe it is Jimmy "Battering Ram" Bartram [blog post is coming] and again Jimmy Dougal has his right hand on Hugh Hamill, and his left on and [I do not know how anyone could not recognise that haircut] Jonny Richardson.

The photo is not of the best quality, but I like it more than those where the players are all stiff and in formation.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Falkirk FC Reserves 1886/87

Yet another picture of Falkirk FC-ish from the dim and distant past, I particularly like this photo because it is a picture of the reserve team, and every member of this reserve team played at least once for the first team. As with most reserves sides most of the players never had the same impact as others. Besides I would never have a picture of Falkirk's great Inside-Right Thomas McDonald, or William Law [the first player to be sent off in Stirlingshire] without finding this.

The team is

Thomas Bellingham, George Kerr, John Drummond, Robert Rae, Robert Sibbald
Robert Symington, John Devlin, William Law
Thomas McDonald, George Rae, William Murphy

But more importantly to the wider community of Scottish Football historians, this might be the earliest surviving picture of Jock Drummond who at one point was Scotland's most capped player. He is at the centre of the back row, and he would have been about 16 or 17 at this point. I have been looking for Jock Drummond's grave in Camelon for a while, but have yet to find it. I am beginning to fear that he was cremated.

I would go on about Jock Drummond's Falkirk career, but what can I say? He was good, he got capped, moved to play for the Huns, came back. There are learned people who have written better stuff about him than I. In the real world the family moved to Falkirk when he was young, they lived in the 'Grahamsford' area of town, he was a junior Bank clerk. He became famous at football. When he returned he lived near the High Station.

John Drummond

b 13th April 1870, Alva, Stirlingshire
d 23rd January 1935, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Debut – Saturday April 16th 1887 v Alloa Athletic (H) Friendly
League Debut – Saturday August 20th 1904 v Aberdeen (A) Scottish League Division 2

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

Representative Honours – Scotland v Ireland 1891/92, Stirlingshire v Linlithgowshire 1888/89, v Fife 1890/91, v Forfarshire v 1890/91, 1891/92

Club Honours – Scottish League Division 2 RU 1904/05, Stirlingshire Cup W 1889/90, RU 1891/92, Falkirk District Charity Cup W 1889/90, 1891/92, RU 1890/91, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1891/92, RU 1889/90, 1890/91

Scottish League Division 2 Matches/Goals [13/-]
Scottish Cup Matches /Goals [12/-]
Scottish Qualifying Cup Matches/Goals [2/-]
Minor League Matches/Goals [13/1]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [33/1]
Other Matches/Goals [97/4]
Total Matches/Goals [170/6]

Played for Zingari v Falkirk Excelsior, Friendly at Tannery Pk, Falkirk, 28th April 1887
Played for Falkirk Caledonians v Redding Athletic, Friendly at Redding, 5th May 1887
Played for Redding Athletic v Vale of Avon, Friendly at Redding, 8th June 1887
Played for Redding Athletic v Kilsyth Wanderers, Friendly at Garrell Garden Pk, Kilsyth, 10th September 1887
Played for Falkirk District XI v Rangers Ibroxonians, Benefit Match at Brockville Pk, Falkirk, 11th June 1889
Played for King's Park v Hurlford, Friendly at Forthbank Pk, Stirling, 1st January 1891

Known Career – Falkirk [1886/87-1892/93], Rangers [1891/92-1903/04], Falkirk [1904/05-1906/07]

Scored Falkirk's first recorded goal from a penalty kick, v Glasgow Wanderers (H) September 12th 1891, Scottish Federation
Cousin of George Drummond. [Falkirk 1899/00-1901/02]
Made his League debut for Falkirk 17 Years 126 Days after his Falkirk 1st XI debut
Played  his last match for Falkirk [Friendly v Morayshire XI (A) May 7th 1907] 20 Years 21 Days after his debut.

I have his playing record whilst at Rangers somewhere but cannot seem to find it right now, it is a shame as I would like to put his complete career here.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Historian, Statistician or Geneologist? - John Smith

I might use the term Falkirk FC Historian in the title of this blog, but that was because when I started it I did not really think about it for long, and could not come up with a better word for what I do. I look up stuff related to Falkirk Football Club, then I put it in spreadsheets & folders [both real and those on my computer]. I am a [self-glorified] researcher/statistician. Falkirk has an official Club Historian, Michael White, he writes books about the club, he can tell you lots of stuff I do not know, he is available through the club. That is why he occasionally writes things for the Herald when a former player dies while I make a new spreadsheet, and this is why he interviews former players and I trawl through cemeteries. I do not really busy myself with how a player felt, or played, in such and such a match, I like the details.

This is the way I became a bit of an amateur geneologist. Common names often mean I do not know how many matches/goals a player played/scored, so I had to start turning names on a page of the Herald [or Falkirk Mail] into distinct individuals, this has eaten up much of the time I have devoted to exploring the past of Falkirk FC. The difference between the family historian type of geneologist and the football club history type of geneologist is that when [from a rough calculation off the top of my head] I might have thirty [or at a push sixtytwo] direct antecedents since the formation of Falkirk FC this number can be two season's worth of players in football.

The scale of the task has never bothered me, I will do what I am able, others will, or will not, continue what I have started. But this does show the limitation of what I do. This means there are players in the history of the club about whom [without a stroke of amazing luck] I will probably never be able to say anything other than he pulled on the navy blue between X & Y seasons. My best example [other than players who only played one match] is the Falkirk FC Right-Back and Right-Half from the turn of the 19th to the 20th Century with the archetypal common name: John Smith

I have a grainy picture of him, but other than that I only know when he was named in a Falkirk line-up. I would like to give a brief explanation of his life outside of the game, but I simply do not know where to start looking. The 1901 Census should be perfect, but as a professional? [he might have been an amateur] football player he could have lived anywhere within a 25 mile [or more] radius of the town, and that is the majority of the population of Scotland. I am not sure of his other clubs, though I suspect he also played for East Stirlingshire.

Like I said, I don't know where to start, so, here is what I do know.

John Smith

Debut – Monday January 2nd 1899 v King’s Park (A) Friendly

Positions – Right-Half, Right-Back

Club Honours Central Combination W 1899/00, Falkirk Infirmary Shield RU 1900/01, Stirlingshire Consolation Cup RU 1900/01

Scottish Cup Matches /Goals [1/-]
Scottish Qualifying Cup Matches /Goals [5/-]
Minor League Matches/Goals [27/3]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [7/-]
Other Matches/Goals [14/]
Total Matches/Goals [54/3]

Known Career – Falkirk Amateurs?, East Stirlingshire?, Falkirk [1898/99-1901/02]

NB - Career: a Smith, or a J.Smith appeared in Falkirk Amateurs or East Stirlingshire line-ups before Falkirk but I have yet to find anything which definitely links the two [or three] players.

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
Benefit Match












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.

The Brothers Turnbull

This post comes somewhere between my usual rambling nonsense and my Falkirk FC Graves 'series', but first I shall digress -

I go on my strolls through the local cemeteries for more than just looking for dead Falkirk FC players. I go because they are peaceful [even pleasant] places [I sometimes put pictures of them on my tumblr], I go because I am interested in many aspects of the history of Falkirk [I recently posted on my other blog my thoughts on an aspect of WWI after coming across a relevant grave], and I go because what I find constantly surprises me. But then again since I 'became' unemployed I have plenty of time on my hands.

I could never be mechanical about it, could never just find out where a player was buried and go take a pic. I look at every grave in each of the sections of the cemetery. I takes time, but this way have found the graves of Alex Stark's family [sadly he is not in Falkirk having emigrated to New Zealand], have graves of players when I had no inkling of what happened after they stopped playing, have found graves of players who played for other clubs in the district. But I said I like surprises.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I came across across a headstone which mentioned three Falkirk players at once, but which was not quite a grave. The three were brothers, and I just did not expect this to be in the cemetery.

I did not expect it because of the three Turnbull brothers to play for the team, Alex Turnbull emigrated to Canada, I had already found Thomas Turnbull's grave about 50 metres away, and I believe James Turnbull remained in England after his long career down there.

But then again this is more of a family memorial than a grave, anyway, thank you Edith W McVey of Lasalle, Canada.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Falkirk FC Graves - Thomas Smith

I get excited by quite simple things, so this excited me. Again strolling through our local cemetery in Camelon I came across a gravestone I really did not expect to see. I came across that of Thomas Smith, a solid Left-Half for about a season and a half in the early 1890s. I did not expect to see it not only because it is the earliest grave of a Falkirk player I have yet seen [they become harder to find the further back because of possible exhumation] but also because I know that Tommy and his family were not from Falkirk, but from Carronshore, so thought he might be buried in Stenhousemuir [even Bothkennar at a push] not Falkirk.

It seems to be the original stone [but I am no graveologist so cannot say]

Camelon Cemetery

There is not much to say about his career, he started with his local club - Gairdoch - and showed so much promise as an eighteen year old in a match v Falkirk that Falkirk decided to 'borrow' him for an end of season charity match. He was in the starting line-up the next season, and became a regular in one of the club's more successful seasons. But for whatever reason during the next season he was gradually replaced by 'Paddy' Wemyss at Left-Half, and soon returned to "his first love".

What is quite strange is that no clue was given as to why he died so young in either of the local papers, another mystery for me to keep chasing.

Thomas Smith

b 31st October 1872, Carronshore, Stirlingshire
d 14th February 1895, Carronshore, Stirlingshire

Debut – Wednesday May 25 1891 v Falkirk District XI (H) Benefit Match

Positions – Left-Half

Club Honours – Stirlingshire Cup RU 1891/92, Falkirk District Charity Cup W 1891/92, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1891/92

Scottish Cup Matches /Goals [2/-]
Scottish Federation Matches/Goals [17/-]
Stirlingshire Cup Matches/Goals [6/1]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [3/-]
Other Matches/Goals [20/1]
Total Matches/Goals [48/2]

Known Career – Gairdoch [1890/91], Falkirk [1890/91-1892/93], Gairdoch [1893/94-1894/95]

Played for Gairdoch v Clackmannan, Friendly at Gairdoch Pk, Carronshore, 27th August 1892
Played for Gairdoch v Grangemouth, Friendly at Caledonian Pk, Grangemouth, 28th January 1893

No Falkirk FC Grave - Jimmy McPhie

I was going to check the new bit of Camelon Cemetery in case something surprising turned up, and also with the hope that I might come across the grave of James McPhie, but when I checked my book of collected Falkirk FC Obituaries [yes, I am that sad] they said he was to be cremated so it is most probable there is nowhere for me to find [I might be wrong I have never had to get involved at the sharp end yet .........].

I wanted to find a grave for several reasons, but mainly because of two reasons I wanted to do a blog post, first he is one of the main links between Falkirk in the pre & post WWII eras [the other being Kenny Dawson, about whom I have already posted] the other being that Jimmy was the youngest Falkirk player I know about for certain [though it must be said William Lees might have still been younger when he played in a Stirlingshire Cup match in 1892, but that is still unclear]. Jimmy was still a schoolboy when he was allowed to play in a benefit match for the first team against East Stirlingshire two days after his sixteenth birthday on the 27th of August 1936.

Jimmy had already been a success at schoolboy level, so it was not such a surprise he came to the attention of Falkirk at such a tender age, but in the rough and tumble of Division 1 football in the 1930s [when goalkeepers were knocked over the line by a shoulder-charge and it was considered a goal to the Centre-Forward], but Falkirk kept tabs on him, signing him up professionally a year later. I do not need to say that James was great across all the five back positions because his career lasted nearly twenty years [and average players do not last that long], but he was particularly adept at either Left or Right Back.

His Falkirk career [proper] began toward the end of the 1937/38 season, still a teenager, with a huge career ahead of him. But we all know what is coming.

To this day I do not understand exactly what Adolf Hitler had against Scottish Football to try to disrupt it as much as he did, but many players had to go to the defence of the SFA, in order that we may now watch what we must.

I also do not know if Jimmy actually saw action, but he certainly contributed, being a training instructor in the RAF at the rank of Sergeant. During the War he also guested with Preston North End & Reading [he may have played for more ... [but the abysmal state of research of English football 1939-1945 means I am yet to ascertain the details [This is understandable as apparently quite a lot of England was also engaged in the "Battle for the Defence of Scottish Football [as it is properly known]]].

After Scottish Football had been successfully defended, Jimmy returned to Bonnybridge and to the welcoming arms of a Falkirk team which had not come out of the war as well as it had entered it. This was a period of rebuilding [although Adolph only killed [murdered] one Falkirk player as far as I know [blog post is coming about Edwin Young], Falkirk had played two teams [at some expense] for a lot of the war where many other clubs just stopped, kept their money in the bank and watched from the sidelines, this cost Falkirk FC [and I mean in money] which hurt the club in the immediate post-war era.

Anyway, although Jimmy played for Falkirk throughout the war when available, it was in his late twentys when he came back that he made his true place among the Falkirk 'greats'. This is very tricky to measure in terms other than longevity and his place in the hearts of the fans, as the sixteen team team Division A meant a reduction in League fixtures, the shortfall being taken up with the group section of the newly introduced League Cup [so there was little chance of catching up with Tom Ferguson who played several seasons where there were fortytwo league games a season], but that is neither here nor there. Football post-war was a different beast from football pre-war.

Jimmy was the bedrock of the Falkirk FC defence in the decade immediately after the war, it is strange to see a Falkirk line-up during those years without McPhie [or McPhee] at either 2 or 3 [there were no numbers then, but I mean RB or LB], solid as a rock.

After regular injury made him finally give up football [his last game was on Saturday 11th of April 1953 in a Dewar Shield Semi-Final v Deveronvale]. Jimmy took up the dual role of Falkirk Reserve team manager and coach, and it is here where his place in the history of Falkirk was cemented for a second time [as if it were needed] because in between Bob Shankly and Reggie Smith in the succession of Falkirk Managers stepped Jimmy. Only as caretaker, but it counts as far as I am concerned, for six matches during the 1956/57 season he was in charge, his record of two won, one drawn, three lost is fine for someone who was just holding the reins.

It is a whole shame about that whole 'fighting Hitler' thing [in terms of his Falkirk career], it is a shame he has no grave to take a picture of, it is not a shame a lad from Bonnybridge had such a good career with his local League club.

I have no picture of him before 1946 [ten years after his debut, but there were reasons]

James McPhie

b 25th August 1920, Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire
d 24th February 2002, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Debut – Thursday August 27th 1936 v East Stirlingshire (A) Benefit Match
League Debut – Saturday April 30th 1938 v St Mirren (A) Scottish League Division 1

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

Club Honours – Scottish League RU 1939/40, Scottish League Cup RU 1947/48, Dewar Shield RU 1947/48, Stirlingshire Cup W 1937/38, 1938/39, 1947/48, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1938/39, Stirling District Charity Cup RU 1948/49

Falkirk FC Career
Scottish League Matches/Goals [170/3] [2 pens]
Scottish Cup Matches [16/-]
Scottish League Cup Matches/Goals [37/1] [1 pen]
Supplementary Cup Matches/Goals [1/-]
Festival of Britain Quaich Matches/Goals [1/-]
Wartime League Matches/Goals [57/3] [3 pens]
Emergency Cup Matches/Goals [4/-]
Southern League Cup Matches/Goals [9/1] [1 pen]
Summer Cup Matches/Goals [4/-]
Victory Cup Matches/Goals [4/-]
Dewar Shield Matches/Goals [16/-]
Stirlingshire Cup Matches/Goals [16/1] [1 pen]
Falkirk Infirmary Shield Matches/Goals [2/-]
Stirling District Charity Cup Matches/Goals [1/-]
Penman Cup Matches/Goals [1/-]
Other Matches/Goals [20/3] [2 pens]
Total Matches/Goals [344/12] [10 pens]

Known Career – Falkirk [1936/37-1954/55], Preston North End [1940/41], Reading [1941/42]