Monday, 9 September 2013

The first former Falkirk player to fall in combat - John Devlin


Yet another incredibly obscure Falkirk player from the dim and distant past, one nobody else but I has probably heard of, mainly because he did very little for the club. In fact I can only find him playing in one match for the first team, in an end of season Benefit Match for Stenhousemuir FC in 1886/87 [he scored]. But John Devlin was the first Falkirk FC player that I have found that fell in combat, in the Battle of Atbara, Sudan in 1898.

Very little is known of his football career, and it is blurred by there being other players by the name of Devlin playing in minor Falkirk clubs at the time, but it is known that John played for both Falkirk & Falkirk Excelsior, but he may also have played for Falkirk Harp, Black Watch and Erin Rovers [but he would have been very young].

It is known he played for Falkirk because luckily he is in a picture of the Second XI which somehow survived from 1886.


It was also noted in his obituary in the Falkirk Herald that he had won the Falkirk & District Junior Cup with Falkirk Excelsior in 1889 [though it was not mentioned at the time].


He is honored on the family gravestone in Camelon Cemetery although I do not know whether he is interred there, as he was also commemorated on the British War Memorial in Sudan and the Seaforth Highlanders Memorial in Malta.


John Devlin

b c1870, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
d 8th April 1898, Atbara, Sudan

Debut – Saturday May 7th 1887 v Stenhousemuir (A) Benefit Match

Positions – Forward

Other Matches/Goals [1/1]

Known Career – Falkirk [1886/87], Falkirk Excelsior [1888/89]

Falkirk FC's first ground was probably not Brockville Park


There, I said it. Even though it says in nearly every history book about the Club beginning life at Brockville, moving around several local grounds, before finally returning to Brockville in the mid 1880s. In a previous post about Falkirk's first home game I brought up how the match report stated the match was played at 'Campfield' and this brought up some quesions, but felt it was probably the same piece of ground as Brockville.

Well I decided to look into it a bit further, so looking for references to Campfield in the Falkirk Herald in 1877 I came across several interesting bits & pieces which have caused me to question my previous thinking.

Firstly that regularly "Athetics" and other events were held at Campfield

for example these games in June 1877


and this Running Competition in December 1877


This running match puts sporting competitions in a vague geographical context, however as many of you will know Brockville Park was close to Grahamston Station, so I had to try to avoid sports and look for Campfield in the wider context of Falkirk/Grahamston and quickly came up with some more references.

In a report on the poor state of local drainage in September 1877 Campfield was mentioned again


This mentions the drain flowing into a burn behind the houses on Graham's Road, this is not so close to Brockville Park, but still there was open land behind the housing on both sides of Graham's Road, so it was not inconceivable that a very large area was known as Campfield.

However, a couple of weeks later [still in September 1877] in a report on the beginning of public works on these sewerages  locates Campfield more firmly.


"... Campfield to the east of Graham's Road". This is pretty definitive, Brockville Park, by any definition was to the west of Grahams Road [the road has lost the apostrophe through time], the place referred to in the Falkirk Herald as 'Campfield' was not Brockville Park.

Whether or not there was a mistake in the contemporary report I cannot say, but I doubt it.

Soon after the land was bought and the Springfield Foundry was built along with a great number of railway sidings and associated facilities for the running of the foundry, so sports could no longer be held there. Falkirk FC moved to Randyford on Grangemouth Road.

The ground referred to above as Campfield was derelict wasteland when I was growing up, but now is largely taken up by the carpark of the Falkirk Central Retail Park.

Addendum - Date = 6th December 2013

As a slight addition to my non-proof [but circumstantial evidence] I would add this report from the Glasgow Herald from June 1879. Herein the Falkirk & East Stirlingshire Annual Games are reported as having taken place in Springfield Park. Note the name of the foundry being built.


But of more interest to me is that J.Richardson's team won the Football Competition [it must be James Richardson of Falkirk FC, whose family home backed onto the land.