Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Great Unspoken


If you listen really carefully, I mean very hard: block out all that white noise nonsense coming from Glasgow and the media in general, you can sometimes hear a slight murmuring. Only occasionally and usually from people who do not have a clue and who should quite frankly keep quiet and keep their own nonsense to themselves.

I am talking about the preposterous notion that Falkirk Fc are the protestant club of the area and that East Stirlingshire FC are the catholic club. I can never understand how this idea arose and can never see anything upon which it could be based. Such fripperies as church were not included on the census, so it is meaningless to look there, as name, age, address & profession are no way in which to judge a person's faith.

From what we know of the early days of the two clubs we can assume little: but we can tell that the originators and early leading lights of Falkirk FC seemed to come from a largely middle-class background [office clerks, retailers, service professionals] mixed a lesser number of working class members, whereas with East Stirlingshire it was the reverse, the club being mainly made up of working men [for the most part foundry workers] with an element of middle class enthusiasts.

This slight difference in social strata looks on first sight as if it might have something, but it again is profoundly misleading. To take Falkirk FC as being more middle class and East Stirlingshire as more working class is to infer patterns into raw data and take it as significant. It is not, it merely shows a far more important underlying factor - Location, Location, Location.

Every good 'shire fan knows his/her club belongs to Bainsford, and for their club to play in Falkirk [or even worse in Stenhousemuir] is as bad as Falkirk playing in Grangemouth [get over it, Westfield is over the border]; neither set of fans is 100% happy with it.

And this is the true difference between the clubs, location: with location comes demographics. In 1880 the town of Bainsford was in the same place [slightly smaller] it was built in between the River Carron and the Forth & Clyde Canal, in other words it was between the massive Carron Iron Works and the many foundries on the banks of the canal [Abbots, Gowanbank, Grahamston etc]. So of course a team from Bainsford was mainly made up of foundrymen, most of Bainsford was foundrymen. On the other hand there was a larger number of middle class people living in Falkirk, while at the same time there were many people working in those very same foundries.

None of this implies any sectarian divide, and having spoken to many a 'shire fan there seems to be no basis for it throughout the clubs histories. But most damning of all, it subtly ignores one salient yet rarely considered point. If Falkirk and East Stirlingshire were on either side of that divide, then why did a group of Falkirk youths in the mid 1880s feel the need to form their own "Irish" club, the short-lived Falkirk Harp? I like to think it is because we have better things to think about than where other clubs' fans choose to worship:

*fingers crossed*