Sometimes it takes an annoying, self-righteous, self-important, obstreperous get to change the fortunes of a football club from that of also-rans into annoying, self-righteous & self-important [clubs just can't be obstreperous,] gets: Falkirk's first proper secretary was just that person.
Where Falkirk FC could have gone down the route of Grahamston FC & dare I say it [today's East Stirlingshire] the 'shire, one annoying, self-righteous, self-important & obstreperous person was at the helm of Falkirk FC.
His name was Robert Bishop. A mediocre player [he did however play in Falkirk FC's first victory, the Stirlingshire Cup win v East Stirlingshire in 1884] playing across the half-back line, he [in playing terms] was one of many who fleeted through the ranks of Falkirk players.
However, in 1886, he got a very serious knee injury and by 1887 stopped playing. In place he took up another two mantles; he took over the role of Club Secretary of Falkirk, and he later became a Referee.
To get over his playing career, yes, he was alright, when good backs were behind him he was better, he was not a big scorer, he filled a role.
The lack of a playing position meant he could concentrate on his role as club secretary [BIG NOTE – I am not 100% sure what the duties of the club secretary were: he did not select the team [though he was on the selection committee]; but he did correspond with the other clubs to arrange fixtures; he could not sign players [it was a club, you had to join [though I am sure he made it possible for membership fees to be waived]]; he was the public representative of the club; he had to attend those [I am sure] incredibly boring SFA meetings when they talked of protocol and little else], he was the central character of the club.
Robert Bishop was a bitch, he was especially a bitch to the Falkirk Herald [whose Sports Editor 'Scrutator' was a committed shire-ite] he once wrote to, and was published in, the Falkirk Herald complaining that the hero of the Falkirk fans [Alex Stark] had been referred to as 'buttons' [his nickname]. This would be like Alex Totten complaining that Kevin McAllister was called 'Crunchie'. It could not happen.
I don't know if it was like Arsene Wenger trying to protect his players, or like Gordon Strachan just being a tosser, but he was caustic with the press, especially if they said anything that did not shine the best light on Falkirk Football Club.
I cannot say from such a distance in time, but I get the feeling that it was Robert Bishop behind the decision in 1885/86 not to play friendly matches with any team in the district [in the end Falkirk did play a benefit against 1st Stirlingshire Rifle Volunteers [Falkirk]] in order to get the club out of the parochial nature of Falkirk football [home & away matches against all the other teams mixed in with the cups]. The club might not have struck terror into the hearts of the Glasgow & Edinburgh clubs, but it got us known throughout the country, which reaped rewards in the ensuing seasons: no more friendlies with Grahamston, Grasshoppers, Dunipace & Tayavalla, instead Glasgow Thistle, Battlefield, Rangers Swifts, Queen's Park Strollers etc. would make up the majority of the Falkirk fixture card.
Fixtures were soon resumed with the local rivals, East Stirlingshire & King's Park, but the era of being a 'Stirlingshire' team had been left behind. Robert Bishop also presided over the next part of Falkirk FC's growth, when [even though all teams were amateur] Falkirk actively started 'poaching' talent from the minor clubs around. David Fleming from Laurieston, Albert Dixon from Grangemouth, Alex Hay from Grahamston and Robert Walker from Alloa all joined the cause. This did not make Falkirk unbeatable, it did however strengthen the club [no one could beat East Stirlingshire under the great “Laurie” at this time, but Falkirk made sure they could compete].
Of course great men are not made by their own skill alone, Robert Bishop was fortunate to be in charge when Falkirk's best player in the pre-League era came to the fore, 'Bob' did not make Alex Stark, nor a year later did he create Thomas McDonald or Daniel Daye, but he was there to reap the rewards of his earlier policies. But then again he kept them with Falkirk [it was well known that East Stirlingshire wanted Alex Stark], and although Falkirk did not always dominate, the club were never dreadful. I think they stayed because they believed Falkirk would out.
So, an average player, who was very annoying with the media, shaped the future of the club, Robert Bishop is another of those who 'made' the club what it is now.
b 2nd November 1861, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
d 21st September 1943, Larbert, Stirlingshire
Debut – Saturday February 2nd 1884 v Grasshoppers (H) Stirlingshire Cup 1st Round.
Positions – Left-Half, Right-Half
Representative Honours – Stirlingshire v Fife 1885/86.
Club Honours – Stirlingshire Cup W 1883/84, RU 1886/87, Falkirk District Charity Cup RU 1885/86
Scottish Cup Matches /Goals [4/-]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [9/-]
Other Matches/Goals [6/-]
Other Matches/Goals [20/-]
Total Matches/Goals [39/-]
Known Career – Falkirk [1883/84-1887/88]
Played for Falkirk District XI v Cowlairs, Benefit Match at Brockville Pk, Falkirk, 3rd May 1886
Played for Campsie v Falkirk, Friendly at Brockville Pk, Falkirk, 23rd April 1887
Falkirk Secretary [1883/84-1886/87, 1888/89-1891/92, 1893/94-1895/96]
Record as Secretary
P30 W14 D5 L11 F115 A87
NB, as ever this is incredibly unfair as I am only including Scottish Cup, Stirlingshire Cup, Falkirk Charity Cup & Falkirk Infirmary Shield matches. Many other matches were played, but they were non-competitive.