The origins of Falkirk are murky at best! Ignore the badge: that is wishfull thinking, the first mention of the club was in December of 1877, but even then it is without fanfare, after all it was just another football team playing this new-fangled sport. Many other teams were doing the same thing!
It is not until 1902, and the Club's Semi-Jubilee celebrations that anything is reported in the local press on the origins of Falkirk, when Murdoch McIntyre Club Secretary stated:
This puts it down to three 'founder' members of Falkirk, without giving much else away, and so it remains until March of 1909 when the Falkirk Herald reported on a meeting of Falkirk Bairns in Jacobsen's Hall, Chicago:
Of course it could be bluster on the part of Mr Gentleman, but there is no doubt that he was there at the time, for that you simply have to return to the earliest report of a Falkirk FC match in the Falkirk Herald published on the 30th of March of 1878:
What can I say? Maybe he got to play Centre-Forward because he had paid up the money, maybe he was just very good ;). So, he was there at the start but who was this William Gentleman? Through reading the other columns of the Falkirk Herald, and other research it would seem that at one time the Gentleman family were quite big about the district at one time. - There are fully ten people called William Gentleman in the Falkirk District Census of 1881!
But our William Gentleman was but one of these, as far as I can find out the family were cattle merchants from around the Slamannan area, however it seems they had more than one business holding, as William [Falkirk FC] was born in Avonbridge [sometimes cited as Muiravonside] in January 1857, yet is registered as living in Slamannan in the 1861 Census. However by 1871 the family had moved to a house [I am not sure where exactly] in Parkfoot [long before the advent of High Flats this was seen as a rather nice area].
Then comes football, and inevitably for an eligible young batchelor: marriage. William married Eliza McGregor in 1879, and pretty soon had their first child, Catherine, the first and last of the siblings to be born in Falkirk [even Scotland]!
It is because of Cath [as she seems to have been known], that I managed to trace them across the water. In 1882 there is an entry in the US Immigration records for a Mrs William Gentleman & Cath Gentleman [aged 1 moving to cook County, Illinois, to meet up with William who had moved the year before.
In 1890 and 1900 he was listed in the US Censuses as being involved in the Cattle trade in Chicago, only to suddenly dissapear from the 1920 Census, this perturbed me greatly at in looking for William Gentleman in Chicago I had often come across the case of William Gentleman's murder in 1911! Now this through a spanner in the works, especially since the US papers seemed against the idea of putting any biographical details in print!
I did eventually find the family in 1920, in the San Diego Census! No explanation is forthcoming. However they were back for the 1930 Census in Chicago.
From 1909 it seems to have dropped from the scene that William Gentleman Cattle dealer of Chicago Cook County, Illinois was one of the founders of Falkirk FC, and it must be said his obituary [which stated his birthplace as Falkirk] in the Chicago Tribune of 2nd July 1938 missed that point completely:
And there it might have ended, me doubting whether this William Gentleman was the same person that was instrumental in the formation of the best Club in Stirlingshire, just due to the vagueness, and the lack of anything in the Falkirk Local press ... until out of the blue, and out of left field I came across a little thing in a Canadian paper a week or two later: From the Winnipeg Tribune
So it seems that more than sixty years later, and on another continent, 'somebody' had not forgotten William Gentleman's contribution to Scottish Football. I salute you fine person!
William is buried in Mt Hope Cemetery, Cook County, Illinois, if anyone reading this is ever in the area, please pop round and take some pictures for me, as it will save one helluva trip!
Positions – Back, Half-Back, Centre-Forward