Sunday, 7 July 2013

Falkirk FC Players 1927

A little article appeared in the Falkirk Herald of 6th August 1927 detailing the Falkirk FC players for the coming season

It basically just gave their Height an Weight

The players were listed thus

Player Height Weight
T.Ferguson (Goal) 5 10 12 7
J.Whitton (Goal) 5 11 11 0
T.Scott (Back) 5 7½ 12 2
G.Scobbie (Back) 5 10 11 4
J.Gowdy (Back) 5 9 10 6
T.Gilroy (Back) 5 7 10 9
J.Kennedy (Half-Back) 5 8½ 11 0
J.McIlwaine (Half-Back) 5 9 13 0
G.Ritchie (Half-Back) 5 8 11 0
J.Douglas (Half-Back) 5 9 12 0
H.McGinnigle (Half-Back) 5 9 11 10
J.Cowie (Half-Back) 5 9 11 5
H.Martin (Outside-Right) 5 8 11 0
W.Cox (Outside-Right) 5 6 10 9
P.Gallagher [sic] (Inside-Right) 5 5½ 9 0
R.Kennedy (Centre-Forward) 5 7 10 7
J.Cox (Centre-Forward) 5 8 12 0
J.McNeil (Centre-Forward) 5 6½ 10 0
A.Heeps (Centre-Forward) 5 6½ 11 0
J.Hunter (Inside-Left) 5 7 10 2
D.Paterson (Outside-Left) 5 6 10 7
W.Gall (Outside-Left) 5 8 10 6

The reason I find this article fascinating is that only J.Whitton [who never played a single game for the club] is the only player in the above list who is taller than me.

I am 5 10, yet I do not think of myself as a big strapping athletic type bloke, I am lazy, play on computers, etc.

In the last 70 [even 50] years, the people in Scotland have changed out of all recognition! Patsy Gallacher had a lot of skill, but 5 foot 5½ inches, it is almost unimaginable these days.

Football has changed a lot, players are taller, bigger, fitter than ever, it is always nice to remind ourselves of this when we try to compare eras/players.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Falkirk FC players before World War II

For a while I have been trying to track down every player who played for Falkirk FC up to the Second World War. It is not easy, there was no central registration system before the Scottish League [and that was not very good until recently [just a lot of names...]], but I have made some headway. However I got to the point where I thought I would do some number crunching with what I had, these are some of my findings so far. There are a lot of gaps, but I am working on it.

The main thing to know is that football was a much younger man's match back then, and it would seem it was more so the further back you go [apart from James McPhie all of the youngest players played in the 19th Century, whilst all but four of the oldest played after WWI], this is not altogether unsurprising, before professionalism the club could only pick from those who were not working on a Saturday afternoon, also fitness & life expectancy levels have risen since those years. [Current professional players often continue playing well into their forties].

Another thing [not apparent by these tables] is that although some were born away from this area, the youngest players were mainly locals: except Albert Dixon [born in Dublin, brought up in Grangemouth], David Malcolm [born and brought up in Bathgate] and David Ross [born in Coldingham, Berwickshire, brought up in Falkirk].

In fact before joining the league Falkirk only had seven players born outside of Scotland [Thomas Bellingham born Culmore, Albert Dixon born Dublin, James Conlin born Consett, the brothers Richard & William Peddie born in Sunderland, James Richardson born in Chimbote, Peru and Harry Smith born in Farnham] all except Harry Smith were brought up in Central Scotland.

Of the oldest players the only players born locally were Thomas Townsley [born and brought up in California] & John Drummond [born in Alva, brought up in Falkirk].

Although I have limited this to League & Scottish Cup matches Falkirk played many other matches: I know of two players who challenge Alex Gillespie for the place as youngest, one is definite the other a maybe, James McPhie played in a benefit match v East Stirlingshire on the 27th August 1936 when he was 16 years 2 days, but also a William Lees from Blackbraes seems to have been 15 [he was born in Learmouth, Lanarkshire c1877] when he played in a Stirlingshire Cup match v Grangemouth on October 29th 1892.

Therefore it can be seen that a large demographic shift had taken place from the late 1870s to the 1930s within football [from local talent to talent for hire?]. This is again understandable as the club had to be competitive within the Scottish League. With school etc. it is difficult to see so many players playing below the age of 17 in the future, but there seems nothing to stop players to keep playing as long as they can [records are there to be broken].

All in all this proves nothing, as both the youngest & oldest records have since been broken, Gary Gillespie [16 years 46 days] is now the youngest, John Burridge [44 years 0 days] the oldest.

In the future I hope to find out more information about the rest of the players which may change the tables below, until then …..

NB – It is the same John Drummond in the Youngest & Oldest senior matches lists, but sadly he spent most of the time in between with Rangers.

Youngest Players for Falkirk FC to 1938/39
[Scottish Cup, Scottish Qualifying Cup & Scottish League]

Alex Gillespie1    16 Years 294 Days v Partick (A) Scottish Cup 3rd Rd, 25th October 1884
John Drummond      17 Years 143 Days v Kilsyth Wanderers (H) Scottish Cup 1st Rd, 3rd September 1887
Alex Stark         17 Years 174 Days v Laurieston (A) Scottish Cup 2nd Rd, 2nd October 1886
James McPhie       17 Years 248 Days v St Mirren (A) Scottish League Division 1, 30th April 1938
Albert Dixon       17 Years 268 Days v Partick (A) Scottish Cup 3rd Rd, 25th October 1884
Thomas Harley      17 Years 338 Days v Dunipace (H) Scottish Cup 1st Rd, 1st September 1888
David Malcolm      18 Years 41 Days  v Queen of the South Wanderers (A) Scottish Cup 4th Rd, 3rd November 1888
David Ross         18 Years 128 Days v Tillicoultry (H) Scottish Cup 1st Rd, 7th September 1889
William Gillespie1 18 Years 139 Days v Kilsyth Wanderers (H) Scottish Cup 1st Rd, 3rd September 1887
William Murphy     18 Years 141 Days v Campsie (H) Scottish Cup 2nd Rd, 24th October 1887

1 Alex & William Gillespie were brothers [Another three brothers: David, John & George also played for Falkirk FC].
George Campbell would have been about 16 on his debut v Stenhousemuir in the Qualifying Cup 2nd Rd 1900/01, but I am yet to find an exact Date of Birth.

Oldest Players for Falkirk FC to 1938/39
[Scottish Cup, Scottish Qualifying Cup & Scottish League]

Patrick Gallacher   40 Years 334 Days v Dundee (A) Scottish League Division 1, 13th February 1932
John Ballantyne     36 Years 189 Days v Celtic (A) Scottish League Division 1, 17th April 1935
Thomas Townsley     34 Years 317 Days v Queen's Park (H) Scottish League Division 1, 11th March 1933
John Drummond       34 Years 283 Days v Raith Rovers (H) Scottish League Division 2, 23rd January 1905
Isaac Begbie        34 Years 235 Days v Ayr (H) Scottish League Division 2, 31st January 1903
John Stevenson      34 Years 35 Days  v Kilmarnock (H) Scottish League Division 1, 2nd April 1932
James Croal         33 Years 196 Days v St Mirren (A) Scottish League, 8th February 1919
John McTavish       32 Years 317 Days v Dumbarton (H) Scottish League, 20th April 1918
Peter Bell          32 Years 127 Days v Raith Rovers (A) Scottish League Division 1, 30th March 1929
William Lennie      32 Years 87 Days  v Partick Thistle (A) Scottish League Division 1, 18th April 1914

The above lists should be taken with a pinch of salt, as not all of the biographical details of all the players are available and the full set of match line-ups is incomplete, some of the other players may have been younger/older and some of these players may have played in other matches.

Most Stirlingshire Cup Matches 1883/84 to 2012/13

Not many people in the world of football rate the Stirlingshire Cup very highly, but do you know what? I could not give the slightest what they think: this is a local cup for local teams. It is one of the oldest actual trophies still played for on an annual basis [excepting wartime, it has only never been played in 2008/09 when a dispute over referees' match fees caused its cancellation].

Of the original founding members - Falkirk, East Stirlingshire, Tayavalla, Dunipace, King's Park, Campsie & Stenhousemuir [different club from the current Stenhousemuir] only Falkirk & East Stirlingshire survive, and only Falkirk has entered every competition [East Stirlingshire missed out because of the ES/Clydebank season].

Through time the number of teams in Stirlingshire dwindled, so the cup incorporated clubs from Clackmannanshire, Linlithgowshire [West Lothian] then Dunbartonshire, but never lost the name.

These are the ten teams to have played most matches in this hallowed competition [with provisos below]

Thanks to - Andrew Hulett, Brian McColl, Gordon Hunter, Steven McAneney, Thomas McGouran, Bobby Hutchison, Sandy Reid & Paul Doherty [I could not have done all the Cup on my own]

Notes –
Missing result from Alloa v ESFC Semi-fin 1956/57

East Stirlingshire
Alloa Athletic
King's Park
Stirling Albion
Kilsyth Wanderers

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Falkirk FC in 1930

Found yet another old picture of Falkirk FC from the archives, this time a rather poor quality picture of the team in pre season training before the 1930/31 season, among the players is a nearly 40 year old Patsy Gallacher still commanding at either Inside-Right or Inside-Left.

Also in this picture is Jimmy Dyet who on 2nd January that year, while a King's Park player, had scored eight goals on his senior debut [still a record by a mile].

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!.