Brechin City: 1906-1920, the Early Years
by ALEX WOOD
CHAPTER 4 1909-1911: Forfarshire Cup Winners and Northern League Runners-up
As well as Hampton’s departure, the start of the 1909-1910 season saw Easson and Matthew re-signing but Chapman moving to Montrose. Henderson moved to Aberdeen, Ramsay to Dundee Hibs and Petrie returned to Forfar. Clark however returned to Brechin from Woolwich Arsenal, almost certainly the first and the last player to have transferred from Brechin to Arsenal, let alone to have returned. Murray arrived from Montrose.
THE NATIONAL CUP COMPETITIONS
In the first round of the Qualifying Cup City beat Dundee Hibs by two goals to one. Huntingtower forewent their home advantage in the second round to play at Nursery Park and City took full advantage to win by two goals to nil. That run came to an end in the third round when Brechin travelled to play the other City, at Elgin, and lost 3-1.
In the Consolation Cup, Brechin went out 2-1 to Dunfermlinein the second round, having defeated Dundee Hibs 4-1 in the first. The Dunfermlinegame was noted as of some interest on the basis that both teams were heading their respective leagues, Northern and Central, at the time.
THE FORFARSHIRE CUP: FIRST KNOCK-OUT TROPHY
In 1909-10 BrechinCity’s major triumph was in the Forfarshire Cup. Montrose fell by three goals to nil at LinksParkin the first round. In the semi-final Brechin beat Dundee Wanderers 5-0 in a replay after a 1-1 draw. Brechin then won its first knock-out trophy by defeating Arbroath 4-1 in the final. Because on the same day Dundee was playing in the final of the Scottish Cup at Hampden, the final, played atDensPark, attracted a smaller crowd than might otherwise have been expected.
The Brechin team was Balfour, Shand and Lyon; Knowles, Findlay and Simpson; Richardson, Clark, Glen, Easson and Murray. Both Shand and Easson had previously played in the final of a Forfarshire Cup when in 1905-06 Shand was playing for Forfar and Easson for Arbroath, Forfar having won on that day. Shand, Lyon, Glen and Easson had also played for Brechin in the final of the previous season. For Lyon, Glen and Easson therefore this was the opportunity to gain a cup-winner’s (rather than a runners-up) medal. That hunger seems to have had a dramatic effect. Brechin won by four goals to one, the scorers being Easson and Glen with one apiece and Lyon with two, both from the penalty spot. According to the Brechin Advertiser, City “well deserved their victory. They played the typical cup-tie game, and won because of their bustling and constant attention to their opponents. Arbroath play excellent football, but where they erred … was in keeping up close manoeuvring when they were in the leeway. Had they taken a leaf out of the Ancient City men’s book, they would not have been so far down at the finish. Balfour in the winners’ goal saved several good efforts, while Shand and Lyon tackled and punted fearlessly. Of the half-backs, Findly (sic) was the pick. He never let Swan get a chance after the first twenty minutes, and when wanted gave the backs assistance. Richardson and Clark made a very nippy wing, the latter feeding his outside man judiciously. Glen was a dashing centre, and Easson and Murray were neat.”
The arrival of the team in Brechin sparked off an evening of celebration. As the train steamed into Brechin station, fog signals marked the start of the festivities. The recently resuscitated Brechin City Band greeted the team and officials with See The Conquering Heroes. A brake with horses unyoked awaited the team which was then pulled by locals through the main streets of Brechin. A speech by George Cumming, the president, was made when the brake returned to St Ninian’s Square after which players and officials retired to the Star Hotel (managed by James Lyon, father of the City captain). More speeches followed. The winners’ badges were presented and, “after the cup had been filled and passed round an enjoyable hour was spent with songs, etc.” Winning the county cup certainly seems to have been celebrated far more liberally than the Northern League triumph of two years previous.
Brechin’s reward for winning the Forfarshire Cup was to contest the Dewar Shield, against the winners of the Stirlingshire Cup. On the Saturday following the DensParktriumph, Brechin travelled to play Falkirkat the latter’s home ground and lost 3-1.
THE LEAGUE CAMPAIGN
At the start of that season Arbroath FC, along with St Johnstone and the Fif eclubs, had left the Northern League and joined the Central League. The Northern League was consequently much depleted, comprising Brechin, Forfar, Montrose, Dundee Hibernians, Dundee Wanderers and Dundee’s and Aberdeen’s reserve sides. The Brechin Advertiser sought lightly to dismiss the effects of the secession: “The Northern League’s disruption will not greatly affect the Brechiners because they never came across any gold mines in their wanderings to and fro in the Kingdom of Fife.”
Interest in the Northern League programme was nonetheless high. Brechin and Dundee Hibs played in front of 3,000 at an early season league game at Tannadice – which Dundee Hibs won 3-0.
A partial solution to the much diminished fixture list which this reduced league created was the formation of an additional league, the Forfarshire League, competing for the Carry (or Carrie) Cup. The Forfarshire League was established in October 1909. BrechinCitywas joined in this new venture by Arbroath, Dundee Hibs, Dundee Wanderers, Forfar Athletic and Montrose. As the season progressed however, it was “understood” that both St Johnstone and Arbroath might return to the Northern League, neither having “found the Central League the paying concern it was expected to be.”
Brechin’s record in the two league competitions however, was an excellent one. In the Northern League Brechin achieved the runner’s-up position.
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Brechin’s most impressive win in that league campaign was the 4-1 victory against Dundee Wanderers. The worst defeat was the previously mentioned 3-0 stinging at Tannadice by Dundee Hibs.
The newly created Carrie Cup or Forfarshire League also saw a creditable performance by Brechin. A 3-0 victory over Forfar was the high spot of the campaign. A 3-1 defeat at the hands of Arbroath was the nadir of Brechin’s run in that brief lived league. Despite completing only six out of ten possible fixtures, City finished again in second place, in this competition to Dundee Hibs.
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As well as these strong league runs, Brechin also completed five friendlies over the season. Two were against local Junior opposition, Brechin Rovers. The Juniors won one 3-1 and drew the other. Against Motherwell, Brechin lost 4-1 and against Montrose Brechin drew one and lost the other 3-0. The defeat at the hands of Montrose was the last game of the season. For some unknown reason, according at least to the published team sheet, Balfour, the Brechin keeper, played at left back and Melvin, who normally played right half, was in goal.
The Annual General Meeting of BrechinCityreflected the problems of the league structure: “the absence of good fixtures,” said George Cumming, “had told on the gates.” For the first time a deficit, estimated at twenty pounds, was estimated. The officials elected were: Honorary president, ex-Provost Guthrie; president, George Cumming; vice-president, Mr William Hampton; secretary, Mr R N Clift. A fortnight later R N Clift was also re-elected secretary of the Forfarshire Football Association.
The team sheets are reported for thirty out of Brechin’s thirty two games in 1909-10. The regulars in the Brechin side were Balfour, the keeper, with twenty nine games; Shand, the right back with twenty seven; Lyon, the captain and left back with twenty five; Winter, who played in a range of half-back and forward positions, with twenty; Findlay, the regular centre half, with twenty nine ; Easson, the outside right (who also played at centre forward and inside left) with twenty two; Clark, the inside right with twenty nine; Glen, the centre- forward with twenty four; and Murray, the outside left with twenty eight games.
The goal keeper, full-backs, inside right, centre forward and outside left positions were held with some consistency but there was considerable competition for the other positions.
Balfour was in goal on twenty eight occasions, Stewart once and Melvin, the full-back, was once in goal.
Shand occupied the right back berth for twenty six games: Petrie (a different Petrie from the outside left who had returned to Forfar at the beginning of the season), Hunter, Lyon and Knowles (again a different Knowles from the ex-Wanderers player of Brechin’s first season) for one each. Lyonwas at left back twenty four times, Young three times and Balfour, Shand and Sinclair once each.
Knowles was right half on eleven occasions,Campbellon six, Melvin on four, Dakers on three, Petrie on two and Richardson, Simpson, Winter and Goodfellow once each. Findlay was the regular centre half, wearing the number five jersey twenty seven times, with Ritchie donning it twice and Petrie once.. The left half berth was hotly contested: Simpson played there eleven times, Young ten, Campbell three,Findlayand Petrie twice each and Winter and Knowles once each.
Easson was the most regular right-winger with fourteen appearances,Richardson, Winter and Wyllie had five each and Simpson one. Clarkalmost monopolised the inside right position hitting twenty nine out of the thirty games recorded, with Matthew appearing for the one exception. Glen was the regular centre, playing there twenty four times: Easson wore number nine four times and Winter and Frail once each. Winter played inside left twelve times, Matthew five, Richardson four, Ritchie two and Wyllie, Smart and Rennie one each. Murrayplayed outside left on twenty eight occasions and Robertson on two.
The whole tally of scorers is not available but from those identifiedClarkscored twelve goals, Glen ten, Murray seven, Lyon six and Easson five.
1910-1911: The Northern League – Runners-Up Again
Prior to the new season Brechin signed W Smith of DundeeWanderers but lost, Easson, one of the early stalwarts, to Forfar. Richardson had emigrated to the USA. Murray had also moved. James Milne had been acquired from Dundee, in August 1910, having played for Dundee’s A team. It is almost certainly the same Milne who came to Brechin in 1907 from Lochee and played for Brechin over season 1907-08. Milne, a tinsmith to trade and born in 1884 in Brechin, was City’s regular outside left in 1910-11 and played at least four games in 1911-12. Knowles, who had played at both right- and left half over the previous season re-signed in August.
Robert Strachan was a utility player (appearing regularly in any of the half back positions but also at right back and as a forward) who had several spells with City. Robert Mitchell Strachan was born in Brechin in 1889. He had played for Brechin Harp in a variety of positions in 1905-06 and played five games for BrechinCityin the club’s first season, 1906-07. In 1908-09 he was again playing junior football, with Brechin Hearts, but in 1909-10 had moved to Dundee Hibs. He turned out for Hibs regularly over that season including on four occasions against Brechin. Strachan returned to Brechin at the start of the 1910-11 season, for his second spell with the club. In October he was selected as a reserve for Forfarshire against Perthshire and in fact played in the game at Dens Park which ended in a 2-2 draw. He was signed by Dundee late in October 1910 and played for Dundee A against Brechin City in late November 1910. He returned to Brechin however in January 1911 to commence his third spell with City and played several times over the remainder of that season.
As the season progressed City signed local junior, John Walker. John Alexander Walker was born in Southesk Terrace on 2nd March 1882, the son of John Walker, an overseer in a flax mill, and Jane Ann Walker (nee Strachan). In 1901 he and his parents and his young brother, William, were living in88 Montrose Street, next to Collie Martin. He played for Brechin Hearts and signed forBrechinCity towards the end of 1910-11, playing three games for City in that season. He was then a regular at either inside right or inside left over the succeeding two seasons.
The report, midway through the season, in the interest of other clubs in Brechin players, illustrated both the quality of the game in Brechin and the finances of Edwardian football. Balfour, the keeper, was mentioned as a target for ManchesterCity. (He eventually ended with Dundee.) Davie Glen was reported as having excited the interest of Hibernian “but somehow or other matters have not materialised, probably because of transfer troubles.” Strachan, the half-back, went on a month’s trial with Dundee, with Brechin receiving £5 “for the time specified” with the promise of a £10 transfer fee if Dundeeopted to “retain his services”. He had however returned to Brechin early in the new year.
COLLIE MARTIN’S FIRST STINT AT CITY
David Collie, better known as Collie Martin, had joined City from Brechin Hearts at the beginning of the season. He was twenty years old when he signed and a native Brechiner.
Collie Martin played for Brechin Hearts Junior FC in season 1909-10. In 1910-11 he signed for BrechinCityand played in at least six games, one at outside right, five at centre forward. He transferred to Dundeein January 1911, “where he excelled as a goal scorer. Everywhere he was appreciated as a clean, gentlemanly player.” He played, firstly for Dundee A, the reserve team, which competed in the Northern League. Indeed shortly after his move to Dundee he turned out for Dundee A against Brechin City in a Northern League match. Dundee A won 4-2. As a result of his appearance in the navy blue colours the initial sentence of The Brechin Advertiser report on the game was a succinct, “There were Brechin players on both sides.” (The other Brechin player in the Dundee team in this game was Albert Law.)
Martin played one game at centre forward for Dundee’s first team towards the end of season 1910-1911 (against St Mirren) and seven games in 1911-1912 during which he scored three goals, two against Queens Park in September 1911 and one against Hamilton Accies in December of the same year. In February of 1912 he is noted playing for Dundee A against Aberdeen A. Collie Martin played only a relatively limited number of games for Dundee Football Club’s first eleven. He played however at a time when Dundee FC was among the cream of Scottish football, one of the few clubs challenging the power of the old firm. In 1906-07 and 1908-09 Dundee had been runners up in the League and they won the Scottish Cup in 1909-1910. Dundee had also won the Forfarshire Cup in 1908-09 and in 1911-12.
HARRY ROSS: BRECHIN LEGEND
In October 1910, there arrived at Brechin one the legends of local football. Harry Ross, who had been born in Brechin in 1881, had moved from Junior football in Brechin to play for Burnleybut his major triumphs were with Fulham, then a Southern League club, which he joined in 1904. He played ninety eight games, mainly at right back, for Fulham between 1904 and 1909 and scored a total of nine goals. He was described in 1905 as “one of those players who can play equally well at right or left back. Physically he is the man for the place. Twenty four years of age, he weighs over thirteen stone and stands a trifle more than five feet ten. He is a vigorous tackler and a powerful kick, and possesses all the attributes of mind and temper that go to make a first class player.” Fulham entered the Football League in 1907. Ross had played for the Anglo-Scots in an international trial in 1905-06 and had captained Fulham in 1907-08. In that season he had been carried shoulder high from the field, the hero of the hour, after Fulham had defeated Manchester United in a cup tie. From Fulham he moved to St Mirren and thence signed for Brechin, playing his first game on 29th October 1910 against Aberdeen A. Ross played seven games for City.
THE LEAGUE CAMPAIGNS
In 1910-11 Arbroath rejoined the Northern League while still playing in the Central League and maintained for some years an intermittent presence in the Northern League. The Annual General Meeting of the Northern League, held immediately prior to the start of the new season, saw George Cumming of Brechin elected as president of the league. Much was again made of the problems which had ensued from the reduced numbers competing but it was announced that St Johnstone, Arbroath and Raith Rovers Reserves would join the league. In fact Raith Rovers Reserves never joined, St Johnstone never joined and Dundee Hibs played only their reserve team in the Northern League. Dundee Wanderers were forced to withdraw because they had no ground of their own. Neither Dundee Hibs, playing in the second division, nor Arbroath, playing in both the Central and Northern Leagues, could make commitments to meet fixtures in the early part of the season.
Two of Brechin’s fixtures, one against each of Dundee Hibs and Arbroath were not played. As a result Brechin played only ten league games. AberdeenA completed its fixtures, a total of twelve games. Nonetheless as is clear from the table, even had Brechin completed and won its two outstanding fixturesAberdeenA would have won the championship.
One other anomaly in the league campaign for that season is that Brechin City apparently played three games against Aberdeen A rather than the normal two although it is also clear from the end of season league tables that Brechin’s 1-0 victory was not ultimately counted. No explanation has been traced for this but it is likely that some infringement of the rules led to an appeal and the result being declared void.
Despite these difficulties, Brechin ended the season, once again, the runners-up to the champions. The best league result of the season, ironically, was the four goals to one victory over Aberdeen A and the worst league defeat was by four goals to two at the hands of Dundee A.
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BrechinCityagain competed in the Carrie Cup, the Forfarshire League, but it appears as if the only other competitors were Forfar and Montrose. Brechin’s tally was one win (against Montrose), one draw (against Forfar) and a defeat at the hands of each of their other local rivals. A final league table for the Carrie Cup for 1910-11 has not been traced.
THE CUP COMPETITIONS
Brechin had good run in the Qualifying Cup, defeating Montrose (2-1), Hearts of Beath (4-3) and Dunfermline Athletic (2-1) before losing, one-nil, in the fourth round, the semi-final, to Leith Athletic, the Qualifying Cup holders and joint champions of the second division of the Scottish Football League.
Having reached the Qualifying Cup semi-final City again went into the draw for the first round of the Scottish Cup and were tied with Aberdeenat Brechin. Brechin however agreed to play the game at Pittodrie after “Aberdeenoffered some very favourable conditions, which include a visit from the full league team later in the season.” Brechin lost by three goals to nil in a game in which City’s right back, Alex Shand, broke his arm.
Brechin went out in the first round of the Forfarshire Cup, defeated by two goals to nil by Arbroath at Gayfield.
Findlayand Glen were both selected for the Forfarshire XI against Perthshire in September, for which match Balfour and Strachan were also selected as reserves.
City also played several friendlies over the season, perhaps the most significant being the promised game at NurseryParkagainst Aberdeen, granted as a condition of Brechin having surrendered its home advantage in the Scottish Cup draw. The game was played “before a large turnout of spectators” on a Wednesday evening (in the days before floodlights) in April. Aberdeenfulfilled the promise to field a first eleven and played a team with only two players different from that which had faced City at Pittodrie in the competitive game. The result was a superb two-nothing win for Brechin.
At the club’s AGM in April George Cumming was re-elected president; William Hampton as vice-president; R N Clift as secretary and T McKay as treasurer. The committee members elected were noted as W Black, J Shand, J Fowler, J Cook, J Black, J Todd and G Allan.
Team lists have been traced for twenty four out of the twenty eight games played. The regulars that season were Balfour, the keeper, who played in all twenty four games for which lists have been established. Milne the outside left made twenty three appearances. Knowles turned out twenty one times, as didFindlay, and the long-servingLyonplayed in twenty games. W Smith played seventeen games; Shand played eighteen games, Glen, fifteen andHendersonfourteen.
With the exception of the goal keeper’s, centre half’s and outside left’s positions, there was considerable competition for every position.
Balfour, as noted, played in goal in all twenty four games where team sheets are extant.
The right back position was played by Shand fourteen times, Ross seven times and Strachan three. The left back position was occupied by Lyon fifteen times, by Shand on four occasions, Ower (almost certainly the same Ower who had moved from Brechin to Jarrow after the 1906-07 season) twice andCampbellonce.
Knowles played right half eighteen times, while Strachan and Campbell each twice occupied that berth and Winter andFindlayonce each. Findlaywas the regular centre half with twenty appearances, Knowles, Hunter, W Smith and Ritchie each having one game at number five. Hendersonwas the left half on thirteen occasions and Campbell on eight, with Strachan, Knowles and Henderson each having a solitary appearance there.
The contests for the forward positions were even more heated.
Murrayplayed outside right nine times; Strachan four; Lyon three; Hunter two and Winter,Irvine, Gibb, Collie, Sherret and Johnstone each had one appearance on the right wing. The inside right position was filled on ten occasions by Clark, on four by Sherret, on three by Walker, and each of Lyon, W Smith, Henderson, Gibb, A Smith, Davidson and Adam played there once. The old war-horse Glen was the most regular centre forward with fifteen appearances. David Collie (otherwise known as Collie Martin) played there five times and Lyon, Knowles, Hunter and Sherret each had one game at centre. W Smith played inside left on fifteen occasions. Harry Hampton, a cousin of Colin Hampton, Brechin’s erstwhile goal keeper, had six games there, with Burnett, Sharp and Soutar each playing at number ten once. Milne was the outside left on twenty three out of twenty four games with Jaffray having a solitary appearance.
Scorers have not been traced in the majority of games but Glen scored at least seven goals, Milne four and Murray, Hampton and Lyon two each.
1910-11 was in one sense Brechin’s quietest season since its formation with only twenty seven fixtures played, of which fourteen were won, eight lost and five drawn.
CHAPTER 5 MAY BE ACCESSED AT https://www.alexwood.org.uk/2012/08/brechin-city-the-early-years-chapter-5/
BUILDING THE ARCHIVE
The author of this article would be glad to hear any information which corrected, improved or enhanced any of the information given here and would be delighted to hear of any readers who have documents, photographs, articles or simply memories or knowledge of any of the names mentioned or of any other Brechin footballing connections with the 1914-18 War. The author can be contacted at:
Any such material will be used to supplement this article.
The major sources for this work were:
Adams, David G: The Kirn Poke o’ Brechin, Chanonry Press, Brechin (1986)
Adams, David G: The Brechin Bran Tub, Chanonry Press, Brechin (1987)
Adams, David G: The Brechin Rag-Bag, Chanonry Press, Brechin (1988)
Adams, David G: The Brechin Lucky Dip, Chanonry Press, Brechin (1989)
Alexander, Jack: McCrae’s Battalion, Mainstream,Edinburgh (2003)
Carr, William: A Time to Leave the Ploughshares,London (1985)
Cheshire, Scott: Chelsea, A Complete Record 1905-1991, Breedon Books (1991)
Crampsey, Bob: The Scottish Football League, the First 100 Years, SFL,Glasgow (1990)
Cumming, George: Through the Years with Brechin City FC, Simmath Press,Dundee (1948)
Falls, Cyril: History of the Great War, France and Belgium, 1917
Gibbs, Philip: The War Dispatches, Tandem,London (1968)
Gourlay, David M.A.: A Brechin Eleven and A Printer’s Dozen
Hampton, W: Collection of Colin Hampton Memorabilia (including medals, press cuttings and photographs)
Lynch, Michael: Scotland, A New History, Pimlico,London (1992)
McArra, Kevin: Scottish Football, a Pictorial History,Edinburgh (1984)
McLeod, Rod: 100 Years of Scottish Football, STV,Glasgow (1973)
Price, Norrie: Up Wi’ The Bonnets, N Price,Aberdeen (1993)
Smailes, Gordon, Scottish Football Records,Derby (1995)
Smout, T.C.: A Century of the Scottish People, 1830-1950,Fontana,London (1997)
Swinburne, John: Motherwell Football Club, 1886-1999, Tempus, Stroud (1999)
Wilkie, Jim: Across the Great Divide, Mainstream (1984)
Wood, Alex.: Collection of Walter Fowler memorabilia (including medals, photographs and Brechin Hearts membership card)
The Brechin Almanac 1918
The Brechin Almanac 1920
Brechin and The Great War 1918 (Brechin Advertiser, February 1919)
The Brechin Advertiser
The Courier and Argus
The London Gazette
D & R Duke, Denburn Works, Roll of Honour, Brechin (1919?)
Relichtie Arbroath FC fans’ website http://www.relichtie.plus.com/directory.htm
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour web-site http://www.cwgc.org/cwgcinternet/search.aspx
The County of Angus Roll of Honour http://vzone.virgin.net/ian.edwards2/index.htm
Corstorphine, James K: The East Fife Football Historian website http://members.tripod.com/~corstorphine/historian.html
Dundee United FC website http://www.dundeeunitedfc.co.uk/
Fulham FC website http://www.fulhamfc.com/
Loons Mad, independent Forfar Athletic fans website http://www.forfarathletic-mad.co.uk
The National Archives, Documents on Line, for World War One medal lists http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline
McColl, Brian: Scottish Football Encyclopaedia website http://www.geocities.com/brianmccoll19662003/ScottishFootballAtoZ.html
Parker, Jim: Machine Gun Corps Research website www.machinegun.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk
Ross, James M: Scotland – List of Qualifying Cup Winners, website http://www.rssf.com/tables/scotqualcuphist.html
Tangerine Dream, independent Dundee United fans website http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Park/8250/united.htm
WELLnet, Motherwell FC website http://members.lycos.co.uk/kissmyzeus/pa/h.html
Birth Certificates were traced for most mentioned men and marriage certificates for several via Scotland’s People, the web site for the General Register Office forScotland, from which were also traced census entries http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/
In addition the following individuals and institutions were of enormous assistance in compiling the material on which this article was based and their efforts and support is acknowledged with gratitude:
Chelsea Football Club (Claire Lait);
CrystalPalaceFootball Club (Rev Nigel Sands);
DundeeFootball Club (David Forbes);
DundeeUnited Football Club (Mike Watson and Steve Gracie);
Bill and Agnes Hampton, Brechin;
Jenny Hill, The Brechin Advertiser;
James Livie, Brechin;
Ken Macaskill, ofEdinburghand formerly of Brechin
Steve Mitchell, Editor,BrechinCityProgramme and Director, Brechin City FC;
Jack Souter, Luthermuir;
The Staff, Brechin Public Library;
The Staff, The National Library ofScotland.