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Brechin City: 1906-1920, the Early Years


CHAPTER 5                         1911-12: Scant Success and Crowd Troubles
Brechin signed Sam Whyte and Adamson of Montrose and Boyd, “the clever outside right” of Dundee Celtic in the close season.  Balfour, the ever present keeper of the previous season, moved to play for Dundee A.[1]  Knowles had been transferred.  City had signed Elrick, the Dundee Clepington keeper.  There remained, of the previous season’s regulars, Shand, Lyon, Findlay, Glen, Walker, Hampton and Milne.[2]  Harry Ross, who had come from Fulham via St Mirren and played seven games for City in the previous season, was playing his football in Andover, Massachusetts.[3]  Hannah, who had played for both Everton and Celtic, signed for City in September and appeared on four occasions early in the season.[4]
Brechin also signed two former local juniors who had departed the local scene.  In November 1910 Brechin Hearts had lost Cant, a promising inside forward whom they had signed from Friockheim Our Boys, to Cardiff City.  He came home to City for the start of the 1911-12 season and played in a variety of positions.  Albert Law of Brechin Rovers had gone to Dundee in January 1911 and had indeed played against City in February of that year.  He also was playing for Brechin early in 1911-12.
Glen was awarded a testimonial in 1912.  “There has never been a more popular player in the ranks of Brechin City than David Glen, who is to receive a well-earned benefit on Thursday evening when Aberdeenare to be the visitors.  Glen’s worth to the City as a centre forward has been invaluable.  Many splendid games has he played in the course of his career and there has been no more gentlemanly player in the ranks of the Nursery Parkites.  Glen has seen service with other clubs.  He was with Dundee for a short spell, and across the Border played a number of games for Milwall.”[5]  He had played for Forfarshire against Perthshire in March 1907 and again in September 1910.  Despite his brief breaks to play forDundee and Milwall, he was a regular for Brechin every season from the inaugural campaign of 1906-07 until 1913-14.  He played in the Brechin teams which won the Northern League championship in 1907-08, which contested the final of the Qualifying Cup in 1908-09 and which won its first ever knock-out silver-wear, the Forfarshire Cup, by beating Arbroath, in 1909-10.  His Qualifying Cup finalist’s medal and his Forfarshire Cup winner’s medal have a deserved pride of place in the Board Room of Brechin City Football Club. Aberdeen defeated Brechin 4-1 in the benefit match.

David Glen

Cumming, in his history of Brechin City’s early years, states that “Davie Glen was a centre forward, even (sic: presumably ‘ever’) a gentlemanly player, feared by all his opponents for his robust style of play.  It was no uncommon feat for him to cycle 20 odd miles into Brechin, don the colours, and lead his team to victory.”[6]  That almost apocryphal tale, which continues to be told by Brechin fans over the years without the player even necessarily being named, is more fully recounted by Gourlay.  Glen “had been working at Invermark, roadmaking…..  On the Saturday he ‘lowsed’ at twelve, set out in his unpretentious was to cycle twenty miles to Brechin.  His bicycle broke down.  Glen walked to Edzell, and arrived home to swallow a plate of broth and hurry to Nursery without any idea that the feat was Homeric….. Special training!  Massage!  Sulphur baths!  Hydropathics!  –  Twenty miles on a bicycle after a week’s hard labour to play a cup-tie for his city!”
Gourlay tells one other tale of Glen’s adventures which again illustrates his robust physicality.  In a match against Dunfermline Athletic, the Dunfermline centre half was one, Brown, who “jumped to head the ball at the same time as Glen…..  Brown was carried off the field unconscious.  Glen rose to his feet, put his hand to his head, gave it a shake, went off – at first in the wrong direction! – with his clumsy but determined stride, to play out the game without a finger raised for remedial attention.”
Glen was strong but he was also quick.  “Glen showed the Montrose defenders a clean pair of heels.”[7]  “Glen was again bright with his dashing runs.”[8]  “Glen was a bustler.”[9]  Glen was “… full of flight.”[10]  “Glen was a dashing centre forward.”[11]  Match reports confirm the continuing quality of Glen’s play over the years: “ever dangerous,”[12] “his usual dashing display,”[13]  Perhaps the most descriptive comment: “Glen, the bustling Brechin centre, who, if he does not score keeps the opposing defence in continual terror.”[14]  Age did not seem to diminish his style and skills.  In 1913, aged 32, we are told that “Glen shows no sign losing his reputation as a pivot.”[15]  If ever a player deserved his testimonial it was Davie Glen.
BrechinCitydefeated Wanderers of Dundee 2-1 in the first round of the Qualifying Cup and defeated Arbroath 2-0 at NurseryParkin the second round.[16]   These victories set up a third round tie at Nursery Park against Stenhousemuir.
The Brechin Advertiser’s match report stated: “Vigorous tactics, with occasional interludes of good football by both sides, were characteristic of the game.”  The tie was physical, both on and off the pitch!  Brechin’s first goal was a penalty converted by Whyte after Glen had been brought down in the box.  Glen scored a second for Brechin with “the shot of his life”.  Stenhousemuir came back into the game, scored and then netted a second time “but offside had been given”.[17]  Curiously, that week’s Brechin Advertiser makes no mention of other events at the game (perhaps hopeful that the 2-1 victory was sufficient and the local lads would go through or perhaps The Advertiser had simply failed to send a reporter) but the next edition reported in full the off-pitch drama after it had been considered by the Scottish Football Council.
“The scene at Brechin on Saturday week, when Brechin Cityand Stenhousemuir played their tie, was considered at length.  Referee Humphreys reported that one minute from time he had occasion to give a foul against Stenhousemuir.  He blew his whistle when a Stenhousemuir player popped the ball into the net.  The spectators immediately rushed on to the field and as the ground could not be cleared he had to abandon the tie.
“BrechinCity, who were not personally represented, wrote that the Stenhousemuir section broke into the field.  They numbered over 300.  They all claimed a goal.
“In reply to the Vice-President, the referee said that he saw the spectators wearing cards with ‘Play up Stenhousemuir.’ BrechinCitywrote claiming the tie.  They alleged the Stenhousemuir Club had 400 supporters on the field.
“Mr Steen, of Stenhousemuir, said he took part in the game.  The encroaching spectators were those of the Brechin City.  He was certain the ball was netted before the referee blew his whistle.  Brechin did not try to clear the field.  His club claimed a replay at Stenhousemuir.
“Mr McDowall. Secretary of the Football Council, said he had just received a wire from Brechin City– ‘Statement of Stenhousemuir a tissue of falsehoods.’
“Referee Humphreys, recalled, said he never gave a goal.  He blew his whistle for offside.  There would be 600 on the field.  (The size of the invading crowd had soared from 300 to 400 to 600!  A.W.)  He waited 20 minutes to see whether the field would be cleared.  He was convinced that the crowd broke in with the view of stopping the game, and he was certain that those in default were Stenhousemuir supporters.
“Mr Steen, also recalled, said that the disputed goal was the finish of the match.  Had Mr Steen not protected the referee he would have been badly abused.  He heard the referee say that the game stood at two goals each.
“Mr Edgar, linesman, said the ball was netted before the the whistle sounded.  He was certain that the crowd in the field were Brechin supporters.  He thought when the whistle blew a goal had been scored, and that the match stood at two goals each.
“The Dundee representative said he, with President Robertson, saw the match.  By his watch time was up when the whistle blew for offside.  The players stopped for the foul, when a Stenhousemuir man shot the ball into the net.  He walked behind the referee to the pavilion.  The referee was not molested.  There were fanatics who shouted “It’s a goal.”  The referee told him, “If you get the ground clear we will go on with the match.”  The referee did not say in the pavilion that the tie had ended two goals each.
“Mr Whyte, Celtic – As full time was not played the tie must be replayed.  I don’t agree with all the referee said.  It is the duty of the ground club to clear the ground.  I move that the tie be replayed at Stenhousemuir.
“Mr Nicol,Falkirk, seconded.
“”Mr Gibson,Kilmarnock, moved neutral ground.
“The Dundee representative moved that the tie be awarded to Brechin.
“Mr Black, Forfar Athletic, seconded.  On a vote 16 voted for replaying the tie against 6 for awarding the tie to BrechinCity, and by 12 to 10 St Johnstone’s ground, Perth, was fixed against Stenhousemuir.”[18]
George Cumming, who was President of the club at the time of these events, recalled them light-heartedly: “many yet remember when Brechin was ‘swicked’ out of the cup-tie with Stenhousemuir.  The crowd’s impression was ‘swicked’ but local patriotism may account for this.  Brechin had practically won this tie when there was a break-in.  Naturally the breaking-in crowd belonged to the losing side, but it paid them, for a replay at Perthwas the Scottish verdict.”[19]
The replay occurred.  Stenhousemuir won 2-0.  The Brechin Advertiser merely notes that City’s protest to the Scottish Football Association on the matter was “thrown out”.[20]  Cumming however notes the “amusing sequel … when a Brechiner well known as ‘Tibbie’,  … a member of the Committee, rushed the field at Perth in an endeavour to get another replay when the club was losing, but it was not successful.”

James 'Tibbie' Fowler

James Fowler, a tenter in Duke’s linen mill, universally known in Brechin as ‘Tibbie’, had been a member of the Brechin City Committee since at least the previous AGM and been associated with the club from its formation.  His son, Walter Fowler, was playing regularly for Brechin Hearts.  Alas, Tibbie was escorted to the touchline by a policeman. His one-man invasion failed to emulate the outcome achieved by the 300 (Or was it 400 or 600?) Stenhousemuir fans.  On this occasion the result stood.[21]
The aftermath of these events however, was that Brechin City was ordered by the Rough Play Committee of the Scottish Football Association to post warning bills against the misconduct of spectators.[22]
Having thus exited the Qualifying Cup, City proceeded to the Consolation Cup.  A 3-1 defeat at the hands of Dundee Wanderers however, provided scant consolation.
Brechin had its best competitive run of the season in the Forfarshire Cup, reaching the final by defeating Montrose, 2-0, and Arbroath, 2-1, only to lose 2-0  Dundee A, which team again contained the former Brechin trio of Balfour, Strachan and Martin.
George Cumming of Brechin was elected President of the Northern League.[23]  It was announced in September of 1911 that Brechin City had been admitted members of the Reserve League.  “Since the reduction in the number of clubs in the Northern League (seven in 1911-12) the City fixture card has suffered considerably, but their admission to the ranks of the reservists will more than compensate for this loss.”[24]  This however seems to have come to nought.  There is no record of Brechin playing any Reserve League games.  The Northern League again comprised only seven teams.  Wanderers were back but Arbroath was again concentrating on the Central League.
Brechin’s league record was mixed.  A 2-1  victory over Dundee A at Nursery Park was marked by two goals, one for each side, in the last three minutes, and by the Dundee side containing three ex-Brechin players, Balfour, Strachan and Martin.[25]  Brechin’s best League result was a 2-0 victory over Montrose: the worst a 4-1 defeat by Dundee A at Dens Park.  The Northern League in that season was officially unfinished.[26]  Nonetheless it was clear that Dundee A, with a completed fixture list and 20 points could not have been overtaken and were de facto champions.

  P W L D G f G a Pts
Dundee A 12 10 2 0 37 10 20
Aberdeen A 7 4 3 0 12 6 8
Forfar Athletic 7 3 2 2 13 11 8
Montrose 9 3 4 2 9 16 8
Brechin City 9 2 4 3 11 15 7
Wanderers 8 2 6 0 13 19 4
Dundee Hibs 4 0 3 1 4 8 1

Lyon and White were selected to play for a Northern League XI against an AberdeenA/ DundeeA select.  Andersonwas also chosen as a reserve for that match.[27]
1911-12 was a lean season not only for Brechin City FC but for Brechin football generally.  When Brechin Rovers finally won the Forfar and District Junior Cup in May 1912, The Brechin Advertiser wryly noted that this was the only cup won by a Brechin team during that season.[28]
R N Clift was re-elected secretary of the Forfarshire Football Association.[29]  The Annual General Meeting of Brechin City saw Clift re-elected as secretary of his club but new faces filled several of the other key posts.  James Black was elected president, James Cook, vice president and P McKay, treasurer.  With income of £311, a  balance of eighteen pounds was reported but this was expected to reduce to some seven pounds once outstanding accounts had been settled.[30]
Team lists have been traced for twenty two of Brechin’s twenty four games.  The regulars over the season were Shand with twenty two games,WalkerandFindlaywith twenty-one each, Elrick and Campbell with twenty each, Hampton with sixteen, Lyon and Murray with fifteen, Glen and Law with thirteen each, and Whyte and Adamson with eleven each.  By 1912 Lyonhad taken over as manager of his father’s hotel, the Star inSouthesk Street, and although he was to appear occasionally over the next two seasons, this was to be his last season as a regular in the City line-up.
Elrick was in goal on twenty occasions with Burnett and Quinn each playing there once.  Shand played at right back in every recorded City team that season. Lyon, with fourteen appearances, was the most regular left back.  Hannah played there four times, and Cant, Campbell, Hunter and Johnstone once each.
Whyte was the leading right half with eleven games, Campbell had six, Adamson three and Johnstone and Smith one each. Findlayoccupied the centre half  position on twenty one occasions and Cant once.  The left half berth was shared between Campbell (thirteen appearances), Adamson (eight) and Melvin with one appearance.
Murraywas the most regular outside right with fourteen appearances, Boyd had three and Cant, Lyon,Irvine, Sprunt and Purvis each had one game on the right wing. Walker played inside right on seventeen occasions, Harry Hampton three times and Murray and Forbes each had a solitary appearance there.  The veteran Glen dominated the centre forward position with thirteen appearances but the ubiquitous Cant, who had also appeared at left back, centre half and outside right, also donned number nine seven times. Harry Hampton and Albert Law also had one appearance each at centre forward.  Harry Hampton turned out at inside left twelve times, Walker and Stewart four times each and Young and Robertson once each.  Law played on the left wing twelve times, Milne four, Smith three, and McLean, Strong and Livie once each.
Few of the goal scorers for that season have been recorded but Milne had at least three, Glen and Smith two each and Whyte,Findlayand Forbes one each.
In a generally poor season Brechin’s best results were in friendlies, with a 5-1 victory over Montrose and a 5-2 victory over the Black Watch.  1911-12 was an even leaner season in terms of fixtures than its predecessor.  BrechinCity played a total of only twenty four games in 1911-12, winning eleven, losing ten and drawing three.
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
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour web-site
The County of Angus Roll of Honour
Corstorphine, James K: The East Fife Football Historian website
Dundee United FC website
Fulham FC website
Loons Mad, independent Forfar Athletic fans website
The National Archives, Documents on Line, for World War One medal lists
McColl, Brian: Scottish Football Encyclopaedia website
Parker, Jim: Machine Gun Corps Research website
Ross, James M: Scotland – List of Qualifying Cup Winners, website
Tangerine Dream, independent Dundee United fans website
WELLnet, Motherwell FC website
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
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);
Crystal Palace Football Club (Rev Nigel Sands);
Dundee Football Club (David Forbes);
Dundee United Football Club (Mike Watson and Steve Gracie);
Bill and Agnes Hampton, Brechin;
Jenny Hill, The Brechin Advertiser;
James Livie, Brechin;
Ken Macaskill, of Edinburgh and 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.

[1] The Brechin Advertiser, 9 May 1911
[2] The Brechin Advertiser15 August 1911
[3] The Brechin Advertiser,21 November 1911
[4] The Brechin Advertiser,19 September 1911
[5] The Brechin Advertiser,16 April 1912
[6] Cumming, p 13
[7] The Brechin Advertiser,7 January 1908
[8] The Brechin Advertiser,18 February 1908
[9] The Brechin Advertiser,31 March 1908
[10] The Brechin Advertiser,18 August 1908
[11] The Brechin Advertiser,8 September 1908
[12] The Brechin Advertiser,29 September 1908
[13] The Brechin Advertiser,6 October 1908
[14] The Brechin Advertiser,17 November 1908
[15] The Brechin Advertiser,2 September 1913
[16] Relichtie and The Brechin Advertiser, 5 and 19 September 1911
[17] The Brechin Advertiser,3 October 1911
[18] The Brechin Advertiser,10 October 1911
[19] Cumming, pp 23-24
[20] The Brechin Advertiser,17 October 1911
[21] Cumming, pp 23-24
[22] The Brechin Advertiser,31 October 1911
[23] The Brechin Advertiser,13 June 1911
[24] The Brechin Advertiser,12 September 1911
[25] The Brechin Advertiser,7 November 1911
[26] McColl
[27] The Brechin Advertiser,8 August 1911
[28] The Brechin Advertiser, 7 May 1912
[29] The Brechin Advertiser, 14 May 1912
[30] The Brechin Advertiser, 21 May 1912

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