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Brechin City: 1906-1920, the Early Years


1912-13: the Second Championship
At the start of the close season Shand, the veteran full back, transferred to Dundee.[1]  Inglis was secured from Montrose.[2]  Collie Martin returned from Dundee.
A striking illustration of the financial arrangements of football clubs at the beginning of last century is given in a report of Brechin City’s Sale of Work.
There was held, in the City Halls, a cake and candy sale, in aid of City’s funds.  “Besides the toothsome dainties, there were well stocked work, toy, game, and other stalls, and a beautiful Christmas tree attracted the admiration of the younger visitors to the sale… There was large attendance at the opening ceremony which was performed by the Rev. E. T. Thomson.  Baillie Reid presided, and introduced Mr Thomson as one whose support of the manly game all sportsmen in Brechin appreciated very highly.  The Chairman explained the object of the sale.  Owing to the City having been unable this season to provide as many first class fixtures as usual, they had got into debt, and had to appeal to their friends… Rev. Mr Thomson said Baillie Reid had referred to his love of sport.  It was true that he loved the game of football, and he loved good clean players of the game.  He thought the City played a fine team, and he hoped the sale would help them into a sound financial position again… During the afternoon bright selections of music were performed by Hollingworth’s famous orchestra and as a result of the sale between £40 and £50 were realised.”[3]
In 1912-13 the Northern League initially comprised nine clubs, Lochgelly United and Arbroath both rejoining and Dundee Hibs demitting their membership.  Dundee Wanderers however withdrew, having failed to play any of their fixtures.  Lochgelly United played only two games[4]  Brechin City emerged for the second time as champions of the Northern League.[5]

  P W L D G f G a Pts
Brechin City 12 9 2 1 29 19 19
Dundee A 8 6 1 1 18 7 13
Montrose 12 4 5 3 23 16 11
Aberdeen A 6 3 2 1 13 9 7
Arbroath 6 2 3 1 8 9 5
Arbroath Amtrs 7 1 5 1 8 19 3
Lochgelly Utd 2 1 1 0 5 6 2
Forfar Athletic 9 1 8 0 16 30 2

Although many fixtures were unplayed and Dundee A could theoretically have overtaken Brechin, the championship was deemed Brechin’s.  The only two defeats were the away games to Aberdeen A (1-4) and Dundee A (0-3).  Brechin’s best result of the league campaign was the 4-0 victory over Arbroath but the final game of the season was a thriller against Forfar at Station Park which Brechin won 5-3, securing the championship.  This was a dauntless campaign.  The league record over the season was superb yet little was made in the local press of winning the championship.
Brechin was less impressive in the knock-out competitions.  Having defeated Arbroath Amateurs 3-1 in the first round of the Qualifying Cup, City tumbled out in the second round in a single goal game against East Fife.  In the Consolation Cup Brechin lost by three goals to nil to Montrose in the first round and by two goals to nil to Forfar in the first round of the Forfarshire Cup.
R N Clift of Brechin City was elected as the Forfarshire Association’s representative to the Scottish Football Association.[6]
The season’s fixture list was even more impoverished than that of the previous season with only eighteen games played.  As well as the twelve league and four cup games, two friendlies were played, including a 5-5 draw withAberdeenUniversity.
Scorers have been traced in only a minority of the games but  Martin scored at least five goals, Richardson three and Glen, Forbes and Bruce one each.
Full team lists have been traced for only twelve of the games although partial lists can be ascertained for two other games.
Bruce, the half back, with thirteen games was the most regular player in the lists.  Collie Martin, D Skene and Walker had eleven traced appearances each.  Ritchie with nine,Dundas, Inglis and Findlaywith seven each, and Brebner, Paterson, Richardson and Stuart with six each were all fairly regular players.
Paterson was in goal six times, Bruce and Samson three and Johnstone once.
D Skene occupied the right back position in eleven games and Gordon andWilsononce each.  Brebner played left back six times, the veteran Lyon three times, Gordon twice and Allan and Inglis once each.
Bruce (a different Bruce from the occasional keeper of the same name) played right half ten times, Campbell twice and Inglis once. Findlay was centre half seven times, Bruce twice and Campbell, Waddell and Collie Martin once each.  Inglis appeared five times as left half, Stuart twice and Lyon, Bruce, Carver, Richardson and T Skene once each.
The right wing was played by Dundas seven times, by Forbes and Ritchie twice each and by Lyon once. Walker played inside right ten times and Davie Glen twice.  Collie Martin played centre forward ten times and Richardson twice.  Stuart wore the number ten jersey four times, Richardson three, Forbes twice and Walker, Burness and Phillips once each.  Ritchie was at outside left seven times, Burness four and Robertson once.
At the club’s AGM, held in August 1914, Mr Smith was elected as president, W Oramas vice-president, George Cumming as secretary and P McKay as treasurer.[7]
1913-14: from Crisis to Disaster
Several key players re-signed for the club, including Alex. Shand, James Lyon, George Richardson, R Hill (goalkeeper), J Gordon, William Campbell and Frank Forbes.  Two veterans also signed, Davie Glen and Robert Laing who had spent a season with Forfar.[8]  David Easson also returned from Forfar.  Robert Laurence Laing, another native Brechiner, was born in 1893, and was to become in later life the manager of the Brechin Gas Works.  Watson, a goalkeeper came from Heart of Midlothian.[9]  The start of the new season saw Brechin once more field an overwhelmingly local team.  The Courier comments that nine out of Brechin’s eleven to face Dundee in September 1913 were locals.[10]

Collie Martin

During the close season Collie Martin returned to play his football in Dundee but this time with Dundee Hibs.[11]  He had two highly successful seasons at Tannadice, 1913-14 and 1914-15, on both of which he led the Division Two scoring charts.  His goals were crucial in taking Dundee Hibs to the final of the Qualifying Cup in 1913 where they lost, after two replays, to Albion Rovers.  Martin extracted his revenge the following season however by scoring five goals against Albion Rovers at Coatbridge, the only Dundee Hibs player (prior to Hibs transforming into United) to have achieved five goals in one game.  He completed season 1914-15 with an amazing twenty nine goals from twenty five league matches and averaged a goal per game over his two seasons at Tannadice.  Perhaps the most galling to his fellow Brechiners of his goals would have been the three he scored for Hibs in a Northern League game against City in February 1915.[12]   At half time in the Northern League game between Dundee Hibs and Dundee A in April 1915, Martin was presented with a silver watch from his many admirers.[13]  In May of that year he was presented with a gold medal “in admiration of being top scorer for two successive seasons in the second division of the Scottish League.”[14]  Martin seldom played for Dundee Hibs  after the abandonment of Division Two because of the War but played his last game – and scored his last goal – for Dundee Hibs in an Eastern League game against Armadale on 16 October..[15]
Among the fascinations of the season were the appearances of Jim Livie who had played in goal forBrechinCityonce in 1906-07, the club’s first season.  In 1913-14 Livie played five games for City, one in goal, three at centre half and one at left half.

Jim Livie

James Livie was born at Rossie Muir, in Craig parish, on 9th February 1886, the son of James Livie, crofter, and Isabella Livie (nee Mackie).  By 1891 his family had moved into Brechin and were residing at38 Market Street and. by 1901 the family were in 22 Montrose Street and the 14 year old James was noted as a porter in the linen industry.  In 1912 he married Agnes Jane Glen, the sister of David Glen, the veteran City centre forward.  James Livie continued, at that point, to reside at22 Montrose Street, and his occupation is given as house painter.   He did however spend some time, possibly around 1912, in Canada.
James Livie was a goal keeper who played Junior football both before and after the 1914-18 War.  He is noted as the Brechin Rovers goal keeper in early 1905.[16]  By the beginning of season 1905-06 he was playing regularly in goal for Brechin Harp and played for Harp throughout that season.[17]  By the beginning however of season 1906-07[18] James Livie had moved to Brechin Hearts. He played in goal for a Forfarshire Junior Select against Brechin City in a benefit match in March 1907.[19]  He played in goal for Brechin City in an end of season friendly against Forfar Athletic on 20 April 1907.[20]  He ended the 1906-07 season on a high-note, playing in the Brechin Hearts team which defeated Ardenlea (of Broughty Ferry) in the final of the Arbroath and District Cup at Gayfield.[21]  Season 1908-09 saw Jim Livie playing for Brechin Rovers.[22]  He then continued with Rovers until at least 1911-12.
Although Jim Livie normally played in goal he occasionally appeared at centre half – including for Brechin Hearts in a 7-0 victory over Constable Works in November 1906; for Hearts against Brechin Rovers in January 1907; for Brechin Rovers in a Forfarshire Cup tie against Dundee Glenavon in 1908, and in a Scottish Junior Cup tie for Brechin Rovers against Brechin Hearts in September 1910![23]  Moreover, when playing outfield he also scored for Brechin Rovers.  In an Arbroath District Cup game against Arbroath Fairfield in Arbroath in 1911 “Livie gave his side the equaliser from a terrific drive at twenty yards’ distance.”[24]  In 1913-14 however he appeared on at least three occasions for Brechin City at centre half (scoring from a free kick on one such appearance), once at left half and once in goal.[25]
As well as enjoying a long football career, Jim Livie also played a passing game of cricket.  He appeared for a Brechin Rovers FC Cricket XI in August 1911, catching out one of the opponents and scoring a creditable 39 runs.[26]
At its AGM, the Forfarshire Association voted a sum of five pounds to assist BrechinCityfinancially, a sign of the plight created by the paucity of fixtures.[27]  The position was so desperate that at the Brechin City AGM on 18th August 1913, the president, Mr Cook stated that the meeting had been called to consider whether the club was to continue or not.  Despite winning the League, the limited fixture list and the poor runs in the cup competitions meant that the season was financially disastrous.  Although no accounts are noted in the report of the AGM,Cook’s speech and the five pound donation from the County association are indicative of the depth of the crisis.  “Afterwards it was enthusiastically agreed that the club should continue as formerly.”  (The extent of the crisis was illustrated a few weeks later when Brechin agreed to move its Qualifying Cup tie with Dundee Hibs from Brechin to Dundee where a much more rewarding gate was likely.[28])
The continuing troubled nature of Northern League football was clear prior to the season’s start.  More perhaps in hope than expectation the Brechin Advertiser reported the likely formation of a new North Easter League including clubs from Fife, Clackmannanshire and Perthshire as well as the traditional adherents of the Northern League.[29]  Reality was slightly less exciting than promised but ten clubs competed in the Northern League.  Dundee Wanderers did not rejoin and Lochgelly United dropped out.  The league was augmented however by the return of St Johnstone and Dundee Hibs and by the admission of Crieff Morrissonians.  In 1913-14 Brechin City finished fourth in the Northern League, although the competition was officially unfinished.[30]

  P W L D G f G a Pts
Dundee A 12 8 4 0 29 17 16
Aberdeen A 11 5 3 3 34 24 13
Montrose 14 5 8 1 20 22 11
Brechin City 14 4 8 2 25 42 10
Crieff Morrissonians 9 3 3 3 20 17 9
Forfar Ath 6 3 2 1 10 5 7
St Johnstone 4 2 0 2 11 8 6
Arbroath 5 3 2 0 11 8 6
Dundee Hibs 6 3 3 0 7 7 6
Arbroath Amateurs 7 2 5 0 8 25 4

The season’s tragedy however was its degeneration.  Brechin was sitting on top of the league at the turn of the year but after defeating Montrose in the last game ofDecemberCitydid not win another league game over the remainder of the season.  City suffered several disastrous defeats, by 6-0 at the hands of Dundee A, 5-0 from Forfar, 5-1 fromAberdeenA and 5-2 from Arbroath.  The two best league results were the 4-2 victories over Montrose and Arbroath Amateurs.
Brechin paid dearly for switching the venue for the Qualifying Cup tie against Dundee Hibs, with Hibs winning by two goals to nil.  Arbroath then knocked Brechin out of the Consolation Cup by the same score.  A 2-0 victory over Montrose in the first round of the Forfarshire Cup created a semi-final tie with Dundee Hibs.  Brechin crashed to a 7-1 defeat.
As the season commenced George Cumming of BrechinCitywas appointed secretary of the Forfarshire Football Association in place of R N Clift.  .[31]
At the end of that season it was Brechin City’s turn to seek membership of the Central League for the succeeding season.  The Central League apparently agreed to admit Montrose but not Brechin.[32] (Despite that decision, Montrose was still playing in the Northern League when the new season began and ultimately played but one brief season, 1914-15, in the Central League.)
At the AGM of Brechin City, George Cumming the secretary bemoaned the clubs which “had promised games … (but) had not fully carried out their promises.”  It was also reported that the record for the season was twenty one games played, seven won, eleven lost and three drawn.  (Additionally, in the three friendlies of the season were all victories, they were achieved against Junior or amateur opposition, Brechin Hearts, Montrose Amateurs and Kirriemuir Celtic.)  Cumming’s reported statement, that the team “had not done so well as usual” was followed by his explanation for the season’s relatively poor performance.  “They were late in getting players and with the limited number of matches there was not the same keenness on the part of the players to keep in form, while the want of matches told against them.”  The treasurer’s report showed a small credit balance.  The officials elected were C Smith, president, W Oram, vice-president, George Cumming, secretary and P McKay, treasurer.[33]
A very incomplete list of scorers has been compiled.  Easson and Laing each scored at least three goals andLyontwo.  Templeton and Hetherington scored one each as did Glen but it is uncertain whether it was Davie Glen or Joe Glen.
The match reports in the Brechin Advertiser did not always carry team lists, although in some cases partialo team lists can be constructed from the either the named goal scorers or the noted ‘stars’ of the particular games.
Bob Laing appears the most regular player with at least fourteen apperances, Allan had ten, Gordon and Richardson nine each, Easson and Henderson eight each, Forbes, the two Glens and Robertson seven each and Burness, Livie and Watson five each.
Robertson played in goal at least seven times, Watson five times and Hill and Livie once each.
Gordon occupied the right back berth at least nine times andRichardsononce.  Allan is the only quoted left back with at least ten games.
Richardson is the sole right half with at least eight games.  Hetherington played centre half at least seven times and Livie three times.  The left half position was the source of substantial competition with records existing of Forbes and Wallace each have two outings there and Livie, Hetherington, Macfarlane and Laing having one each.
Again there was competition for the right wing position with Easson appearing to play there at least three times, Forbes and Burness twice each andWilsononce.  Laing however occupied the inside right position at least thirteen times and Burness once.  Davie Glen played centre forward at least seven times and Joe Glen once.  Easson played inside left at least five times, Forbes three times and Burness twice.  The left wing position was occupied by Joe Glen on at least six occasions and twice by Hunter and once by Smith.
The Triumphs of the Early Years
These had been exciting times and Brechin’s were no mean achievements.

  Northern League Carrie Cup Forfar-shire Cup QualifyingCup Consolation Cup Scot Cup Dewar Shield
1906-07 7th (out of 14) 1st round 2nd round
1907-08 Champions(out of 13) 1st round 2nd round Semi finalists
1908-09 4th (out of 10) Finalists Finalists   1st round
1909-10 Runners-up (out of 7) Runners-up (out of 6) Winners 3rd round 2nd round   Finalists
1910-11 Runners-up (out of 7) ? 1st round Semi-finalists 1st round
1911-12 League not completed Finalists 3rd round 1st round
1912-13 Champions (out of 8) 1st round 2nd round 1st round
1913-14 League not completed Semi-finalists 1st round 1st round

 In six of its first eight seasonsBrechinCityeither won or was runner-up in at least one of the competitions in which it participated.  Two Northern League championships and one Forfarshire Cup win were the peaks.  The second, third and fourth seasons (1907-08, 1908-09 and 1909-10) were years of consistent achievement with a Northern League championship, a Northern League second place, a second place in the Carrie Cup (the Forfarshire League), the capture of the Forfarshire Cup and a finalist’s place in the same competition, and a finalist’s place in the Scottish Qualifying Cup.
These early achievements were based in a small town without any strong economic base.  From the perspective of the great metropolitan clubs, the triumphs of a team captained by an amateur, playing on the ground of the local cricket club, financed in part by jumble sales opened by a local minister and pulling together a team from the talents of the local Juniors plus a few veterans, may seem small beer, perhaps even a trifle ridiculous.  What was established however was a team rooted in its local community and the roots were well established in these early days.  For those who doubt that, it is worth pondering the fate of the modern Brechin City’s first Scottish Cup opponents, the once mighty Third Lanark.  Think also of the teams which competed in that first Brechin season in the Northern League: where are Kirkcadly United, Lochee United, Lochgelly United, Hearts of Beath, Wanderers? Brechin City’s trophy triumphs may be relatively few but its survival is a triumph in itself.
The years which were to follow would test much that had been assumed permanent and awesome in the world.  The kings and the captains would depart.  Empires would fall and tragedy would visit nations, communities and families.  Brechin and its footballers would not be immune to these calamitous events.
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 for Scotland, 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);
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.

[1] The Brechin Advertiser, 14 May 1912
[2] The Brechin Advertiser,27 August 1912
[3] The Brechin Advertiser,24 December 1912
[4] The Brechin Advertiser, 7 January 1913 et seq
[5] McColl
[6] The Brechin Advertiser,27 August 1912
[7] The Brechin Advertiser,26 August 1913
[8] The Brechin Advertiser,26 August 1913
[9] The Brechin Advertiser,9 September 1913
[10] The Courier and Argus,19 September 1913
[11] The Brechin Advertiser,29 July 1913
[12] The Brechin Advertiser,23 February 1915
[13] The Brechin Advertiser,20 April 1915
[14] The Brechin Advertiser, 4 May 1915
[15]Dundee United FC Website
[16] The Brechin Advertiser, 10  January 1905 et seq
[17] The Brechin Advertiser, 19 September 1905  et seq
[18] The Brechin Advertiser, 7 August 1906 et seq
[19] The Brechin Advertiser, 12 and 19 March 1907
[20] The Brechin Advertiser,23 April 1907
[21] The Brechin Advertiser, 7 May 1907
[22] The Brechin Advertiser,13 October 1908
[23] The Brechin Advertiser,13 November 1906,13 October 1908 and27 September 1910
[24] The Brechin Advertiser,19 September 1911
[25] The Brechin Advertiser, 14 October 1913 et seq
[26] The Brechin Advertiser,8 August 1911
[27] The Brechin Advertiser,19 August 1913
[28] The Brechin Advertiser,2 September 1913
[29] The Brechin Advertiser,22 July 1913
[30] McColl
[31] The Brechin Advertiser,19 August 1913
[32] The Brechin Advertiser,9 June 1914
[33] The Brechin Advertiser,21 April 1914

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