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Brechin City: 1906-1920, the Early Years 


The 1914-18 War and its Remembrance
To wander the graveyards – of all nationalities – of the battlefields of France and Flanders is an awesome and moving experience.
The German cemeteries are stark, austere and heart-rending.  Small black crosses cover the graves of fallen German Christian soldiers.  Among the crosses are scattered stones emblazoned with the Star of David which cover their fallen Jewish comrades.
The British cemeteries are more ornate.  Flowers adorn them.  Each has its arched entrance and Cross of Remembrance.  Each grave-stone carries, where known, the rank, name, date of death and regiment of the dead soldier who lies below.  In the case of non-commissioned officers and men, the service number is stated.  There is also carved on each stone the regimental badge of the serviceman and, as with the graves of their one-time enemies, in most cases either a cross or a star.
As well however, as being more ornate, the British headstones have one other unique aspect.  When the original crosses were replaced with white stones, the families of the dead servicemen were invited to nominate an inscription.  Not all families did so.  For those who did the choices varied enormously.  “Thy will be done” or “Blessed are the pure of heart” are frequently seen.  “He fought a good fight” is inscribed on the grave of one Black Watch officer.  “One of England’s noblest sons,” marks the grave of another young officer.  “His mother’s only son and she a widow,” articulates both the grief and the anger of the inconsolable parent of another lad.
One inscription, from The Song of Solomon, found with some frequency is, “Until the day break and the shadows flee away”.
“My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.  Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and thou shall be like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.”
The Brechin war memorial lists 298 Brechiners who died in the war.  From D & R Duke’s Denburn Works alone 92 men enlisted in the armed services; nineteen of them were killed.  (Eighteen are noted on the inside cover as ‘killed’ but a total of nineteen are mentioned in the succeeding text.)[1]  The footballers of Brechin enlisted and served in significant numbers.
This chapter is a tribute to the sportsmen of 1914-1918 who went from the small town and cathedral city of Brechin, not to the mountains of Bether but to the plains of France and Flanders and the deserts ofMesopotamia, both to those who survived and returned and to those for whom the day never broke.
 A Few Survivors
Some details have been found on City players who fought and survived.
Colin Hampton

Sergeant Colin Hampton, Motor Machine Gun Corps

After the war Colin Hampton returned to playing for Chelseafor which his best years were from 1922 to1924 when he played 28 and 22 games in consecutive seasons.  While playing with Chelseahe won a London FA Cup Winners medal.[2]  Most of his years at Stamford Bridge were spent understudying goalkeepers such as Jim Molyneux and Benjamin Howard, yet he was “an extremely sound and reliable keeper”.  All in all Colin Hampton played 82 games for Chelsea, 79 in the League and 3 in the FA Cup[3].  Chelsea rewarded him with two benefit matches.  He was also however rewarded by Chelsea’s aristocratic President, the Earl of Cadogan, who evidently had the Chelsea team spend some time at his stately home, Culford Hall, in Suffolk, at which a photograph was taken of the Chelsea team (in civvies), a signed copy of which was sent by Cadogan to Colin Hampton.[4]
He “again donned the City jersey in 1924” when he returned home to Brechin to support his father.[5]  After a brief stay however, he returned to London, joining Crystal Palace, then in Division 3 South of the English Football League, on a free transfer from Brechin on 16 December 1925.  At the time, the Crystal Palace manager was Alec Maley, formerly of Hibs.[6]  It is possible that he was taken to Selhurst Park as a replacement since, at the time, Harper, the regular Palace keeper, was seriously ill with pleurisy.  Colin Hampton’s first game for Palace was at Selhurst Park, in front of a crowd of 12,000, against Bournemouth and Boscombe Albion.  Crystal Palace won 3-1.  “Hampton, Palace’s new goalkeeper, was not always convincing in his fielding of the ground shots, but he made many fine saves from high shots, centres, and corner kicks and appeared to inspire confidence in the team.”[7]  He played two further games for Crystal Palace, both against Norwich in December 1925.  He had left Crystal Palace however by the start of season 1926-27.[8]
Colin Hampton was an all-round sportsman.  Like his father he was a more than competent athlete.  In July 1904, aged 15, he was second in an 18-mile race at Burghill, which he completed in 2 hours 54 minutes, the winner having beaten him by 3 minutes.  (It is noteworthy that, by today’s standards, when distance running is much more common, this would be a fairly slow time.)  He won medals for shot putting and the long jump while stationed at Aldershot during the Great War and he won medals at golf  as early as 1921 (The Daily Mirror Professional Gold Competition) and as late as 1943 (Handicap Medal, the Coventry Gauge and Tool Company Golf Club).[9]
In the years immediately before the 1939-45 War Colin Hampton ran a small confectionery shop, adjacent to the King’s cinema (ultimately Flicks nightclub) in the High Street, Brechin.  He had married Eliza Watson, originally from Kirriemuir.  During World War II he worked at the Coventry Gauge and Tool Company while his wife maintained the confectionery business.  During World War II he also served as Special Constable.  He died of emphysema at Stracathro Hospital, near Brechin in January 1968.[10]
John Walker
Another Brechin City footballer who survived the war was Private John A Walker of The Black Watch.
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.
John Walker played for Brechin Hearts but signed for BrechinCitytowards the end of 1910-11, playing three games for City in that season.  He also played at some point for Forfar Athletic and was well-known in local cricketing circles, having played for Brechin, Kinnaird and Sunnyside Cricket Clubs.[11]  He enlisted in the 5th Black Watch in February 1915.[12]  He played twice for City, likely while on leave from the front, in January 1916.[13]
Walker, who enlisted under the Derbyscheme, arrived in France on 2nd July 1916.  He was wounded on 16th October 1916 on the Somme.  In the aftermath of that he recuperated at home, returning to the front on 29th April 1917.  He was wounded on September 20th 1917, at which point he was reported as having sustained rather severe injuries to his chin as well as a wound in the chest.[14]
The Brechin Advertiser  of 13th August 1918 reported that on the previous week Mr and Mrs John Walker of 88 Montrose Street, Brechin had “received a letter from their son, Pte. John A Walker, Black Watch, dated France, 1st August, intimating that he had been wounded again – ‘a bullet through the jaw this time, but not to worry,’ and that he was leaving for Blighty next day.  This is the third time John has been wounded and the third time he has been brought over the Channel in a hospital ship, but on this occasion, the wounded soldier had a very trying experience as he crossed in the hospital transport Warilda that was torpedoed and sunk by the Germans on early 3rd inst.  On Wednesday Mr and Mrs Walker had another letter from their son (now in hospital in the south ofEngland), in the course of which he wrote – ‘I expect by the time you receive this you will have heard about the hospital boat that was torpedoed.  Well, I was on it.  It happened about two o’clock in the morning, and it was a good job I kept my head.  I stopped on the ship till the destroyers came, and then I got hold of a thick rope and slid down and was hauled aboard a destroyer by some of the sailors.  We were run to the nearest port, and then to hospital.  I lost everything except my trousers, and some poor fellows had nothing but a bit blanket round them when they arrived in England.’
“John was one of the first local Derbyrecruits.  He enlisted on 10th Feb. 1916 and was wounded on 16th October of that year.  He returned to France on 29th April 1917, and was wounded for the second time on Sept. 20th.  Recovering from his injuries, he was home on draft leave in March, and was then kept back a draft in order to play in the final for the football championship of the North Camp, Ripon, which took place between the Black Watch and the Seaforths on 3rd April.  The Seaforths had not been beaten so far, but the Black Watch proved the champions, winning by 3 goals to 2.  John scored the first and third goals for the winners, and Serg. J. Milne, another Brechin City player, had the second.  The team got a special four-days leave in recognition of their victory and John was able to pay another flying visit home and then went back to France for the third time about the middle of April.  He will have the sympathy of many friends for his trying experiences and their good wished for a complete recovery from his wounds.  Sympathy will also be felt for his parents, who lost their younger son, Willie, in the tank advance on Cambrai on 20th Nov. last, and who are naturally distressed at their only remaining son’s third misfortune in the war, and their prayer is ‘Surely they will not send him over again.  He has done his bit.’”[15]
This fascinating article portrays the sustained burden of one soldier and one family.  Its final sentence, about the tournament at Ripon, not only informs us that John Walker played for Brechin Citybut of another Brechin City player in the Black Watch, Sergeant J Milne.
James Milne
Sergeant James Milne of the Black Watch played forBrechinCityand scored in the final of the championship tournament at North Camp, Ripon, in 1918.  (See above.)
Milne, a native of Brechin, moved to Brechin Cityfrom Dundee, for whose A Team he had played, in August 1910.[16]  He was Brechin’s regular outside left throughout 1910-11 and played at least four games in 1911-12.
James Milne enlisted in the 5th Black Watch in September 1914.  At that point his address was 17 Montrose Street, Brechin although a more contemporary report notes 97 Montrose Street.[17]  Private Milne was reported as wounded after the Battle of Aubers Ridge on 9th May 1915.[18]  By March 1916 he was with the 3/5th Black Watch, the training cadre, at Ripon.[19]
A photograph[20] of Brechin Thistle F.C., a 1920s junior club, shows a J Milne who appears of an age which would fit with one who had fought in the war and played football prior to it.  In August 1925 Brechin City lost 5-2 to Montrose.  The scorer of Brechin’s first goal was the inside left, Milne.[21]  This may or may not have been the Sergeant J Milne who played in the pre-war City and war-time Black Watch teams.
James 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, his father being noted as a factory worker.  By 1901 the family were in22 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 footballer.  He continued, at that point, to reside at 22 Montrose Street, and his occupation is given as house painter.   He did however spend some time, likely around the years 1912-14, 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.[22]  By the beginning of season 1905-06 he is playing regularly in goal for Brechin Harp and played for Harp throughout that season.[23]  By the beginning however of season 1906-07[24] James Livie had moved to Brechin Hearts.

Brechin Hearts, 1906-07, with Jim Livie in the middle of the back row (wearing the goalie's obligatory bunnet) and, neside him, Jim Bushnell, with whom he later played in the 1916 3/5th Black Watch team

He played in goal for a Forfarshire Junior Select against Brechin City in a benefit match in March 1907.[25]  He played in goal for Brechin City in an end of season friendly against Forfar Athletic on 20 April 1907.[26]  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.[27]  Season 1908-09 saw Jim Livie playing for Brechin Rovers.[28]  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, in a Forfarshire Cup tie for Brechin Rovers against Dundee Glenavon in 1908 and in a Scottish Junior Cup tie for Brechin Rovers against Brechin Hearts in September 1910![29]  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.”[30]
In 1913-14 however he appeared on at least three occasions for BrechinCityat centre half (scoring from a free kick on one such appearance), once at left half and once in goal.[31]
As well as enjoying a long and varied football career, Jim Livie also played a passing game of cricket.  He appeared for a Brechin Rovers FC Cricket XI against a Nursery park Scratch XI in August 1911, catching out one of the opponents and scoring a creditable 39 runs.[32]

The Aid Post of the 5th Black Watch, with Sergeant Jim Livie on the right of the middle row

He served in the war in The Black Watch, enlisting about October 1915[33], completing his service as a sergeant and surviving the war.  He is noted in Brechin’s Muster Roll with the 3/5th battalion, The Black Watch, in March 1916 when his home address is given as 4 Summerbank Lane.[34]   He appears in the photograph of the 3/5th Black Watch battalion team taken at Ripon, likely in 1916.[35]  James Livie returned to Brechin after the war and played junior for several Brechin clubs including Commodores.    He is almost certainly the goal keeper pictured in the early 1920s photograph of Brechin Commodores Junior FC[36].  He had therefore a career in Junior football which stretched over almost 20 years.  He lived the remainder of his life in Brechin, dying there in 1959.  His son still resided in Brechin until his recent death.
James Hetherington
James Crabb Hetherington was born on the sixteenth May 1889 at 81 River Street, Brechin, the son of John Hetherington, bleachfield worker, and Jane Hetherington (nee Crabb).  He and his family were residing in Union Streetin 1901.  By the time war erupted he was employed at the Denburn Works.[37]
Significant confusion arises because there were three J Hetheringtons, all playing football in Brechin in the period 1905-1915.
John Hetherington was a right winger who played for Brechin Hearts from at least 1905 until at least 1908.  He was the older brother of James Crabb Hetherington.
James Hetherington, son of George Hetherington, and a cousin of John Hetherington and James Crabb Hetherington, was a winger who played juvenile football for Brechin Arnot in 1904-05 and 1905-06.  He is likely also the J Hetherington who played outside left for Brechin Rovers in 1908-09 and continued with Rovers until the summer of 1911.
James Crabb Hetherington played juvenile football for Brechin Arnot.  He played one game for City in 1910-11 but his regular team at that period seems to have been Brechin Rovers.  In 1912-13 he played at least one game for Brechin Rangers, then a junior side. He played eight games for City in 1913-14 and three in 1914-15, all of these at either centre half or left half.
One of the two J Hetheringtons who played for Brechin Rovers in 1911 left Brechin “for the antipodes”.[38]
James Crabb Hetherington enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery in December 1914 and served as a driver in France.[39]  He was wounded in August 1917.[40]
Employment and Domicile
Of the thirteen players who have been identified with certainty and on whom some detail has been assembled, six were directly employed in the textile industry (two at theEast Bleachfieldand three at the Denburn Works) on which the economy of Brechin rested.  One was employed at the paper mill, although he had previously been noted as a flax worker.  One appears to have been a full-time professional footballer but had also previously been employed in the textile industry.  One was a house painter although as a boy he had also been employed as a porter in the linen industry.  One was employed atBrechinCastle.  The occupations of the other three have not been established.
It appears that, with the exception of Gordon Macfarlane, born in Edinburgh, having spent his early years in South Africa but settled in Brechin with his uncle’s family since boyhood; of Frank Forbes, a Dundonian whose parents were Brechiners and who moved into Brechin; of James Livie, who spent a brief period in Canada and of those players who left Brechin to ply their footballing trade elsewhere, the entire group resided throughout their adult lives prior to the War in Brechin or the immediately surrounding countryside.
Military Careers and Regiments
At least eight of the thirteen originally enlisted in the 5th, the Angus or Forfarshire Territorial Battalion, of The Black Watch.  Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914.
In terms of slightly later history, it should also be noted that in February 1916, the 4th (Dundee) Battalion and the 5th (Forfarshire) Battalion of The Black Watch, both having suffered such serious casualties, were amalgamated and, for the remainder of the war, operated as the 4th/5th Battalion, The Black Watch.
Another two of the thirteen served with The Black Watch although it is not known with which battalion.  Two of the eleven Brechiners however had transferred from the 5th Black Watch by the time of their deaths, one to the 7th (Fife) Battalion of The Black Watch and one to the Machine Gun Corps.
The other three named players served with the Royal Scots, the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Motor Machine Gun Corps.  Of the eleven, seven were promoted: five sergeants, two corporals and a lance-corporal.  One of them had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and three of them the Military Medal.
It is clear that almost all of the thirteen were volunteers.  Robert Jaffray was a Territorial who first went to Francein November 1914.[41]  He was a pre-war Territorial as were Gordon Macfarlane and Thomas Irvine.  Robert Strachan enlisted in the Territorials in October 1914.[42]  James Adam enlisted shortly after the outbreak of war and went to France with a draft in December 1914.  David Glen enlisted “shortly after war broke out”[43], in fact in December 1914[44].  Collie Martin[45], Walter Fowler[46], Frank Forbes[47] and Colin Hampton[48] all enlisted in 1915 (Frank Forbes in January of that year[49]).  John Walker enlisted in February 1916 as a result of the Derby scheme[50], the first tentative step towards conscription, but since conscription, which was introduced by the Military Service Act, did not come into operation until27 March 1916, all of these nine men were pre-conscription volunteers.  No date of enlistment has been traced for James Livie.  In other words, of the thirteen men on whom we have some detail, at least eleven were volunteers.
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);
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
The late Steve Mitchell, Editor, Brechin City Programme and Director, Brechin City FC;
Jack Souter, Luthermuir;
The Staff, Brechin Public Library;
The Staff, The National Library of Scotland.

[1] D & R Duke, Denburn Works
[2] Hampton (London Cup Winners medal with name engraved is in the collection)
[3]Cheshire, p 87
[4]Hampton (signed photograph in collection)
[5] The Brechin Advertiser,25 January 1968
[6] Sands
[7]Hampton (from untitled, undated press cutting in collection)
[8] Sands
[9]Hampton (all medals in the collection)
[10] The Brechin Advertiser,25 January 1968
[11] The Brechin Advertiser,2 October 1917
[12] The Brechin Advertsier,16 February 1915
[13] The Brechin Advertiser, 25 January and1 February 1916
[14] The Brechin Advertiser,2 October 1917
[15] The Brechin Advertiser,13 August 1918
[16] The Brechin Advertiser,9 August 1910
[17] Brechin Almanac, 1918 and the Brechin Advertiser,28 March 1916
[18] The Brechin Advertiser,15 June 1915
[19] The Brechin Advertiser,28 March 1916
[20]Adams, 1987
[21] The Brechin Advertiser,25 August 1925
[22] The Brechin Advertiser, 10  January 1905 et seq
[23] The Brechin Advertiser, 19 September 1905  et seq
[24] The Brechin Advertiser, 7 August 1906 et seq
[25] The Brechin Advertiser, 12 and 19 March 1907
[26] The Brechin Advertiser,23 April 1907
[27] The Brechin Advertiser, 7 May 1907
[28] The Brechin Advertiser,13 October 1908
[29] The Brechin Advertiser,13 November 1906,13 October 1908 and27 September 1910
[30] The Brechin Advertiser,19 September 1911
[31] The Brechin Advertiser, 14 October 1913 et seq
[32] The Brechin Advertiser,8 August 1911
[33] The National Archives, Medal List
[34] The Brechin Advertiser,23 March 1916
[35] Wood (photograph in collection, James Livie identified by his son)
[36]Adams, 1989
[37] The Brechin Advertiser,28 December 1915
[38] The Brechin Advertiser,18 July 1911
[39] The Brechin Advertiser,28 December 1915
[40] D & R Duke, Denburn Works
[41] Brechin Almanac 1918
[42] The Brechin Advertiser,27 October 1914
[43] Brechin Almanac 1918
[44] The Brechin Advertiser,22 December 1914
[45] Brechin Almanac 1918
[46] D & R Duke, Denburn Works
[47] D & R Duke, Denburn Works
[48] Swinburne, p15
[49] The Brechin Advertiser,19 January 1915
[50] The Brechin Advertiser,13 August 1918


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