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john_meffen

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Ich heiße John Meffen - Part Time Historian/Researcher, blogger, work in online marketing, but rarely blog about it here: I have worked for Equator in Glesga and then for Caliber Interactive in Embra, but prefer to write a blog about the history of Falkirk Football Club in Fa'kirk. You can contact me through John Meffen [me!] on Google+

john_meffen Edinburgh restaurants

Official website address

http://www.caliberi.com/

Personal website address

http://falkirkfchistorian.blogspot.com/

Company / Institution

Equator, Glasgow

Main Skills

OCD like will to research

Falkirk Football Historian

Lost Football Grounds of Falkirk District - Milnquarter Park

I just came across a fantastic new 'thing' on the NLS maps website, where you can look at the 1898 Ordnance Survey map cross-checked with the current bing maps to give it a historical context. So when I was playing about earlier, looking at the parts of Falkirk that I do not have on paper I came across a couple of grounds, some of which I am not sure about and will need to research a bit further, but some I knew but had never looked at on the map.

Football in Falkirk District started in Bonnybridge, but although they were enthusiastic the Grasshoppers never quite had the ability challenge on the field of play. As a result of this they never really managed to establish themselves so paid the ultimate price when the great cull of village clubs came in the wake of professionalism and league football.

Local knowledge has it that Grasshoppers' first ever match was played on a the field where Bonnybridge Library now stands [sometimes known as Bonnyside]. Exactly where the Grasshoppers played over the next couple of seasons is difficult to pin down. Occasional match reports state "Peathill" whilst others state "Highland Dykes" and whilst it is possible they were the same ground it still only vaguely locates it to the area about modern Larbert Road in Bonnybridge.

Around 1880-1881 Grasshoppers moved to what would be largely their permanent home for the rest of their history: Milnquarter Park. The club had relocated to the, then, largely vacant, fields between Bonnybridge and Greenhill. I say it was largely their permanent home because they spent season 1886/87 in Longcroft.

Since I have never come across any descriptions of the actual ground in any match reports I do not know what it was like, but it is fairly safe to assume it was very basic, probably just a roped off area in a field, the teams getting stripped in a nearby pub or similar hostelry. In the map [below] it is quite a bit off the local roads, this would affected access, and the fact that there was unlikely to be any Grandstand would have made it virtually impossible for the club to charge the any crowd for the privilege.


Milnquarter in 1896

According to the OS map it seems that the ground was partly built over the Antonine Wall, which leads one to presume that at least that part had been dismantled by 1880. Another thing which is missing from this map which is in later maps, is that the land immediately to the East on the other side of the railway lines was the home of Bonnybridge Cricket Club, part of which is now the playing area of the Antonine Primary School.


The exact same area taken from Bing Maps 2015

Although Milnquarter was never the greatest of grounds in the district, it was important enough. Several Scottish Cup matches were played on the ground, so we can tell that the ground was up to scratch in the eyes of the SFA, there are countless recordings of teams being forced to replay matches, or play matches away from home simply due to the quality of the ground.

I must admit to ignorance at this point though, I am not completely sure if the ground was shared in latter days with Bonnybridge Juniors, and even if so, how long football was played on the ground after Grasshoppers became defunct. I will get round to looking up these things in time, but for the time being I'd like to think that the ground was at least being used in the Junior Cup matches until it was finally built over.

Lost Grounds of Falkirk District - Merchiston Park

I asked Drummond Calder of The East Stirlingshire Supporters Society to write a piece on the 'Shire's old ground Merchiston Park, knowing that he would have researched in far more detail than I would ever get round to doing, and he did not dissapoint. -




Action Shot from (New) Merchiston Park



Merchiston Park was the home to East Stirlingshire from the 1880s to the 1920s and is actually the story of 3 grounds. East Stirlingshire had previously played at Burnhouse and then at Randyford before returning back to Bainsford in March or April 1882. The club’s 3rd ground, which they played on from then until the end of season 1882/83, was basically a playing field in Bainsford which was rented from Mungal Farm.


At the start of season 1883/84 East Stirlingshire had moved again to their 4th ground, which was adjacent to one they had just vacated, and it was formally opened with a match against Our Boys (from Dundee). This east/west ground was rented from the owner of Mungal Farm, James Young, who would shortly afterwards become the Baillie for the Northern Ward of the town which included Bainsford. He was also the club’s 1st President from at least May 1883. Initially the ground was just a playing field but the club gradually improved it. Originally it did not having a name (it was known only as “the ground at Bainsford”) by the end of season 1885/86 it was referred to as “Bainsford Park”. At the end of that season extensive ground improvements were made, including levelling the pitch, and from the start of season 1886/87 the ground was formally named Merchiston Park with the club playing a friendly against Aston Villa in August 1886 to celebrate the occasion. Merchiston Park during its’ history did have a “Match box” stand but after the great Ibrox disaster in 1902 along with other clubs in the district (Falkirk excepted) it was condemned. In the early years on the 20th Century Bainsford was continuing to be developed rapidly and one consequence was that the ground had to make way for a railway line to an iron foundry. So at the end of season 1905/06 the ground closed its gates for the last time.


Edinburgh Evening Telegraph - Thursday August 26th 1886


After losing their ground to the railway line over the 1906 close season the club moved back to the playing area used by the club from March/April 1882 to April 1883 (East Stirlingshire’s 3rd ground) and built a new ground, their 5th, called New Merchiston Park (though latterly it was just known as Merchiston Park). New Merchiston Park was a substantially more developed from the playing field that was the 3rd ground, it would been more like some of the more basic Junior grounds we find today (without the toilets !). The club would play at this ground from of start season 1906/07 to the end of 1920/21 when once again they were forced to find a new ground. The East Stirlingshire club booklet gives us the following information about what happened after the club moved from Randyford back to Bainsford which confirmed the link between the 3rd and 5th grounds;


“...after which they took up their quarters at Merchiston Park, on the identical site of the field which they were forced to leave two years ago. This fact is known to only a few of the present-day followers of the club, whose reminiscences go no further back than the time when East Stirlingshire played on the pitch slightly to the north, which had to be vacated in 1907 owing to the construction of a new railway.”


The following two maps show the actual locations of the club’s grounds from March/April 1882 to May 1921 (Grounds 3 to 5).

The first Ordnance Survey map from 1897 shows the location for Ground 4 (Merchiston Park). The basin just south of the ground was Burnhouse Basin. Church Street, to the East of the ground is the current Smith Street. The ground was entered from the East side through Black Close, just off the Bainsford Main Street.
 



The following 1922 Ordnance Survey map shows the location of Ground 5 (New Merchiston Park) that the club played on and this area was also where Ground 3 was situated. Note the location of Mungal Cottage (where the club’s’ first President, James Young, lived) in the top left-hand corner of the map. It can be seen that the ground was situated south of the 4th ground and was a lot closer to the canal. The railway line where the old ground was can be seen as well. The ground was directly north of Burnbank Iron Foundry and the east side of the ground backed onto Burnhouse Basin.





Football "Up the Braes"

Rumford Rovers & Redding Athletic

From Laurieston to Maddiston there is now a nearly contiguous line of villages just seperated from Falkirk because of Callendar Park.

Back in the 19th Century they existed relatively apart from one another and all based upon their own colliery and/or foundry.

The villages were [indeed still are] Laurieston, Westquarter, Redding, Reddingmuirhead, Brightons, Rumford & Maddiston. With the exception of Laurieston very few senior clubs came out of these 'outskirts', especially when compared to the intense rivalries to the West of Falkirk.

Rumford Rovers

This club, at the very least, began life as a serious club sometime during the summer of 1887, but toward the end, they were simply a laughing stock, if not simply a sham club.
Playing their matches at Wallacelea Park, Rumford were always going to struggle against clubs from bigger town when in the Stirlingshire Cup, never mind the Scottish Cup.
It must be said that not only did Rumford not provide a huge pool of players, but the local clubs largely shunned them when it came to friendlies, only the odd match against the 2nd XI being played. And without good matches they fell by the way. However by the time of professionalism they were still appearing on the rosters of the Stirlingshire & Scottish FAs, the only problem being that they never fulfilled any of their later fixtures.
In fact, there was often controversy, even intrigue, in the local press as to whether they existed as a club at all. The two main theories being that a local un-named politician was paying for the upkeep of the club in order to garner votes in local elections: or that somebody was maintaining a 'paper club' to retain voting rights on the SFA Council, either way both the Stirlingshire & Scottish FAs got too suspicious of their lack of playing record and forcibly ejected them.

Redding Athletic

Unlike their cousins up the Braes, Redding Athletic were never involved in any controversies, like Rumford they were rather inept at football at the senior level. Formed slightly before Rumford [they played their first recorded match on March 2nd 1887] at the end of the 1886/87 Season.
I have no record as yet where they played their home matches, but did read once that they played on the playing fields at the southern tip of Laurieston.
The most famous event in the short history of the club was hosting the largest home defeat in Scottish Senior Football, losing 0-17 to Camelon later in 1887.
Redding suffered from the same problems as Rumford, not enough local talent, not enough of a support base, not enough matches against larger clubs to get a regular income. Without the income they just fizzled out during 1892. Not with a bang like Rumford Rovers, they just stopped, with no announcement, being in the papers.

Lost Football Grounds of Falkirk District - Victoria Pk Camelon

The Second Home of Camelon [in their first Season there is mention of them playing on 'the Policies of Camelon House'] was that of Victoria Park. Known as Victoria Park because, frankly, the times demanded it, there were very few features that described it in the reports, other than it was 'in a hollow'.

The ground [as far as I can tell] was in use for about twenty years, from the early 1880s until the early 1900s, when it was built over by a foundry, one which famously made Mills grenades during WWI.


 
The ground as a football ground was, seemingly, ever-problematic, costing as village side like Camelon more than they could reasonably bring in in gates per season. It was only that Victoria Park was easily the third most important grounds of Falkirk District, easily recognised by the fact that it hosted most of the neutral matches between East Stirlingshire and Falkirk, that it continued so long: two local Cup Finals [Falkirk District Charity Cup & Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Infirmary Shield] that kept it going so long.

The ground though, by all reports was quite impressive, laid in a 'natural amphitheatre' between Glasgow Road to the South and the Railway line to the North, and with an incline from the Stirling Road to the East, it's beauty was often commented upon, the simple fact was that Camelon could not support a team to support the ground. Later Junior clubs returning to, Camelon House & Carmuirs Park.

In the 1897 map, the ground is at the very west of old Camelon.



This is the current google map of the area.



Lost Football Grounds of Falkirk District - Tannery Park

The original home of Falkirk Amateurs, so called - because it was right next to a tannery. This ground is one of the easier grounds to find even though it is not on any of the OS maps. But it was described in Jimmy Henderson's Obituary as being on the policies of Comely Park House and that the East Burn ran down one side of it.

This places the ground in between the Callander Walls and Kemper Avenue [the East Burn is now piped under Kemper Avenue] ie, the car park across from the Claddan.

This is almost certainly the same ground as Comely Park had used previously, even the Ams called it Comely Park occasionally, but also adverts for Comely Park matches stated "entrance via Burnhead Lane"



The ground was also used by various junior clubs.