1920/21

The following is taken from our 2016/17 home programmes in which East Stirlingshire club historian, Drummond Calder, wrote a series of articles regarding our seasons 1919/20 and 1920/21.

East Stirlingshire had been elected to the Scottish League for Season 1900/01 and until the end of season 2015/16 we had had virtually continuous membership of the Scottish League and latterly of the Scottish Professional League. That all changed with the club’s relegation to the Scottish Lowland Football League for the season 2016/17. The only two seasons in that time (outwith the war years) that the club did not play in the Scottish Leagues were in 1919/20 and 1920/21. This is the story of season 1920/21.

At the start of August 1920 the East Stirlingshire squad had risen to 10 players for the coming season, only 4 of whom have been retained from the last campaign. The new players were Alex Johnstone (a Glasgow Junior Half-Back who had played in a few games for ES at the end of 1919/20); John Gow and John Meaney (both Forwards from Dunfermline Athletic); Robert Shearer (a Forward from Falkirk); Jamie Wilson (a Half-Back previously with ES in 1914/15 and 1915/16. He had played with Armadale and Albion Rovers in 1919/20 and had played for the Lanarkshire team in the 1919/20 Scottish Cup Final which they had lost to Kilmarnock 2-3) and William Crichton (a Forward from Vale of Leven). Also of note is two ex-Shire players had been signed by local rivals Alloa Athletic, they were 1919/20 ES goalkeeper Jamie Caldwell and the legendary Bobby Orrick.

John Meany was an Irishman born 1886 in Tralee, Kenny. He started his senior football career with Leith Athletic in 1908/09 and played with them until 1912/13. In 1909/90 John was part of the Leith Athletic winning Scottish Qualifying Cup team.  He then had 2 seasons at Falkirk from 1912/13 before returning to Leith Athletic in 1913/14 where he stayed until 1916/17. He then moved that season to Hibernian and played with them for 3 seasons before a further move to Dunfermline Athletic in 1919/20.

On Saturday 7th the Shire held an internal practice match at Merchiston Park and a collection was taken for the Falkirk Infirmary. Unfortunately no details were made available of the teamlines or the score. The club were selling season tickets at the game for 12s including tax.

A few days later East Stirlingshire had signed on another two players; Richard O’Brien (an Outside-Left previously he played for Stockport County, he was called “Jinky” when he was with them in 1917/18, and Oldham Athletic) and John Kelly (a Forward from Ayr Fort FC, a Junior club who played at Ayr United’s home ground at that time).

The Shire opened up their season on Wednesday 18th August with a home game against Stenhousemuir in the Central League in front of a 3000 crowd. The ES team for this season opener was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, William Adams, Frank Taylor, James Monteith, Alex Johnston, John Gow, John Meaney, William Crichton, Reid (of Plean Juniors), Richard O’Brien. Both teams attacked from the start but it was East Stirlingshire who scored 1st, William Crichton netting from a cross by Richard O’Brien. The Shire then dominated the game only for Stenhousemuir to equalise 2 minutes before the break. The Zebras kept up the pressure at the start of the 2nd half and even had a John Meaney goal disallowed. However, Stenhousemuir came more into the game as the half progressed and they scored the winning goal 10 minutes before full time.

Shire’s next game was on Saturday 21st at Merchiston Park in the Central League against Cowdenbeath. ES made two changes to the team in the forward line; John Kelly for William Crichton and Robert Shearer for Reid. Cowdenbeath had the ex-Celtic Scottish International Back, Joe Dodds, playing for them after they had offered him more money than Celtic to play for them. In a spirited 1st half the home team pressed and were rewarded with a goal through John Gow. Despite a lot of Cowdenbeath pressure, especially near the end of the game, the home club hung on to record a 1-0 win.

The following Wednesday evening over 3000 people turned up to watch the Stirlingshire derby between the Zebra’s and King’s Park. ES again changed their team with Jamie and Neil Wilson coming in for Adam MItchell and Robert Shearer respectively. Centre Forward Neil Wilson was from Bannock Juniors and he afterwards signed for the Shire. ES started the game brighter and took an early lead in 10 minutes, John Gow who heading in a John Meaney cross. King’s Park then equalised but Neil Wilson restored the Shire’s lead before half-time. King’s Park dominated the 1st part of the 2nd half and again drew level in 70 minutes. There was no further scoring and the game ended 2-2.

On 28th August East Stirlingshire travelled to Fife to play Dunfermline Athletic in a Central League match. Due to the home club having just signed some famous players that week (including Jimmy Gordon from Rangers, who had played more than 300 times from 1906/07 for the Glasgow club, winning 5 League Championship Medals and gaining 10 Scottish Caps), a massive crowd of 9000 turned up to watch the game, generating £350 gate receipts. The ES team was:  Bauldie Buchanan, Jamie Wilson, William Adams, Frank Taylor, James Monteith, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, John Meaney, Neil Wilson, Robert Shearer, Richard O’Brien The Shire played well in the game and went ahead through John Meaney but found themselves 1-2 down at the break. In the 2nd period the home club added a 3rd goal 10 minutes before the end.  James Monteith of ES had injured his ankle early in the game and as a result had limped for the majority of it.  At full time the police had to clear a passage to allow the referee to leave the pitch.

Saturday 4th September 1920 was Cup day and the Shire had been drawn at home to King’s Park in the Scottish Qualifying Cup 1st Round.  A huge crowd of 5000 were present to witness a close game that was ultimately spoiled by the high wind. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, William Adams, Frank Taylor, James Monteith, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, John Meaney, Neil Wilson, John Kelly, William Crichton. The Zebras had the wind advantage in the 1st half and dominated the game, Neil Wilson scoring the only goal of the half in 30 minutes. Despite having the wind advantage in the 2nd half King’s park failed to score and the game ended 1-0 to the Shire.

The planned home Central League game v Bo’ness on 8th September was postponed to allow the West Lothian team to play a Benefit Match against Hibernian.

On 11th September East Stirlingshire were supposed to have travelled to play Dundee Hibernian in the Central League but the Hibs were involved in a Cup replay and therefore Shire travelled instead to Alloa Athletic to play a League match.  There was one change to the ES team with Jamie Wilson returning to replace James Monteith at Half-Back. In front of a large crowd of 4000 the Shire controlled the 1st half but neither team scored. In the 2nd period the game was more even and each team scored a penalty to draw the game 1-1, Alex Johnstone scoring Shire’s spot kick.

On Saturday 18th September East Stirlingshire were in Scottish Qualifying Cup action in a 2nd Round game against Vale of Atholl. The game had been drawn to be played at Vale’s ground in Pitlochry and despite an offer of £100 from ES to switch the game to Merchiston Park Vale of Atholl refused and the Shire and their fans had to travel north. As it turned out the crowd was a poor one and only £28 was taken at the Gate. Of this the Shire got £15 for railway fares and the referee got £2 10s so there was little left for the home club.A number of ES fans did travel to the game by train. However, some fans had chosen to travel by a motor char-a-banc but they didn’t make it to the game as the vehicle broke down just after Perth and the next train to Pitlochry was too late.  The following picture is of a 1920s char-a-banc to give an idea to this long forgotten mode of travel.

The Shire teamline for the game was the unchanged from the previous week. John Kelly scored for the ES in 2 minutes with John Meaney adding a 2nd before the break. A 3rd goal in the 3nd half gave the Shire a straight forward 3-0 win.

The monthly meeting of Falkirk Town Council was held on 20th September. At the meeting discussions were held regarding turning part of Dawson Park, Bainsford into a football ground where East Stirlingshire FC could move to when they had to depart Merchiston Park. It was stated that the majority involved who had a vested and feudal interest in Dawson Park were in favour of the plan but a few parties who had feudal title to parts of Dawson Park were not and there would be a public meeting in Bainsford in October to take the matter further.

During that week Davie Barker and John Corbett, who had played for the Shire in 1919/20, were reported as now playing with Gairdoch Juniors. Also Willie Gracie who had played a couple of games for ES in August 1919, but more fondly remembered for his 3 seasons with the club just as the War broke out, was now at Banknock Juniors.

Saturday 24th September saw St. Bernard’s visit Merchiston Park to play a Central League match. ES had only 1 change to their team with Robert Shearer coming in for William Crichton at Outside-Left. Despite being under heavy pressure from the Edinburgh team in the 1st half it was East Stirlingshire who went into the lead from an Alex Johnstone penalty. Undaunted St. Bernard’s continued to press but the best they could manage was a disallowed offside goal. After a bright start by the Zebras at the start of the 2nd half St. Bernard’s again took control of the game. However, it was only 2 minutes before the end that they were finally able to equalise and as a result the game ended 1-1. Although still early in the season East Stirlingshire were now a lowly 13th in the 18 team Central League.

The following Saturday East Stirlingshire travelled to Methil to play East Fife in a Central League match.  Again the only change to the ES team was in the Outside Left position with Richard O’Brien replacing Robert Shearer. For the first 30 minutes of the game the Shire were 2nd best but then the game became more even, though there was no scoring. In an exciting 2nd period East Fife went into the lead (this was the 1st time in season 1920/21 that ES had not scored 1st in a game) and they followed this up with a 2nd goal. The Shire scored a consolation penalty in the last seconds of the game, Alex Johnstone the scorer.

Another Saturday and another away trip for East Stirlingshire, this time at Perth to play a Central League match against fellow league strugglers St. Johnstone.  The ES team was freshened up with James Monteith returning to the team to replace Frank Taylor at Half Back, Martin (a trialist from Stirling Castle) coming in for John Gow at Outside Right, John Meaney and John Kelly switching their Inside Right and Left positions as well. With regards to the game the Shire more than held their own in the 1st half and although St. Johnstone had a goal disallowed the game was still goalless at the break. Both teams attacked in the 2nd half and it was Neil Wilson who scored the 1st goal of the game for the Zebras. The home team did manage to equalise later in the half but it was hotly disputed by ES that the ball had not crossed the goal line. In the end the game was drawn 1-1.

On 12th October an evening meeting of the electors of the North Ward of the town was held during which the matter of East Stirlingshire’s application for part of Dawson Park for the use of a football ground was discussed. The football club were willing to pay for the use of the portion of land required. None of the members of the Town Council had any objections to the proposal but under the terms of the feu charter if there were any objections at all then the proposal would fail. The meeting granted the proposal in favour of East Stirlingshire and the Town Council were then to arrange a meeting with the Dawson Trustees and adjoining feuars who were objecting. If that failed then a meeting with the ratepayers would be held.

East Stirlingshire were at Merchiston Park on Saturday 16th in a Central League match against fellow league strugglers Dundee Hibernian. The ES team was again changed with two new players appearing in the forward line. The teamline was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, William Adams, Frank Taylor, James Monteith, Jamie Wilson, Martin, John Kelly, Neil Wilson, Reekie (of Parkhead), Thompson (of Bonnybridge). Although both teams had chances, including a Shire penalty miss near full-time when Adam Mitchell’s shot was saved, neither team were able to score. This was the Hibs 1st away League point of the season.

The next Saturday Shire travelled to play Championship contenders Bathgate in a Central League match.  ES made wholesale changes to their team lining up as follows: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, William Adams, Frank Taylor, Jamie Wilson, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, John Meaney, Neil Wilson, Robert Shearer, John Kelly. In a fast game ES went into an early lead in 10 minutes from a shot by John Gow. However, the home team replied with 3 goals before the break. In the 2nd half Bathgate added a 4th goal before Alex Johnstone scored Shire’s 2nd from the penalty spot. The Final score was 2-4.

East Stirlingshire’s final game of October took place on 30th at Merchiston Park. Peterhead were the visitors in a Scottish Qualifying Cup 5th Round tie, ES having received a bye in the 3rd and 4th Rounds. This was the 1st time Shire had played Peterhead in any type of game. The Aberdeenshire club were no pushover’s that season and were undefeated going into the match. They had travelled south the night before staying in Glasgow. The ES team was: Team: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, William Adams, Jamie Wilson, James Monteith, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, John Meaney, John Kelly, Neil Wilson, William Crichton. In front of a 2000 crowd the Shire controlled the play, John Kelly scoring 2 goals for the home team in 20 and 25 minutes and John Meaney adding a 3rd shortly afterwards. Peterhead started the 2nd half better but it was the Zebras who were next to score, John Kelly completing his hattrick. Peterhead were later awarded a penalty but failed to score. John Meaney added a 5th goal for the Shire before full-time for a comfortable win.

CENTRAL LEAGUE AS AT 30/10/1920 (after games)
P W D L F A Pts
Bo’ness 10 8 2 0 26 7 18
Bathgate 13 7 4 2 28 12 18
Cowdenbeath 11 6 3 2 20 13 15
Heart of Midlothian A 13 6 2 5 34 18 14
St. Bernard’s 12 5 3 4 17 18 13
Falkirk A 14 5 3 6 19 23 13
Clackmannan 12 6 0 6 11 19 12
Dunfermline Athletic 11 5 1 5 20 17 11
Stenhousemuir 11 5 1 5 17 22 11
King’s Park 13 3 5 5 16 17 11
Dundee Hibernian 11 4 2 5 13 17 10
East Fife 7 3 2 2 9 8 8
Armadale 9 4 0 5 15 17 8
Broxburn United 11 3 2 6 13 21 8
St. Johnstone 11 3 2 6 10 16 8
Alloa Athletic 7 2 3 2 14 14 7
East Stirlingshire 10 1 5 4 11 16 7
Lochgelly United 12 2 2 8 11 31 6

The Shire had only won 1 of their 1st 10 league games in 1920/21 and now were in 16th place in the league only 1 point of the bottom. That 1 win against Cowdenbeath was a long time past on 21st August. However, East Stirlingshire were only a few points off the middle of the league and had only lost 4 games. The main issue was that they had drawn half the matches they had played.

 

East Stirlingshire were back in Central League action on Saturday 6th November when they made the short trip to play Clackmannan. The Shire turned in a good performance on the day, winning 3-0. All the ES goals were scored by John Kelly, one in the 1st half and the other two in the second. This was only the club’s 2nd league win of the season to date and the 1st since 21st August.

The following Saturday travelled to Bo’ness for a Scottish Qualifying Cup Quarter-Final tie. Going into the match Bo’ness were the Central League leaders. A good number of ES fans travelled to the game by special train and by motor car. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, Jamie Wilson, Frank Taylor, James Monteith, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, John Meaney, John Kelly, Neil Wilson, William Crichton. The game was played in a thunderstorm and heavy rain with the home team having the wind advantage in the 1st half. After an even start Bo’ness went ahead in 20 minutes directly from a free-kick. 10 minutes later Bo’ness made it 0-2. Before half-time the home team scored a 3rd goal but this was disallowed for offside. By the change of ends the middle of the park had become a quagmire and good play was difficult. Try as they might the Shire were unable to get back into the game in the 2nd period and the game ended in a 0-2 defeat.

David Coid, the previous season’s ES centre forward, was reported as now being with his 3rd club in 1920/21. He had started off with Cowdenbeath, then Armadale for a few weeks and was now playing for Portsmouth.

On 20th November the Shire met Lochgelly United in a Central League match at Merchiston Park. The ES team had a few changes to the previous week’s line-up with William Adams replacing Jamie Wilson at Back and William Crichton dropping out for Robert Shearer, who was played at Inside-Left with Neil Wilson moving to Outside-Left. The 1st half was dominated by ES and they went ahead in the 15th minute from Alex Johnstone’s 5th penalty of the season. A few minutes before the break John Gow added a 2nd goal for the home team.  Lochgelly United improved hugely in the 2nd period and it was only due the brilliant goalkeeping of Bauldie Buchanan that the Happylanders failed to score. As result East Stirlingshire recorded a good 2-0 victory.

East Stirlingshire were at home at Merchiston Park on the last Saturday of the month to play Heart of Midlothian A in the Central League. Again ES made some changes to the team and they lined-up as follows: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, H. Reid. Frank Taylor, Jamie Wilson, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, James Monteith, John Kelly, Robert Shearer, Neil Wilson.  Hearts A were the better team in the 1st half but despite both teams having chances it was still goalless at half-time. In the 2nd half Hearts A still had the better of the game and went ahead in 60 minutes. Although the Shire had lots of pressure towards the end of the match the Edinburgh club held out for a 1-0 win.

One week later East Stirlingshire visited Cowdenbeath for a re-arranged Central League match. The ES team had couple of changes; the trialist H Reid was replaced by another trialist named “Thomson” at Back and at Outside-Left John Meaney came in for Robert Shearer. The Zebras started of the game well in the 1st half but against the run of play Cowdenbeath went in at the break 1 goal up, Again at the start of the 2nd half the Shire played well but in the last 20 minutes of the game the home time took over and scored 4 goals without reply. Shire lost 0-5 with all goals coming from the same Cowdenbeath player, William Paterson who had now scored an incredible 30 goals that season. East Stirlingshire’s cause wasn’t helped with injuries to 3 players in the 2nd half. The result of the game put Cowdenbeath top of the league and left the Shire 5th from bottom.

During the week the draw for the 1st and 2nd Rounds of the Scottish Cup was made and East Stirlingshire were drawn to play Solway Star from Annan in the 2nd Round, having received a 1st Round bye.

On 11th December the Shire met title challengers Bathgate at Merchiston Park in a Central League match. The ES team, which had some enforced changes due to player injuries, was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, Thomson (same trialist as previous week), Frank Taylor, Jamie Wilson, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, John Meaney, Neil Wilson, Robert Shearer, Smith (a trialist; he was a Glasgow Junior with a Parkhead connection). Straight from the kick-off East Stirlingshire went into a 1 goal lead through Neil Wilson.  The game was competitive but ES did have spells when they were on top and this even missed a penalty a few minutes from full-time, Alex Johnstone for once failing from the spot. The full-time 1-0 scoreline in favour of the Shire was another welcome result.

During the week signed legend Dan McNeilage once again re-signed for East Stirlingshire.

The following Saturday East Stirlingshire were again in Central League action away to Broxburn United at Sports Park. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, Laird (trialist), Frank Taylor, Jamie Wilson, James Monteith, John Gow, John Meaney, Neil Wilson, Robert Shearer, Smith. Despite both teams competing well the game was goalless at interval. Both teams scored early in the 2nd half, Robert Shearer scoring for ES 5 minutes after the home side’s opener. The Shire then went into the lead from a 2nd Shearer goal and continued to press. They did manage to score a 3rd goal through Smith however this was disallowed for offside. Shire won 2-1, to record back to back wins.

The Shire had a home Central League match against mid-table Clackmannan on Christmas day. It was mentioned that Shire’s goalkeeper, Bauldie Buchanan, was a signing target for Exeter City though he was still in the ES team for the game which was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, William Adams, Frank Taylor, Jamie Wilson, Alex Johnston, Neil Wilson, John Meaney, Robert Shearer, Danny McNeilage, Smith. East Stirlingshire kept up their hot run of form with a comfortable 4-0 win. Robert Shearer had giving ES an early 5th minute lead which they held to the break. Then Shire stepped up the pace right at the start of the 2nd half with a goal from Danny McNeilage and two from Shearer to complete his hattrick. The result meant the Zebras had moved up to a more respectable 9th place in the 18 team league.

On the 1st day of 1921 East Stirlingshire travelled to Larbert for the Central League derby match against Stenhousemuir. Stenhousemuir were at full strength for the game but Shire had to make a few changes and lined up as: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, William Adams, James Monteith, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, William Crichton, Robert Shearer, Dan McNeilage, Smith. A large crowd of 3000 turned up to watch a competitive game in which they home team had a 1 goal lead at half time, though Alex Johnstone had missed a penalty for the Shire. In the second half both teams scored, Dan McNeilage for ES, the game ending in a 1-2 defeat for East Stirlingshire. Of note was there was “break in” of fans onto the pitch just before full-time.

Two days later Bo’ness were the visitors to Merchiston Park to play off a Central League match which had been postponed from 8th September, 1920.  A huge crowd a nearly 5000 (though it possibly could have been 3000) turned up to watch the game. Neither team was at full strength, the ES team including two trialists was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, William Adams, “McIntosh”, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, Dan McNeilage, Robert Shearer, James Jessiman (ex-Raith Rovers), Neil Wilson. East Stirlingshire went into the lead in the 1st half though Robert Shearer. Bo’ness then had the balance of play and equalised before ES had the misfortunate of going down to 10 men when “McIntosh” went off injured. Bo’ness were able to establish a 1-2 lead just before half-time from a penalty. The Shire re-arranged their team at the start of the 2nd half with Neil Wilson going to Half-Back and Alex Johnstone to Right-Half, compensating for the team being 1 man short. However, it was Bo’ness who extended their lead in 75 minutes. Neil Wilson did pull 1 goal back for ES before the end but the final result was a another loss, 2-3.

The next night a Benefit match was played for Jimmy Hastings the East Stirlingshire trainer who had been with the club from 1893/94 as player and coach. The opposition was local rivals Falkirk and a good attendance turned up at Merchiston Park to witness the encounter. The game was a 1st sided one in Falkirk’s favour with the Brockville side running out 6-0 winners. Shire were granted a incredible 3 penalties during the game and even more incredibly Dan McNeilage missed all of them.

Jimmy Hastings was an East Stirlingshire institution. He started playing for the club in 1893/94 and was a permanent fixture for the next 11 seasons playing in every position including goalkeeper. He then moved onto become the club’s trainer and the picture above is of him in the role during 1907/08. He remained the club’s trainer right through the 1910s and was still acting as trainer during the 1920/21 season. Whilst trainer he regularly acted as a replacement player for the team in emergencies, last playing for the Shire in 1915/16. During his Shire career he won 2 Cup medals , including the Scottish Qualifying Cup in 1898/99, and 3 non-League titles. Jamie’s brothers John and George also played for the club in the 1890s and 1900s. One of Jimmy’s sons, Alex, went onto play for Sunderland.

On Saturday 8th January East Stirlingshire travelled to West Lothian to play a Central League match against Armadale. The ES team was again changed around and was: Robert Godfrey, Neil Wilson, Adam Mitchell, James Monteith, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, John Meaney, Robert Shearer, Dan McNeilage, Jamieson (I’m sure this was James Jessiman).   The weather and pitch were very poor but the game went ahead. Armadale opened the scoring in 10 minutes and held this lead to the break. The weather got so bad at the interval that both teams agreed that the game should be abandoned but the game was continued by the referee.  Armadale had the wind advantage in the 2nd half and took full benefit of it scoring goal after goal. Despite going to 10 men due to an injury when the score was 1-3 in their favour Armadale scored a further 3 goals before full-time. The Shire only managed 1 consolation goal through John Meaney when the score was at 1-4. The Zebras had now lost 3 leagues games in a row, this reserve being the worst at 1-6.

The following Saturday Alloa Athletic were the visitors to Merchiston Park for a Central League match with a big crowd in attendance. ES had two trialists in the their team for the game, the team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell (who played as “Thomson”), James Monteith, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, Dodds, John Meaney, Robert Shearer, Dan McNeilage, Smith.  East Stirlingshire took an early lead through John Meaney who beat Alloa’s ex-ES goalkeeper, Jamie Caldwell. The game was well contested to the interval, with ES ultimately having the upper hand but there was no further 1st half scoring. The Wasps were the dominate team in the early stages of the 2nd half and scored 2 goals to go into the lead. However, the Shire drew level again in 78 minutes from a Dan McNeilage shot. The game ended 2-2, ES earning a well needed point though for Alloa Athletic the result left them in last place in the league.

The Shire were again at home on 22nd January in the Central League, this time the opponents were St. Johnstone. ES made two changes to the previous week’s team with John Gow returning at Outside-Right in replace of Dodds and a trialist listed as “Campbell” coming in at Outside-Left for Smith. The trialist “Campbell” was very likely Peter Currie who would become the regular Outside-Left for the remainder of the season. In a competitive game affected by the wind it was East Stirlingshire who won the points due to their better finishing. Dan McNeilage scoring in 25 minutes from a good shot and John Gow added a further goal in the 2nd half to give the home team a 2-0 win.

On the final Saturday of the month the Zebras travelled to play League leaders Bo’ness in a Central League match. ES had difficulty “fixing up” a team and as a result the game started 15 minutes late. As well as the usual Shire goalkeeper and two backs having to be replaced Frank Taylor and John Kelly also returned to the team for the 1st time since December. The team (including new signing Peter Currie) lined up as: Robert Godfrey, Frank Taylor, David Hopewell (played as “Thomson”), James Monteith, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, John Meaney, John Kelly, Dan McNeilage, Peter Currie. Bo’ness had the wind advantage in the 1st half and scored 3 goals. Although they battled hard in the 2nd half Shire had no reply and the game ended in a 0-3 defeat for ES. After the game the trialist David Hopewell signed for the Shire from Rutherglen Glencairn. Of note was that he was a Scottish Junior Internationalist and had won the Scottish Junior Cup with the Glens in 1918/19.

Saturday 5th February was Scottish Cup day and East Stirlingshire made the trip south to Annan to play Solway Star in a 2nd Round tie. The evening before travelling south Shire goalkeeper Bauldie Buchanan was married.  A record crowd for the ground of 1000 turned up to watch the game paying £54 at the Gate.  Apart from the Shire goalkeeper, Bauldie Buchanan, only the following other players were known to have played for ES in the game were John Meaney, John Kelly, Dan McNeilage and Peter Currie.  Solway Star’s team was weakened by the loss of two of their best players to English teams during the week before the game. ES were the better team on the day and were 2 goals ahead at the interval from Dan McNeilage in 15 minutes and John Kelly. In the 2nd half John Kelly completed his hattrick with two further goals putting the Shire into a winning position before Star got 1 back. John Meaney added a 5th Shire goal which resulted in a slightly flattering 5-1 win for ES.

Former East Stirlingshire player James “Cud” Fisher died on 8th February, 1921 aged 44. Born in Denny he started his football career with Vale of Forth (from Grangemouth) and then went to King’s Park for 2 seasons before playing up front for the Shire in season 1895/96. He then moved onto St. Bernard’s the following season before going south to play for Aston Villa in 1897/98. The next season he was with Celtic where he stayed until 1900/01. During his time at Celtic he had spells on loan at Preston North End and East Stirlingshire in 1899/1900. The photo of him above is from Celtic Wiki when he was at Celtic.  ‘Cud’s’ journeying days were far from over and he moved south again to Newton Heath (shortly after to be re-named Manchester United) for 2 seasons in 1900/01 to 1901/02 before returning to King’s Park from 1901/02 to 1902/03 and then onto Vale of Leithen later in 1902/03. His final club was Fulham in 1903/04. ‘Cud had been a player of fair repute having played in the Scottish International Trials in February and March 1897 and then being selected as a Reserve for the Scotland v Wales game that year.

The following Saturday Dunfermline Athletic were the visitors to Merchiston Park for a Central League match. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, Frank Taylor, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, Robert Shearer, John Kelly, Dan McNeilage, Peter Currie. The Pars started the game well and scored in 10 minutes followed not long after by a 2nd goal. ES were not out of the game and a good shot from John Gow pulled one goal back before the interval. In the 2nd half it was all Shire and despite having numerous chances there was no further scoring and the game ended in a 1-2 defeat.

On 19th February the Scottish Cup 3rd Round match (last 16) was played at Merchiston Park against Partick Thistle who were 3rd top of the Scottish League at that time. The Jags had offered £300 (or £500) to switch the tie to Firhill Park which East Stirlingshire declined.  A further offer to switch the game to Brockville Park was also declined. An enormous crowd of 8000 turned up to support the teams (this was the official attendance though elsewhere it was given as 12000) and this represented a new record home attendance for the Shire. At Old Merchiston Park the largest attendance had been 6000 when the Shire played Kilmarnock in the Last 16 of the Scottish Cup in February 1899. That record was only exceeded 11 years later when a crowd of 7000 watched Shire v Galston on 12/11/1910 at New Merchiston Park in a Scottish Qualifying Cup Semi-Final and it had taken a further 10 years to exceed that figure. A small corner in the north end of the ground was cornered off a reserve enclosure as the Shire stand was not big enough to cater for all those who wished a “better” view. The ES team for the game was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, James Monteith, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, Neil Wilson, John Meaney, Robert Shearer, Dan McNeilage, Peter Currie. It would prove to be a game of misfortune for the Zebras, The 1st half was evenly fought out though the Maryhill team had the edge up front and by the break were 1 goal up. The Shire took hold of the game the start of the 2nd period but disaster then struck with both Alex Johnstone and John Meaney going off at the same time in the 55th minute due to injuries leaving ES with only 9 men. The home team did battle on gamely but the Jags added a 2nd goal. Alex Johnstone did return to the field with 15 minutes to go but cruelly just as he returned Shire forward Dan McNeilage had to go off with an injury. The 9 Shire still took the game to their opponents and were rewarded with a Neil Wilson goal just on full-time. The final score of 1-2 meant the Shire’s Scottish Cup run was over for another season.

On the last Saturday of the month the Shire met local rivals Falkirk ‘A’ at Merchiston Park in a Central League match. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, James Monteith, James Wilson, William Adams, John Meaney, Robert Shearer, Neil Wilson, Dan McNeilage, Peter Currie. Falkirk ‘A’ were in control for most of the 1st period and lead by 1 goal at the interval. East Stirlingshire improved in the 2nd half but struggled to score and against the run of play the Brockville team scored 2 further goals. ES did get a consolation goal back though Peter Currie but it was too little too late and at the end Shire lost 1-3.

On 5th March, 1921 East Stirlingshire travelled the short distance over the Bainsford Bridge to play the return Central League match against Falkirk ‘A’. The Shire had been due to play Alloa Athletic in the Stirlingshire Cup Semi-Final that day but that game had been postponed. There had been snow and sleet earlier in the day and that limited the size of the crowd. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, James Monteith, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, Neil Wilson, Newman, Dan McNeilage, John Meaney, Peter Currie. Initially Falkirk ‘A’ had the upper hand in the game but they were unsuccessful with an early penalty. After this is was East Stirlingshire’s turn to take control and they had a number of good chances and also had a goal disallowed for a previous infringement.  ES did go ahead through a penalty of their own, Dan McNeilage scoring from the spot. However, a few minutes later the home team equalised. The rest of the half was well contested but there was no further scoring. In the 2nd half play was fairly even until Falkirk ‘A’ were awarded another penalty which they scored. From then on the home team were more in control and added a 3rd goal.  A few minutes from the end ES were awarded their own 2nd penalty of the game but this time Dan McNeilage shot wide and the game ended in a 1-3 defeat for the Shire.

The following Saturday the Shire travelled to Fife to play Lochgelly United in a Central League match. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, Frank Taylor, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, James Monteith, Wood (a Greenock Junior), “Smith”, Dan McNeilage, William Crichton.  The Happylanders went into an early lead in 2 minutes. East Stirlingshire later equalised from an Alex Johnstone penalty but it wasn’t long before the home team restored their lead and near the close of the 1st half they made it 1-3. In the 2nd half “Smith” scored for the Zebras to make it 2-3. With the wind advantage in the 2nd half the Shire continued to press in search of the equaliser but it proved to be in vain and the game ended in another defeat, 2-3.

On 19th March East Stirlingshire were back at Merchiston Park for another Central League match, this time middle of the league Broxburn United were the opponents. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, William Adams, Frank Taylor, James Wilson, David Hopewell, William Crichton, Dan McNeilage, Neil Wilson, Robert Shearer, Peter Currie. East Stirlingshire were up against strong wind and rain in the 1st half but started the game in the ascendancy and went 1 goal up from a Neil Wilson shot in 15 minutes. ES continued to press but there was no further scoring before the break. The 2nd half was much of the same with the Shire being on top. Although both teams had chances neither team was able to score and the game ended in a much needed 1-0 win for ES, their 1st  league win for 2 months.

2 days later the Scottish League agreed to re-start Division Two from the start of season 1921/22 and further there would be automatic promotion/relegation from the end of that season. This would be the 1st time in Scottish League history that this had happened. There had been only 3 votes against this decision. 3 teams would be relegated from Division One and 2 promoted from Division which would reduce Division One back to 20 teams. In subsequent years to would be 2 up/2 down. Clubs would have to apply to join Division Two and those successful would have 1 year to bring their ground up to Division One standard. The Central League still had to give their thoughts on this Scottish League decision as it would have a major impact on all the member clubs.

The last Saturday of March saw the Shire at Tynecastle to play Heart of Midlothian ‘A’ in a Central League match in front of a large 6000 crowd. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, William Adams, Frank Taylor, James Wilson, David Hopewell, John Gow, Dan McNeilage, Robert Shearer, Alex Johnston, Peter Currie. Hearts ‘A’ had only lost 1 point in the League at home that season and although they controlled the game ES were far from out of it.  The home team did go 1 goal up in the 1st half but the Shire very nearly equalised straight after when a John Gow hit the bar and the ball then going out of play. However, Hearts ‘A’ managed a 2nd goal before half-time to lead 0-2. In the 2nd half East Stirlingshire were more in the game but it was the home team that scored the only goal of that period and as a result the Shire lost 0-3.

That evening the Central League clubs met in Edinburgh to consider the proposed new Scottish League Second Division. No official contact had been made by the Scottish League to the Central League regarding the proposal and it was therefore discussed whether the individual clubs should act on the matter on their own or not. It was decided that that the clubs should act collectively and that the secretary of the Central League should apply on their behalf. Once the conditions of the proposal for membership of the new league were established then a further Central League meeting would be held to decide the next step.

King’s Park were the visitors to Merchiston Park on 2nd April for a Central League match.  The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, James Monteith, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, Hannah, Robert Shearer, Dan McNeilage, Peter Currie. After an even start to game East Stirlingshire went 1 up through John Gow from a scrimmage and not long after Dan McNeilage scored a 2nd goal for the Shire. 2-0 up the break ES had more competition from King’s Park in the 2nd half, the Stirlingshire team pulling a goal back in 50 minutes from a penalty. Both teams then pressed for further goals but they were unable to add to their tally and the final result was a 2-1 win for the Shire.

On Friday 8th East Stirlingshire travelled for an evening game against Armadale in the 1st Round of the Central League Cup. There was a good crowd at the game with £50 being raised at the gate. The ES team was changed due to a few players being unable to travel and was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, Neil Wilson, James Monteith, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, John Meaney, William Crichton, Dan McNeilage, Peter Currie. The Shire played well and recorded a good 1-0 win, William Crichton scoring shortly before half-time.

It was announced that week that East Stirlingshire would have to leave New Merchiston Park at the end of season 1920/21 and it was likely that the new ground would be a “good bit to the south of Bainsford Bridge”.

It was 2 games in less than 24 hours when Shire met St. Bernard’s in the Central League at Edinburgh. The ES team was again changed and was:  Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, Frank Taylor, James Wilson, Neil Wilson, John Gow, John Meaney, William Crichton, Smith, Peter Currie. The Shire started the game brightly but the Saints were not long in getting into their stride and were the 1st team to score.  ES got a deserved equaliser through William Crichton but before the break the home team scored a 2nd goal. After the restart the game became end to end and it wasn’t until the 80th minute that the Shire drew level from a penalty by Shire goalkeeper Bauldie Buchanan. The game ended in a 2-2 draw.

On the Wednesday of that week Armadale were in Bainsford for an evening Central League match in front of a 1500 crowd. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, Frank Taylor, Alex Johnston, Neil Wilson, John Gow, John Meaney, William Crichton, Dan McNeilage, Peter Currie. There was no scoring in the 1st half but shortly after the re-start Dan McNeilage put the Zebras into the lead and John Meaney followed this up with 2 further Shire goals. Armadale did get a goal back but Shire held on to record a 3-1 win. This was the 2nd win against the West Lothian team in a week.

Saturday 16th April saw East Stirlingshire travel to play Alloa Athletic in the Stirlingshire Cup Semi-Final. A big crowd of 3000 turned up to watch the Cup tie. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, Frank Taylor, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, John Meaney, William Crichton, Dan McNeilage, Peter Currie. The home team had the better of the 1st half and were 2 goals up at the interval. Although the teams were more even in the in the 2nd half there was no further scoring and the Shire went out of the cup 0-2.

It was only 2 days later when the Shire were next in action this time away to Bathgate in an evening Central League 2nd Round Cup tie in front of a 2000 crowd. The ever changing ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, William Adams, Frank Taylor, James Wilson, James Monteith, John Gow, John Meaney, Dan McNeilage, Alex Johnstone, Neil Wilson. The 1st half was evenly contested but it was still goalless at half-time.  Bathgate did go into the led in the 50th minute thereafter the game was end to end. ES finally got an equaliser in the 84th minute from Dan McNeilage. There was no further scoring and the game ended 1-1. The Shire were said to have played one of their best games of the season despite the various changes to their line up.

The next night a meeting was held between the Scottish League and the Central League regarding the proposed Scottish League Second Division.

East Stirlingshire’s new ground details were announced in Falkirk Herald on 23rd April. The club had had the chance of land north of Bainsford Bridge but to get it they would have had to buy outright more land than they required at a total cost of £5600. So it had been decided to sign a lease for a ground off Thornhill Road, South of Bainsford Bridge, not far from where they had played back in the earlier days of the club at Randyford. There was currently a ground there (and had been since at least the 1890s) and this would be expanded. Although the ground was not named in the report the new ground would become known as Firs Park.

On Saturday 23rd East Fife, the Scottish Qualifying Cup holders, were the visitors to Merchiston Park for a Central League match.  Further changed were made to ES team and they lined up as: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, Frank Taylor, James Wilson, James Monteith, John Gow, Hannah, Robert Shearer, Dan McNeilage, Peter Currie. ES had the better of the 1st half but were weak when it came to shooting. In the 2nd period East Fife improved but neither team managed to score in the 90 minutes.

At a meeting of the Central League on that Saturday evening the Central League clubs decided to abandon any further discussions about joining the proposed new Scottish League Division Two. This was due to the Central League having been very successful and the Scottish League refusing to meet the Central League as a whole and only considering individual applications from the clubs for membership. The Central League’s view with this decision was that the Scottish League would “cherry pick” the individual clubs they wanted and the remainder of the Central League clubs would be left stranded. It was mentioned that the likelihood of Central League clubs going against this decision and applying on their own to join the Scottish League wasn’t great as there was a risk that Division Two wouldn’t be successful and it would then be difficult for these clubs to re-join the successful Central League.

Following the Central League’s meeting the Scottish League held a special general meeting in Glasgow on April 27th to discuss the proposed Division Two and the clubs that would form it. It was decided that the Scottish League Division Two would go ahead even without the Central League teams. However, they were keen to get the Central League teams onboard and were willing to make concessions. All the Centre League teams would be accepted into the new League with the exception of Falkirk ‘A’ and Heart of Midlothian ‘A’ and the Scottish League would again approach the Central League to discuss the matter. These 16 Central League teams together with the best 4 other clubs of those that applied to joined the new Scottish League Division Two (a dozen had already do so) would make up a new 20 team league.

East Stirlingshire played their final Central League match of the campaign away to Dundee Hibernian at Tannadice Park on 30th April. Due to the Shire leaving for the game at 8am the team was under represented and was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, Frank Taylor, James Wilson, James Monteith, William Crichton, Dan McNeilage, Alex Johnstone, Niven, Reid. Both Niven and Reid playing their only known game for the club. The home team started the game on the front foot and went into a 2 goal lead.  Despite two great chances, one missed by William Crichton, the Shire went in 0-2 down at the break. Both teams had chances in the 2nd half but it was Hibs that added to their score; ES losing the game 0-3.

Although a few other teams still had a game or two to complete their league schedule the eventual final league table per http://www.scottish-football-historical-archive.co.uk was as follows, East Stirlingshire narrowly escaping the bottom rung (note at that time teams were separated by goal average): –

OFFICIAL FINAL CENTRAL LEAGUE TABLE 1920/21
P W D L F A Pts
Bo’ness 34 21 7 6 66 34 49
Heart of Midlothian A 34 22 4 8 84 36 48
Cowdenbeath 34 20 6 8 64 37 46
Dunfermline Athletic 34 16 7 11 65 52 39
East Fife 34 13 12 9 33 37 38
Bathgate 34 13 11 10 58 37 37
St. Bernard’s 34 11 12 11 48 42 34
Stenhousemuir 34 15 4 15 51 56 34
Alloa Athletic 34 9 15 10 50 56 33
St. Johnstone 34 13 6 15 44 51 32
Falkirk A 34 10 10 14 41 52 30
Broxburn United 34 12 5 17 44 58 29
Clackmannan 34 13 3 18 39 57 29
East Stirlingshire 34 10 8 16 44 60 28
Armadale 34 10 7 17 44 51 27
King’s Park 34 9 9 16 39 51 27
Dundee Hibernian 34 10 7 17 39 52 27
Lochgelly United 34 11 5 18 39 73 27

On the Monday of that week, 2nd May, Bathgate were at Merchiston Park for the 2nd Round Replay of the Central League Cup tie.  Bathgate had declined the Shire’s offer to play the game at 3pm and opted for an evening kick-off. The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, Frank Taylor, James Wilson, James Monteith, John Gow, John Meaney, Neil Wilson, Dan McNeilage, Peter Currie. It was one of those games for ES and although they had a good number of chances they failed to take them.  The game was of two 35 minute halves and the home team took the lead in 20 minutes through John Gow. Bathgate equalised 3 minutes before the break. In the 2nd half the Zebras dominated the game but allowed the West Lothian another goal. The Final score was 1-2. Although the Shire were out of the Cup in the end it didn’t matter as the competition itself was abandoned after this point.

The season was nearly at a close with only the local Charity Cup to played. On Saturday 7th May at Brockville Park the Shire met local rivals Stenhousemuir in the Semi-Final of the Falkirk Infirmary Shield.  The ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, William Adams, David Hopewell, James Monteith, James Wilson, Alex Johnstone, John Gow, Adam Mitchell, Robert Shearer, Dan McNeilage, Peter Currie. East Stirlingshire went into an early lead in  the 5th minute through Dan McNeilage. After this the game was mainly in Stenhousemuir’s favour and they equalised before half-time. It had been decided before the game that if the result was a draw then the winner would be the team which had had the most corners, ES lead that count 4 to 2 at the break. In the 2nd half Stenhousemuir started the brightest but gradually the Shire got back into the game. Stenhousemiur did get a corner back near the end of he game but no further goals were scored and Shire won the tie 4 to 3 in corners after a 1 goal draw at full-time.

On the night of Wednesday 11th the Scottish Division Two was formed with all the Central League teams accepted into the new league with the exception of the two reserve teams. The four other teams accepted into Division Two were Arbroath, Forfar Athletic, Johnstone and Vale of Leven taking the league up to 20 teams. Automatic promotion/relegation to Division One was agreed from the end of season 1921/22 for the 1st time. Also during the week East Stirlingshire forward, Alex Johnstone, left the club and signed for Cowdenbeath.

Saturday 14th May was saw the Shire play Falkirk at Brockville Park in the Falkirk Infirmary Shield Final in their last game of the season. A large crowd paid £200 at the gate to watch the match. Falkirk played their full Scottish League team and the ES team was: Bauldie Buchanan, Adam Mitchell, David Hopewell, Frank Taylor, James Wilson, James Monteith, William Crichton, Dan McNeilage, Neil Wilson. Geordie Meldrum (of Falkirk FC), Peter Currie. In a even 1st half both teams missed good chances but neither managed to score before half-time.  In the later part of the 1st half Falkirk had gone down to 10 men due to an injury to one of their players and he was unable to return for the rest of the game. In the 2nd period Falkirk controlled the play and had a goal disallowed for offside before scoring what provided to be the only goal of the game. The full time score was 0-1, corners had been counted in the event that the game had been drawn and ES lost that as well 1-4.

Close season Notes

No sooner than the season had ended when East Stirlingshire goalkeeper Bauldie Buchanan left the club for pastures new, signing for Stirling neighbours and rivals King’s Park.

At the Scottish Football Association AGM on 8th June the Scottish Division Two was formally established with automatic promotion. During that week the Shire signed Alec Reid from Stenhousemuir.

East Stirlingshire held their AGM on 18th June when it was confirm the club had secured a lease from the North British Railway Company for the ground at Firs Street. The plan was that Firs Park would have a capacity of 30,000 when finished (a criteria of the new clubs being accepted into Division Two was that they had to have a ground fit to host Division One game’s in 1922/23 in the event that they were promoted at the end of season 1921/22). The club reported a £200 lost in the previous year. Players retained for 1921/22 were Adam Mitchell, William Adams, James Monteith and James Wilson. New players signed so far were Jimmy Gardner from Armadale, James Dunn from Broxburn, Alec Reid from Stenhousemuir and Geordie Meldrum from Falkirk.

During July the Central League was formally disbanded (note the League trophy that had been played for was called the Calder Trophy). East Stirlingshire filled the goalkeeper berth signing William Fairweather who has been with Vale of Leven for the last 2 seasons and before that with Johnstone.

As the month progressed a lot of work was undertaken at Firs Park to make the ground ready for the new season.