Falkirk FC fans remember their 1957 Scottish Cup win.
The Anniversary Dinner
Falkirk F.C.’s Scottish Cup win in April 1957 was one of the most incredible achievements in the club’s history and became a real football fairy tale. From a seemingly hopeless position at the end of the Old Year, the club not only won the cup for the second time in its illustrious history but defied all the odds to escape relegation to the Second Division. Few people who were in the town to see the team return from Hampden Park will ever forget the scenes. The memories of that night were powerful ones and on the 50th anniversary of the achievement, Falkirk Senior Bairns arranged an anniversary dinner in the Hotel Cladhan. It was a night to remember, and the surviving players as well as family members of those who had passed away reunited to share the success.
A commemorative DVD was made which included interviews with the players, and a special booklet entitled “The Season That Started in February” was produced. It contained the memories of several supporters who recalled the events of that wonderful evening 50 years previously. Sadly, many of those who recorded their thoughts are no longer with us, but their comments bear witness to an event that will probably never be repeated, although we can always hope.
All were members of the Senior Bairns and the joy on their faces as they recounted their memories was obvious. When the players from 1957 and the supporters met up again after 50 years, the memories came flooding back, and men and women who were by that time into their late seventies and eighties became youngsters again. The whole town seemed to be there, that April evening back in 1957, and those who were at the anniversary dinner would tell you that it just seemed like yesterday.
Ken Waddell, former editor of the Falkirk Herald was working in a local bank, and attended both games as a pillion passenger on a friend’s motor bike. It was his first venture on a motor bike, and he recalled holding on for grim death as the powerful machine roared along the A 80. He had a Falkirk flag inside the sleeve of his jacket, and remembered waving it on the way back.
“I had bad memories of the 1947 League Cup Final, when we lost to East Fife, but this time made up for it all.”
Ken remembered the journey back, and the bottle-neck which seemed interminable. He had three great heroes in that 1957 team, Slater, Parker and Murray, but thinks Tommy Murray was the match-winner.
“He teased the life out of the Killie defence. They had no answer to him, and big George Merchant put away a great Murray cross in the replay. On that showing, he could have played for Scotland.”
Bill Anderson was serving his apprenticeship with Rowans in Glasgow, and remembers the train trip to Berwick in the first round: “We were lucky to scrape through on the day.”
Bill remembers the journey back - for the wrong reasons. He was taken ill, and had to miss the remaining games, until the semi-final at Tynecastle. The Final at Hampden was almost overwhelming. “I’d never seen a crowd like that before. I looked round the ground and couldn’t really take it all in.” Bill was behind the goal when Dougie Moran scored the winner. He remembers constantly looking at his watch, as the minutes slowly ticked by. At the arrival back in Falkirk, he was extremely lucky. He stayed above what is now Wilkie’s shop, and had a grandstand view of proceedings. Everyone seemed to be in the flat, and the Anderson family found friends they never knew they had. Bill’s great hero was George Merchant, and he has met him on several occasions since.
Andrew Recalls 1957
Andrew Prentice was a close friend of Ian Rae, as they had been students together in Glasgow. Andrew was working down in the Newcastle area at the time, and so the trip to Berwick was a God-send. “We were very lucky. Very lucky indeed. If you had said we were looking at the cup-winners, you would have been laughed at.”
He remembers coming home for the Final and going on one of the Football Specials: “Everyone seemed to be wearing rosettes. Most of them were hand-made and the whole town seemed to be there. The first game was quite unsatisfactory. It was a draw, but you didn’t feel right.” The replay was something else, and Andrew’s abiding memory is of being so nervous that he was almost unable to watch the closing stages: “I kept praying for time up. Kilmarnock threw everything at us and wee Bert Slater pulled off some amazing saves.”
Andrew remembers passing the open-top bus at Dennyloanhead and heading into the town centre. The traffic jams were enormous, and the excitement was at fever pitch. He also recalls the papers of the following day, and one picture in particular. It showed the contrasting scenes in the respective town centres of Falkirk and Kilmarnock. “Falkirk is alive with throngs of people, while Kilmarnock is deserted. I’ll never forget that one picture. It summed it all up for me. What a night.”
Alex Blackwood’s Memories
Alex Blackwood, the former Falkirk F.C. Secretary remembered what he was doing on the night of the replay. Alex was a National Serviceman and was on duty at Edinburgh Castle. Some of his colleagues were Kilmarnock supporters, and had managed to get through to the Wednesday game.
“I couldn’t go to the game, but I was aware that some of the lads had managed to get through. They were great Kilmarnock supporters, and we had a fair bit of banter about the forecasts for the outcome. When they came on duty the next day, I didn’t need to say anything.”
He remembered friends telling him that they flashed the score up on the screen at the Regal cinema, and the crowds poured out to head for the Burgh Buildings and welcome the team back.
Murray McIntyre Remembers Not Being There
Murray McIntyre remembers missing the replay on the Wednesday night because he was on his honeymoon in Inverness and listening to the game on the radio.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking – the game that was – not the honeymoon, and I wish I had been there.”
I Remember 1957 Too
I remember being told to get a coat on over pyjamas as everyone was going to see the team bring the cup back into the town.
“I wasn’t allowed to go to the Wednesday night replay as it was a school day on the Thursday. I had been at the Saturday game and had never been in such a big crowd. You could hardly see a thing, but the noise was deafening. The Wednesday night was amazing. People were climbing up on to the statues and roofs to get a better view and when the team came out with the cup there was a huge roar. It seemed that the whole of Falkirk and the area was there.”
By Michael White, Great Place volunteer 2020.