The origins of East Stirlingshire FC can be confusing, with different dates and place names available to the casual reader. Drummond Calder, Great Place volunteer, clears things up and gives an insight into the birth of the club.
Born in Bainsford
In 1922 East Stirlingshire FC issued a booklet which included the following paragraph regarding the birth of the club:
“Founded in October, 1880, the club owed its origin to a small band company of gentlemen, mostly cricketers, who had played under the name of “Bainsford Bluebonnets,” and who, having found it inconvenient to continue the summer pastime into the dark month of November, decided to form a football team. The meeting at which this decision was come to was held in no formal manner, but took place on the “Basin Brig,” where, in these days, the young men of the district were wont to congregate. The club was first christened “Bainsford Britannia” and played their first two or three games at Burnhouse.”
The 1922 booklet stated that the club was formed in October 1880. This formation date was confirmed in an article in the Falkirk Herald (4th April 1888), reporting on a speech during the presentation of the Stirlingshire Cup to East Stirlingshire:
The club, until at least just after World War Two, was still recording the formation year as 1880 on official documentation. The much erroneously stated formation year of 1881 almost certainly came about by linking the formation date with the year the club changed its name to East Stirlingshire. However, this club was definitely the same as the one formed in 1880. In fact, the actual date of the club’s formation is Friday 1st October 1880. This was confirmed on the occasion of the club’s 21st anniversary in 1901, when the Falkirk Herald (Saturday 5th October, 1901) said:
Letters from the Founders
In the 1930/31 season East Stirlingshire were celebrating the club’s golden jubilee and a social meeting was held on the evening of Friday 24th April, 1931 in the Union Hall, Grahamston, to honour the occasion. The Falkirk Herald the next day recorded a speech made on the night by Francis Binnie (who had seen the club play at least as far back as 1883/84) regarding the history of East Stirlingshire FC. As a result of this article two of the surviving originators of the club (Tom Tear and James Shirra) subsequently wrote to the Falkirk Herald correcting and expanding on the details regarding the birth of the club. The first published letter was from Tom Tear on 2nd May, 1931. In it he says:
“It was the Bainsford “Blue Bonnets” who first mooted the idea, but when it came to the bit, only two of its members joined... The first meeting of the club was held at the side of a lamp-post which was on the Grahamston side of the “brig.” where the officers, etc., were elected.... each paid a shilling for the first ball.”
On 1st August 1931, the Falkirk Herald printed a letter from James Shirra (see photo from 1891/92 when he was treasurer of the club), another of the club’s originators. The delay to his reply was due the fact that he was now living in Australia. Like all the club’s founders he was a Blue Bonnets cricket player prior to founding the football club. In this letter James also described the club’s birth. He expanded further on what we were told about the foundational meeting of the club in the 1922 booklet and Tom Tear’s letter. Shirra wrote:
“… he (Tom Tear) is in error when he says only two of the Blue Bonnets joined up. He names five himself, and there were another two who paid the first contribution at the first meeting held at the “brig.” As he says, we had to cross to the Grahamston side to get light... Two of the nine did not pay at the time...but joined later on.”
He goes on to say that: “The first ball was bought with the proceeds of the first collection, and the first game was played in Johnny Brock’s park at Burnhouse, with jackets to mark the goals and touch line.”
The First Match
We are very fortunate that the first newspaper reference that exists about the football club is a report on the first ever match. This appeared in the Falkirk Herald of Thursday 9th December, 1880 and said that it was “the opening match of the Britannia.” The match took place on Saturday 27th November, 1880.
The report on the first game said the match had been played in Bainsford, however, the 1922 booklet said that this game was played at Burnhouse. Also, Francis Binnie in his speech at the club’s Golden Jubilee dinner said “... the first game played at Bainsford, on the ground immediately occupied prior to moving to Firs Park.” James Shirra had confusingly said “the first game was played in Johnny Brock’s park at Burnhouse,” but this would have been a practice match before the first official game at Bainsford. Johnny Brock was a farmer at Sunnyside, Camelon, and Sunnyside was adjacent to Burnhouse, so his farm appears to have extended into the Burnhouse area. The new club would remain at Bainsford until the end of 1880/81. James Shirra said of the club’s first official ground:
“Sam Cockburn’s father interviewed Baillie Young and he let us get the use of the ground afterwards known as Merchiston Park. It was on the low part of the field next to Burnbank Foundry. The Basin Wall served as a pavilion, nails being knocked into it to hang our clothes on.”
By April 1881 the name of the club had changed to Bainsford. Tom Tear explains the various club name changes during the first 12 months of the club’s existence as follows:
“The club was first named “Bainsford Britannia,” and on the suggestion of Baillie Young, the landlord of the club’s ground, it was altered to Bainsford. It was only on the club’s removal to Randyford that the present name was adopted.”
So, when Bainsford moved to Randyford at the start of 1881/82 it was only at that point that the club name was re-named East Stirlingshire FC.
By Drummond Calder, Great Place volunteer 2020.