1920s

At the start of season 1920/21 the former Scottish Division Two teams were still out in the cold as the Scottish League continued with only 1 Division. Before the season began the Central League teams had met to form a stronger League than both the current Central and Eastern Leagues. However, in the end it was decided instead to increase the Central League size from 14 teams to 18 teams (Gala Fairydean had made an unsuccessful application to join).  The East Stirlingshire secretary, Walter Clarkson, was elected president of the League. At the East Stirlingshire AGM in June 1920 it was announced that due to railway and Foundry extensions and also the club’s lease for Merchiston Park having expired the club were now having to look for a new ground. It was announced that the club had made an application to the Town Council for part of the Dawson Public Park in Bainsford and although they were agreeable the Council would firstly have to discuss the matter with the Dawson trustees. The ES directors had also been in discussion with the Dawson trustees in respect of securing Gairdoch Park which was situated opposite the Carron Iron Works in Carronshore and had previously been used by the senior club Gairdoch FC. Despite strengthening the team Shire got off to a terrible start in the Central League campaign only winning 1 of our 1st 10 games. Results did improve slightly after this but the club still only achieved 14th place in the League but the end of the season, only 1 point off last place. Shire had a successful Scottish Qualifying Cup campaign reaching the Quarter Final and therefore qualifying for the Scottish Cup Proper. We had defeated King’s Park at home then Vale of Atholl away at Pitlochry before defeated Peterhead at Bainsford 2-0 in the 1st ever meeting of the clubs. Shire ran a special train for fans to the Quarter Final away to Bo’ness but we lost the tie 0-2.Shire received a bye in the 1st Round of the Scottish Cup before winning the 2nd Round tie 5-1 in Annan against Solway Star. This set up a last 16 3rd Round, tie at home to Partick Thistle. Shire refused Partick’s offers of between £300 to £500 to switch the game from Merchiston Park or even to play it at Brockville Park. In the end a record crowd for New Merchiston Park of 8000 (elsewhere given as 12000) saw Shire go narrowly out 1-2. In the Central League Cup E.S. were knocked out in a 2nd Round Replay at home to Bathgate and also lost at the Semi Final stage away to Alloa Athletic in the Stirlingshire Cup. We did reach the Final of the Falkirk Infirmary Shield but lost 0-1 to Falkirk at Brockville Park. After various meetings throughout the season the Dawson and Gairdoch Park plans for a new ground fell through and in the 23rd April Falkirk Herald it was announced that the club had leased a new ground which would become known as Firs Park. Towards the end of the season 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 to Division One. This would be the 1st time in Scottish League history that this had happened. Initially the Central League declined to entertain the idea having been very successful and also that the Scottish League refused to accept the Central League as a whole and would only consider individual applications from the clubs for membership. However, after last minute brinkmanship by the Scottish League the Central League teams did eventual agree to join the Scottish Division Two, including the Shire.

After a lot of work was completed over the close season Shire’s new ground, Firs Park, was formally opened on 16th August, 1921 with a friendly match in front of a crowd of nearly 6000 against Heart of Midlothian, Hearts winning 2 nil. Shire’s 1st Scottish Division Two match since 1915 took place 4 days later in Stirling against King’s Park which ended in a 1-1 draw. Shire had a reasonable League season ending up in 15th place in the 20 team League but only 5 points behind 6th place, such was the tightness of the League. After many years of Qualifying tournaments Shire went straight into the Scottish Cup draw. Shire progressed to the 3rd Round of the National Cup after home wins against Douglas Wanderers (3-1) and Dunfermline Athletic (2-1). The 3rd Round (last 16) draw took Shire to Queen of the South where we went out 0-2. The Stirlingshire Consolation Cup for 1920/21 had been held over to 1921/22 and Shire reached the Final only to lose 0-1 to King’s Park at Brockville Park. Shire went out at the Semi Final stage of the Stirlingshire cup 2-4 at Alloa Athletic and though we did reach the Final of the Falkirk Infirmary Shield Falkirk were too strong on the day, winning 3 nil.

1922/23 was another season when it didn’t work out for the club on the pitch. In the League we got off to a poor start not winning until our 9th game of the campaign when Arbroath (who would end up bottom of the League) were defeated 3-0. The disappointing form continued throughout the season and although we did win 3 of out last 5 games it only meant that we avoided bottom of the table on goal average. Shire, along with Arbroath, had to re-apply for re-election to Division Two and Shire’s application was rejected (though bottom club Arbroath were accepted). Shire were very unhappy with the way the vote had happened and raised their concerns with the League but the decision stood. During the season Shire hadn’t fared well in the Cup competitions going out at replayed 1st Round Scottish Cup tie away to Bathgate 2-3, losing away to Stenhousemuir 1-2 in the Semi Final of the Stirlingshire Cup and at the same stage of the Falkirk Infirmary Shield 0-4 on corners after a drawn 1-1 game at Brockville Park.  The Shire also lost out in the Final of the Stirlingshire Consolation Cup 1-3 against Alloa Athletic at Brockville Park.  At the end of the season initially Shire did not know what League we would play in the following season but as fate would have it a Scottish Division Three was formed and Shire joined this.

Relegation galvanised the Shire fans and the 1st ever East Stirlingshire Supporters Club was formed with the aim to raising funds to help Shire regain Division Two status. The 1923/24 season was one where the club focused on gaining promotion and Shire got off to a great start winning our 1st 4 League games before a crashing 1-5 reverse away to Clackmannan. Undaunted the club continued to add wins to the board. Despite only 5 defeats over the whole season Shire were piped to the title by Arthurlie but promotion was gained as there were 2 promotion places in the League that season due to there being 16 teams in the League. If there had only been 15 teams then there would only have been 1 promotion place and with Division Three collapsing 2 seasons later Shire had made a timeous escape upwards. One of the rare defeats occurred away to Dykehead when we lost 0-4. 60 minutes into the game there had been a hail storm which caused a darkness and we lost 3 goals in little over 5 minutes during this storm. The gale then became so severe that the referee announced that the game would have to be stopped and the Shire players and some of the Dykehead players left the pitch. However, before the referee left the home fans rushed him and convinced him to restart the game. So the Shire players had to put back on their muddy clothes and go back out onto the quagmire. After this the game became a farce with both set of players numb with the cold struggled to move. There was no further scoring. As a Division Three team Shire had a great run to the 3rd Round (last 16) before losing out at Aberdeen 0-2 in front of a 13000 crowd. In the earlier Rounds Shire easily despatched Newton Stewart away 8-1 and then fellow Division Three team Mid Annandale 1-0 at Firs Park. The trip to Newton Stewart had been an eventful one with the team having to leave Falkirk at 4am and not getting home until 3am the next day. Shire won the Stirlingshire Cup that season for the 1st time since 1913/14 beating Alloa Athletic 1-0 in the Brockville Final. However we lost out in the Final of the Falkirk Infirmary Shield 1-4 away to Falkirk. In May a social meeting and dance arranged by the ES Supporters Club was held to celebrate the club’s promotion to the Second Division with 400 present. Gold watches were presented to the cub trainer and thirteen players. They were engraved “Present to  —-, from E.S.F.C. Supporters’ Club in appreciation of having gained promotion to the second league, 1923-24.”

This is an unnamed East Stirlingshire team photo from, I believe, 1923/24. Shire and Falkirk legend Bobby Orrick is the player sitting in the front row directly in front of goalkeeper Wattie Walker. Club Chairman Finlay Potter is to the left of the front row of players and ES Secretary Walter Clarkson to the right.

Back in Division Two Shire kicked of the 1924/25 season with a League game away to Bathgate which was drawn 4-4. The season would prove to be a tough one in the League as Shire re-adjusted to the higher level of football. It had all started well losing only 2 of our 1st 7 matches but form started to drift off and the wins came harder to find during the mid section of the season. This left the Shire with a fight on by the end of February to avoid the bottom two places in the League and relegation back to the Division Three. In the end Shire won 4 and drew 3 of our last 8 games to avoid this and ended up in 18th place in the 20 team League by 2 points. E.S. reached the 2nd Round of the Scottish Cup after winning 4-0 at Firs Park against Clachnacuddin in the 1st Round but Division One Hamilton Academical easily defeated Shire 0-4 at Douglas Park in the next Round. Shire reached both local Cup Finals during the season losing in the Stirlingshire Cup 1 nil to Alloa Athletic at Brockville Park but winning the Falkirk Infirmary Shield 3-2 against Falkirk at the same venue.

The following season was similar to the previous Shire with Shire still continuing to struggle in the League and again ending up 3rd bottom though this time by 7 points. Shire had a terrible 1st half of the season only winning 1 League game before the New Year. However, in the remaining games form improved drastically and Shire won 9 of our last 19 games. The run including a 8-2 home win against bottom club Broxburn United, the reserve fixture earlier in the season had resulted in a 5-6 defeat. There was no success in any of the Cups in 1925/26 with Shire going out in the 1st Round of the Scottish Cup 4-5 away to Bathgate, in the same Round of the Stirlingshire Cup 1-2 to Falkirk at home and in the Semi-Finals of other Local Cups, 0-3 away to King’s Park in the Stirlingshire Consolation Cup and 3-4 on corners after a 2-2 away draw to Falkirk in the Falkirk Infirmary Shield.

In was all change in 1926/27 with Shire for the 1st time since before the War becoming a force in Division Two. It was an inglorious start in the 1st game away to Arbroath losing 0-5 but after that results picked up and Shire began to challenge for a promotion place to Division One. A number of teams were in the running for the title and runners up spot and Shire just fell short at the season’s end by 5 points with a 5th place finish. Shire again went out in the Scottish Cup 1st Round though it was a narrow 0-1 home defeat to Division One Dumbarton. There was similar disappointment in the Stirlingshire Cup going out early in the 2nd Round to Alloa Athletic 1 nil in a Replay. Shire did win the Falkirk Infirmary Shield with a 3-0 defeat of Stenhousemuir at home. It is unclear if Shire withdrew or not from the Stirlingshire Consolation Cup after winning in the 1st Round against Falkirk Amateurs.

The club hoped to push on in the following season and started brightly in the League including a huge 8-0 win at home against Arthurlie on 27th August, the result remains our highest ever Scottish League victory. However, although we performed well throughout the season we could only achieve a mid-table 9th placing at the close. In December Shire lost the services of one of our star players, William Grant, who was sold for a club record of around £2000 (approx. £112,000 in today’s money) to Blackpool. Shire drew the plum tie of the Scottish Cup 1st Round when a home draw against Rangers came out of the hat. The Ibrox club approached Shire with a view to switching the tie to Ibrox but the Shire directors instead decided to bring in a contractor to terrace the ground and increase the capacity of Firs Park to 30,000 for the home tie. In the end the capacity was actually increased to 25000. A record Shire home crowd of 15000 was confidentially expected but on the day, due to heavy incessant rain, the expected crowd was drastically reduced to between 5000 to 6000. The pitch was in a terrible state and one newspaper headline report after the game, which Rangers won 6 nil, said “Rangers swim through”. There was success in the Stirlingshire Cup with a 1-0 Final win at Brockville Park against Division One Bo’ness. On the way to that Final there was an incredible 6-6 draw away to King’s Park in the Semi Final. In the other local Cup Shire lost out in the Semi Final of the Falkirk Infirmary Shield at Firs Park 5-9 on corners after the game had ended 0-0.

It was another frustrating season in 1928/29 with earlier League promise fading and the club only achieving 12th place at the season end. The fans were bitterly disappointed that the club’s new schoolboy amateur star forward, Jimmy Smith, elected to leave the club in December. Rangers had been keen for him to remain at the club for the full season but under pressure from his parents he left early. Smith would go onto score 381 goals for the Ibrox club. The club and fans had had high hopes for League promotion and were in a decent position before Smith left but performances on the pitch petered out in the 2nd half of the season leaving the club in disappointing 12th at the season end, wining only 1 game from the 5th January. Shire reached the 2nd Round of the Scottish Cup in 1928/29 following at 2-1 replay win at home to Alloa Athletic. The 2nd Round draw pitted us against Celtic at Celtic Park though it wasn’t a surprise that we went down 0-3 in front of 7500 fans. We also took part in the Dewar Shield but lost our Semi Final 1-3 away to Dundee United. On the local front Shire won both the Stirlingshire Cup and Falkirk Infirmary Shield beating King’s Park 5-3 and Falkirk 2-1 in the respective Brockville Park Finals.

Although in the end the next season resulted in Shire achieving the same 12th placing in the League there were signs that finally the club were beginning to get things right on the pitch. What would prove to be a major signing for the Shire took place at the start of the season with forward Johnny Renwick joining from Royal Albert (he had trialled for the Shire the season before). Johnny would go onto to score an incredible 64 goals in his 66 competitive games for the club in the next 2 seasons. Shire has a number of large wins in the League including winning 6-0 against Armadale and 7-0 against Brechin City in our 1st two home League games. Shire were knocked out 6 nil away to Motherwell in the Scottish Cup 1st Round. There was better news in the Dewar Shield when we won the competition for 1st (and what would be our only) time beating St. Johnstone 2-0 at Firs Park in a replayed Final. Shire went out early in the 2nd Round of the Stirlingshire Cup losing 1-2 at Stenhousemuir but did progress to the Final of the Infirmary Shield but the completion was then held over to the following season due to lack of time for it to be played before the end of the season.