During season 2019/20 club historian, Drummond Calder, will be looking the eventful seasons of 1945/46 through to 1946/47 when the club found itself outside the top two Scottish Leagues and strived to regain its’ place at the Country’s top table. The articles will be published in our match programmes throughout the season and the various parts will be added here and on a separate 1945/46 page after each programme has been issued.
The 1st week of July 1946 saw the ‘Shire hard at work strengthening their team for the new season with former Albion Rovers and Montrose Inside Right, John Burke, re-signing. This took the squad up to 7 with Peter Kelly, John McWilliams, Ritchie Collins, Johnny Cook, Puff Crawford and Jack McCormack already having signed back on.
Over the close season the club and supporters had been hard at work bringing Firs Park back up to scratch with many repairs being undertaken and the pitch re-laid. The Supporters Club funded and erected new concrete barriers and posts for the ground. The pillars were painted red with aluminum railings in between. Also the turnstiles, which were in serious disrepair, were renovated and the terracing completely weeded. The plan to cover the stand with glass had yet to be undertaken due to lack of materials.
In the middle of the month ‘Shire increased their team to 8 when John Whyte was re-signed and were still on the lookout for a Goalkeeper, a Left Back and an Outside Left.
The Falkirk Herald on 17th July detailed ‘Shire’s fixtures in the forthcoming Division C campaign with the club’s 1st home game against Edinburgh City on the 2nd Saturday of the season penciled in for the unfurled of last season’s Title flag.
Football re-commenced on 3rd August with a Trial match at Firs Park when a poor crowd saw the “Black and Whites” defeat the “Reds” 4-2. McLuckie (a trialist), Cameron and Jack McCormack putting the Black and Whites 3 up at the break before Bauld and McIntyre scored for the Reds. Jack McCormack then made certain of the win for the “Black and Whites” with their fourth goal.
During that week ‘Shire added 2 more players to the team, Outside Left, George Louden, formerly of Albion Rovers and Robert Costello from Gillingham (who had played for the ‘Shire in the previous season) both signing on after impressive performances in the Trial match.
‘Shire travelled to Brechin City on 10th August for their opening match in Division C with the team travelling by bus. A large number of Supporters also made the journey north to Angus. ES were determined to win their way back to Division B by the end of 1946/47 and got off to the perfect start to the season with a resounding 5-1 win. ‘Shire had lead 4-1 at the interval which included a 1st half hattrick from Puff Crawford. The other ‘Shire scorers were Jack McCormack and George Louden. It was mentioned in the match report that 82 year old Allan Rae had travelled from Aberdeen to watch the game and that he was a founder of East Stirlingshire FC (note – I am not certain that he was a founding member of the club as this is the only source document that mentions this fact although it is known he definitely played for the ‘Shire in our 2nd season, 1881/82. He was not mentioned in any lists of the founding members but as these were written in the early 1930s they may have missed out the 16 year old Allan in 1880. At this point we have no way to confirm either way if he was actually a founder of the club, however, I believe he joined the club shortly after it was formed). Alan planned to travel to Firs Park the following week to unfurl the flag.
The opening day ‘Shire teamline was; Hastings, Peter Kelly, Robert Costello, John McWilliams, Ritchie Collins, Thomas Scott, Johnny Cook, Joe Burke, Puff Crawford, Jack McCormack, George Louden
‘Shire strengthened the team further that week with Left Back, Alex McLetchie, signing from Albion Rovers.
The following Saturday ‘Shire’s opening home match of the season saw Edinburgh City at Firs Park for a Division C League game. ES raced off to a great start with 3 goals in the 1st 6 minutes through Joe Burke, Puff Crawford and George Louden but the amateurs were undaunted and incredibly only 11 minutes later they had drawn level, 3-3. City then went on to take the lead before half time. The Edinburgh side went further ahead halfway through the 2nd half before Jack McCormack got 1 back 12 minutes before the close. So it was that the large majority of the 1500 crowd went home disappointed at the ‘Shire’s 4-5 defeat. The losing ES team had had only 1 change from the previous week with new signing, James Still, from Leith Athletic turning out in goals (the Amateur keeper had been under the radar of Chelsea).
7 days later ‘Shire made the trip to Perth for a Division C match against St. Johnstone “A”. There were 2 changes to the ES team with Hastings replacing Still in goals and Rabbie Kemp, starting his 1st game of the season at Left Half, replacing McLetchie. It was to prove to be a game that ‘Shire literally flung away a point when comfortably leading 3-2 with a few minutes to go Hastings, in the ‘Shire goal, made a hash of a soft shot turning the ball into his own net. The game shortly ended after, 3-3. A large number of ‘Shire had travelled to Perth and at the break the game had been tied 1 a-piece, Jack McCormack scoring for ES. Despite further ‘Shire goals from Puff Crawford and Joe Burke in the 2nd half it was the blunder by the trialist keeper which cost ES dear.
‘Shire were back in action that Tuesday at Firs Park against Dumbarton in the 1st Round of the Stirlingshire Cup. ‘Shire only made 1 change to their team with James Still replacing Hastings in goal. A crowd of 2000 turned out to watch a competitive match against the Division side which ended 2-2 after ‘Shire lead 2-1 at the interval. Jack McCormack and Puff Crawford scoring for ES.
On 31st August met Dundee “A” at Firs Park in Division C. Before the game, the unfurling of the Eastern League Championship flag (which have been planned to take place 2 weeks before) was conducted by Allan Rae. Allan made a error in his speech when he was 1 season out of with the club’s formation year and that he mentioned that the club’s 1st game was at Rumford went in fact it was at Bainsford.
The photo below shows Allan Rae unfurling the 1945/46 East League 2nd Series Flag at Firs Park. Allan was the last surviving member of the original East Stirlingshire 1880s team and had played for the club from 1881/82 and possibly in our 1st season in 1880/81. The gentleman next to him was club chairman in 1945/46, Archie Cameron.
Photo taken from “Showing in Black & White Only – Alan McMillan
The match against Dundee Reserves saw ‘Shire make two changes to the team with a Junior Trialist coming in at Centre Half to replace the injured Ritchie Collins. A 2nd Trialist, Charles Service, also took the field for ES swapping places with Johnny Cook at Outside Right. The game itself was to be one of disappointment for the’ Shire. Puff Crawford got the home team off to a great start in 4 minutes scoring a penalty but before half time Dundee “A” had leveled the score. The game swung in favour of the away team after the interval following a ‘Shire penalty miss in 50 minutes, when Crawford sent the ball past the post, the next minute Dundee “A” were gifted the lead when ‘Shire Goalkeeper, James Still, lost control of the ball outside his box and a Dundee player won the ball and scored into an empty net. Then 5 minutes later Dundee ”A” extended their lead. ‘Shire then tried to take the game to their opponents but it wasn’t until the 83rd minute before George Louden was able to pull a goal back. However, there was no late equaliser and the game ended with a 2-3 defeat for ES.
During that week signed two players, the 1st was Charles Service who had had a successful trial a few days before against Dundee “A”. The winger had recently being playing Army football and was previously with Gairdoch before the War. The 2nd player was Goalkeeper, William Gibson, who also had recently been playing Army football and had been at East Fife before the War.
‘Shire were back at Firs Park on 7th September for their 1st Round Scottish Midlands Qualifying Cup Tie against Moorpark Amateurs. It had been the intention that new Goalkeeper, William Gibson, would replace James Still in goals for the match but he unfortunately broke his finger before the game and was unable to play. As fate would have it he never got to play for the ‘Shire. There were a few changes to the team with Ritchie Collins returning at Centre Half and Charles Service moving to Centre Forward to cover the absent Puff Crawford. Johnny Cook came in to fill the vacant spot at Outside Left. The game was played in a downpour but this didn’t stop ‘Shire overwhelming their opponents by the huge score of 12-1, which equaled the Club’s 3rd highest ever winning margin and was only the 4th time that ES had scored 12 or more goals in a game. The last time ‘Shire had won by an 11 goal margin was at far back as January 1895 and the result is still the club’s record score post 2nd World War. ‘Shire raced into a 6-0 nil lead through 2 goals apiece from Joe Burke, Charles Service and Johnny Cook before 7 minutes from the break Left Half, Rabbie Kemp, had to retire from the game injured. The Amateurs took advantage of this by scoring their only goal of the game before the interval. Playing with only 10 men in the 2nd half did not affect the ‘Shire in any way and the home team added a further 6 goals without reply to win the Tie 12-1. ‘Shire’s 2nd half goals coming from George Louden (2), Charles Service (3) and Ritchie Collins.
7 days later ‘Shire returned to Division C action with a home match against the bottom team, Brechin City. With Rabbie Kemp out injured the ‘Shire team was re-arranged with Ritchie Collins moving to Left Half, John McWilliams to Centre Half, Joe Burke to Right Half and Puff Crawford returned to the team at Centre Forward. Brechin took an early lead in the game in the 3rd minute but try as they might ‘Shire were unable to get back on level terms by the break. However, the 2nd half was a different affair with ES going into a 2-1 lead 10 minutes into the half, both goals from Charles Service. There was a setback in the 63rd minute when a mistake by James Still, the ‘Shire goalkeeper, allowed Brechin to get a goal back. Back came the home team 2 minutes later with a goal from Puff Crawford. ‘Shire then pushed on and closed out the match with two further goals in the last 10 minutes from Service and Crawford to win, 5-2.
There was sad news on 16th September with the passing of a true ‘Shire legend, Walter Clarkson. Walter joined the club as Secretary in 1907 and would remain in that position for a further 20 years, and continued on as club Director for many years after that. At the time he was East Stirlingshire FC Secretary there was no football Manager role at the club and although the team was ultimately selected by the board of Directors for each match Walter was the man who, along with his administration role, was also responsible for identifying and signing new players.
On 21st September, incredibly ‘Shire played their 5th home game in under 1 month, this time against Shawfield Amateurs in the 2nd Round of the Scottish Midland Qualifying Cup. Rabbie Kemp returned to the team at Left Half allowing Ritchie Collins and John McWilliams to move back to their usual positions. The only other change to the team was Joe Burke coming in for Johnny Cook at Outside Right. In a one sided match ES cruised to a 6 nil lead at the interval, the goals coming from Puff Crawford (3), Charles Service (2) and Jack McCormack and with only 11 minutes on the clock in the 2nd half ‘Shire added 3 more goals from Service (2) and Crawford. After this the home side took it easier and it was the Amateurs who got a consolation goal a minute before time to bring the final score to 9-1. This was only the 2nd time in the club’s history that 2 ‘Shire players had been recorded as scoring 4 goals each in the same match, the previous time have been in March 1891.
With both goalkeepers, James Still and William Gibson, unfit ‘Shire brought in a new keeper for the next match the following Saturday at Tannadice against Dundee United A in Division C. He was Alex Stewart who had played for Ayr United from 1938/39 to 1944/45 and played as a Trialist in the game. With Rabbie Kemp rested John McWilliams moved to Left Half and a Trialist came in a Right Half. The ‘Shire started the match on the front foot but against the run off play it was the home team who went ahead in 10 minutes. However, 2 minutes later ES drew level through Charles Service. United Reserves then went back ahead through a penalty before ‘Shire drew level for the 2nd time in the 35th minute when Service scored his 2nd of the match. Shortly after half time Service completed his hattrick to edge the ‘Shire ahead, his 4th hattrick in 4 consecutive games. ES were able to close out the game 10 minutes from the end when Puff Crawford added a 4th, the game ended 4-2 in favour of the ‘Shire.
During the week, Alex Stewart, the trialist goalkeeper who played for ES at Tannadice, signed for the club.
‘Shire met a works team, Babcock & Wilcox, in Renfrew on the 1st Saturday of October in the 3rd Round (the Semi Final) of the Scottish Midland Qualifying Cup. Johnny Cook returned at Outside Right for the match which meant that Joe Burke moved to Left Half and John McWilliams to Right Half, the trialist from the previous week stepping out of the team. In the 1st half ‘Shire went 2 nil up through goals from Johnny Cook in 10 minutes and Charles Service 20 minutes later. However, just before half time the home team pulled a goal back from a penalty. In the 2nd half ES took control with Jack McCormack adding a 3rd ‘Shire goal shortly after the restart. Further goals from Puff Crawford and a fine header from John McWilliams just before the end meant ‘Shire won 5-1 but more importantly had qualified for the Scottish Cup Proper.
On the 10th October the manager of English Football League Division Two side, West Ham United, visited Falkirk and signed Jack McCormack for a substantial fee. The following day ‘Shire signed 20 year old Winger, Robert Mackie, from Raith Rovers (he had previously been with Partick Thistle, Stenhousemuir and Sauchie Juveniles).
Saturday 12th October saw the ‘Shire travel to East Pilton Park for a Division C match against Edinburgh City. It was mentioned that the number of ‘Shire fans that travelled to the game was reduced due to the lack of transport available to the Capital. The ‘Shire team was re-organised due to the mid-week transfer activity with Johnny Cook moving to Jack McCormack’s vacated berth at Inside Left and new signing Robert Mackie coming in at Outside Right for what would be his only ever game for the club. Rabbie Kemp returned to the team at Left Half and this sadly would be his last ever game of the ‘Shire. Rabbie had joined the ‘Shire in 1929/30 and had had one of the longest careers of any player at the club. ES got off to a great start in 8 minutes when Puff Crawford lobbed the City keeper to put the ‘Shire 1 nil up. There was no further scoring in the 1st half but a 2nd half penalty from Robert Costello was enough to secure the points for ‘Shire. The 2-0 win moved the club closer to the top of the League Table, after the poor start to the season ‘Shire had now won 6 games in a row in League and Cup matches.
|DIVISION C – AS AT 13/10/1946|
|St. Johnstone A||9||3||2||4||21||18||8|
|Dundee United A||10||2||1||7||24||41||5|
‘Shire were back into the transfer market that week, signing 3 players on the 18th October. The 1st of these was Right Half, John (Jack) McCreary, who signed from Falkirk having previously been with Fauldhouse United. Also signed was Left Half, John Taggart, who came from Albion Rovers having been with them since 1939/40. The last of the 3 signings was Inside Left, Donald McMillan, who was signed from Dumbarton where he had played since 1944/45.