1880s

During 1880 a number of young men were following their summer pastime of cricket with the club they had formed the previous year under the name of Bainsford Blue Bonnets. They played their home games at Burnhouse, along the canal from Bainsford. The cricket season game to an end on 19th August and the new winter game of football, that was beginning to become popular in Falkirk, took their interest and so on the evening of Friday 1st October, 1880 nine members of the Blue Bonnets met at the side of a lamp post on the Grahamston side of Bainsford Bridge to form a new football club called Bainsford Britannia. The 1st football was bought from a collection on the night and straight away the new club started playing practise games at field in Johnny Brock’s farm at Burnhouse. Not long after the team was ready to play its’ opening match and on 27th November the club’s 1st ever game was played against 2nd Falkirk at the field next to Burnbank Foundry in Bainsford. During the season other friendlies were played and at some point in that inaugural season the club was renamed Bainsford.

At the start of season 1881/82 the club moved to the recently vacated Randyford Park, where Coasters Indoor Football Centre now stands. Falkirk FC had been the previous tenants and prior to that East Stirlingshire Cricket Club. Bainsford was renamed once again, at the suggestion of club captain and secretary Alex Cockbun, this time adopting the name East Stirlingshire. The club only played friendlies during this season including games against Falkirk, Bo’ness, Armadale, Alloa Athletic and Dunipace. East Stirlingshire’s stay at Randyford was short lived as in March/April 1882 we moved back to Bainsford to the same field that we had played on in 1880/81.

The move back to Bainsford certainly was a positive one and the following season East Stirlingshire continued to improve on the football field and more locals took an active interest in the club. Friendlies were again the main part of the club’s fixture list against their local rivals with one exception. On 9th September East Stirlingshire played our 1st ever Scottish Cup game in the 1st Round away to Milngavie losing 1-2.

At the start of 1883/84 the club was once again on the move, though this time it was just to adjacent field in Bainsford on James Young’s farm. The new ground was formally opened by Our Boys, from Dundee, on 25th August with the home team losing out 3-4. Competitive games were now becoming more prevalent. During September and October E.S. (as we were known in the press at that time) had our 1st ever Scottish Cup run reaching the 3rd Round before going out 1-6 away to Partick Thistle. The main event of the season was the formation of the Stirlingshire FA and the 1st ever Stirlingshire Cup completion. The two biggest teams in the district, East Stirlingshire and Falkirk made it through to the Final and after a drawn game Falkirk won the replay 3-1 to lift the Cup.

By the end of the following season East Stirlingshire had become the Premier team in the district.  Along the way a club record 17-0 win was achieved away against Carron in the 1st Round of theStirlingshire Cup on 18th October. The Shire would reach the Semi-Final of that Cup in 1884/85 before losing heavily 1-5 in an away replay to Campsie from West Stirlingshire. In the Scottish Cup E.S. reached the 2nd Round where we came up against the eventual winners Renton at Bainsford. It was no surprise when Shire went out by the huge scoreline of 2-10. A new local competition was started that season, The Falkirk and District Charity Cup, which was played at the end of the season. On 23rd May East Stirlingshire won the competition in a replayed final at Brockville Park against the recently formed Camelon 2-1. This was our 1st ever trophy success. Of all the friendlies the club played that season 1 stands out, the landslide 8-1 win against Falkirk at Bainsford on 4th April. This was the 1st time that E.S. had defeated our local rivals and this result would change the balance of footballing power from Falkirk to the Shire for a number of seasons afterwards.

In season 1885/86 East Stirlingshire again reached the 3rd Round of the Scottish Cup where we drew the then Premier Club of Scotland, Queen’s Park. Local interest in the game was huge as it was the 1st time Queen’s Park had ever played in Falkirk and a huge crowd of over 3000 turned up (more than the population of Bainsford at that time) on 24th October to watch the home team lose valiantly 1-3. Like Renton the season before Queen’s Park would go on to win the Cup that season. On the 24th April, Shire Captain, Laurie McLachlan, became the 1st player in Falkirk District to gain national representative honours when he played for the Scottish Crusaders against Aston Villa in Birmingham. Following the near misses in the previous 2 seasons E.S. won the Stirlingshire Cup for the 1st time 3-1 in a replayed Final on 6th March against Stirling team, King’s Park. The game was played at Victoria Park, Camelon which was just south of where the current Camelon train station is. The Shire also retained the Falkirk and District Charity Cup with a 3-0 win against Falkirk at Victoria Park on 29th May. The club’s enhanced status also meant the quality of friendly opponents was improving with both Heart of Midlothian and Hibernians visiting Bainsford that season for the 1st time and also Rangers sent a team to play the Shire in a benefit match in May.

During the close season the club make major improvements to the ground and named it, for the first time, Merchiston Park. To celebrate this Aston Villa travelled to Bainsford on 25th August to play a friendly which the English team won 5-2. This was the 1st ever English team to have played in Falkirk District. Shire once again reached the 3rd Round of the Scottish Cup in 1886/87, going out to Clyde 1-3 at Merchiston Park. Both the Stirlingshire Cup and Falkirk and District Charity Cup were retained with wins in the Finals against Falkirk 1-0 and Camelon 5-0 respectively. The friendlies played that season included games against Heart of Midlothian, Hibernians, Third Lanark and Albion Rovers. The club even went further afield playing away at Forfar Athletic on 1st January and incredibly 2 days later we travelled to Ayrshire to play Maybole.

The 1887/88 season was opened on 6th August with a visit from Stoke (the previous name of the current Stoke City). E.S. again reached the 3rd Round of the Scottish Cup and again went out, this time in a replay to Cambuslang. For the 3rd season running the Stirlingshire Cup and Falkirk and District Charity Cups were won. On 9th March we overwhelmed Falkirk 9-0 in the Final of the Stirlingshire Cup at Victoria Park, the greatest ever win Shire have had against our local rivals. In the 1st Round of the same Cup Shire also inflicted a heavy defeat on local team Stenhousemuir, winning 10-0. The Charity Cup was retained with a Final win against Grangemouth by 5-1. Amongst the round of friendly fixtures during that season Shire made our 1st ever trip to England for game when we travelled to Stoke for the return match on 2nd January, losing heavily 3-7. Shire also recorded a big 5-0 home win against Heart of Midlothian in a friendly that season.

1888/89 was all about Cups and East  Stirlingshire reaching our zenith on the park. In the 1st Round of the Scottish Cup Shire ran up another heavy score against Stenhousemuir at Merchiston Park, this time 10-1. This was followed up in the 2nd Round with an 11-2 home win against Vale of Bannock (from Bannockburn). In the 3rd Round King’s Park were easily defeated 4-0 at Bainsford. The next round Shire were drawn against the Perthshire Cup holders Dunblane and after a 4-4 draw Shire won through 4-0 at home in the Replay. So on the 15th December Celtic travelled to Merchiston Park to play off the Quarter Final Tie. Celtic had only been formed in November 1887 but had instantly become a major player in the game. In front of a 3000 crowd Shire went in at the break 1-0 up through a goal from Shire legend Laurie McLachlan but 2 late goals in the last 4 minutes won the game for the Glasgow club. In March E.S. once again won the Stirlingshire Cup this time defeating Slamannan 7-0 in the Final. Shire also reached the Final of the Falkirk and District Cup but this time we ended up runners up following a 3-4 defeat against Camelon. During the New Year Shire made our 1st tour, playing Orion in Aberdeen on 1st January and Montrose the next day. The club’s players were now coming to the notice of the clubs in England and the club’s best players like Wull Dunn and Dan Doyle were enticed South. During this season Humphrey Jones became the1st Shire player to receive International Honours when he represented Wales against England and Ireland.

The last season of the decade saw another Scottish Cup run, this time to the 4th Round (last 24) when Shire lost away to Kilbirnie 2-5. After years of success in the Stirlingshire Cup Shire crashed out to Falkirk in the 1st Round 2-5 in front of nearly 3000 fans. East Stirlingshire also lost to Falkirk in the Falkirk and District Cup Final Replay 1-4. A new competition called the Falkirk Cottage Hospital Shield was played for the 1st time in 1889/90. The competition, in aid of the hospital, was won by the Shire with a 4-2 victory against Falkirk. Humphrey Jones again represented Wales in 1889/90 against Scotland, England and Wales. Also Shire nearly had a current English Internationalist playing for us. Humphrey Jones was a school master at the nearby Blair Lodge Private School where the Polmont Young Offenders Institution now stands. A fellow school master, Henry Hammond, was also an international footballer having played for England the season before. During 1889/90 he played for the Shire and took part in the England Trial match but unfortunately was not selected for the International matches that season.

Falkirk Herald match report of the 1st game that we played on 27th November, 1880