Football in Tayport Through the Ages

When it all started

Organised football first kicked off in Tayport around 1878 when the town’s population at the time was around 2,600. Approaching 150 years further on, in 2021, the population had risen to 3,800. In the intervening 143 years there was always at least one football club representing the town.

The period during which the Scottish Football Association (1873), the Scottish Junior FA (1886) and the Scottish Amateur FA (1909) were founded was a boom time for football throughout the country and Tayport was no exception. Until then, well-established golf, curling and cricket clubs were the main sporting pursuits for the townspeople.

From 1878 to 1914 no fewer than 27 different football clubs were established in the town. With large families and a thriving industrial economy in Tayport there was no shortage of players. Furthermore, Tayport was well connected by the railway. A line from Dundee and the north, to Fife and Edinburgh in the south, ran through Tayport. In fact, the line ran alongside the club’s present ground at Canniepairt which was at that time, a farm. Such excellent communications benefited the clubs through the choice of matches they could play on both sides of the Tay.

In addition it wasn’t unusual for Tayport teams to sail across the Tay for matches with Broughty Ferry sides. Indeed on one occasion in 1907 they went further as the press reported:

Many of the matches played in the early days were cup ties or friendlies. Each of the cup competitions was organised by its own association. The emphasis on league games as the main football competitions would evolve later.

For example in the 1904/05 season Tayport FC would enter nine different cup competitions. As has been the case through to the present day, Tayport’s geographical position, to a large extent, allowed our clubs to pick and choose which competitions to enter. In that particular season Tayport FC entered the Scottish Junior Cup, the Fife based East of Fife, M’Arthur, Davidson and Armitage Cups and across Tay, the Dundee and Broughty Ferry based Telegraph, Courier and Guide Cups as well as the Lorne Shield.

The East Common was the main venue for football matches but games in the town in those early days were also played at venues variously described as Garpit Park, Garpit Links, Burnside Park, The Loch, The Links and the Mill Park.

Many of the clubs were only one or two season wonders and were were described as 1st and 2nd class Seniors, Ist & 2nd class Juniors and 1st and 2nd class Juveniles.

So, what were the names of these teams?

From 1878 to 1900 we had:

Tayport FC

Tayport Thistle

Strathearn FC

Tayport Hawthorn

Abertay FC

Rosebank FC

Rosevale FC

Red Star FC

Scotscraig FC

Victoria FC

Stella FC

Craigmount FC

Viewbank FC

Tayport Engineers FC

Tayport Athletic

Tayport Oddfellows FC

Tayport Union

Fiery Cross FC

Tayport Taybank FC

Our Boys Rangers

Perseverence FC

Strathtay FC

Tayport Rangers

Clubs founded in the 19th century and still playing in as a new millennium dawned were Tayport Rangers, Tayport Athletic, Red Star Tayport and Tayport FC. In addition new clubs (various age groups) founded from 1900 to 1914, were Craigmore FC (1900-03), Tayport Violet (1905), Tayport Crescent (1906-07)

By the end of that first decade, the novelty of starting up a football club had waned somewhat and there was only Tayport FC and the Juvenile sides Red Star and Tayport Violet playing regularly in the town.

Some photos from this era have no names. It would be speculation to put names to these players but names from team line-ups might be familiar or faces from old family photos might ring a bell. If so, please get in touch.

5-a-sides c.1895

One of the early pics in the collection is of a five-a-s side team pictured outside Scotscraig Golf Club. The Garpit Park football pitch would have been close to the Golf Club, likely part of what is now part of the golf course.

This is photograph is possibly from July 1895 when Tayport Athletic emerged victorious from the 18 teams which entered a five-a-side competition in St Andrews. Tayport defeated St Andrews East End 3-0 in the final and received gold centred silver badges as mementos. Unfortunately we have no names:

1897 – Red Star Tayport

Red Star (Tayport) was founded as a Juvenile club in 1897 and a team of that name was still playing in 1912. The photo below is thought to be a line–up from the 1897/98 era as it is known that boys around 13 years old played for Red Star around that time. Unfortunately the photo has no names.

We do have a line-up for Red Star from September 1904 when the team played in Dundee’s St Joseph’s League – Simpson; Wallace & Kay; Balfour, Irvine & Melville; Braid, Redpath, Campbell, Mackay and Boyd

1898 – Tayport Rangers

Tayport Rangers first appeared on the scene in 1898, often playing on the Garpit Park and participating in the Cupar and District Juvenile League.

The line-up for the Davidson Cup Final v Cupar Renton at Kinness Park in St Andrews in April 1900 which finished 1-1, was J.C.Cowie; J.Cook, Hopton; Berry, M.Simpson, Crichton; J.Campbell, Rae, D.Coss, D.Wood and L. Kinnear.

It should be remembered that all line-ups in those days were listed, numbered 1-11, in traditional 2-3-5 formation ie right & left backs; right half, centre half and left half; outside right, inside right, centre forward, inside left, outside left. No substitutes, only reserves

This photograph is thought to have been taken prior to the Davidson Cup Final, although this is speculation. In the replay Tayport, who had Hill playing in place of Kinnear, were beaten 7-1. Other players in the regular Rangers Juveniles’ line-up that year were Smith, Mackay, Braithwaite and Oswald.

1900s

Strathtay FC (1899-1902) and Red Star (1898 -1912) were Tayport Juvenile teams in action around the turn of the century.  Strathtay FC’s line-up for a match played on East Common in 1902 was Coss; Kinnear, Thomson; N.Oswald, Graham, Crichton; Cowie, Mudie, Hill, Primrose and A.Oswald.

Another Tayport side, Craigmore FC, was active 1901-1903. Craigmore lifted the Armitage Cup in March 1902, beating Kettle United before a large crowd at Leuchars. “During the evening after the teams had tea’d up in Ye Olde Hotel, the cup was presented to the winners with great enthusiasm”

The cup winning Craigmore team was J.Ross; Craig and Littlejohn; Anderson, Holmes and J.Cowie; T.Petrie, Rankine, R.Ross, W.Dailly, D.Henderson.

May 1902 – Ibrox disaster benefit match

During the Scotland v England Home International match at Ibrox on 5th April 1902, at least 23 fans were killed and 414 injured when a stand collapsed. The following month, Tayport’s two Juvenile teams played a benefit match in aid of the Ibrox Disaster Fund.


We don’t know which team this is below but it’s clearly a Juvenile team (no moustaches!). The goalkeeper would appear to be David Coss who would feature in the successful Tayport teams of the first decade of the new century.

As mentioned above, some photos from this era have no names. It would be speculation to put names to these players but names from team line-ups might be familiar or faces from old family photos might ring a bell. If so, please get in touch.

Scottish Junior Cup Baptism

Several players who had cut their teeth with the various Juvenile sides at the turn of the century would graduate to Tayport FC, the Junior team, which from 1903, would give the town its first taste of winning runs in the Scottish Junior Cup.

Although Tayport first entered the Scottish Junior Cup in 1899, it was 1903 before they would make their mark on Scotland’s football map for the first time. During the next ten years, Tayport twice reached round 3, twice reached round 4 and had their best run in 1906 when, from an entry of some 240 clubs, Tayport appeared in the last 16.

It would be another 90 years before a Tayport team would again raise the town’s profile through achievements in the Scottish Junior Cup, this time to the ultimate level, finalists in 1993 and winners for the first time in 1996

In February 1904 Tayport lifted the M’Arthur Cup, coming from 2-3 behind at half time to beat Vale of Eden by 4-3 at Back Lebanon Park in Cupar. Line –up was Coss; Thomson and A.Oswald; N.Oswald. J.Cowie and J.Rae; A Rae, Campbell, Ross, Messer and Wilkie.

Messer’s star quality didn’t go unnoticed and he was selected to play in a Reds v Blues Scottish Junior International trial at Kilbowie Park, Clydebank. Apart from Tayport’s Messer and Kelty Rangers’ full back Inglis, all players were from Glasgow and West of Scotland clubs.

Tayport lost the services of James Messer at the end of the season when he signed for Raith Rovers.

More silverware for Tayport less than 12 months later when they won the Armitage Cup in January 1905, defeating Cupar Rovers by 3-2 in the final at Ladebraes Park, St Andrews. Tayport lined up that day Kinnear; A.Oswald and Gowans; N.Oswald, Hill and Caird; Rae, Wallace, Gray, Campbell and Wilkie.

The East of Fife Cup final of 1904/5 between Tayport and Dunnikier Athletic was held over until August 1905. In a final described as the ‘event of the moment in Fife Junior circles’ which hanselled a new ground at Buckhaven, local councillor Bailie Kinnear performed a ceremonial kick-off before ’Port went on to win 3-1. The cup was presented at a post-match social function held in the Auld Hoose in Buckhaven.

On this occasion Tayport lined up Coss; Cowley and Oswald; Campbell, Cowie and Butters; A. Rae, Wallace, Gray, J. Rae and Wilkie.

Pictured below is a Tayport team from this era with the East of Fife Cup and the Armitage Cup. Back (l-r) Andrew Gordon, Norman Oswald, Jock Coss, Walter Pillans, Cook Cowie, George Cowley, Albert Oswald,  Tam Mitchell (manager), John Black and Butters; Sitting – Jock Heggie, Alex Rae, Johnny Gray, Jim Wilkie, Alex Mackay. Front – Chic Campbell and Jim Rae.

The photo was taken on East Common. The Mill Bridge (demolished in the 1970s) can be seen in the background:

Tayport’s football clubs’ achievements in Scottish Junior Cup during the first and last decades of the 20th century will be chronicled in future Archive articles.

Team Picture Gallery

The Archive is currently creating a gallery of team photos from pre-WW1 through to the present day.

Most of the team pics will have names appended but some from the early years, unfortunately do not.

Recognise anyone from old family photos? If so, then please let us know. Also pics pre-1970 which do not subsequently appear in gallery would be welcomed

Any assistance in this respect will be greatly appreciated.