When Tayport FC joined the Junior FA in 1990 and entered the 1990-91 Scottish Junior Cup, it was exactly 91 years since the Tayport FC of the Victorian era took the same step and entered the Scottish Junior Cup for the first time.
In season 1899/90 the Scottish Junior Cup had already been underway since 1887 and it would be twenty-six years before Inverkeithing United, in 1913, became the first of the few clubs from Fife to lift the trophy.
Thereafter, apart from Tayport, on three occasions, St Andrews United (1960), Glenrothes (1975) and Hill of Beath Hawthorn (1990) would be the only Fife clubs to have their names engraved on the grand old trophy. From north of the Tay, only Dundee Violet (1929), Banks o’ Dee (1957) and Carnoustie Panmure (2004) can boast that achievement.
The Scottish Junior Cup at the turn of the century was dominated by west of Scotland clubs and in 1899 only 31 clubs from Fife and the North of Scotland were in the draw which had an entry of 210 clubs. Indeed, Carnoustie’s Newton FC was geographically the furthest north based club. Interestingly, of these 210 clubs, only 47 still existed or was a club with a slight change of name, representing the same community, when a Tayport FC returned to the Junior fold in 1990.
For their debut in 1899, Tayport were drawn at home in round 1 to Raith Athletic, then Raith Rovers’ Reserve side, which played at Rovers’ Starks Park in the Scottish Reserve League. It was an inauspicious start for Tayport who lost 3-6 at home to the Kirkcaldy side. The game was scheduled for 30 September 1899 on the East Common but because of a prevailing storm, the referee declared the pitch unplayable and it was played the following week.
Tayport’s line-up for that first ever Scottish Junior Cup tie was: Ross; Littlejohn and Sorley; Doig, Rae & Sorley; Gray, Westwater, Ross, Brannon & Henderson. Reserves were Gorrie & Anderson.
It was an era during which football was booming and during the 1899/00 season Tayport could boast several clubs playing out of the town, Strathtay, Tayport Rangers, Tayport Crescent and the Tayport Public School team.
As has always been the case, finance played a major part in the operation of a football club. It was a particularly significant factor for those clubs outwith the central belt who might be considering an entry to national competitions.
As is still the case today, in 1899 gate money, social events and prize draws/raffles/lotteries were amongst the main fundraisers to generate the necessary funds.
Above is an example of a 19th century fundraising prize draw with the winners list published in the local press.
No car boot sales, though. Tayport had probably yet to see its first motor car, never mind its first boot sale!
Below is a report of a report of a fund-raising evening held on Friday 24th November 1899 attended by the great and good of the burgh in the town’s Drill Hall (later the Picture House). With a reported attendance of some 400, it must have been a tight squeeze. The following year the event was held in the Temperance Hall [now Gregory Hall]
After dipping their toe into the water in 1899, Tayport FC chose not enter the Scottish Junior Cup in the ensuing three years, partly due to the potential costs which they thought might accrue if particularly unlucky in the draw.
The Annual General Meeting held in June 1903 reported a cash surplus for the season and the new committee decided to enter the 1903-04 competition. It is interesting to note that the legendary Martin Anderson aka Cynicus was again elected as the club’s vice-president at said meeting.
There were 204 cup entries in 1903/04. Tayport FC was in the north of Scotland section of the draw and was listed as Tayport (Dundee) [many a time and oft that error would be repeated during the next 120 years!]
It might have been described as the ‘north of Scotland’ section but the furthest north based club in the draw was Brechin Harp!
The Tayport committee was delighted to learn that they had received a first round bye.
Tayport v Dundee Parkmore
Parkmore were prominent members of the Dundee & District Junior League (D&DL). The title Dundee & District was something of a misnomer as all clubs in the League were from within Dundee city and Broughty Ferry. The League was something of a closed shop as Tayport and Carnoustie were amongst the clubs which were unsuccessful in their applications for membership at the July AGM of the D&DL.
Round 1 had seen Parkmore paired with Perth Roselea, a tie which prompted the comment that Parkmore were ‘quite confident of obtaining a victory and getting once more started on the road to fame’. Parkmore’s 4-1 success suggested this confidence was not misplaced.
In Round 2 at Tayport, Parkmore’s last-minute goal in a hard and fast 2-2 draw on East Common gave the Dundee club the opportunity of a replay. The replay at Fairmuir was a 0-0 stalemate as described below.
Parkmore agreed “for a consideration” to play the second replay at Tayport. “It’s an awfu’ thing the siller” was how this agreement was reported in the local press.
Tayport went into this third game as one of only three Fife sides retaining an interest in the tournament. Lassodie Juniors were already through to round 3 while Kelty Rangers, like Tayport, faced a second replay.
Parkmore were given a pre-match warning in the press. “Parkmore, beware. The Ferry Port on Craig men are merciless foes!”. It proved to be a prescient comment.
For the deciding game Tayport lined up: J.Coss; A.Oswald and J.Cowie; N.Oswald, H.Hill & J.Rae; A.Rae, C.Campbell, R.Ross, J.Messer and J.Wilkie. Reserves were W.Greig and J.C.Cowie.
With Kelty going down 2-3 at Vale of Grange, Tayport and Lassodie were the only clubs left flying the flag for Fife.
Tayport v Dundee Violet
Tayport warmed up the week prior to this game with a local cup tie win over Broughty Ferry side Ardenlea of the D&DL but like many of the games in those faraway days, controversy wasn’t far away! If today’s English Premiership is anything to go by, being accused of such gamesmanship (below), Tayport were simply 120 years ahead of their time. At least their players weren’t rolling over half a dozen times when touched by an opponent!
Before the tie, however, there were issues in the Tayport camp, as was reported in the local press on the eve of the big game.
Violet also had problems, though. They were slated to play an East of Scotland Cup replay at Lochgelly Rangers the same afternoon as the Scottish tie v Tayport. The Tayport tie had to take precedence so Violet’s solution was to send a team to Lochgelly and also a team to Tayport.
Violet’s scheme had a disastrous outcome. The tie at Lochgelly was called off when the referee declared the pitch unplayable but then had a change of opinion. Lochgelly ‘failed to toe the line’ so the game did not go ahead. Violet claimed the match and expenses but their claim did not cut any ice with the authorities and the East of Scotland tie was rescheduled for January.
At Tayport the weather was atrocious, Violet were late for the kick-off and with Tayport leading 3-1, the referee was forced to call a halt in rapidly fading light. Much to Tayport’s displeasure, the SJFA secretary McPhee ordered a replay. The press reported “…Mr McPhee should have awarded Tayport the tie. Certainly, if Tayport go down today [in the replay] they will have many sympathisers. At any rate Violet will know they are meeting foemen worthy of their steel”
Tayport were indeed worthy of their steel…
The report continued “The ground was really in a dangerous state and in some parts of the pitch it was impossible for the players to gain their footing.
Rae with a fine run and stinging shot looked to have given Tayport the lead but the referee was of the opinion that keeper Taylor had prevented the ball from crossing the line. To the majority of the spectators, it appeared that a goal had been scored and referee Sturrock had to bear the infliction of some choice epithets from the Tayport supporters”
Hastie scored to give Violet a half time lead and ‘Pirie the great goal-getter’ made it 2-0 early in the second half. Jim Wilkie pulled one back for Tayport before Norman Oswald equalised and in a hectic finale, James Messer grabbed the winner. The tie was summarised in the report as ‘One of the hardest matches ever played on Tayport Common’
Tayport v Morningside Rangers
With its football team making steady progress in the Cup, excitement was building in Tayport. Supporters were anxious to learn their team’s fate in Round 4 so arrangements were made to have a note of the draw posted in the window of Arthur Black, the Newsagent in Gladstone Place (now the Dolphin Centre) on Monday 7th December.
The draw had given Tayport a home draw with Bellshill Athletic or Earnock Rovers or Morningside Rangers.
Bellshill accounted for Earnock Rovers and Morningside survived a protest by Bellshill to get through to meet Tayport on East Common. The tie should have been played on 9th January but was postponed to await determination of the Bellshill protest. The game was re-scheduled for Saturday 16th January with Tayport now the competition’s sole survivors from the Fife and North of Scotland.
Morningside Rangers was a Lanarkshire club but the local press caused a wee bit of confusion by telling their readers that they were from Morningside in Edinburgh [could have been a culture shock if that had been the case!]
Tayport were at a disadvantage from the start with the loss of A.Rae, one of their star players, who had been injured in the Armitage Cup final the previous week.
The Saturday newspapers didn’t hang about, managing to get a match report in an evening edition:
The post-match review
- £2.10s is around £312 in today’s money
- Berrie, not Birnie scored the own goal
Rangers were delighted to make the last 16, the press reporting that “…in light of the long trip and the hurried arrangements, the Rangers may be set down as having performed brilliantly”
And so ended a second Tayport venture in the Scottish Junior Cup. Who would have thought that in 89 years’ time, a club from our town would grace the final and two years further on, return to the town on an open top bus to parade the Cup, the first of three Cup successes in nine years?
Lochee Harp v Tayport
The excitement of the previous season quickly evaporated when, in a record entry of 233 clubs, Tayport were eliminated at the 1st round stage, losing 3-0 to Lochee Harp.
Tayport had started the new season without star player James Messer who had signed for Raith Rovers.
No complaints, though, the match report suggesting that Harp deserved to take their place in the second round with a 3-0 victory in Lochee.
The inverted commas for the inclusion of “Quinn” in the Harp line-up was clarified in the press the following week…
Why “Quinn” should not be listed as Binny, is anybody’s guess but as the match report suggested, the said Wat Binny was a significant difference between the sides.
Harp’s Cup progress
Harp went on to have a great run, reaching the last 16 before going out to eventual finalists Renfrew Vics.
Round 2 – Perth Roselea 1-2 Lochee Harp on North Inch
Round 3 – Stobswell 2-3 Lochee Harp with a last second winning goal at Clepington Park
Round 4 – Irvine Vics v Lochee Harp. As the teams were more than 100 miles apart, they were ordered to play at Stirling. The clubs then came to an arrangement to play at Irvine but this arrangement subsequently fell through. So, it was back to the Stirling arrangement, as originally agreed with the SJFA. Harp, the referee and spectators all duly turned up at Stirling ready for kick off but Vics never appeared. A meeting of the SJFA awarded the tie to Harp.
Round 5 – Renfrew Vics 5-0 Lochee Harp
Renfrew were beaten finalists, going down 2-1 to Ashfield.