Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

Living In The Past

Despite their humble sixth place in the Irn-Bru second division, Dumbarton have laid down an audacious claim to be recognised as Scottish champions. But the title The Sons covet won’t be settled in May. The honour in their sights was contested 120 years ago.

In the first-ever Scottish League season in 1890-91, Dumbarton finished level-top on points with Rangers. It was before the concept of goal difference, and the League ordered the clubs to stage a title play-off. It ended in a 2-2 draw, and the inaugural championship was declared a tie.

“The record books might say we shared that title,” Gilbert Lawrie, Dumbarton’s chief executive, said. “But if the issue had been settled on goal difference, which was introduced soon afterwards, we would have been the first champs.” Lawrie is right. The Sons beat The Gers on goal difference by +40 to +33, but who’s counting now? Answer: Dumbarton. “Morally, we were the first-ever winners of the Scottish Football League,” Lawrie said.

The old bone of contention was disinterred this week as the League celebrated its 120th anniversary. On March 20, 1890 officers from 12 clubs met at Holton’s Commercial Hotel in Glasgow’s Glassford Street to launch the competition. It followed the success of the English League, created two years earlier by the Perthshire visionary, William McGregor.

Of those dozen pioneers, only Dumbarton remain members of the Scottish Football League, although Celtic, Heart of Midlothian, Rangers and St Mirren are active in the renegade Scottish Premier League. The others present at the epoch-shaping meeting are now little more than footnotes in the history of the game: Abercorn, Cambuslang, Cowlairs, Renton, Third Lanark, St Bernard’s and Vale of Leven.

“We remain hugely proud of our heritage,” Lawrie said. “It is an honour to have played a full part in the history of the League, and it is an achievement that we are still in business, still playing our football, 120 years later.

“It is a long time ago, but we are immensely aware of our club’s past. We won the League outright in the second season, and Rangers can’t take that away from us, even if they claim a share of the first title.”

The status of the League was slashed savagely when the richest clubs broke away in 1998, sparking recriminations about greed winning out over fair play and the good of the game. The accusations were remarkably similar to charges levelled at the League when it first formed. One of Scotland’s biggest-selling sporting papers greeted the League’s birth with the bitter broadside: “Our first and last objection to the League is that they exist. The entire rules stink of finance, money making and money grabbing.”

Queen’s Park, widely recognised as the greatest club side in the world, refused to have anything to do with the new set-up, saying that the competition would foster professionalism, among other evils. Their prediction quickly came true. Dumbarton’s local rivals, Renton, were booted out of the League for breaking the amateur code just five games into the first season.

Lawrie said that the days when Dumbarton were in the vanguard of money grabbing have long-since passed.

“In that first season Rangers complained that they were asked to play Dumbarton in midweek, saying it was alright for a big team like Dumbarton but poor teams like Rangers struggled because their players couldn’t get time off work,” he said. “Those days are long behind us. But we’re happy with who we are and where we are.”


“Living In The Past” – Jethro Tull

Happy and I’m smiling,
walk a mile to drink your water.
You know I’d love to love you,
and above you there’s no other.
We’ll go walking out
while others shout of war’s disaster.
Oh, we won’t give in,
let’s go living in the past.

Once I used to join in
every boy and girl was my friend.
Now there’s revolution, but they don’t know
what they’re fighting.
Let us close out eyes;
outside their lives go on much faster.
Oh, we won’t give in,
we’ll keep living in the past.

To buy the music of Jethro Tull click HERE

To support Dumbarton FC click HERE


March 20, 2010 - Posted by | Dumbarton FC, Old Music | ,

1 Comment »

  1. I was remarking to Graeme Robertson at the Clyde game the other night that in the league campaign in 1971-72 when Dumbarton got back to the top league for the first time in 50 years, The Sunday Post did an article on two old fans who were by that time over ninety. They remembered Sons winning the league and talked about Jake McAulay The Prince of Goalkeepers who played matches wearing one of his international caps. It’d be interesting to see if I could trace that article. Maybe the Mitchell Library would have it.

    Comment by bigrab | March 21, 2010 | Reply

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