A lap of honour …
by horse and cart
The setting was Portland Park for the charity match between "golden oldies" fron Troon FC just after the Second World War and there are a few highly-rated seniors amongst the line-up. The referee, Ned Shirley, extreme right is still living in Troon.
Stuart Beaton began the history of local sport in our ‘Times past’ series last week, with curling under the spotlight.
This week, Stuart continues his ABC of local sport as he brings bowling and football into the field of play . . . the latest arrivals on the scene in the middle and late 1800's
CURLING may have been the first sport to grab the interest of the locals in early 19th century Troon. But everyone was by no means a curler.
Others were biased towards another up and coming recreation - bowls.
The green at Barassie, opened in 1834, was perhaps all that Troon needed to afflict many more of its residents with a bowling bug. And they took to their new interest like a pigeon to grass.
The Reverend J. Kirkwood, in his history of Troon, published in 1896, states; "There was a bowling green behind the Public Hall which had been in use since 1820. The hall in question, however, would be the building erected by the United Presbyterian Church, but this did not take place until 1843, and the green to which he was probably alluding was there before the hall was built.
The original letter in this respect, framed under glass, is held by the Troon Bowling Green and was drawn up after the interested parties had met in the Duke's Shipyard to discuss their project. It reads as follows: "Mr Alison, Sir, I hereby offer to level the bowling green at Troon and finish it to the specification shown to and subscribed by, me for the sum of Ten Pounds Sterling, and to uphold the same for three months after it is finished; that is to say in as far as it may sink or otherwise give way through the inefficiency of the workmanship. I am. Sir, Your most obt. Servant, William Marlow." There is a postscript which reads:
"Troon, Nov. 14th, 1840: Received from Robert Alison, Seven Pounds to Account of the above, and a further Three Pounds as the Balance of the above:
Plus seven shillings for mending the sides with turf, signed. William Marlow,"
It is most unlikely that there would have been any play until 1841 but Troon had certainly embarked on another form of recreation, and a bright future lay ahead,
Admittedly horse racing had been a source of interest from the early years of the century, and Regattas had taken place in the turbulent waters of the Firth, in craft which might well have horrified the Sailing and Cruising Club seafarers of the present day, but it may seem strange that no mention has yet been made of golf in this town, an undoubted Mecca of the Royal and Ancient game. It is said that Mary, Queen of Scots, once played the sport on the Leith Links during the 16th century, but little was to happen in Troon until a number of gentlemen, who had homes in the South Beach area, began to indulge in such a pastime. There was space unlimited on what were called the Knowes, even if the holes and putting surfaces were of a very rough and ready nature. Such were the beginnings, and a course of character was to appear in 1878.
It would now seem appropriate to provide a few details about Troon Golf Club from the days of its founder and first Captain, Mr James Dickie. But there is however a snag — another type of ball game must take chronological pride of place, there being quite undisputable records to the effect that local football has a history which began approximately three years before the golf course at the end of the South Beach was ever considered.
As far back as 1875 there was a Troon Portland foot ball team, reckoned as seniors, though most of their matches were of necessity friendlies since no leagues of any kind were then available. But they did play clubs such as Irvine, Irvine Victoria, Ayr, Kilmarnock Athletic, Kilmarnock Portland and other county teams.
Admittedly, there were cups for which they competed, but success was not to come their way for several years as they were a young side and lacked experience. Most of them were apprentices at their trades, their ages being from 16 to 18, but they played with great credit against much more mature sides. One game of note was in 1877 when they met a Coylton team in the Ayrshire Cup and thrashed them, this being quite an achievement as it should be remembered that Coylton had formidable players like the Grahams, who went later to Preston North End.
The first Troon Portland team, many of them with relations living today, was as follows: Goal, Frank Briggs, Backs, Charles Fullarton, David Connell, and Hugh Allison; Half backs, Robert Hastings and James Connell; Forwards. Reuben McNeillage. John Kennan, James Murchie, William Cunningham, John Johnstone. Robert Smith. and David Johnstone.
In those far off days the welfare of Troon football was materially assisted by such gentlemen as William Briggs, John McNeillage, James Robertson. and Joseph McCulloch. Hugh Allison held a responsible position in the Shipyard, James Connell became a Municipal Dignitary and David Connell retired to Leith.
The others also made their marks.
During the 1880s the team with the unostentatious name, Troon FC, had a very good run, winning the Ayrshire Junior Cup and the Irvine Herald Cup, going on to win the Irvine and District Cup in 1892, the first year of the competition, which took some winning as Troon had to play Crosshouse five times in the first round before emerging victorious.
After the final, the team did several laps of honour through the flooded streets of Troon village, in style; three carts drawn by magnificent horses in full battle order being provided by Mr Robert Murray, the popular local Haulage Contractor, whose business was based at the Union Street Stables, and who also supplied coal to local residents at one shilling a bag. His carters were John Lawson, John McKelvie, Sandy Hamilton and John Kilpatrick He had four sons, Hugh, William, Robert and Jackie.
Adam Wood, the Harbour Master, was so impressed by the team's achievement that he presented each member of the team with a pair of working boots and two pairs of white socks.
There is no doubt that they had some first-class talent. Two of their players, D. Boyd and T. Walker, were to play as a left wing for Scotland against England, it should be mentioned that, at the turn of the century, there were only four recognised Scottish football clubs - Queen's Park, Vale of Leven, Clydesdale, and Third Lanark. Edinburgh and Glasgow were more interested in rugby. Even lovers of athletics at that time had to take a back seat, as skittles and bowling alleys had been suppressed by an Act of Parliament.
Troon Rangers soon took the field, without being in any way out of the ordinary, and it was not until 1920 that Troon Athletic came to the fore. This team was founded in that year by the Troon Federation of Ex-Servicemen with a committee headed by Tom Wallace, president, William Noble was treasurer, secretary was William S. Elliot.
Their first team was as follows - S. Elliott, W. Kettle, and A. Hendry; P. McAdam, G. Elliott, and H. Murdoch; J. Wright and J. Hillditch; A. Howie: J. McLean and R. Hunter.
Their headquarters were at the public park from 1920 until 1923. this, in point of fact, extending only from the Station Hill to the Yorke Road bridge. From 1923 onwards they were at the new Portland Park, and they established a fine honours list. Their collection of trophies read as follows: 1920-21, Kilmarnock and District League; 1921 - 22. Ayrshire Junior Cup; 1923- 4, Ayrshire Consolation Cup;
1928- 9, Ayrshire Intermediate Cup; and 1929 - 30, Western League Gold Watch Competition.
It was indeed a team to remember, and one with a future.
Nor must the schoolboys of the 1920s be forgotten, and no one was more involved than Duncan Howie, a present day member of Troon Portland Bowling Club and piper of note.
When the Portland Church flitted from the corner of Church Street and Portland Street to South Beach, the YMCA look over the old building, and the Sunday School Hall to the rear, in order to start Sports Club, the president's name being Charles Lockyer.
They entered a football team in the Irvine and District League, and duly won the competition, but were beaten in the final of the cup by Kilwinning Athletic.
Their training quarters were at the church hall, here they stripped and walked to the home ground which was the Hosiery Park. Their team, several of whom were later taken up by the seniors, is worthy of note: Highet Wallace, Bobby Harvey and Bobby Bates; George McCormick, Tommy Morrison and Andy Boyd; Duncan Howie, Willie Taggart, George Burrows, Tommy Paterson, and Hammy Neil. Sam Elliott was their trainer and, whenever they won, Sam presented the scorer of the winning goal with a packet of 50 Woodbines, which were always passed round.