Renton FC Photos 1880’s - The Glasgow Merchants Charity Cup

Thanks to Lewie Montgomery, formerly the owner of the Old Vale Bar in Main Street Alexandria and now living a hale and hearty retirement in Durness in the north-west corner of Scotland, the web-site is able of publish two of the oldest photographs of the great Renton Football Club teams of the 1880’s. They remind us of the tremendous contribution which this Valley made to the development of football in Scotland and in particular of just what a gifted  and successful team Renton FC had become in the 1880s.

Tontine Park Renton

Renton FC’s Tontine Park 1927 just before houses were built on it

Vale of Leven FC was founded on 20th August 1872 and the villagers of Renton followed no more than a few months later with their own team, Renton FC. For the first six years or so after its formation Renton played in a field at the north end of the village and its wasn’t until 1878 that it moved to Tontine Park, which was its home until its demise in the early 1920’s. There was, of course, great rivalry between the two village teams and although the Vale were very much the team of the 1870’s when they won the Scottish Cup three years in succession, it was in fact Renton who were the first team to reach the Scottish Cup final. This was in 1875, which was only the second time that they had entered the competition. Although they were beaten by Queen’s Park in the final, it signalled to Scottish football that Renton were a force to be reckoned with.

These were the years before the Scottish League was formed and cup competitions were the best measure of a team’s capability, with the Scottish Cup being the pinnacle of success. However, there were many other cup competitions including the Dumbartonshire Cup and also the cup which appears in the accompanying photos – the Glasgow Merchants Charity Cup. The further you went in a cup competition the more meaningful games your fans got to watch and the fans in this valley were at the time regarded as not only the most knowledgeable but also the most enthusiastic in Scotland, and there’s an example of that below.

Renton first won the Scottish Cup in 1885 and that was a cause for double celebration because not only did they win the Cup, but it was the Vale of Leven that they beat in the final - 3-1 in a replay. 1888 was the team’s second Scottish Cup win, beating Cambuslang 6-1 in the final. This set them up to play the winners of the English Cup, West Bromwich Albion.

Since there was no Scottish or English League competitions at the time (the English League started in 1888) it was accepted that these were the best two teams in Great Britain playing against each other in what was definitely the Championship of Great Britain and in reality the Championship of the World. The “World Championship” match was played in atrocious conditions at Hampden Park on Saturday 19th May 1888 (the match had to be stopped twice, once for a thunderstorm, the other time because of torrential rain). Renton, very much the underdogs if the press and the West Bromwich management were to be believed ran out comfortable winners beating West Bromwich Albion 4-1.

Renton FC World Champions
Click Image Above to Enlarge (in New Window)

 

The Glasgow Merchants Charity Cup

This was the peak of Renton’s success but the players had been proving themselves as winners from the mid 1880s onwards. Not only had they won the Scottish Cup in 1885 but they had won the Glasgow Merchants Charity Cup (better known as the Glasgow Charity Cup) no less than 4 times in succession – 1886, 1887, 1888, and 1889. The purpose of this competition, which started in 1876 and ran as a senior team event until the 1960s, was as its name suggests, raising money for charity. Playing in the competition was by invitation only and in the early days these invitations were not limited to clubs based within the Glasgow city boundary, as was the case in later years. To maximise the take at the gate, the Glasgow Charity Cup Committee which mainly comprised the city’s prominent businessmen, invited the most successful teams of the day to take part. So invites went out to the likes of Renton, Vale of Leven and Dumbarton who happened to be near Glasgow but were also among Scotland’s leading teams. Before the Renton run of victories, Rangers and Queens Park had both won it 3 times in succession but no one had won it 4 times on the trot, so Renton were breaking new ground.

Where the Photos Came From

No doubt each of Renton’s wins called for a team photo but these are the two which have survived, with the very impressive Glasgow Charity Cup the centrepiece in both of them (the Cup is now in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden). Both of the photos were the property of one of the players – Archibald McCall (with an “a” not an “o”) – and his signature is on the back of one of the photos. His brother James was also in the team and is also in the photos. The McCall brothers were the great-uncles of Lewie’s late wife Moira, who herself came from Renton – her father owned the Cross Bar on the east side of Main Street Renton at Renton Cross, until it was knocked down in the early 1960’s as part of the redevelopment. The pictures were handed down as family heirlooms many years ago and Lewie is the proud owner and custodian of them.

The two photos show two of Renton cup-winning teams from that run of victories, and we’re pretty sure one of these photos pre-dates the World Championship win, of which we also include a team photo, making one of these photos the oldest surviving photo of a Renton team of which we are aware. The photos are originals and are in remarkably good condition, still on a backing cardboard which is slightly bent with age.

Renton FC with Glasgow Charities Cup

Click Image Above to Enlarge (in New Window)

Help from Dumbarton Cine and Video Club

These bends and the photographs’ size made scanning them a job for the experts. We were delighted to enlist the help of Dumbarton Cine and Video Club whose members Jim Biddulph and Tommy Crocket not only did the scanning but also contributed thoughts on the dating of the photos. It is thanks to their work that we can bring them into the public domain on the valeofleven.org.uk website.

The Cup Finals

1885-86                       Renton 3 - Vale of Leven 0

The Final was played on 15th May 1886 at Hampden Park, before a crowd of 4,000.

1886-87                       Renton 1 - Vale of Leven 0

The Final was played on Saturday 21st May 1887 at Hampden Park with the attendance considerably up on the previous year. The Herald described it as “little short of the biggest gathering which has yet graced the Queen’s Park ground” and was estimated at 10,000 spectators.

1887-88                      Renton 4 - Cambuslang 0

The Final was played on Saturday 12th May 1888 at Hampden Park, a week before Renton’s “world championship” game with West Bromwich Albion, in front of what the Glasgow Herald described as a “big crowd”. The Herald report added “The record of the crack Dumbartonshire team is now the best in the kingdom. They have only been once defeated this season and that at the hands of the Vale of Leven in their tie for the County Cup”.

1888-89                    Renton 2 - Queens Park 2

This game was played on Saturday 25th May 1889 at Hampden Park when the attendance was over 10,000 - and this was after the entrance prices had been doubled and Celtic were drawing a crowd of 10,000 to a friendly with Preston North End at Parkhead at the same time as this game was played.

The Replay                Renton 3 - Queens Park 1

The replay was again at Hampden Park on the evening of Wednesday 29th May 1889, before an attendance about 7,000.The game was delayed 10 minutes and kicked off at 6.20. The Renton team was exactly the same as had played on the Saturday.

The Glasgow Herald reported that “The Renton victory gave immense satisfaction in the village of Renton. On the arrival of the train at the station fog signals were let off. The team got late into a wagonette and the horses being unyoked, the vehicle, preceded by torch bearers and the Renton brass band were drawn along the principle thoroughfares which were crowded with the inhabitants, down to Cordale House where Mr Wylie the hon. president of the club made a few complimentary remarks. On returning the team and friends assembled in the Public Hall where the victors were entertained. A bonfire was kindled on Carman Hill.” Happy days indeed.

Renton FC with Cup

Click Image Above to Enlarge (in New Window)

The Players Used

What is perhaps most impressive is that in these 4 finals, spanning 4 years, Renton used only 17 players. In 1887 there was only one change from the 1886 team while 1888 also saw just one change with a further 2 in the third year. The most changes came in the 4th year, 1889, after players left to join other clubs – notably James Kelly and Neilly McCallum to the recently formed Celtic FC, but also Robert Kelso who went down to Newcastle.

The men who played in the Renton teams in the 4 Charity Cup Finals were as follows:

Name

Position

1886

1887

1888

1889

1888 World Champions

Lindsay, J H

Goal

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Hannah, Andrew P

Back

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

McCall, Archibald

Back

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Kelso, Robert

Half Back

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

McKechnie, D

Half Back

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Kelly, James

Half Back

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Barbour, A

Forward

Y

Y

N

N

N

Campbell, J

Forward

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

McNee, J

Forward

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

McCall, James

Forward

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

McIntyre, A

Forward

Y

N

N

N

N

McCallum, Neilly

Forward

 

Y

Y

N

Y

Campbell, Harry

Forward

 

 

Y

Y

Y

Harvey, J

Forward

 

 

Y

Y

N

Campbell, G

Half Back

 

 

 

Y

N

Gardener, H

Half Back

 

 

 

Y

N

Brown, G

Half Back

 

 

 

Y

N


What We Don’t Know about the Photos

The photos present a few puzzles that we haven’t been able to solve, although getting them into the public domain might start to provide some answers.

• Who’s Who in each Photo.

Surprisingly, the first of these puzzles is “who is in each photo?” We thought that we would identify 9 or 10 players in at least one of the photos without too much effort since the players are named in the 1888 World Championship photo which we’ve included. As we’ve said, in the 4 years which these photos cover, Renton only used 17 players and for 3 years there were only 4 changes in personnel. So how hard can it be to name most of the players? Harder than we thought. We think we’ve identified 4/5 of the players and we invite you to name as many as you can in both of the photos.

• Dating the photos

If we could identify more players then we could more confidently say that the second photograph was taken in 1889. As it is, we’re fairly sure that James Kelly isn’t in the second photo which does suggest that it was taken in 1889.

However, there is the question of the number of miniature shields visible on the base of the trophy. These shields were added each year with the name of the winning club and date. As the Cine Club members spotted, in the first photo there are 3 shields visible while in the second there is only one. More shields would mean a later date so the first photo would be the older. However, this would only be true if the base is in exactly the same position in both photos and while close examination shows the trophy is facing the same way in both photos, there’s no way of knowing if the base is. Unfortunately the number of shields doesn’t prove anything.

So the dates, too, still need firm confirmation.

• The Badges on the Strips

Finally there are the badges on the strips. Four of the players are wearing badges on their strips. Three of the badges are Scottish badges of two different types and denote that the player was a Scottish internationalist. The fourth badge looks like an Ireland international strip badge, but no Irish internationalist played for Renton at this time, so is this an early example of strip- or at least badge-swapping and the player wearing it is also a Scottish internationalist? Another unresolved question.

The team of 1888 had seven Scottish internationalists playing in it and 3 of them left for other clubs at the end of 1887-88 season, so the badges seem further proof that this photo dates from 1889.

Such simple and clear photos, so many unanswered questions. Your thoughts on these questions will be very welcome.

 

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"For those we loved are scattered,
and some in death sleep soun',
and the old oak tree sae bonnie,
has long since been cut doon".

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