Dunfermline Athletic

Quick History 1885 - 1959

Author: Douglas Scott Date: Thursday, 18th May 2000

In owing their existence to the game of cricket, Dunfermline Athletic are in the good company of clubs like former European Champions Aston Villa and AC Milan.

The boys of the Wesleyan Chapel cricket team decided in 1874 to play some football to keep fit during the winter months and were to become Aston Villa Football Club.

In 1889, AC was founded jointly by a group of Englishmen and Italians and were first known as the Cricket and Football Club of Milan.

In 1874, members of Dunfermline Cricket Club formed a football section for much the same reasons as Aston Villa - fitness during the wintertime. The Dunfermline Club, as they were known, became the principal amateur club in the town at that time and played at Ladysmill (now known as McKane Park).

A dispute among the members caused this Football section to split from the Cricket Club in 1885. After meetings on 26th May and again in the Old Inn on 2nd June, Dunfermline Athletic Football Club was formed, with its headquarters at East End Park which, at that time, was just to the west of the present day stadium.

The Athletic's first match was played on 13th June 1885 at East End Park, Edinburgh University providing the opposition. DA won 2-1.

In the early days, the club colours were maroon jerseys with blue shorts but in 1886 these were changed to black and red hooped jerseys. The black and white stripes were not introduced until 1912.

First success came in 1887 when the Athletic won the Fife Cup but in 1888, through rivalry with a Dunfermline Club which had continued to play at Ladysmill, they were suspended from the fife Football Association. This eventually led to them playing as juniors on 6th August 1892. Their support grew and on 21st May 1900, at their Annual General Meeting, it was agreed to continue the senior team on a professional basis, from which point they, and football, were firmly established in the "Auld Grey Toun".

In 1909, the Scottish Central League was formed. Dunfermline won this Championship and the Fife Cup in season 1910/11. The 1911/12 season saw them lift the Qualifying Cup which was their first big success, beating Dumbarton in the final by one goal to nil at the Gymnasium Ground in Edinburgh. The same season saw the Central League Championship and the Loftus Cup come to East End Park.

On the 1919/20 season Athletic severed their connection with the Scottish League and became the instigators of a breakaway Central League. This league attracted more clubs than the Scottish League had anticipated and, more importantly, attracted players from bigger clubs. It was during this period that Dunfermline signed Andy Wilson who was in dispute with Middlesboro at the time. This legendary centre forward whose "bullet" shot produced some of the most spectacular goals ever seen at East End Park, scored four in his debut against Arbroath.

For over 40 years Wilson held the distinction of being the only player to win international honours while on Athletic's books - a record which remained until Willie Cunningham played for Northern Ireland against Wales in 1961. Eddie Connachan was the first Dunfermline player to play for Scotland since Wilson, when he figured in 1962.

The Scottish League worried by the success of the Central League, looked into the matter and decided to form a Second Division which started the automatic promotion and relegation system.

Athletic won the Second Division Championship in the 1925/26 season under the management of Alex Paterson and stayed in the top flight for two seasons. Second Division football returned to East End Park for the next six seasons until 1934 when promotion once again established them in the First Division for a further three years.

While playing in the Second Division in 1949/50, Dunfermline Athletic reached the final of the Scottish League Cup under the guidance of Webber Lees, only to be defeated by 3 goals to nil by East Fife at Hampden.

Dunfermline had a yo-yo existence during the late fifties. Promotion in 1955 was followed by relegation two seasons later and promotion again after only one season in Division Two. In 1958/59 First Division status was again in danger when April came around - Queen of South were already destined for the drop and the struggle to avoid joining them lay between Dunfermline, Falkirk and Aberdeen.

On the morning of the match Dunfermline sat in second bottom spot with 26 points from 33 games, goals for 58 against 86, goal average 0.674. Falkirk were third bottom with the same 26 points, goals for 56, against 77 goal average 0.727. Next from the foot were Aberdeen on 27 points, 61 for, 65 against average 0.938. Just above them were Raith Rovers and Stirling Albion on 28 points - their goal averages 0.853 and 0.828.

Falkirk were at home to Raith Rovers and Aberdeen's last match was against League Championship favourites Rangers at Ibrox.

Athletic with the inferior goal average, had to be sure of a big win in their last league match against Partick Thistle at East End Park. This match now famous for its 10-1 score-line, ensured First Division football for yet another season. The ten goals boosted the goal average to 0.782. Falkirk subsequently won 1-0 with the late John White missing a penalty and ended up with a goal average of 0.740. With Dunfermline scoring so many Falkirk would have needed to have scored 6 to have survived. Aberdeen won at Ibrox and Rangers still won the League because Celtic defeated Hearts! If relegation had been decided on goal difference DA would still have survived -19 goals, Falkirk finished -20.

Of the match versus Partick, Dunfermline manager Andy Dickson said: "On the day of the game I felt that if we won we had a good chance of staying up. During the match the decimals were being worked out and messages relayed to me saying how many we had to score. I was only interested in winning and regarded it a possibility that other results would go our way and we would stay up."

Dunfermline hero of the day, Harry Melrose who went on to manage the club, claims to remember relatively little of the match:- "All that sticks in my mind is offering the last penalty kick to Jimmy atson who was the only member of the forward line not to have scored a goal in the match, he just told me to get on and take the kick because we needed to win by nine goals!"

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