The early history of football in Dundee is a rich tapestry of football clubs crossing paths and merging; of disputes and offshoots and musical chairs with regards to ground habitation; and the history of Our Boys is no different. Formed in 1877, Our Boys are among the earliest known sides from the city, indeed, only St Clement's, formed in 1876, are known to be older.
While the game of football had been around a while, mainly played between universities and private schools, the association game was relatively new. The first "official" international was played between Scotland an England in 1872 and the first Scottish Cup took place in 1873-4. Now, Our Boys were by no means big players in the early development of the Scottish game- that honour belongs to the likes of Queens Park, Renton, Vale of Leven, Third Lanark, St Bernards et al- but they would, of course, later merge with East End to form Dundee FC.
Our Boys started out life in a rather fetching red/black ensemble, pictured, complete with jockey-style caps. The club played at West Craigie Park, which was located where Baxter Park Terrace and Park Avenue are situated now which was a matter of yards from where they are said to have been formed- Morgan Street.
Scottish Cup Baptism
In those days, income was generated by playing friendlies and participating in the local tournaments and Scottish Cup. Our Boys' Scottish Cup introduction wasn't a happy one as they went down 8-0 in Glasgow to South Western on 29th Sep 1877. South Western would, in turn, only get edged out at the quarter final stage by Third Lanark- so no great shame for the cup debutants. Our Boys' first cup game was imortalised by the national media simply as:
"Played at Govan, and resulted in a win for the South-Western by eight goals to nothing"
The next few years of the Scottish Cup would also see 1st round exits. While the defeat to South Western was no great disaster, the same cannot be said of the 3-0 defeat to Arbroath in the 1878-79 Scottish Cup- it was Arbroath's first ever game. Arbroath would again be Our Boys' conquerors the follwing season, winning 5-1 this time. Perthshire outfit, Rob Roy completed a quartet of 1st round scalps in 1880, winning 2-1 in Perthshire.
Our Boys were to find a little more success in the cup in 1881-82, getting the better of Arbroath 2-1 in the 1st round at West Craigie in what was the first Scottish Cup game at home for the club. In the second round Our Boys would triumph in an 8 goal thriller, winning 5-3 at home to Dundee Harp. Goals were not hard to come by during this run and an emphatic 4-1 away win against Strathmore set up a 4th round meeting away to Kilmarnock. This is where the run would end, however, as Our Boys went down 9-2.
Another reasonably successful cup run was to be had in 1882-83 when Our Boys defeated Dundee Hibernian 2-1 in the 1st round and Balgay 5-3 in the 2nd round before being slain 6-4 by Vale of Teith in Doune. It should be noted, that the 1st round opponents were not the Dundee Hibernian.
Our Boys' appalling form away from Dundee was evident in 1883-84. The first few rounds were not a problem, given the regionalised format of the early rounds of the cup. Our Boys beat Dundee side West End 3-2, before dispatching Strathmore of Arbroath 2-0 and Strathmore of Dundee 5-1 in a replay- the first game ended 2-2. However, the aforementioned dreadful form outside of the city came back to haunt them as they subsequently lost 11-0 to Pollokshields in Glasgow- this would prove to be their heaviest defeat.
Season 1883-84 saw the formation of the Forfarshire FA. This, of course, meant the start of the Forfarshire Cup- a tournament taken very seriously in the early years. It provided local sides with an alternative to the Scottish Cup- which was very much dominated by the Glasgow, Dumbarton, Edinburgh and Paisley heavyweights. The inaugral winners were Arbroath followed by an impressive 3 in-a-row from Dundee Harp- whose run of trophy wins co-incided with their impressive 35(and counting)-0 mauling of Aberdeen Rovers in the Scottish Cup. This period also saw Our Boys change colours to the familiar Dark Blue that we all know and love today.
Season 1884-85 saw Our Boys face familiar foes in the Scottish Cup in the form of Strathmore (Arbroath) (4-1); West End (8-1); Strathmore (Dundee) (5-1) before drawing 2-2 with Lanarkshire side West Benhar. Needless to say, Our Boys lost the replay heavily- 8-3 in fact.
By the mid 1880s Our Boys were making some real progress and attracting a lot of public interest within the city and there were keen rivalries forming with local sides, not least East End. Indeed, East End were one of the few city sides able to keep up with Our Boys given the heavy defeats inflicted by Our Boys on the city sides in the Scottish Cup. Despite this, the Forfarshire Cup still eluded them; whether this was a bone of contention within the club is not certain but what is certain is the fractuous relations between club officials and players alike. This eventually boiled over after a 3-1 Forfarshire Cup 2nd round defeat to Dundee Harp when a number of club members left the club and formed Wanderers. Perhaps worthy of an article in their own right, Wanderers achieved not insignificant success. Wanderers would initially play at Morgan Park where they would record their record crowd of 6,500 against Queen of the South Wanderers in the Scottish Cup 4th round. Earlier that same tournament Wanderers battered poor Aberdeen Rovers 10-0 in what was to be their record win. That Scottish Cup run eventually ended at the quarter final stage where Dumbarton giants Renton beat them 5-1. Wanderers won the Dundee Charity Cup twice in 1887 and 1888. A move to Clepington Park (now Tannadice) followed in 1891 as well as a name change to Johnstone Wanderers and soon after in 1894 a merger with Strathmore happened. The new club flirted with the name Dundonians but Dundee FC objected to the name and the new club settled for Dundee Wanderers. Dundee Wanderers themselves won the Forfarshire Cup 3 times (1898, 1902, 1904); the Northern League once (1900); the Dundee Charity Cup once (1896) and the Dewar Shield once (1904). Dundee Wanderers would also play one season of league football in 1894-95 in the old Division 2. All this because some players took the huff!
Back to Our Boys and the 1885-6 Scottish Cup campaign was poor by Our Boys' rising standards. A 1st round victory over Coupar Angus (8-2) -away from home no less- was followed up by a 4-1 reverse to Dundee Harp. Even worse was to come in 1886-87 when Forfar (formed only a year earlier) won 5-2 at West Craigie in the 1st round. It was to prove to be the first of only three Scottish Cup defeats at home for Our Boys.
The 1887-88 season saw somewhat of a breakthrough for Our Boys when they reached the quarter final of the Scottish Cup. This was the same tournament in which Wanderers managed the same feat. The two Dundee sides were joined by another local rival- Arbroath. Unfortunately, they would avoid each other in the quarter final draw and with such names as Queens Park, Renton, Abercorn and eventual runners up Cambuslang (who beat Abercorn 10-1 in the semi-final replay) also in the draw, that was as far as the local interest went. The press noted:
"The following clubs will now have to contest the semi-final of the Scottish Cup- Renton, Queens Park, Cambuslang and Abercorn. With four excellent teams it would really be difficult to pass an opinion as to who will be the ultimate winners. The Cambuslang, as has been demonstrated by their recent performances, are at present in their very best form, and, if they could only keep it up-and there is no reason why they should not-they will prove a hard nut to crack"
Our Boys' run to this stage was courtesy of a 9-4 win at Aberdeen (one of the clubs who merged to form the present Aberdeen); a 5-3 win over Montrose; a 5-0 win in Perth against Fair City Athletic; a 4th round bye; a 4-2 victory over Albion Rovers before losing 6-0 away to Cambuslang. Our Boys, perhaps full of enthusiasm, started pressing immediately but a Cambuslang counter attack resulted in an early goal for the home team. Our Boys trailed 2-0 at half time, with Cambuslang added a further 4 after the break. Around 1,000 spectators turned out to see the game- Our Boys lined up: Goal- Douglas; Backs- Leighton and Adams; Half-backs- Gillin, Butters and Findlay; Forwards- Tosh, Chalmers, Craig, Hull and Robertson.
"...while Our Boys (Dundee) succumbed to Paisley Abercorn by the large majority of eleven goals to one..."
Another heavy defeat came in the 4th round of the cup in 1888-89, again away from home to Abercorn. This was not before home wins v bitter rivals East End (5-4), Lochee (4-2) and Harp (2-1). 1889-90 would see East End exact revenge (3-2) in a 3rd round Scottish Cup game at West Craigie. Prior to this high scoring victories over Strathmore (6-3) and Dundee Harp (6-5) set up the third round tie between the old foes.
Local Success - Forfarshire Cup at last!
By the 1890s it was apparent Our Boys were a progressive club with ambitions. The club translated this into local success in the form of the Forfarshire Cup in 1889-90 and 1890-91, the Dundee Charity Cup in 1890-91 and a decent run in the Scottish Cup. A 7-2 win at Forfar, a 2nd round bye and a 4-0 victory over East End set up a 4th round tie versus Celtic at West Craigie. Our Boys would lose 3-1 in what were dreadful rainy conditions, however, a record attendance of 6,000 would turn out to watch two excellent defensive displays. Our Boys would take the lead but Celtic would equalise and then go on to score two futher goals to go into the interval 3-1 up. Obviously no further scoring took place. Our Boys lined up: Gold; Shepherd and Brown; Craig, Robertson and Findleton (Captain); Coupar and Chalmers; Buttar; Grewar (goal scorer) and Malloch.
1891-92 saw further success in the form of the Northern League, shared with East End. The Scottish Cup brought no joy as a 1st round defeat (2-0) to a local rival was to be the last Scottish Cup game Our Boys would play.
Scottish clubs often lost players to wealthier English clubs and Our Boys were no different. In 1892 James Coupar and Fred Erentz left to join Newton Heath (later Manchester United). Erentz in particular was a hit down south playing 280 games for the Manchester side.
Birth of Dundee FC
The events at the end of season 1892-93 were significant, to put it mildly, for Our Boys. They did the unthinkable and merged with East End! This is especially incredible considering the scenes at an Our Boys-East End derby at West Craigie which ended 4-4. The game descended into chaos and blows were exchange between fans and officials- this was as late as Jan 1893. It was to be the end of a rich history of a top Dundee senior side, however, it was to be the dawn of something far greater and despite disappointment at not being given Carolina Port (Strathmore were given that honour); it was, in my mind, fitting that Dundee FC spent their first year at West Craigie- a doth of the cap to the provenance created by Our Boys.
As ever, Norrie Price's "Up Wi' The Bonnets" provided the background to the article and formed the foundations of the whole piece.
The newspaper quotes are all found in the excellent London Hearts website
Scottish Cup matches were found at RSSSF and Dundee's Footballing Victorians
Club and tournament information was found at the Historical Archive run by Brian McColl
Football strip illustrations copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission.
Oh, and I used Wiki also...