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Saturday, 24 October 2009

East End and the Northern League "Championship Question"

East End FC, as we all know by now, was one half of the duo of clubs that merged to form Dundee FC. Playing between the years of 1877 and 1893, they only had local tournaments, friendlies and a few games in the Scottish Cup each year to keep them going. This invariably meant that the local tournaments were taken very seriously and owing to the number of clubs in the "county" back then, local rivalries were fierce.
One such tournament was the Northern League. This tournament was created in 1891 in response to the national Scottish League, formed in 1890, in which no club from Perthshire, Forfarshire or Aberdeen was represented. On the 14th of March 1891 the then Forfarshire FA president, Mr Harry Bryan (of Arbroath FC), chaired a meeting made up of representatives of Our Boys, East End, Dundee Harp and Johnstone Wanderers of Dundee; Fair City Athletic and St. Johnstone of Perth; Arbroath, Forfar Athletic and Montrose of Forfarshire; Aberdeen, Victoria United and Orion of Aberdeen. The latter three clubs would eventually come together in 1903 to form the present Aberdeen FC. The purpose of this meeting was to agree to the proposed 12 team league and a committee made up of representatives of each burgh (Arbroath, Montrose, Forfar, Dundee, Perth and Aberdeen) were tasked with drawing up the new competition's constitution.
The next meeting in Dundee on the 4th April 1891 was for the new constitution to be voted in and was attended by a large number of people. The first point- setting the number of league members to 12 was defeated. The proposal for only 8 clubs was voted in by 16 votes to 7. This, of course, meant that 4 of the clubs had to be removed from the intial line-up. It was decided that Aberdeen and Perth should each only have one team. Aberdeen (17 votes) was chosen to represent the north over Orion (5 votes) and Victoria United (2 votes) while St. Johnstone (13 votes) were chosen over Fair City Athletic (6 votes). It seems Our Boys and East End's positions were never in question as "Dundee's third club" was between Dundee Harp (14 votes) and Johnstone Wanderers (6 votes). Thus the line-up was:
  • Arbroath
  • Forfar
  • Montrose
  • Aberdeen
  • St. Johnstone
  • Our Boys
  • East End
  • Dundee Harp
The office bearers were - President: Mr Doig (St. Johnstone); Vice President: Mr Stewart (Aberdeen); Treasurer: Mr Smith (Montrose) & Secretary: Mr A. Williamson (Our Boys).

The first league campaign kicked-off in season 1891-92. This season saw strong teams in the form of East End, Our Boys and Montrose, but in particular East End were impressive this year, almost sweeping the board of local tournaments. In the Forfarshire Cup East End lost to Montrose in the final in a hard fought game. East End, as they often did, lodged a protest at Montrose's late arrival, but this was thrown out. In the Dundee Charity Cup another hard fought final brought joy this time in the form of a 3-2 win over Our Boys. This just left the Northern League. So it must have been gratifying for East End to edge out main challengers Montrose 2-1 at Carolina Port in a vital league game. However, it would seem East End played an ineligible player in that game and the match was ordered to be replayed. East End were furious and even got their solicitor involved- a Mr D. M. Anderson- who wrote that his clients refused to replay their game as the league "wrongously disqualified" them. Furthermore, he was ready to instigate legal proceedings to have the trophy delivered to East End but has decided to first submit the point to the committee for arbitration. So what was the committee's decision on this serious matter?

"It was all but unanimously decided to take no notice of the letter"

So that was that then. East End were docked 2 points (the points they won in that Montrose game) and therefore ended the season on the same points as Our Boys who finished the season strongly and, in doing so, overtook Montrose who finished poorly. By failing to replay the game East End had to share the title with Our Boys. Nothing obviously came of their solicitor's proceedings.

That historic first table:
  • East End 19pts
  • Our Boys 19pts
  • Montrose 14pts
  • Dundee Harp 13pts
  • Arbroath 12pts
  • Aberdeen 12pts
  • Forfar 10pts
  • St. Johnstone 9pts

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