Friday, August 21, 2020

Ireland v Scotland football international in 1912 – "Belfast full as it is of Ulster Scots"

1912 is usually only thought of as the year of Titanic and the Ulster Covenant. But through the tragedy and the politics, normal life continued. This discussion in the Northern Whig about the best venue for the forthcoming Ireland v Scotland football international, which was one of the British Home Championship matches, makes for interesting cultural reading – 

Trouble erupted at the fixture when it took place at Dalymount Park on 15 March 1913, as this report in The Scotsman shows. The match had added drama as Ireland had unexpectedly defeated England in the previous international match, and if they had beaten Scotland they would have won the Home Championships for the first time ever. The Ireland captain Val Harris, and the Secretary of the Irish Football Assocation, John Ferguson, were both presented with medals commemorating the historic victory against England. The Lord Lieutenant was present; but the 'Ireland's Own Band' refused to play the National Anthem before the kickoff and it was instead played by the Band of the West Ridings.

The Belfast News Letter report said that 'the Irishmen were first to appear, clad in jerseys of St Patrick's Blue, and they were very warmly cheered, the Scots meeting with no less cordial greeting'. The crowd of 12,000 saw Scotland win 2–1. 

The portrait at the top is of Sheffield Wednesday and Scotland player George Clarke Robertson who got into a skirmish with a couple of pitch invading Ireland fans. He was then pursued by a mob of 1000 of them after the match – "The Scotland players were trapped in their dressing room, with around 1,000 angry Irish fans trying to confront them, smashing windows, with one man brandishing a wooden stake." Robertson escaped Dublin in disguise; he won four caps for Scotland; his story was published in the book Wings of Steel (shown left).

The next season the Ireland v Scotland fixture was moved to Windsor Park in Belfast on 16 March 1913, and the 1-1 draw was enough for Ireland to win the tournament. The pic below is of the Ireland team in 1914 (Wikipedia here), just prior to the beginning of the Great War.

The tournament resumed in 1919 when the Great War was over. For the next 20 years, until the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939, all of the Scotland v Ireland matches were held either at Windsor Park in Belfast, Celtic Park in Glasgow or Ibrox in Glasgow – apart from two years when the venues were Tynecastle in Edinburgh in 1935, and Pittodrie in Aberdeen in 1937.