Meadow History Page



The Birth of Irvine Meadow

Thanks to Gordon McCreath & Ian King



    The mention of junior football in Irvine conjures up thoughts of Irvine Meadow XI, Irvine Victoria, cross-river rivalries and annual Marymass derbies. But in the days before the Meadow and the Vics were founded there was a varied bunch of junior clubs in the town. Irvine Eglinton, Irvine Roslin, Irvine Caledonia, Vale of Clyde and Irvine Celtic all had relatively short life spans of just a few years. Irvine Celtic, incidentally, were the inhabitants of Meadow Park and it was there that a newly formed juvenile club began playing, taking on the ground name as the club name. The fledgling Irvine Meadow XI, sometimes mistakenly called Irvine Celtic Meadow XI in the local press at the time, began to make a name for them selves, but it was to be another two years before they moved up to the junior grade in 1897.

    Where there was an Irvine Celtic, it was perhaps inevitable that there should be an Irvine Rangers, too. Irvine Rangers had originally formed in 1890 as a juvenile club, but later became juniors. The club had a nomadic existence, playing home matches on Irvine Moor then, as juniors, moving to Quarry Road, then moving again to a pitch just behind Bank Street, which later became a greyhound racing track. The club’s most successful season was 1892-93 when they became the first Irvine junior club to win the Ayrshire Cup. They also won the Irvine & District Cup that season. But it was hard to keep the club going due to the heavy unemployment in the area and eventually they closed down due to dwindling support in 1895.

    That same year, some young lads from the Quarry Road area of the town formed Meadow XI as a juvenile club. They successfully asked Irvine Celtic for the use of Meadow Park and its pavilion when Irvine Celtic were not playing at home. The new club’s first ever game was a 2-1 defeat at home against Overton Thistle 2nd XI and after a few more disappointing results, they finally settled into a better organised manner of playing and began to win matches regularly. Then in December 1895, Irvine Celtic, who had been struggling for some time, decided to close down, leaving Meadow XI as sole occupants, though not owners, of Meadow Park.

    In that first season there was no juvenile league and the club had to make do with cup matches and friendlies. In 1896-97, however, an Irvine & District League was formed and Meadow XI went from strength to strength, finishing the season unbeaten, with 28 wins and 2 draws. As well as winning the League, they won the Ayrshire Juvenile Cup, beating Hurlford Star 2-1 in a final played at Cochrane Park in Irvine. They also won the Irvine and District Cup, beating Irvine Winton in the first round and eventually defeating Kilmarnock Roslyn in the final.


    After the success of that season it was no great surprise that the club’s officials decided to step up to a higher grade of football. As a result Irvine Meadow XI became Juniors for season 1897-98. It was decided to change the club colours from light blue to royal blue and the club we now know set forth on a new adventure.




Marymass Derby - Meadow First Win
By Gordon McCreath

Over the years Meadow XI has dominated the traditional Marymass Derby against local rivals Irvine Victoria, but it wasn’t like that right at the start.  Up until 1921 both clubs had enjoyed free Marymass Saturdays to allow the people of the town head out to Irvine Moor for the races.  However, in 1921 the Irvine rivals were given a league fixture for that weekend and the decision was taken to play it on the Friday evening.  The decision turned out to be a great success, as The Irvine Herald reported, “Fortunately the night was ideal and there was a great crowd in Meadow Park as the teams took the field”.

The teams who took part on the first Marymass Derby were (in the 2-3-5 formation of the time):

Irvine Meadow XI: Syme; Paton and Wilson; Wylie, Bobbins and McDonald; Ness, Page, Scott, Ferguson and Leiper.

Irvine Victoria: McKenzie; Wilson and Dickson; Craig, Dunlop and Gibson; McLaughlan, Galloway, Knox, Livingston and Beaton.



The game was “fought out with all the old rivalry that exists between the teams and supporters of Irvine’s two leading clubs.”  It was a fairly even, end-to-end game then the referee awarded Meadow a penalty.  “Victoria protested vehemently against the decision and their linesman argued the matter with the referee, who, after wavering in so far as to consult the other linesman (a Meadow XI official) decided to adhere to his decision.”  It all came to nothing when Victoria’s McKenzie saved Scott’s spot kick.

After a goalless first half Galloway headed the Vics into the lead.  Meadow then had their best period of the game and, after some great defending from the visitors, Scott made up for his penalty miss by netting the equaliser.  However, Vics were not to be denied and seven minutes before the end Livingston grabbed the winner.

The following year Vics repeated their success in front of 2,000 fans at Victoria Park, winning 1-0 in what was described in the local press as a “tame game for a local derby.”  It was a game which Meadow completely dominated, but missed chance after chance, including two penalty kicks.  Vics showed how it was done two minutes after the break when Hopkins scored with a header.  From then on, Vics hardly got over the halfway line and Meadow forced corner after corner, but the Vics defence held on heroically and secured a 1-0 win.

It was only at the third attempt that Meadow got their first Marymass win.  The Irvine Herald of the time described the build up for the game like this, “The first local ‘Derby’ of the season, which has now become known as the ‘Marymass Derby,’ took place at Meadow Park last Friday evening.  Greater interest was attached to this game from the fact that the Vics, as prospective league champions, were leading their nearest and dearest rivals by one point on the League table.  While the Halfway lads were able to field a team built on their usual lines, the Meadowites seemed in a great quandary to fix their eleven.  Injuries and ‘desertions’ had certainly left their mark.”  In fact, to make up their numbers, Meadow had to field a right back called Nisbet, who was borrowed from Springside Thistle.


When the derby kicked off, again in front of 2,000 spectators, play was described as being “of a vigorous nature with exciting moments at both ends.”  Meadow, with the wind behind them, soon got on top and began applying constant pressure, but it was Vics who broke away and took the lead. “Spence again lofted the sphere back into the centre, from whence it was rushed into the net.”  Davidson nearly had Vics two goals ahead, but was foiled by Meadow’s ‘keeper, Syme, who produced a great save.  However it was Meadow who scored when, “a corner kick was directed past the Vics’ custodian by one of his own henchmen.”

Vics, with the wind behind them, began the second half on the attack and looked like potential winners, but, as so often happens, they didn’t take their chances and were caught out when “Elliot (the Vics’ ‘keeper) in clutching to save, pulled the ball down, only to find Muir rushing in to head out of his hands into the net.” (The Irvine Herald).  The goal wouldn’t have been allowed nowadays, but in 1923 goalkeepers didn’t get the protection they do now.  The goal stood and Meadow had their first Marymass win. 

In the first eight years of the Marymass Derby, Vics had four wins to Meadow’s three, with the other game finishing in a 3-3 draw.  From 1928 onwards, though, Meadow began their domination of the fixture, even managing a 20 game unbeaten run from 1955 up to 1974 (one game, 1969, was drawn).


1968 Junior International Match at

Meadow Park

By Gordon McCreath

In 1968 Meadow Park was chosen to stage that season’s Junior International match against Wales (actually the North Wales Coast F.A.)  It was quite an honour for Irvine Meadow XI as it was the first time a junior international match had ever been staged at a junior club venue.  According to S.J.F.A. President, William Blaney in his notes for the match programme, Irvine had been chosen as the venue for two reasons, “(1) that nowhere in Scotland is there a keener appreciation of the junior game than in Ayrshire, and (2) no club has done more for Scottish Junior Football than Irvine Meadow XI F.C.  The club has in recent years spent much time, effort and money in bringing its ground up to a standard comparable to and better than some Senior grounds in Scotland and the Association felt that such an effort should be rewarded and the Club encouraged by the staging of such a game as today’s.”

 


Ayrshire clubs were well represented in the line up, with players selected from Craigmark Bruntonians, Beith Juniors, Maybole Juniors and Irvine Meadow XI.  Meadow’s representative in the starting eleven was Billy McConville in the number 4 jersey.  In the programme notes he was described as a  “first season Junior.  As game as they come and fancied by Queen of the South.”

 The match, watched by 4,756 paying spectators, started brilliantly for Scotland with Beith’s Kenny Wilson opening the scoring in only four minutes after the Welsh keeper, Pritchard, had conceded a free kick. David Malone (Maybole Juniors) played the ball into the box and Wilson smashed the ball home. Then McConville began to make his presence felt: “Only a couple of minutes later Scotland were again near the Welsh goal.  McConville, Meadow’s only cap, cut his way through the weak Welsh defence but this time Pritchard made no mistake and had a great save.”  (Irvine Times)

Kenny Wilson went on to complete his hat trick in the first forty-five minutes with a bit of help from McConville in the build up to his third. “McConville sending on to Murdoch who dummied for Wilson and the centre shot from the bye-line, the ball flying like a bullet into the opposite side of the goal.”  (The Irvine Herald). Wales came more into the game in the second half and scored just after the restart, but the home side saw off their attempted comeback and ran out 5-2 winners, with second half goals from Malone and Murdoch (penalty).  Billy Murdoch, incidentally was the younger brother of Celtic’s Lisbon Lion, Bobby Murdoch.

The choice of a junior ground to host the international had been a success and Meadow Park was awarded two more internationals by the S.J.F.A.  Wales returned in 1974 and were beaten 3-0 then the Republic of Ireland smashed Junior Scotland’s unbeaten record at Meadow Park with a 1-0 win in 1981.

Meadow are Best in the West

By Gordon McCreath


When Irvine Meadow ran out at Newlandsfield Park in front of a crowd of 1,100 on a sunny Wednesday evening in 1990, they were looking to win the West of Scotland Cup for the seventh time. There had been a gap of nineteen years since the previous success in the competition, so when they beat Dalry Thistle in the semi final it gave the club the opportunity to fill that long-vacant space in the trophy cabinet.

Graham Scott, writing a match preview in the Evening Times, had made final opponents, Larkhall Thistle, favourites to take the cup home, but, after a former Miss Scotland had performed the ceremonial “kick off,” Medda had the Lanarkshire team on the back foot right from the start.

Nigel McCreath passed a late fitness test and made an unexpected start, but had a comfortable first half in the centre of the defence as almost all the action was at the other end of the park. Meadow made a whirlwind start with Robert McCrystal and Gary Faulds coming close. The striker continued to pose problems for the Larkhall defence and was involved in the second goal, “ livewire Faulds was soon on the offensive again, forcing Scott Gemmell into conceding a corner kick and when Alan Garrett’s kick came over midfielder Craig McCallum rose to head just wide on Murray Bowman’s right hand post.” (The Irvine Times)

Meadow’s opening goal was only delayed until the sixth minute, when player-manager Neil Muggins slipped a free kick to Alan Garrett. The winger slipped between two defenders, saw the keeper coming off his line in anticipation of a cross and smashed a low shot past him into the net.

On the half hour mark Meadow went further ahead when Gary Faulds, playing his best game of the season, won a near post header and flicked the ball on for Murray Phillips to nod into the Larkhall net. 


Shortly before half time it was 3-0. After regular penalty taker, Neil Muggins, had missed a spot kick in the semi final, Gary Faulds took responsibility in the final and lashed the ball high into the top corner after the referee had blown for handball.

Larkhall made two substitutions at half time in an attempt to get back into the game but it didn’t make enough of a difference and in the 58th minute Meadow went even further ahead. “Murray Phillips leapt to meet a Muggins free and send a looping header well beyond the despairing Bowman.” (The Irvine Times)

With a 4-0 lead, Meadow understandably took their foot off the accelerator as they played out time. Larkhall took advantage of that and pulled back a consolation goal when Bulloch knocked the ball past Jim “Bomber” Brown to make the final score 4-1.

The cup-winning Meadow team: Brown; Ferry, Muggins, McCreath (capt.), McGee; Phillips, McCallum, Russell; Garrett, Faulds, McCrystal. Subs: McNeil and Yule.

 Meadow goalscorers: Murray Phillips (2), Gary Faulds (pen) and Alan Garrett.


After the final whistle Meadow skipper Nigel McCreath held the West of Scotland cup high over his head as the fans cheered, and all-action midfielder Craig McCallum was named sponsor’s Man of the Match.

Neil Muggins, who had been in charge of the team for only six months, paid tribute to two of his cup heroes who were retiring after the final, “It was great to see Nigel McCreath and Tommy Yule bow out at the top with winners’ medals.” (The Irvine Herald)

Club Secretary Terry Mcdonald was thrilled by not only the win, but also the manner of it. “That’s the best display of football I’ve seen from a Meadow side for a long, long time. It was a terrific performance. But I’m doubly pleased for the fans. Not only did we win the cup, but we won it in tremendous style.”

It had been a long wait for the West of Scotland Cup to come back to Meadow Park, but no one at the time could have known that it would be even longer before it was back in Irvine again. It was twenty years before Meadow beat Kirkintilloch Rob Roy, also at Pollok’s Newlandsfield Park, to win the cup for the eight time.




Ayrshire Cup 1898-99 – Meadow’s First Trophy

Thanks to Gordon McCreath & Ian King

 


Over the years Irvine Meadow XI’s display cabinet has been filled with well over 100 cups and trophies.  Each one was of course special, but, apart from the three Scottish Cups, none was more special than the very first cup won by the boys in the blue jerseys.

 

As far back as 1897-98, during their first season as a junior club, Meadow had reached their first cup final after beating Troon Juniors, Stevenson Athletic and Irvine Caledonia on the way.  But there was to be no cup triumph, as in the final of the Irvine & District Cup, played at Cochrane Park in Irvine, they lost 3-0 against Dreghorn.

 

It was the following season that Meadow XI won their first silverware, bringing the Ayrshire Cup back to Irvine.  On the way to that final, played at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock, Meadow had beaten a string of clubs now long forgotten: Beith Gateside, Irvine Caledonia, Crosshouse (after a replay) and the gloriously named Benquhat Heatherbell in the semi-final.

 

The team that took the field for the Ayrshire Cup final against Newmilns was: Tom Buchanan in goal; right back Robert Frew, left back Alex 'Sanny' Moffat; right half William 'Berry' Mitchell, centre half Tom Harvey, left half William Todd; right wing Archie Paton, inside right Jimmy Milligan, centre forward Andrew Wilson, inside left Robert Aird and left wing David McDougall.

 

The first half was fairly even, with both teams playing well, though “Irvine played the prettiest football, their passing being neat, and when their front rank did settle down the play was worth watching.” (Kilmarnock Standard) Then, before half time Meadow went ahead, with Davy McDougall, notching the first goal.  As the Kilmarnock Standard reported, “Paton sent in a fast cross shot which the goalkeeper saved, but McDougall met the ball rebounding off him and scored the first and only goal of the half.”

 

In the second half Meadow took control and really got into their stride. Robert Aird scored the second goal, Andrew Wilson slipped in the third and “from a scrimmage” Jimmy Milligan notched the fourth.  This success raised the ire of some of their opponents who introduced shady tactics into their play which were all unheeded by the Irvine lads, who played pure football, seldom using their weight.  A player on both sides went the length of a fisticuff exhibition though in all fairness Todd had provocation to be the aggressor in this pugnacious display.  Referee Scarlett ordered both players to the pavilion.”

(Kilmarnock Standard)

 

When Mr Scarlett blew the final whistle Meadow were 4-0 ahead and at a tea after the match, to which both teams were invited, tempers had obviously cooled and “the best of feeling prevailed.  Songs were rendered by various members of the company, which showed that all their talent was not exhausted on the football field. 

 

Later, during that same season, Meadow XI won their second trophy, beating Glenbuck Athletic 2-1 in the final of The Irvine Herald Cup.

 

And the cup successes even inspired a contemporary amateur poet to wax lyrical about the local heroes:

 

If ye had seen oor fitba’ team

And watched their style o’ play,

Yon wis the style o’ fitba’

Ye don’t see every day.

The ba’ wis passed fae man tae man

And fitwark wis a treat;

In a’ the shire there’s no a team

That oor lads hisna beat.

 

(Thanks to Ian King for the full names of the Irvine Meadow XI cup winners)