WHEN DUNDONALD CAME TO TOWN  
by Harry Smith
 
 
When I was working in the west of Scotland four of us piled into a car and drove down to the Ayrshire coast for a game of golf.   En route we passed through the village of Dundonald.   One of the group said it was the home of the quaintly named Dundonald Bluebell.  I had to point out that this football team played around 70 miles to the east, on the edge of the village of Cardenden.   The remark brought back memories …..
 
The local newspapers in Fife give excellent coverage of minor football in the county and not only that, there is usually photo coverage of at least one junior game.  Almost, but not quite, without exception the game covered appears devoid of spectators.   It wasn't always like that.   In the immediate post-war years the UK was swept with football fever at all levels of the game.  Junior football in Fife attracted four figure crowds even for run-of-the-mill fixtures.
 
The amateur side in Markinch, Markinch Victoria Rangers (The Vics) stepped up to the junior level, joining the Fife League in season 1938-39 and re-entered when the competition resumed in 1946.
 
There was great excitement in the village in anticipation of the opening fixture, a Fife Junior League match against Bowhill Rovers.   Most of the male population of Markinch seemed to be there but had to go home disappointed as Bowhill were deserved winners.   The Vics' first victory was achieved away from home against Lochore Welfare.   A week or two passed before a win at Markinch when St Andrews United were overcome 7-3.  
 
A modest, although as far as I can make out Vics' best, run in the Scottish Cup followed with narrow victories against firstly Dalkeith Thistle and then Dunbar United.  The latter game was much discussed in the village because it was played in such a sporting manner that only three free kicks were awarded during the entire ninety minutes.  
 
The next round saw the Vics drawn away against Kilsyth Rangers.  Mr Yule, the chemist, squeezed his son and me into his car along with a couple of fellow members of Markinch Bowling Club and we eventually found Kilsyth - the authorities hadn't got round to replacing the signposts, removed during wartime for security reasons.
 
A unique factor was that Kilsyth was "dry".  It's not now.   The pitch was sited among several disused coal bings.   The facilities were pretty basic then but within a few years it had been turned into a neat enclosure with covered accommodation down both sides.   Driving past one day an old colleague of mine remarked to his wife that it had all been done by voluntary labour.    The lady responded that none of the volunteers had probably ever washed a dish at home!
 
Anyway, the Vics lost narrowly, leaving them to concentrate on league and local cup games.   One of the former was a home match against Dundonald Bluebell.   Playing in a public park there was plenty room for youngsters to have a kick about when their interest in the game waned.   This is what some of us were doing when I saw play had stopped to let the Vics' trainer attend to local lad Jim Stenhouse who was clutching his shin in agony.   After treatment the game resumed as did our kick-about.
 
In the second half we rushed to the fence surrounding the pitch when we saw Jim Stenhouse punching a spectator lying on the grass.   It turned out that Jim had waited to retaliate against the opponent who had fouled him earlier in the game.  The spectator, obviously a Dundonald supporter, had taken umbrage at Jim's revenge and had, very foolishly, run on to the pitch to attack the Markinch player.   At this point some spectators, including Gavin Brown, the Markinch School janitor who'd been the Markinch Federation captain at the time of the league dispute in the early 1920s, ran on to the field to pull Jim off.
 
When the pitch was cleared the game resumed and if my memory is correct Dundonald ran out narrow winners.   At this point spectators would make their way home but on this occasion few people left the park, anticipating there was still more to come.   Anyway, after some time Jim emerged from the changing huts accompanied by several of his friends who safely escorted him across John Dixon Park to his home in Croft Crescent.   Only then did the crowd disperse.
 
The incident was the talk of the Sunday School the next day but nobody could verify the claim that Mrs Stenhouse had attacked her son's assailant with her umbrella.  Indeed, it's doubtful that she was at the game.
 
Bluebell were fined the princely sum of £1 for the assault by their supporter and also presumably for the reluctance of their fans to disperse at the end of the game.   The Markinch committee felt the visitors would have faced a heavier fine if the incident had happened on their own ground.  As for Jim Stenhouse, within a year he was transferred to Crossgates Primrose.   His next club?  Dundonald Bluebell!
 
The Vics soldiered on before folding as a club in 1956 with the only trophy won, the Cowdenbeath Cup in 1949.   The committee was never able to find a site for an enclosed ground.  It was thought a pitch could be made on land next to the church manse, probably glebe land, but Mr Davidson the Markinch Parish Church Minister objected.   He couldn't have disliked football.  A few years ago the "Craigie" column in the Dundee Courier and Advertiser showed a 1930's photo of Dunning FC who played in the Perthshire Junior League.   Standing in the middle of the back row was the tall figure of the goalkeeper, the Rev Mr Davidson!
 
It seems that my memory was not 100% accurate - mind you I was only 8 at the time.   More than one spectator ran onto the pitch with malicious intent according to the info I extracted from the "Find My Past" website.   The game actually finished in a 2-2 draw and it was a Fife Cup tie.   The disorderly scenes were discussed by the Fife Association.   The Vics claimed the tie as their centre forward, Jim Stenhouse, was assaulted by spectators who invaded the pitch and his play was impaired for the remainder of the game. The referee's report confirmed that "free-for-all scenes had taken place."
 
After 90 minutes discussion, the Association decided the game should be replayed on neutral ground, East (?) End Park Kelty, with police and Association inspectors in attendance.   As well as being fined, Dundonald were instructed to post warning notices at their ground.   Justice was done.  Vics won the replay and reached the Fife Cup semi final.

 
Harry Smith, 37 Ninian Fields,
Pittenweem, KY10 2QU
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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