The other day I went out for lunch with my good friend Jack the Hat, and, inevitably, we got into our interminable old men's discussion about the history of football, who was the greatest player we ever saw, what was the exact team line-up for the Scottish Cup Final of 1975, and other varied and interesting stuff.
Well, it's maybe a bit specialised, but we get a lot of value out of it. One of our regular subtopics is the history of the Scottish teams. We got into the subject of club nicknames the other day. Let's not dwell too much on details, but we agreed that there is something particularly odd about the nickname of Dunfermline Athletic FC, who are known to their fans as "the Pars", and have been for a very long time.
Dunfermline are not one of the great teams of Scottish football, but they have been around for a very long time, and numerous generations of their supporters have doubtless gone to their graves with the club's badge engraved on their hearts, so they deserve to be treated with all due respect.
They are currently in the Scottish Championship, which is one level below the top league (The Scottish Premiership), and, though they have won the second-level league title numerous times, the only major trophies on record are two wins in the Scottish Cup, which they won in 1960-61 and again in 1967-68. They have had a good number of distinguished players, including internationals, but the most famous of these are individuals who went on to become successful managers in England, notably Owen Coyle, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes.
Anyway, back to the point. Why the Pars? Well, there are a number of theories, some of them remarkably stupid, but the most likely is because of the club's playing strip. In the early days, Dunfermline played at various times in blue or maroon, but since 1909 they have worn black and white vertical stripes. The nickname is most likely to have come from the Parr, a juvenile form of the salmon (a very important fish in Scotland), which is similarly decked out in black and white stripes.
So there you have it - a piece of information which is unlikely to come in useful in your local pub's quiz night, but there is a wider context which I find interesting. Anyone got any more stories about the nicknames of sporting clubs, any sport, no matter how minor, never mind how disputed or convoluted the history of the name? I'm interested in this stuff, for reasons which have more to do with social history than sport, to be honest. I'm also horrified how little sense of the past modern sports fans have, but that's another issue.
All printable suggestions welcome!
Good question. I always thought that Scottish football clubs have more interesting names than English clubs full stop. More romantic.ReplyDelete
The only vaguely interesting nickname origin that I know is the Cardinals, ie Woking FC. From the cardinal red on their shirts. UCL more imaginative than the Reds.
Exeter City (the Grecians) intrigued me, but the explanation leaves me just as confused. https://www.exetercityfc.co.uk/club/our-history
A lot of early club names seem to suggest that they were a lad's gang, and they were taking on neighbouring gangs (didn't Bristol Rovers start out as the Black Arabs?). When the leagues were more businesslike and they travelled further afield, the clubs got bigger and the names grew up a bit (such as giving a hint where they were from).Delete
Scottish names are good value - "They'll be dancing in the streets of Raith" is a classic howler by the BBC of long ago - Raith Rovers, of course, are a team who play in Kirkcaldy - Gordon Brown's team, as it happens. Morton FC were named after a street in Greenock, though they have recently become more dignified and now call themselves Greenock Morton, which is only right and proper; Albion Rovers were once the works team of Albion Motors, of Coatbridge; there are a few named after old boys' clubs - Celtic and Hibernians are good; St Johnstone are named for St John's Toun, which is an old name for Perth; St Mirren (known colloquially as "The Buddies") were founded as a gentlemen's sports club in Paisley, and named after the town's patron saint and founder of a local abbey; Livingston FC were originally Ferranti Thistle (works team of the Edinburgh engineering firm), changed their name to Meadowbank Thistle after 1970, when they shifted their ground to the athletic stadium, and subsequently became Livingston FC and shifted their base again, this time to Livingston in West Lothian; and so on - my personal favourite is the much missed Third Lanark, who were originally the 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers - they now exist as an amateur team playing in some lowly Glasgow local league. Enough - I find much of interest in this stuff!
The Woking story is good. When I was very young I used to go to watch a local amateur side known to all and sundry as "The Apes" in a public park in Liverpool, and they were pretty good. As I grew a little older, I became aware that they were actually Aigburth People's Hall, shortened to A.P.H, shortened to - yes, you got there already.
All that and you didn’t even need to mention Queen of the South and Heart of Midlothian!Delete
I’ve seen the Black Arabs nickname in writing before but never heard it in person. (Instant red cross for anyone using the words “it’s wokism gone mad”). I’ve definitely heard ‘Pirates’, and the much more common term these days, ‘Gasheads’, though that seems to have originally been a name for the fans, in the same way that Grimsby Town fans are Codheads. Incidentally, is it not a little bit odd that the nickname of Grimsby Town is the Mariners and not the Fishermen/Trawlermen.
and you only sing when you're fishing apparently.Delete
Great post. Nothing more for me to say.ReplyDelete
Fascinating - I find the social history, archaeology and history of vanished clubs really interesting. There is some great baggy shorts stuff on this on early film in the Mitchell and Kenyan Edwardian films (Edwardian Farm and The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon).ReplyDelete
Your article inspired me to reread Marvin at Suburban Militarism's articles on Macclesfield Town ( a rifle volunteer team) and his toy soldier footballer tribute, along with Don Featherstone's Saints Obituary
Thanks for this Mark - I shall check all these out later today. On further thought, another of my very favourite Scottish team names is the majestic Civil Service Strollers, founded in 1909, who still exist, and play in the Scottish Lowland League, at a ground in the Silverknowes area of Edinburgh - I don't think they still have a connection to the Civil Service, but don't really know! It was a regular feature of the Scottish Cup for many years that the CSS got through enough of the early rounds to become visible in the papers - there was also a time years ago when I was mad enough to have plans to go to watch teams with interesting histories - seldom got there, though! I am currently toying with the idea of developing some regular attachment to Haddington Athletic, who are nearer, cheaper, less hassle and less intimidating than braving the warriors at Hearts or Hibs...Delete
Haddington Athletic sounds like a good achievable plan, and like supporting the smaller figure makers too!Delete
I’ll leave you to research their vintage kit colours before painting the Timpo or Airfix footballers.
As a supporter of Blackburn Rovers I'm slightly disappointed that our nick name is the prosaic 'The Blues' or 'The Rovers'. We do have a nickname for Burnley though, they are known (disparagingly) as 'The Dingles' as one of the actors from Emmerdale Farm is a supporter. He plays one of the Dingle family, who could have guessed that!ReplyDelete
Blackburn being called the Rovers is quite a big deal, I think - they were the only "Rovers" in the original Football League, so they really are the archetypal Rovers. I understand (though it may be rubbish) that there may have been a convention eventually that teams called Rovers or Wanderers did not have a ground of their own, and thus hired playing pitches as they needed them. Yes - it does sound like rubbish, doesn't it...? My personal recollections of Blackburn come from when I was a schoolboy, in the days when Liverpool were in the old Second Division, and finished 3rd about 5 seasons on the trot - only two teams were promoted then! Each season there would be a couple of dominant teams in the 2nd Divn we had to worry about - sometimes it was Sunderland, sometimes Stoke, and so on. One year it was the Blackburn team with Ronnie Clayton, Vernon, Dobing and Co - they absolutely walked it, so I always regard Blackburn with the greatest respect starting right from those days! - I realise that they did do rather well later on too, not least in the Shearer/Sutton years, but the Ronnie Clayton team was a very serious piece of work indeed. "The Rovers" is a fine nickname - to be cherished.Delete