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History of the Queen's Park Football Club 1867 - 1917
Chapter XIII.—Queen's Park and Vale of Leven


The Queen's Park had much to do with the rise and progress of the Vale of Leven, established 1872, yet within three years the latter club had made such advance in the game that it became the most determined opponent of the senior club, and ultimately attained the highest ambition that any combination might desire—namely, they were the first Scottish club to defeat the Queen's Park, a feat accomplished in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup competition by two goals to none. The game was played on 30th December, 1876. The Vale, it will be remembered, was the first club also to score a goal against the Queen's Park, on 16th January, 1875, so that the double honour must be accredited to this Dumbartonshire club—performances of considerable merit, obtained by indomitable energy and indefatigable pluck. Unfortunately the effect of this victory and reverse, led to a regrettable estrangement between the two clubs, who were not on the best of terms prior to this match. The result was, that they had no dealings with each other for nearly a couple of years. Which was to blame, the event will prove. The tone of the correspondence between the clubs is very different. The Queen's wrote dignified and courteous, yet decided, letters. The Vale lacked tact in their correspondence, and were apparently determined to make the most of a supposed grievance. The trouble began towards the end of 1875. The Vale called the Queen's Park to account for not fulfilling an engagement at Alexandria on 6th November in that year. The reason for the abandonment of the game—namely, the Queen's Park had a cup tie to play on that date, and consequently had no resource but to cancel the fixture—was not considered sufficient. It seemed an ample and satisfactory excuse. It did not satisfy the Vale, and the result of a lengthy correspondence was, that Mr. Thomas Lawrie, the match secretary, acting on the instructions of his committee, wrote saying, "My club decline to play you at all." The Vale published the correspondence in the Glasgow newspapers. As it is interesting, and clearly explains how the first break between the clubs arose, it is here given in full.

Regarding the postponement of the match, Mr. J. B. Wright, honorary secretary, Vale of Leven Football Club, published in the ''Daily Mail" of 22nd December, 1875, the whole correspondence which had passed between the clubs on the subject. His accompanying letter is dated 10th December. In it he explains that, while he is bound to acknowledge that on the field the Queen's Park has well earned the laurels it bears as the first and best football club in Scotland, and perhaps in Great Britain, at the same time, his club considers their position entitles them to expect a desire on the part of the Queen's Park to meet them, especially as in the previous year the Queen's Park did not give them the return match to which they were entitled. The subject of breaking off the match is a public one, and the Vale club considers it fair to publish the correspondence, in order that everyone interested may free himself. It is also fair to those who patronise and support the Vale club.

THE CORRESPONDENCE
Queen's Park to Vale of Leven

29th October, 1875.

Dear Sir,—Our cup tie is fixed to be played on 6th November, so that I am sorry we shall be unable to pay the visit to the Vale on that date, as arranged.—Yours, etc.,

Thomas Lawrie, Hon. Secretary.

Queen's Park to Vale of Leven

1st November, 1875.

In arranging for our First Eleven, I omitted to say anything of our Second Eleven. Of course this is off. We play our cup tie on our ground next Saturday.

Vale of Leven to Queen's Park

1st November, 1875.

Dear Sir,—I am in receipt of your favour of to-day, and note that you want the Second Eleven match also off. It may not have occurred to you, that, although your ground was occupied, we might have been able to arrange for the match in the Vale. This at least might have been offered, seeing your First Eleven's visit was put off. have now, on behalf of my club, to express my surprise that you should put off the match without in any way offering other open dates on which you would be able to fulfil your engagement. This offering of dates has hitherto been considered as representing a desire to meet the engagement. Am I to consider the absence of any such offer on your part as indicative of your desire not to play the match in the Vale, as agreed upon?—I am, etc.,

J. B. Weight.

Vale of Leven to Queen's Park

8th November, 1875. Dear Sir,—Referring to my last respects to you regarding the match "Queen's Park v. Vale of Leven," I shall be glad to know what you have to say in the matter.—I am, etc.,

J. B. Wright.

Queen's Park to Vale of Leven

23rd November, 1875. Dear Sir,—Replying to your letter under date 1st inst., I am now requested by my committee to state that only on the withdrawal of that letter will they be disposed to entertain a renewal of the engagement with your club. When this is done, they will be glad to arrange a match for the first date that may be found mutually convenient.—I am, etc., Thomas Lawrie.

Vale of Leven to Queen's Park

26th November, 1875. Dear Sir,—I am in receipt of your favour of 23rd inst., and have to express surprise at its contents. I do not know on what grounds you wish me to withdraw my respects of 1st inst., and I shall therefore feel obliged if you will kindly inform me on that point.—i am, etc.. J. B. Wright.

Queen's Park to Vale of Leven

29th November, 1875. Dear Sir,—Your letter of 26th inst. duly received. I beg to refer you to my letter of 23rd inst., to which I await your reply. I decline to enter into any controversial correspondence.—I am, etc.,

Thomas Lawrie.

Vale of Leven to Queen's Park

1st December, 1875. Dear Sir,—I have to acknowledge receipt of your favour of 29th ult. There must surely be some misapprehension on your part regarding my respects of 26th ult. In reply to my letter, you refer me to yours of 23rd ult., which was the very letter that formed the subject of mine, and regarding which I wanted some explanation as to the grounds on which I was asked to withdraw my letter of the 1st ult. You will no doubt see that your reference to your letter of 23rd ult. does not therefore reply to mine of the 26th. As perhaps you are labouring under some misapprehension on the matter, I again address you, in the hope that you will be able to put matters right.—I remain, etc. J. B. Wright.

Queen's Park to Vale of Leven

2nd December, 1875. Dear Sir,--Your letter of yesterday is duly to hand and noted. In reply, I have only to refer you to my letters of 23rd and 29th ult. There is no misapprehension in the matter. If you see no reason to withdraw your letter of 1st ult., I think it quite hopeless to try to convince you of the propriety of doing so, and therefore I again decline to begin a controversy on the subject. I beg you will consider this my last communication on the matter.—Your, etc.,

Thomas Lawrie.

Vale of Leven to Queen's Park

6th December, 1875. Dear Sir,—I have to own the due receipt of yours of. the 2nd inst., and regret you have not given any reason for asking me to withdraw my letter of 1st ultimo. To make such a demand, and refuse when asked to give any reason for it, you might have known, would, with any person of spirit or sense, defeat the very object you have in view. To withdraw any letter whatever, far less the one in question, under such terms would certainly manifest a disposition so utterly craven that, I can sincerely assure you, will not be found in connection with the Vale of Leven Football Club. Now, as a club, we published our engagements, and sold season tickets on the faith of the engagements being fairly carried out. But the Queen's Park match—the most important on our card—has not taken place, and we are bound in honour to show a fair reason why to those who patronise and support us. Unless we hear from you therefore by the 10th inst., and your answer induces us to alter our intention, we will, in justice to ourselves, be reluctantly obliged to publish the correspondence, so that football players, and all interested, may know that through no fault of ours the engagement between the Queen's Park and the Vale of Leven clubs was not fulfilled.— I remain, etc., J. B. Wright.

Queen's Park to Vale of Leven

7th December, 1875. Dear Sir,—Your letter of yesterday's date is received. Unless drawn against you for the cup, my club decline to play you at all. The correspondence has, of course, been private, but you will not probably consider this a sufficient reason for withholding the letters from publication. I have nothing to add to former com-™unications, to which I again refer you.—Yours, etc.,

Thomas Lawrie.

Looking at the matter now, after the lapse of years, and from a wholly neutral aspect, it is clear the Vale were determined to blame the Queen's Park for a failure which the club was unable to avoid, as cup ties necessarily took Precedence over ordinary games. The complainers ought to have recognised this. Had they asked the Queen's Park to endeavour to arrange for a later date, courteously and in the ordinary business way, this would certainly have been done. That two clubs of such standing should have been brought to loggerheads in this way, introduced a feature into the sport which had hitherto been wholly absent. Mr. Lawrie truly remarked, in his letter of 2nd December to Mr, J. B. Wright, honorary secretary of the Vale:

If you see no reason to withdraw your letter of 1st ult, I think it quite hopeless to try to convince you of the propriety of doing so.

The Vale's letter ought never to have been written.

The spark of discontent having been set alight, a great conflagration followed. Mr. Lawrie's refusal to play the Vale "at all" did not, of course, refer to Scottish Cup ties, should it so happen that the clubs be drawn against each other in that competition. It fell out so, however, and they had to meet in the fifth round. In this tie, played on 30th December, 1876, Vale of Leven were successful by two goals to one, the first defeat that had ever been inflicted on the Queen's Park in Scotland, and that too on its own ground at Hampden Park. It was a sore blow, and all the harder to bear when the subsequent proceedings came to be examined. The weather was wretched, rain falling all through the game, and the ground a quagmire. The contest has been described as "a scramble for the cup." The heavy ground told on the Queen's Park team, and it is recorded, the Vale were the fresher in the closing stages of the game. Some members of the home club, walking over the field on the Tuesday following, discovered what looked like spike marks on the turf, that ought not to have been there, as spikes in boots are forbidden to be worn under all rules of football. Naturally, this discovery created a sensation at the time. The Queen's Park, as in duty bound, proceeded to investigate the matter at once. A deputation, consisting of Mr. W. C. Mitchell, the president of the club, accompanied by Mr. A. Hillcoat, honorary secretary, went to Alexandria, where they, along with Mr. W. Copeland Wood, president of the Vale of Leven club, visited the houses of some of the Vale players, examined their playing boots, and discovered no trace of spikes having been used. The newspapers discussed the pros and cons of this mysterious case, not in a helpful way. The Queen's Park felt satisfied they had been tricked out of the game, while the Vale of Leven were indignant that such a charge had been levelled against their players. The Queen's Park committee debated the matter on 20th January, 1877, when Mr. Mitchell tabled a letter he had received from the corresponding official of the Vale of Leven, Mr. W. C. Wood, respecting the statements which had recently appeared in the newspaper prints, and otherwise been circulated through the general public, conveying the imputation that spikes had been worn by their players in their recent cup tie with the Queen's Park. In tabling the letter, Mr. Mitchell explained that, with Mr. Hillcoat, he had unofficially paid a hurried visit to the Vale when the facts connected with the subject first came under his notice, and that he had then been shown boots which certainly bore no trace of having had spikes in them, and which were declared to have been those- played with. A discussion took place as to whether the club should accept the letter at all, seeing it was not addressed to the club, but eventually it was agreed to do so. After a very animated and protracted discussion as to the line of action the club should take in this matter, it was decided that the secretary should write, in reply to Mr. Wood, the simple statement that Mr. Mitchell had reported having seen the boots shown to him by Vale players, and that no trace of their having had spikes in them could be seen, but at the same time expressing the belief entertained by the Queen's Park, that the unmistakable marks discovered on the field shortly after the match, indicated that spikes had been worn by players belonging to one side or the other. Again the Vale of Leven rushed into print, and published the correspondence which took place on the subject, at the same time explaining their own position. The correspondence, which is here also given, speaks for itself. It opens with a long covering letter to the newspapers from Mr. William Copeland Wood, dated 31st January, 1877. It begins: "As a number of base insinuations have been thrown out in the public prints regarding the conduct of the Vale of Leven team in their recent match with the Queen's Park, it has been deemed advisable, in the interests of the former, that an official statement in vindication of the honour of the club, of which I am president, and also of the team, of which I am a member, should be made to the public." After stating that the utmost friendliness exists between football clubs and the Vale, with the exception of the Queen's Park Club, Mr. Wood explains that, at the request of a neutral gentleman, his club at the beginning of the season was willing to play the Queen's Park a match on behalf of a certain charitable institution in Glasgow, and the Queen's Park did not entertain the proposal. Again, when drawn together in the Scottish ties, the Queen's Park requested the Scottish Association to appoint umpires and referee, which virtually meant the Vale of Leven club was unworthy of the privileges in that respect, given to, and held by, every club of the Association, which gave every club the right of appointing its own umpire, except in the final. Now for the sequel of the match. " It seems," Mr. Wood says, "three days after the match holes were discovered in Hampden Park, which, in the imagination of some charitable individuals, at once became spike marks. We now learn from several gentlemen who inspected the holes, that they had the appearance of having been made with umbrellas, or walking sticks, as they varied in size ; some as large as to admit any of the fingers, and others the little finger only. It is very peculiar no bar marks were noticeable. I assert it was an impossibility for marks made by spikes at the match to be seen on Tuesday afternoon, owing to the heavy rains of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. It appears to me more probable these marks were made by malicious persons." Mr. Wood then refers to the visit of Messrs. Mitchell and Hillcoat to Alexandria to examine the players' boots, in which were found no traces of spikes. "It seems, however," be adds, "the Queen's Park, judging by the correspondence between Mr. Mitchell and myself, are not yet satisfied as to our innocence. I can faithfully say that the Vale of Leven team never played with spikes in their boots, knowing as they did the explicit rule on the matter, and run the risk of being disqualified on the spot. Besides, we have a higher opinion of the cuteness of the Queen's Park team. Now, a great many may think this letter is written through spite. Such, however, is not the case. We only want justice, for I consider we have been shamefully used."

The following is the correspondence on the subject, of which a summary only is possible, as it is rather lengthy :—

Mr. Wood to Mr. Mitchell, President, Queen's Park

Alexandria, 9th January, 1877. Dear Sir,—I am requested by our First Eleven to write you, asking if you are satisfied, after the investigations made by Mr. Hillcoat and yourself, that there were no spikes worn by us at the late match with your club. . . . From personal knowledge, I can vouch no spikes whatever were worn by any of us. We have played your club a fair and honourable game, and, in justice to all, we think that an authoritative statement should be publicly made on the matter.—I am, etc., Wm. Copeland Wood,

President, Vale of Leven Football Club.

Mr. Mitchell to Mr. Wood

Glasgow, 11th January, 1877. Dear Sir,—I have received yours of the 9th inst. only this morning. As president of the Association, I would rather not enter into any correspondence on the subject of your letter. As president of the Queen's Park, I shall bring the matter up at our committee meeting on Monday night.—I am, yours respectfully,

W. C. Mitchell.

Glasgow, 16th January, 1877. My Dear Sir,—As I informed you, I had a committee meeting called for Monday night, but as there was not a quorum it had to be adjourned. It seems Mr. Lawrie requires a meeting about the end of this or the beginning of next week, when I shall bring forward the matter referred to in your letter of the 9th.—Very truly yours,

W. C. Mitchell.

Mr. Lawrie to Mr. Wood

Glasgow, 23rd January, 1877. Dear Sir,—Your letter of the 9th inst., addressed to the president of this club, was by him laid before my committee at a meeting held last evening. He explained that, with Mr. Hillcoat, he had run down to the Vale of Leven unofficially, and had then been shown your players' boots, which certainly bore no trace of having had spikes in them. The unmistakable marks, accidentally discovered on Hampden Park after the date of the match, seem, however, to indicate that spikes were worn by players on one side or the other. I need hardly add, we have always adhered to our well-known rule not in any way to notice the anonymous statements in the public papers.—Yours truly,

Thomas Lawrie, Hon. Secretary, Queen's Park Football Club.

Mr. Wood to Mr. Mitchell

Alexandria, 24th January, 1877. Dear Sir,—I am favoured this morning with a letter from your secretary in answer to mine of 9th inst. . . . Your secretary observes "the unmistakable marks accidentally discovered on Hampden Park seem to indicate that spikes were worn on that occasion by players on one side or the other." This reply is not satisfactory. There is an implied insinuation that the boots shown you were not perhaps the boots played with by our team. This I characterise as unfair. If you came down "unofficially," I have to ask you personally to do us the justice of a decided reply, as, after your examination, we consider you are bound in honour to do so. I need scarcely remind you, alter your examination, in reply to a question as to whether you were satisfied or not, you refused to answer, stating you would require first to report to your committee. We still wait your reply, - I am, yours respectfully,

Wm. Copeland Wood.

Mr. Mitchell to Mr. Wood

Glasgow, 26th January, 1877. Dear Sir,—Your letter of 24th received. The matter therein referred to having been dealt with by my committee, I cannot now interfere.— Yours truly, WM, C. Mitchell

Out of evil oft comes good, and so it was in this case. The public were eager to have another meeting between the teams, and the result was the institution of the Glasgow Charity Cup—a trophy the competition for the possession of which has done so much good to the charities of the city. Since its inauguration in 1877 to 1920, 56,065 has been distributed from this source. Efforts were made to bring Queen's Park and Vale of Leven together again in the first Charity Cup ties, but all these efforts failed. The details will be found in the chapter headed, "Queen's Park and the Glasgow Charity Cup."

The Vale of Leven game thus did not materialise, and things remained just as before. It was an unfortunate condition of affairs. It now became a question who would make the first move to restore the old friendship which had existed between the clubs. Influences were at work outside, in Glasgow and at Alexandria, to bring the clubs together again. The season 1876-77 was now ended. What about the new season ? The first overtures came from, the Vale of Leven. At a committee meeting on 2nd December, 1877, Mr. Lawrie read a letter he had received from Mr. Wright, secretary of the Vale of Leven Football Club, requesting a match to be played in Alexandria for the purpose of assisting to defray the cost of a new pavilion recently erected on their ground-However, the Queen's Park even then, after two years' interval, was not disposed to accept the olive branch—if it were such, or simply a transaction for the benefit of the Vale—as the past had not been purged, or regretted. It was decided, in view of the unsatisfactory relationship at present existing between the Queen's Park and the Vale, and also of the publicity usually given by that club to every written communication addressed to them by the Queen's Park, that Messrs. Rae and Taylor be appointed a sub-committee to confer with one or two of the leading members of the Vale of Leven club on the subject, and report. Messrs. Rae and Taylor, a fortnight later, reported that, after having met Messrs. M'Bride and Wylie, of the Vale, on two occasions, the last being on 15th curt. (November), they had succeeded in convincing them that the Vale of Leven club, through its secretary, Mr. Wright, had alone been the cause of the present unsatisfactory relationship existing between the clubs. The only question was how the matter could be arranged without wounding the amour propre of either club. The representatives of the Queen's Park insisted that, as the Vale of Leven club had given the matter unnecessary publicity, any arrangement that might be come to should be as publicly announced. After considerable discussion, and in view of the many circumstances affecting the issue which had arisen since the first rupture, the representatives of both clubs agreed to the following minute, which, in the event of its being sanctioned in toto by both committees, was to be inserted by the Vale of Leven club in the Glasgow newspapers on Monday, 19th November, 1877: "The football public will be glad to learn, that home-and-home matches will probably be arranged before the close of the season between the Vale of Leven and Queen's Park Football Clubs. We understand that the difference existing between these clubs for the past two years, has only now been discovered to have arisen from the neglect of an official of the Vale club to inform his committee of an important verbal communication made by him to a representative of the 'senior club.'"

On the motion of Mr. Charles Campbell, it was unanimously agreed, "That in event of any modification, or alteration, in the memorandum being suggested by the Vale of Leven club, the sub-committee have power to act in the matter as they see fit." The joint memo, was modified to the satisfaction of both clubs, and, as amended, it was published as under in the newspapers :—

QUEEN'S PARK AND VALE OF LEVEN CLUBS

The football public will be glad to learn, that home-and-home matches will probably be arranged before the end of the season between the Vale of Leven and Queen's Park Football Clubs. We understand, that the differences that have existed between these clubs for the past two seasons have only now been discovered to have had their origin in a misapprehension of an official of the Vale of Leven club regarding a verbal communication made by him to a Queen's Park representative. The Vale of Leven official, unfortunately, did not inform his committee of this communication, as he did not at the moment attach importance to it, or consider it official in its nature. The representative of the senior club, however, rightly considering it very important, reported it verbatim: to his committee, and concluded that the same report had been made to the Vale club. Thus the Queen's Park club acted upon a communication, which they fairly thought was known to, and approved by, the Vale of Leven club, and mutual misunderstandings naturally arose. These have now been cleared up to the satisfaction of both clubs, whose members mutually regret the relation they have so long stood in to each other.

One would imagine that, after this trouble, the object of both sides would have been to cultivate a more friendly spirit. Yet, when the arrangements for the new season came to be discussed, a letter from the secretary of the Vale of Leven was placed before the committee on 6th August, 1878, raising an entirely new question. The letter ostensibly referred to arranging home-and-home matches. It contained the proposal that instead of each club retaining the proceeds drawn at their own gate, as is customary, these at each match should be halved, and divided after paying expenses, etc. It was mentioned that the suggestion arose on account of the Vale being in financial difficulties, and seemingly also on the supposition that, as the drawing power is greater in Glasgow than at Alexandria, the Vale would thereby be the gainers. The principle at stake, and " the tinge of professionalism it would tend to introduce," and it not being advisable to establish such a precedent, induced the club to offer the usual home-and-home matches, but that the committee, in the circumstances do not deem it prudent to alter last year's arrangement. However, if at the end of the season the Vale were still in difficulties, then the Queen's Park would be willing to play a third match in Glasgow. Apparently the Vale agreed, but the refusal rankled in their minds, judging by the peculiar action they took at the commencement of the following season, when they put a knife to the throat of the Queen's Park, demanding that Hampden Park be placed at their disposal, free of expense, for the purpose of playing a match there with an English club (Old Etonians played at Hampden Park, 27th December, 1879 ; Vale won by five goals to two), and refusing to arrange the usual home-and-home matches for the ensuing season if the concession were not granted. Truly a most outrageous proceeding. It says much for the calm and logical temperament of the Queen's Park committee that this threat was quietly ignored. While the committee unanimously disapproved of the policy adopted by the Vale of Leven, it was agreed to grant the use of Hampden Park, free of expense, stipulating that members of the Queen's Park should be allowed free admission to the ground and stand, and also that the Vale should be responsible for any damage done to club property. Could forbearance go much further? One thing is here established, that the Vale of Leven at that time were led by men who seemed unable to take the pen in hand without committing the club to a course of procedure which was indefensible, while, on the other hand, nothing seemed to disturb the imperturbability of the leaders of the Queen's Park, whose aim always was to maintain the dignity of the club by courtesy, tact, and consideration for others. The Vale has long since fallen from its high estate. The Queen's Park flourishes, and is still a strong force in football, because its policy has always been based on the above principles. The decadence of the Vale may not have been altogether due to injudicious management. It can be traced more to the introduction of professionalism. After the older players, who had made the name and fame of the club, had lapsed into private life, the new players were induced to abandon the club, and cross the Border, there to make the reputation of English organisations, in exchange for the current coin of the realm. The Vale, at one time a member of the League First Division, no longer considered worthy to remain in the higher ranks of the game, was relegated to the Second Scottish League, now Western League, where it remains to-day, a shadow of its former self. On several occasions it applied to the Queen's Park for financial support, even in comparatively modern times, and this has been ungrudgingly given. The association of the Queen's Park and Vale is a landmark in Scottish history.


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