Clubs poignan t tribute to players who fell in the war

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Alexander Johnston. Andrew McCrae. James Laing. James Sharp. Harry Taylor. John Ramsay. James Conlin.

These are the men who played for Falkirk and fell during the Great War and who will be remembered by Falkirk fans on Saturday. The special commemorative day at The Falkirk Stadium, televised live on BBC Alba, will mark a century since the gathering of McCrae’s battalion.

Fittingly, the day’s opponents are Hearts – just as it was 100 years ago tomorrow – and the club which made up the vast bulk of the squadron known as the ‘sporting battalion’. But Falkirk, Hibernian, Dunfermline and Raith Rovers were also heavily represented in 16th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Scots too.

As well as those listed above, fighting with other regiments, Falkirk enlisted six players to McCrae’s battalion; Michael Gibbons, Alexander Henderson, Andrew Henderson, John Morrison, Frank Reilly, Robert Wood, and many more from the town and surrounding areas served and were detailed in last week’s edition of The Falkirk Herald.

McCrae’s was a newly formed regiment, encouraged by Lord Kitchener and Hearts – who were the league leaders at the time, and now enlisted 16 players. Supporters were encouraged to follow their example and that set by many other players from Scottish football clubs – including Falkirk.

Their sacrifice is commemorated in the French town of Contalmaison with names on a memorial cairn, and also remembered by a plaque at Haymarket junction in Edinburgh. It is here each year the act of Remembrance takes place and Falkirk FC are present.

This year, as with many previously, the club was represented by Michael White, the club’s historian.

He told The Falkirk Herald: “Gibby Peddie and myself attended this year, as well as Martin Ritchie. As we have done in the past we laid a wreath on behalf of Falkirk football club and there was what appeared to be a record attendance this year.

“The event showed how the football family can come together and the shared sense of loss and grief bonded between clubs.

“It’s quite moving to see the cover of the programme from Sunday – it included an image of the first service and there were hardly any people. It’s important we mark these occasions and sacrifices made. The senior bairns have been to Contalmaison, six times.”

Prior to the match there will be charity collections with proceeds funding the McCrae’s Battalion Trust and Erskine hospital for ex-service personnel.

Falkirk have also drafted in a pipe band for the occasion and players will wear a special one-off strip embroidered with a poppy.

More at www.falkirk-football-history.co.uk and www.mccraesbattaliontrust.org.uk.