Retracing the steps of 1913 legends

Russel Croal alongside a picture of his great-great uncle Jimmy Croal, one of Falkirk's 1913 Scottish Cup-winning side.
Russel Croal alongside a picture of his great-great uncle Jimmy Croal, one of Falkirk's 1913 Scottish Cup-winning side.

In the first of a new series, The Falkirk Herald charts the progress of the Bairns’ first Scottish Cup-winning side.

Their names are immortal in the history of Falkirk Football Club - half of a very select group.

Only two teams of Bairns have lifted the oldest football trophy in the world, and the first to do it kicked off 
their pioneering run to Celtic Park 100 years ago this week.

The Falkirk Herald, of course, was there, and to mark the centenary of the 1913 Scottish Cup success we will re-visit the team on the corresponding weeks as they negotiated Morton, Dumbarton, Rangers, Hearts and Raith Rovers.

Falkirk were led by William ‘Daddy’ Nicol, and, five years before their cup triumph, had become the first side in Scotland to score more than 100 goals in a single season.

And it was their attacking prowess that would help them take the trophy to Brockville.

It has only returned once since 1913 – in 1957, where footage of the game remains on YouTube, providing a link with the past.

But only newspaper cuttings, Michael White’s books and family fables provide the link to the cup-winning heroes of 100 years ago.

Even Brockville, which once housed the trophy, has gone, though the link to the past exists in the new stadium with a team photo outside the learning centre at Westfield.

But there’s another living link to the cup-winning team, one that visits the stadium every Saturday.

Russell Croal, editor and cameraman for FalkirkTV, is the great-great-nephew of one of the Bairns greats – Scotland cap Jimmy Croal.

“Most of the information we have on Jimmy revolves around the role he played in the 1912-13 cup-winning season,” explained Russell (20).

“He played in each round and scored the winning goal of the semi-final victory against Hearts, before being carried off unconscious after taking a boot to the head.”

Russell’s grown up hearing about the footballer in the family, who also worked as a teacher, but he is restricted to the Internet and old papers for information. He does, however, have a few family heirlooms in his possession.

“With no living connection, all that remains are a few tales, his three Scotland caps and a shirt from the Scotland v England match in 1914.

“When you see it, you wonder how they ever managed to play in such heavy kit.

“Unfortunately, the football ability hasn’t been passed down through the generations and working for Falkirk 
TV was always as close 
as I was ever going to get to pulling on the navy blue,” joked the accountancy student.

“Signing for the club from Dunfermline is something which we tend to gloss over too – instead focusing on his time with Falkirk and Chelsea. His story is, though, legendary within the family.”

Legend status could be bestowed on each of the 12 who earned the cup 100 years ago, and the pupils of Mr Croal agreed, when he was given a hero’s welcome in the classroom on the Monday after the cup triumph.