60 years on: Falkirk Bairns’ Battle of Brockville against Celtic

Ian Rae (third right back row) and Bobby Morrsion (second left, front row), who played in the Battle of Brockville match, are pictured in this old Falkirk team photo
Ian Rae (third right back row) and Bobby Morrsion (second left, front row), who played in the Battle of Brockville match, are pictured in this old Falkirk team photo

I’ve been helping out at the excellent Scottish Football Exhibition in the Howgate over the past week or so and it’s been great to hear all the anecdotes from Bairns fans of the same vintage as me.

Old Brockville still holds fond memories for those who packed the terraces in the 1940s, ‘50s and beyond, and packed is the word!

Brockville stadium, date unknown

Brockville stadium, date unknown

The number attending the old First Division matches was incredible compared to today’s all seated stadiums where a few thousand is considered a good gate. I can remember 15,000 and more standing at the Hope Street and Watson Street ends or the covered enclosure, shoulder to shoulder swaying back and forward as the fortunes of the boys in navy blue fluctuated on the field.

My first heroes were in the early 1950s with guys like Bobby Morrison, Angus Plumb, Jimmy Delaney, Alex McCrae and ‘Javo’ Davidson sliding about in the mud, crunching into tackles and heading a leather football that weighed about half a ton when well soaked.

I saw many great matches in those days but one stands out from all the rest for sheer drama and excitement.

Coincidentally, it took place exactly 60 years ago on September 3, 1955 and the mighty Celtic were the visitors for a League Cup tie.

Around 17,000 fans were in attendance which disappointed the club who were expecting to sell the full allocation of 23,000 tickets.

It was a brutal affair, both on and off the pitch, and it was quickly dubbed the ‘Battle of Brockville’ – and with good reason. After a relatively quiet start Falkirk went ahead through a scrambled goal from Bobby Morrison. Cue the first fist fights on the terracing and intervention by the local polis.

Then the Falkirk goalie Hamilton was felled by a bottle thrown from the Celtic supporters and this led to more fighting with fans spilling on to the pitch, stopping the game. Worse was to follow when Falkirk’s Ian Rae clashed with Celtic’s brilliant but mischievous Irishman Charlie Tully.

As I remember it Tully made a theatrical bow to the angry Falkirk fans in the stand, at which point Rae jumped up and kicked him on the backside. Rae was sent off and was joined not long after by goalscorer Bobby Morrison who was carried off after a heavy tackle. The gallant Bairns reached half-time with nine men and a one goal advantage.

Morrison hobbled on for a while in the second half – no subs in those days – but had to leave the field again. The nine men held out until the 68th minute when Neil Mochan, a local lad, scored the equaliser. The Bairns rallied and there were more fights, many more bottles, another crowd invasion and a further stoppage. We thought the worst was over when the police cleared the pitch but then Falkirk’s Jimmy McIntosh was hit by a flying tumbler behind the ear.

With blood flowing from the cut Falkirk manager Bob Shankley called his players from the field. Eventually play resumed and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

The press slammed the guilty Celtic fans but the supporters claimed they had all been condemned for the actions of a few.

They called for a boycott of the team’s next game at Brockville which by chance was a league match the following week. Falkirk won that game 3-1 but I was not allowed to go for fear of further trouble.

The Battle of Brockville was a ‘disgrace’ according to the football world, but for a wide-eyed 12-year-old boy it was two hours of pure magic!