Shire’s former home now a footballing relic

Fans take to the streets to welcome Shire home in August 1965. Picture courtesy of Bill Miller Photography.
Fans take to the streets to welcome Shire home in August 1965. Picture courtesy of Bill Miller Photography.

Firs Park now lies empty, a vast expanse of mud.

The stand which once stood and housed the operations of East Stirlingshire Football Club has been bulldozed as the saga over permission to build on the site rumbles on.

A proposal for homes was put out for public view 18 months ago, but a site which played an integral part of the local sporting scene for more than 80 years has now served its time as a football ground.

The Shire moved to Firs Park from Merchiston Park when the nearby foundry expanded in the 1920s, and was officially opened with a glamour friendly against Hearts on August 16, 1921.

It cost the club a significant amount to make the switch and lease the land that now lies dormant behind the Central Retail Park, even though volunteers mucked in to prepare the ground gratis. The club paid off a lot of this debt with a grand bazaar which raised £715.

However its service as a football ground was not uninteruppted. In 1964 the Shire - very contentiously - left the ground and decanted to Clydebank for a season under a merger with the Kilbowie-based junior club.

They returned a year later, after the decision was appealled to the Court of Session by Jimmy Middlemass and Robert Turpie, and the town welcomed them back when thousands lined the streets for a match with Alloa in August 18, 1965.

Firs Park was packed with 3,000 supporters that day who saw Davie McGregor round off the celebrated return with a winning goal five minutes from time.

Television cameras for Scotsport also made a debut at the Shire’s home, Scotsport recorded St Johnstone’s 1-1 draw in front of 8,000 fans.

However, in 2008 the Shire left Firs Park for the final time. A sad day, only brightened by a vital victory over Montrose that lifted the club into ninth in the Third Division on the last day of the season, however they switched to Ochilvioew, where they now share with Stenhousemuir.

As a football stadium, Firs Park fell into disrepair, vandals took over and last year, eventually the site was flattened by bulldozers in preparation for its next incarnation. Meanwhile, the Shire look for a permanent home, operating from a shop in Bainsford Main Street, not far from where the club was born as Bainsford Britannia in 1880.