You don’t really get very many good days in December, and with a cold east wind blowing in from the east in Kirkcaldy and early darkness, it was hardly all light and sunshine at Stark’s Park this bleak day of December 13 when the mighty Celts, in 1913 probably the most famous team in the world, came to town, arriving off the train to be greeted by a couple of horse drawn brakes to take them along to the ground.
They were accompanied by their support – the Glasgow Irish with their songs and their bugles, and one or two of them, it was noticed without shoes or boots and wearing makeshift stockings of old rags tied with string. But they were happy, singing the old songs about Ireland and their team who were on the crest of a wave, not having lost a goal, let alone a game, since October 7!
This was all due to the mighty men called Shaw, McNair and Dodds. Today it would be slightly different because Joe Dodds would be at left half to cover for an injury to Johnny McMaster while the worthy Tom McGregor would be at left back. More worrying was the news that McMenemy was still out injured – yet was that a worry when the team were doing so well without him?
But today was a dream day for triskaidekaphobes. The number 13 featured constantly. It was the 13th day of December 1913, and it was the 13th game since Celtic last conceded a goal. The team had brought two reserves with them, so that was 13 men. Surely the record must go today! They didn’t look all that worried though as Manager Maley talked happily to everyone when they arrived outside the ground and Captain Sunny Jim Young barked orders about being careful what they were doing with “the hamper” containing strips and boots. And McMenemy was there! He had started training again and, although he was still “tender about the shoulder”, he was hoping to be back next week. Not today though.
Raith Rovers were middle of the table and difficult to beat at home. They had of course been in the Scottish Cup final last April and some thought they were unlucky not to win. They had some good players with a good half back line in James Logan, Willie Porter and Harry Anderson, and a couple of particularly fine forwards in Jimmy Scott and South African Fred Gibson.
The weather was at least dry and a good crowd of 13,000 appeared, at least 2,000 of whom were rooting for the Celts, either having come on one of the many trains from Glasgow or from the local area. They had won nothing last season, but this season they had already beaten Rangers at Ibrox 2-0. Their best player, commonly believed to be the best player in the world, was Patsy Gallacher, the young Irishman, famed for his dribbling, shooting and passing.
The teams were;
Raith Rovers: Wallace, Winning and Morrison; Logan, Porter and Anderson; Rattray, Scott, Martin, Waugh and Gibson
Celtic: Shaw, McNair and McGregor; Young, Johnstone and Dodds; McAtee, Gallacher, Owers, Crone and Browning
Referee: J Stevens, Motherwell
Not surprisingly, the local papers The Fife Free Press and The Dundee Courier tend to criticise the referee for not being strict enough with Sunny Jim Young and Peter Johnstone a Fifer from Glencraig who had lived some of his life in Kirkcaldy. The Scottish Referee, based in Glasgow, is full of praise for Raith Rovers who shocked Celtic when Jimmy Scott “sent home a beauty leaving Shaw helpless” and that was the score until half time when Celtic equalised through a shot from Johnny Browning which seemed to deceive everyone as it trickled into the net with no-one making any great attempt to stop it.
But Celtic in the second half with the benefit of the breeze coming in from the sea and playing towards the Beveridge Park goal, were slightly better trained and that wee bit more solid in defence. The winning goal was spectacular with a charge down the wing from Andy McAtee and a cross, and Ebenezer Owers “running in, caught it with his fiery pow and the sphere rested in the net”. The ginger haired Ebenezer did not have many great moments for Celtic, but this was one of them.
And so the Celtic players and fans departed back to Glasgow, the fans singing the songs of John McCormack about “The Wearing Of The Green”, and talking excitedly about Home Rule. One or two of them lingered for a day or two in Kirkcaldy and went back on Monday afternoon after a brief and penitent appearance at the Sheriff Court on the Monday morning, but the magistrates were usually tolerant and lenient, and quite keen to see them away on the afternoon train!
The Raith fans had reason to be proud of their team. Maley, Celtic’s Manager, courteous and magnanimous as always, conceded that a draw would have been “not unfair” and most newspapers said that it was only Celtic’s superior fitness that won the day. But the supporters were also proud of Jimmy Scott for his wonderful goal. Celtic would not lose another one until the end of February!
It was as well that no-one knew what was coming. No-one could have known that by July 1916 Jimmy Scott the scorer of that great goal would meet his death at the Somme, nor that Peter Johnstone of Celtic would perish at Arras little more than a year later. His widow lived in Rose Street, Kirkcaldy for many years after that.
Born in 1948, David Potter first saw Celtic at Dens Park, Dundee in March 29. It was a 3-5 defeat, which equipped him admirably for the horrors of the early 1960’s. He had “followed” Celtic for a few years before that and recalls having been called upon to impersonate Jock Stein and receive the family silver teapot which had to do for the Scottish Cup as it was presented on April 24 1954, after he and his father had spent a nerve wracking afternoon listening to the radio! Since then, he has “followed” every Celtic game with bated breath, and has written extensively about the club in magazines and books. His favorite team was that of 1969 (which he rates marginally better than 1967) and his favorite player was Henrik Larsson.
His ambition for Celtic is for them to keep on winning silver in Scotland and to be something in Europe once again. His other interests are cricket and drama. He is 70, a retired teacher of Classical Languages, married with three children and five grandchildren. He now travels on the Joseph Rafferty bus from Kirkcaldy. He also loves Forfar Athletic.