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The autumn of 1883 saw an article entitled “Football” published in the local press, calling for the formation of a football club in Berwick to compensate for the lack of winter sports and pastimes in the borough. It gave the merits of both Rugby and Association codes of football but preferred the Rugby game, as it gave a more “manly” exercise.
On New Year’s Day 1884, a football match, played under Association rules, was held at the Cricket Ground, on the Pier Field, which had been granted by the Berwick Cricket Club for the occasion. A team of railway clerks from Newcastle, the North Eastern, met a team from Dunbar, Tynefield, the players of which were connected with the paper mills then in existence at West Barns. In view of the distance involved, the teams decided to meet half way – Berwick.
The goalposts used in the match – or rather the sticks that served as goalposts and the ropes for crossbars – were left for use of any club that might care to start the game. It was not long before there was a severe outbreak of football fever in the borough.
The exhibition of football impressed the large crowd that turned out to watch and, a few days after, a group approached the Vicar of Berwick, Charles Baldwin, for the use of the school on the Parade to hold a meeting with the aim of forming a football club. He readily agreed, and a meeting was duly called.
The meeting, held on Monday 7th January 1884, turned out to be successful. Office bearers and a committee were elected, and twenty-four young men gave their names with many more signifying their intention of joining when a suitable ground was found. Nineteen-year-old Tom Lindsay, a schoolteacher at the National School, who played a prominent part in the club’s early history both on and off the playing field, became the club’s first secretary. At a further meeting held on January 12th, it was announced that the club would be called the Berwick Rangers Football Club (Association) and that the first match would take place on the following Saturday afternoon between two representative sides.
An approach was made to the Berwick Cricket Club for use of their ground for matches, but the newly formed club could not afford the rent. They found difficulty in finding another field on which to play, something that was to be a recurring problem for many years to come. However, local businessman and fish merchant Peter Cowe then stepped in. He offered the use of a stubble field gratis in the neighbourhood of the Greenses Hospital, and from that moment on he became the moving force of Berwick Rangers. Regarded as the father of the club, he played in many of the early games and his association lasted well into his old age.
Although not ideal and a bit undersize, The Greenses (or The Cowe Field) was somewhere to practice and play. Work to clear and level the playing surface started immediately. The goal posts were fir trees brought in from Foulden, about a foot in diameter, and the cross bars were large batons placed on top. Work on the ground was made easier by the fact that a team of Greenses fishermen had also formed a football team, calling themselves the Royal Oaks, and were to share the field with the Rangers.
With two football clubs already formed in the town, a meeting was held in the King’s Arms Hotel on January 18th with the purpose of forming a third club in connection with the Berwick Cricket Club. However, at the meeting it was decided that the club would be called the Berwick Football Club, and would follow the Rugby, not Association, code.
A date was set for the first-ever competitive match – against the Royal Oaks on February 16th. Enthusiasm for the game knew no bounds and the Rangers men thought nothing of practicing from two o’clock in the afternoon until after midnight, on moonlight nights, in preparation.
The match against the Royal Oaks was well-contested throughout and resulted in a win for the Rangers by one goal, and ‘two tries’, to nil – proving that neither side had not been very long acquainted with the rules of the game.
The first club captain was William Bald, who hailed from Inverkeithing, Fife. A stonemason to trade, he was working in the town at the time and was a natural choice for the job as his knowledge of the game was far superior to anyone else in Berwick at the time. He also owned a copy of the rules, albeit a hand written one, and had the unenviable task of trying to instil an inkling of them into the eager and robust Berwickers. Under his leadership, the young Rangers steadily progressed. Football in the early days was rough and ready, and he gave the players wide latitude on the practice pitch.
March / April
Home and away matches were played against the Alnwick Working Men's Club, but Rangers were soundly beaten 3-0 at Alnwick and 2-1 on The Stanks, after well-contested encounter.
There were no “gates” in the early days and travelling expenses had to be met. A well-attended concert was organised and held on the April 7th in the Good Templar Hall in Tweedmouth to raise money for the Berwick Rangers and Royal Oaks football clubs.
By the spring of 1884, football fever had caught the borough. It was announced on April 25th that a football club for Tweedmouth had been formed. It was to be called Tweedside Wanderers Football Club, and they were to play in Mr. Robert Marshall’s field at Tweedmouth Town Farm, known as Marshall’s Field or Meadow Field. The Spittalers soon followed. At a meeting in the National School on May 10th, Seaside Rovers Football Club was formed and given the use of the Sea Cutting by Mr. Robert Winter, of Spittal Hall Farm, on which to play.
The newly formed Tweedmouth Wanderers were anxious to put their weight against their rivals from over the water before the season closed. On May 31st Rangers crossed the Tweed and the battle commenced as the Twempies tried to lower Berwick’s colours. However, it was a clear-cut 3-0 victory for the Rangers in the end despite several upsets, free fights, private fights, and abuse to the referee - something that was to become a feature of borough football!
Saturday 16 February 1884
Berwick Rangers 1-0 Royal Oaks
A Biggs, W Bald, A Lindsay, J Cowe, T Renwick, J Campbell, H Payne, P Cowe, J Aird, W Gilchrist,
T Crombie, J Shaw, G Patterson, T Dickson, G Manuel, H Shaw, W Watson, J Jamieson, D Borthwick,
Saturday 22 March 1884
Alnwick WMC 3-0 Berwick Rangers
G Patterson, H Payne, T Lindsay, W Bald, W Craig, W Gilchrist, J Aird, A Biggs, T Renwick, J Campbell,
Alnwick WMC: Kilner 2, W S Thompson
Tuesday 15 April 1884
Berwick Rangers 1-2 Alnwick WMC
W Bald, H Payne, J Campbell, J Cowe, D Grant, W Stuart, J Aird, A Biggs, T Lindsay, A Lindsay, W Craig
R Glass, W S Thompson, E Pringle, T Thompson, D Connor, J Bickerton, J Kilner, W Appleby, A Taylor,
Saturday 31 May 1884
Tweedside Wanderers 0-3 Berwick Rangers
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|James Aird||3||William Gilchrist||2|
|William Bald||3||David Grant||2|
|Algernon Biggs||3||Andrew Lindsay||2|
|James Campbell||3||Tom Lindsay||2|
|James Cowe||1||George Patterson||1|
|Peter Cowe||1||Henry Payne||3|
|William Craig||2||Tom Renwick||2|
|Andrew Dixon||1||William Stuart||1|
|Number of players used: 16|