THE MYSTERY TEAM
"Any ideas guys? I have no idea of history of this photo or how I obtained it. Only clue is the D'Arcy Grafton Street on the mount and the shirt badges (although the badges are hard to see clearly) ”
So read the message posted on social media by @abacus_2000. Michael's profile states he is a football memorabilia collector, based in Northern Ireland, doing stadium tours for Linfield FC and, from the tone of the message completely stumped. Us football historians, being equally curious and kind, took on the challenge and, eventually, solved the mystery. This is the story of this team of players, who they played in Dublin and the football lived they enjoyed. It is as much a story of the hidden inter-connectivity of lives as it is a small part in the history of football on these islands.
Clue No. 1: The Photographer
Our first clue is that the writer mentions the name of the photographer: D'Arcy, and his street address: Grafton Street, Dublin. This places the photograph in the Dublin metropolitan area: it would be unlikely that the photographer would travel far (Belfast, for example) in the course of his work, a local photographer would be used. By referring to the list of commercial photographers we could find that there was a photographer of that name operating out of a Grafton Street premises in Dublin. He was Frank P. D'Arcy whose studio was located at 90 Grafton Street from 1898 to 1906 before moving to 64 Dawson Street from 1906 until 1912. This was a high-profile address on Dublin's swankiest streets - the dates D'Arcy operated from there, gives us our second clue - the date-range: 1898 to 1906.
1898-1906, but when?
Association football in Dublin had, by this time period grown rapidly since the first teams were formed in 1883. By the time this team posed for the photograph, twenty or so years later, there were an estimated eighty or more teams playing the games weekly during the football league season. In the Leinster Senior League the main civilian teams in this period were Bohemian FC, Freebooters FC, Shelbourne FC, Tritonville FC, Richmond Rovers FC with military teams representing the various regiments stationed in Dublin or Leinster. There was also a Junior League and an Intermediate League and a number of football cups and contests for works teams - teams representing a particular employer or factory. And there were also inter-provincial games, friendly games and charity games featuring combinations of players from various teams.
Coupled with the vast number of teams over an seven-year period and the dearth of exact information about the club or team colours, in theory the task looked daunting. But let's go back to the photograph again. What clues were to be mined?
Clue No. 2: De-Coding
The socks. The crest. The colours. The mustaches. The bicycles. The ball. The wall. Having examined many team photographs from this era there are a few features in this photography that stick out. Why are the socks non-uniform? Why do some shirts have a crest but not others? Why does the goalkeeper seem to have a different crest? The 1897 Corinthians FC team photograph sees a high degree of uniformity. Yet, the players and the uniform is similar. Why would this team not adhere to the uniformity? Perhaps this is a combined team from different clubs and they wore what was available to them - white shirts, some with a crest and dark shorts. Perhaps the goalie is wearing his club jersey. Lets look at the crest. It resembles a St. George's cross, but it is unclear if the cross is red or grey or some other colour. The goalkeeper's crest is all together a mire elaborate affair - and very different. The ball seems to have the word 'international' printed on it. Is this a brand? Or does it indicate it is an international match?
The colours are reminiscent of the famous Gentlemen amateur clubs - Corinthians FC and Casuals FC - both of whom wore white shirts, dark socks and shorts. However, it is neither of these - they did play any games in Ireland in that period of time. The mustaches (and they are fine examples) combined with seven clean-shaven players is common in that period where the Victorian-era manly beard or mustache was in vogue a long side the fresher-faced image we see at this time.
They were - yes, distinguished looking, well-fed and in good physical shape - signs of a good upbringing. And they must be noteworthy and worthy of photographing for history and posterity. But who were they?
And then we got a bit of luck.
A Lucky Break
Every detective needs some luck in solving a crime. And luck came. It was known that the Freebooters FC, an amateur club of Irish Catholic gentlemen wore white shirts with green shorts. Could this be them? Rummaging through the archives an unusual game - not featuring the Freebooters but some of their players caught our attention. The names of the teams in various reports were sketchy and contradictory but a lot of the details were adding up. An English team. Playing in Dublin. Some famous players. The Irish opposition players were of international standard. 1899. Amateurs. Gentlemen. And there it was - the clincher - 'colours, white shirts, blue knickers'.
But who were they? Ah - this is where it gets a little complicated.
Arthur Royston Bourke's XI
Dublin had not hosted an English team since the earliest days of association football in 1884 when a Trinity College team welcomed the Cambridge University team some 15 years earlier. When it was announced on March 1st, 1899, following Leinster Football Association meeting that a grant of £30 was to be set aside to bring over a team from England, our visitors were heralded as Mr Royston-Bourke's XI to be called 'London Wanderers'. Other reports list the team as South of England XI.
Arthur Royston Bourke was a London Football Association member and founder of the Referees’ Association in England in March 1893 and, as well as being an administrator and referee was, unusually, a man who assembled amateur teams for challenge matches. London Wanders it seems was a nom-de-guerre - a London Wanderers team, with entirely different personnel, toured the Nederlands the following month. Nor does London Wanders refer to an earlier London team Wanderers FC who were five times winners of the FA Cup in the 1870s.
Whatever the name of the team, reports indicate that the visit was much anticipated so that followers of the association game in Dublin could become acquainted with cross-channel play.
The Game Itself
The opposition for our London Wanderers was alternatively recorded as a 'representative' Leinster XI , 'Co. Dublin' and as a 'Dublin' team in contemporary match reports. The game itself was played at the Catholic University Grounds in Sandymount on March 18th in front of, (depending on the accuracy of different reports) either 3000 or 5000 spectators. The London Wanderers scored two goals in the first half, being pegged back each time for a 2-2 scoreline at half-time. That was as good as it got for the visitors as the Leinstermen pushed on to secure a 5-2 victory 'to the satisfaction of the large crowd'.
The Leinster or Dublin XI Team
While the London Wanderers pedigree was much lauded in the press the Leinster team contained three Irish internationals in their line-up. The match was played in the middle of that year's Home Nations internationals and Phillip Meldon (Freebooters FC) had scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory for Ireland against Wales just two weeks earlier. He was to score a brace against the visitors. Dr George Faber Sheehan (Bohemian FC) (and Meldon) were to start in 1-9 defeat away to Scotland one week later. The Leinster centre-forward that day was Harry O'Reilly (Freebooters FC) who was to become an Irish International in 1901. In goal, the Leinster team named ex-Corinthian FC, Sligo-native Willie Campbell who had considerable cross-channel experience winning the Charity Shield versus Aston Villa FC with the Corinthians FC. He had also toured with the Corinthians in 1896-197 in South Africa. Joseph Ledwidge was to be capped three times some seven years later. The two Finney brothers and Simon Scroope (Freebooters FC and ex-Bohemian FC) were already Leinster interprovincial players (both Freebooters FC). Other players were:
The London Wanders Team
Stanley Briggs was born in Hackney, yet a pupil of Grove High School in Folkestone, Stanley Briggs played his intial football with Folkestone before he moved to Hermitage FC in 1890. He then moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 1892. By the age of 20 he was already considered one of the leading Amateur players in England. His ability was widely appreciated and his skills were constantly in demand by other clubs. Being an Amateur, Briggs could take advantage of this and, in 1893, he signed for Woolwich Arsenal but only stayed for 2 games before returning to Tottenham.
During his playing days Briggs was well known in and around London and also played for Corinthians, Friars, London Caledonians, Shepherds Bush, Millwall Athletic, Richmond, Upton Park and of course, Clapton.
A change in the direction football was taking at the time ended Briggs’ association with Tottenham. When, in December 1895, Tottenham held a meeting to discuss moving to the paid, professional ranks of the game, Briggs refused to even attend the meeting. Preferring to remain Amateur, at the end of that season he left the club and signed with Clapton.
Postcard of Stanley Briggs (Clapton). approx 1900
Briggs had been chosen to play for the South against the North in an International trial match, and had gone with the FA XI on a foreign of Bohemia and Germany in 1899. Many considered this an unofficial England tour.
In 1906, as a member of the Shepherds Bush club, he sought election as Division 9 representative on the Football Association Council. He never got the chance to win a cap at the very highest level because he refused to accept the professional game.
By preferring to remain an amateur, Stanley Briggs really was a man of true principal.
Following his retirement from football he was the Hotel manager of the General Havelock Hotel on High Street Ilford. The building still stands today and is known as “The General”. He later managed the Brook Green Hotel in Hammersmith before migrating to Canada.
Stanley Briggs died in 1931 and is buried at Shell Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada. His grandson, Dr. Stanley Briggs III lives in Saskatchewan and is in regular correspondence with the real Clapton FC
Thomas Tindal Fitchie was born in Edinburgh in December 1881. He was a commercial traveller dealing in sports goods and remained an amateur throughout his football career. He signed for Woolwich Arsenal at the age of 19 but, being an amateur, could guest for other clubs and also featured for the likes of Tottenham, Fulham, Brighton and Norwich. Tom Fitchie played for Queen’s Park in Scottish Cup ties in seasons 1904/05 and 1905/06 and the Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup Final in May 1906, although primarily an Arsenal player at that point.
He then played for Queen’s Park throughout seasons 1906/07 and 1907/08 before returning to Arsenal in September 1908. During his period at Hampden, he was regarded as one of the country’s top players. Despite his return to England, he remained a member of Queen’s Park. In 1909, Tom travelled to America with the English touring side The Pilgrims with ex-Bohemian FC player Elmer Cotton in the ranks.
He got married in 1912 and this marked the end of his time as a footballer. Tom was capped four times for Scotland, one of these as a Queen’s Park player against Wales in March 1907. He scored the only goal of the game in Scotland’s defeat of Ireland in March 1906 in a match were he was reunited with Joe Ledwidge who played on the Irish side that day.
Wilfred Hugh Waller (born 27 July 1877) was a South African amateur football goalkeeper who played for various British clubs around the turn of the 20th century, including a period with Bolton Wanderers where he became the first South African player to appear in the Football League. He also played for Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton and Watford in the Southern League.
Waller was born in South Africa and in 1899 was on a tour of England with a club from his home country. He remained in England and was invited on a tour of Germany as a member of a British "FA XI" which played four matches in five days at the end of November.
After a brief spell with Tottenham Hotspur, Waller joined Bolton Wanderers of the Football League Second Division in 1900, thus becoming their first foreign player and the first player from South Africa to play in the Football League. Waller made one appearance for Bolton in the 1899–1900 season at the end of which they were promoted to the First Division.
In the following season, Waller made a further five league appearances for Bolton. Being an amateur player, he was also able to play for other clubs at the same time, and in the 1900–01 season he played for Queens Park in Scotland and twice for Southampton in the Southern League.
His first appearance for Southampton came in the opening match of the season as the "Saints" regular goalkeeper, the England international Jack Robinson, was serving a one-match suspension. In the match on 1 September 1900, Southampton defeated Luton Town 4–3 but Robinson returned for the following match. By December, when Robinson was again suspended, Harry Moger was now the second choice 'keeper, but Waller was invited to play in the return match against Luton Town at The Dell on 17 December. Southampton won the match 5–0 (with a hat-trick from Alf Milward) on their way to taking the Southern League title for the fourth year out of five.
After spells with Watford and Aylesbury United, Waller returned to South Africa with his family in April 1903
Other players were
The Football Stadium