Kilmarnock in History: Our rivals are born

Welcome to the ninth installment of our Kilmarnock In History series, by club historian John Livingston.

You can find the previous eight parts through the Club History tab in the News section

PART NINE                                                                                                                    

The held-over 1908-09 Ayrshire League play-off Final between Kilmarnock and Ayr F.C. was held at Rugby Park on Monday 23rd August 1909, and ended in a 2-2 draw. The replay at Somerset Park, some 23 days later, saw Kilmarnock win 4-2 to become the 1908-09 Ayrshire League Champions.

The introduction of the goalkeeper wearing a different jersey from the rest of his team-mates was introduced in Scotland during this 1909-10 season, whilst among the new players at Rugby Park was a tall elegant 18-year-old Galston-born inside forward by the name of Andy Cunningham, who had been signed from Newmilns.

He quickly struck up a great understanding with Bobby Templeton, and despite an indifferent start to the campaign, his prowess in front of goal saw him score 18 goals – which was then a record total by a Kilmarnock player in a Division 1 campaign.

Bobby Templeton played for the Scottish League at Firhill.

A trio of Kilmarnock players were honoured during the campaign at both Scottish League and full International levels. On 25th October 1909, Bobby Templeton was in the Scottish League team that beat the Irish League 2-0 at Firhill Park. In late February 1910, Templeton and Kilmarnock team mate George Halley were in the Scottish League side that beat the Football League 3-2 at Ewood Park, Blackburn, with Templeton scoring a goal.

A week later, on 5th March, Rugby Park was the venue for the Home International Championship game against Wales, which Scotland won 1-0 before a crowd of 18,411.

Kilmarnock full back James Mitchell was in the Scotland team, and received great reviews for his outstanding display against the Welsh wing wizard, Billy Meredith. A fortnight later, both Mitchell and Templeton were in the Scotland team that lost 1-0 to Ireland at Windsor Park.

In the Ayrshire League competition, Kilmarnock and Ayr F.C. again finished in the top two places, and would contest the Final at the start of the following season.  The 1909-10 Scottish League Division 1 season ended with Kilmarnock in 11th place with 32 points from 34 games.

Ayr United FC were formed in the summer of 1910.

During the summer of 1910, the Scottish League Division 2 clubs Ayr F.C. (formed in 1879) and Ayr Parkhouse (formed 1886), who had just finished in 7th and bottom place respectively, agreed after protracted discussions, to merge and become known as Ayr United F.C. The merger was expected to create a team from the town of Ayr that would be good enough to play Division 1 football on a regular basis and challenge Kilmarnock as the leading team from Ayrshire in the Scottish game.

On 14th September 1910 at Somerset Park, a hat-trick by David Howie helped Kilmarnock draw 4-4 with Ayr F.C. (who were really the newly formed Ayr United F.C), in the held over 1909-10 Ayrshire League Final. Due to fixture congestion, the replay at Rugby Park did not take place until Boxing Day, Kilmarnock winning 4-1 to be declared the 1909-10 Ayrshire League Champions.

In the last two weeks of October 1910, a couple of Kilmarnock players won representative honours. Firstly, Bobby Templeton was in the Scottish League team that lost 1-0 to the Southern League at New Cross, Millwall, and a week later on Hallowe’en, James Mitchell was in the Scottish League team that beat the Irish League 3-1 at Grosvenor Park, Belfast.

The popular Gatehead-born full back James Mitchell was deservedly rewarded for his sterling service to the club on 3rd January 1911, when a crowd of around 8,000 turned out for his Benefit game against Third Lanark, only 1,000 less than the attendance at the home League fixture with St. Mirren the previous day.

Kilmarnock finished the Division 1 season in a creditable 10th place with 34 points from 34 games played. The 1910-11 Ayrshire League competition was held in the month of April between Galston, Kilmarnock and the newly formed Ayr United. Kilmarnock and Ayr United finished in the top couple of places, but in the Final at Somerset Park in late April, Ayr United won 1-0.

Unfortunately, the Scottish League campaign in 1911-12 turned out to be a major disappointment, with re-election being avoided in the closing stages, as they finished 16th with 26 points from 34 games.

During the campaign, an unusual occurrence took place before the start of the game at Aberdeen on the 30th September. Keeper David Smart was knocked out in the warm-up, and had to be replaced for the entire game by inside left Mattha’ Shortt, whose position in the forward line was taken by travelling reserve James Clark.

It all ended well, as Mattha’ played a blinder in goal, and Killie won 2-1.  A new centre forward played in the last four league games, and despite failing to score in any of the games, showed great promise for the future. His name was William Culley.

Willie Culley

The Scottish Cup Quarter-Finals were reached in 1912, but despite attracting a new record crowd to Rugby Park of 19,564, Kilmarnock suffered an embarrassing 6-1 defeat to Clyde, although they had to play most of the second half with 10 players after full back David Kirkwood went off injured.

In February, Andy Cunningham’s fine form earned him recognition by the Scottish League, when he played against the Football League at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough, whilst the following month, Bobby Templeton was in the Scotland team that beat Ireland 4-1 at Windsor Park, Belfast.

Just seven days later, the winger was also in the Scotland team that drew 1-1 with England at Hampden Park. An 11th place finish with 31 points from 34 games played was achieved in the 1912-13 Division 1 season, with Andy Cunningham finishing as top goal-scorer for the 4th successive season.

Bobby Templeton was in the Scotland team that drew 0-0 against Wales at Wrexham, and it turned out to be his last cap won with Kilmarnock, as he was sold at the end of the season to Fulham for £50.

The club also took part in a competition during the 1912-13 campaign known as the Glasgow and District Midweek League, playing a total of 5 games, all away from home, against Third Lanark (3-5), Clyde (0-1), Partick Thistle (3-1), St. Mirren (3-1) and Morton (1-1).  

The Scottish League increased Division 1 from 18 to 20 clubs for the 1913-14 campaign, and Kilmarnock ended it in 12th place with 31 points from 38 games. Andy Cunningham represented the Scottish League in November 1913 in a 2-1 win over the Irish League in Belfast, but by the end of the season, after four successive campaigns as top scorer, he relinquished the title to Andrew Neil (12 goals).

Another notable feature in a quiet season was that the club had to play their home game on 18th April against Morton at Cappielow Park, as the Ayrshire Agricultural Society had already booked Rugby Park for its annual show. Killie lost the “home” game in Greenock by 1-0. The Kilmarnock Charity Cup was revived after 12 years, and Kilmarnock won it, beating Galston by 7-3 on corner kicks after the Final had ended in a 1-1 draw.

Some major building work began not long after that game at Rugby Park to lengthen the main stand, incorporating the pavilion, to create a longer, more impressive covered seating and standing enclosure on the west side of the stadium.