In 1880, cricket club Bainsford Bluebonnets founded a football team called Bainsford Britannia. In November the following year the football team changed its name and East Stirlingshire Football Club was born.
The club was a force to be reckoned with towards the end of the 19th century. In reaching the quarter-finals of the 1888-89 Scottish Cup, The Shire crushed Stenhousemuir 10-1 and Vale of Bannock 11-2. That 11-2 win is a club record, but The Shire’s cup dream was shattered by a bunch of upstarts from the east end of Glasgow called Celtic, who beat them 2-1.
Two years later the goals were flying in again and The Shire were back in the last eight of the Scottish Cup. They trounced Grangemouth 8-2 and knocked out Camelon 10-6 in a replay after an initial 3-3 draw. Hearts, the eventual winners, ended the run with a 3-1 victory and it was to be 90 years before The Shire progressed as far again.
Wales international Humphrey Jones was one of the club’s first heroes. He won 14 caps between 1885 and 1891 – five of them against England and Northern Ireland in 1889 and England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in 1890 – while he was a player with The Shire.
The club’s pulling power peaked on 19th February 1921, when a record home gate of 12,000 watched a third round Scottish Cup tie against Partick Thistle. Sadly for The Shire, The Jags won 2-1 on the day before going on to lift the cup with a 1-0 win over Rangers.
In 1931-32 East Stirlingshire won what many consider its only senior honour, the Division Two Championship. St Johnstone matched The Shire’s points total of 55 from 38 games, but 111 goals scored meant The Shire had the better goal difference by six. The joy was short-lived however as the following season saw the club relegated after finishing bottom in Division One with just 17 points.
An unwanted record fell on 13th April 1936 when the club suffered its heaviest defeat, losing 12-1 to Dundee United in a Division Two match at Tannadice Park. However, a more positive record was set by Malcolm Morrison in the 1938-39 season when he became the club’s highest league scorer in one season with 36 goals.
In 1947-48, East Stirlingshire won the Scottish League Division ‘C’ at a canter, with 18 victories from 22 league games. But the 12-team division consisted mainly of reserve sides and as a result the title does not rank with the 1931-32 success. The Shire next won promotion as Division Two runners-up to St Johnstone in 1962-63, but as in the 1930s the club’s flirtation with the top flight was brief and relegation followed in 1963-64.
East Stirlingshire then disappeared for a season in 1964-65. Against the fans’ wishes, the club merged with Clydebank Juniors to create ES Clydebank. The new club played at Kilbowie Park that season before East Stirlingshire regained its identity and independence after a court case brought by the club’s shareholders. Both clubs reverted to their original names the following season and The Shire returned to Falkirk. Clydebank returned to junior football before later securing a place in Division Two in 1966-67.
Incredibly, it was 1966 before The Shire appointed its first manager. The board of directors had chosen the team until handing the reigns to Lawrence Binnie.