Brief History

ELGIN City Football Club was formed on August 10, 1893, when Elgin Rovers and Vale of Lossie amalgamated to form the new club and they played their first competitive match on October 7 of that year.A 4-2 victory against Rangers Athletic, another Elgin side, in a North of Scotland Cup first round tie at Association Park heralded their arrival on the north scene, with vice-captain John Christie netting the historic first goal for the new team.Two years later, on July  31,1895, they gained membership of the Highland Football League and marked their debut in September with a 7-2 victory over Inverness outfit Citadel at Milnfield Park, Elgin. Teenager RC (Bob) Hamilton, who was to go on reach ‘Legendary’ status at club and international level, netted four goals.A further three years later the club joined the Scottish Football Asociation and on December 10, 1898, City became the first club outside Inverness to capture the North of Scotland Cup, defeating Clachnacuddin 2-1 at Kingsmills Park in the Highland capital.

Hamilton, by now a Glasgow Rangers player, won the first of his eleven Scotland caps in March 1899 but, over the next ten years, his former club struggled in the Highland League. City actually resigned in 1900, but returned in 1902 after two years in the Banffshire League. They did lift silverware during that lean spell, but it was only the Elgin District Cup (1904, 1906 and 1908). They did, however, become the first Highland League club to qualify for the Scottish Cup in three successive seasons (1908, 1909, 1910)  but, on each occasion, went out in the first round after resounding defeats by Dunblane (3-8), Motherwell (1-6) and St. Mirren (0-8).

At the start of the 1909-10 season a new ground, Station Park, was opened and that campaign saw the club come close to winning a first Highland League title. In a championship play-off against Inverness Thistle, City went down 2-1 in a replay at Mosset Park, Forres, after a 1-1 draw.

While notable success had eluded them on the park up until the start of the First World War in 1915, the club had produced a number of players who moved on to professional clubs in the Scottish and English Leagues. R C Hamiiton (Rangers, Fulham, Morton, Hearts, Dundee) headed the list, which also included James Miller (Rangers, Port Glasgow, Middlesbrough, Bradford City, Aberdeen), James Gray (St. Mirren, Celtic), John MacLachlan (Dundee, Aston Villa), Harry Anderson (Morton, Swindon), Billy Farquhar (Sunderland), Jimmy Low (Hearts) and John Mackenzie (Rangers, Cowdenbeath).

With the resumption of football in 1919, the club found itself without a ground as Station Park had been ploughed up for the war effort and, with only £14 in the bank, were given use of the Cooper Park until a more suitable home could be found. After a two year search, Borough Briggs was opened on August 20, 1921, with a 3-0 win over Citadel in a Highland League fixture marking the occasion.

The 1920s saw an upturn in the club’s fortunes in the Highland League, finishing runners-up in 1922-23 and third in seasons 23-24, 24-25, 25-26 and 28-29. They also qualified for the Scottish Cup on four occasions, with their first ever home tie in the national tourney against St Mirren in 1923 attracting a crowd of over 5,000.

That decade also saw the North of Scotland Cup return to Elgin after a 25 year wait when, in March 1924, Inverness Thistle were defeated 3-2, with goals from skipper George ‘Rocky’ Munro and a brace from 16-year-old Harry Bremner.

The steady progress continued into the next decade and, under the guidance of Bert MacLachlan, City tasted championship success for the first time at the end of the 1931-32 season and three seasons later player-coach Lachie McMillan led the club to their second Highland League title. The Scottish Qualifying Cup was also lifted, in 1935 and 1937, with the the North of Scotland Cup being added in that latter year to make it a double trophy triumph.

When football returned after the Second World War, City earned themselves an unwelcome tag as ‘good losers’, particularly in the 1948-49 season, when they lost out in three major finals - League Cup, Qualifying Cup and North Cup - and a third place league finish.

Highlight of that season, however, was a first round Scottish Cup clash against Rangers at Ibrox, with their share of a 29,000 crowd cushioning the blow of a 6-1 defeat. Four years later and City were back at Ibrox, again losing 6-1, but this time in front of  a whopping attendance of over 36,000.

Highland League title number three was claimed in season 1952-53, followed by a fourth in 1955-56 and back-to-back North Cup wins were recorded in 1955 and 1956…..then came the real glory days.

The 1960s yielded seven Highland League titles, two League Cups, three Scottish Qualifying Cups, four North Cups and a place in Scottish Cup history. City’s swashbuckling runs of the 60s are still spoken about in the Laich o’ Moray.

It all started in 1960, when Forfar were crushed 5-1 to set up a home tie against the mighty Celtic. 11,207 filled Borough Briggs to witness City come within a whisker of eliminating the Glasgow giants, going down 2-1 only after the Celts grabbed two goals in the last six minutes.

The following season, top flight Airdrieonians were held to a thrilling 2-2 draw in front of a 7,800 crowd, with City going down 2-0 in the midweek replay at Broomfield Park in a whole new experience of a floodlit match. It was only the prelude to a glorious chapter in the club’s history, however.

In January, 1967, City unveiled their brand new floodlights with a 2-0 replay win over non-league counterparts Hawick Royal Albert to set up a first round home clash against Ally MacLeod’s First Division Ayr United. A super-charged 9,500 crowd, again under the Borough Briggs floodlights, were rewarded with a memorable 2-0 victory to set up a second round trip to Glasgow and another crack at Celtic.

A crowd of 34,000 watched as City held out for 45 minutes but, in seven minutes of injury time - added for the leg break suffered by Elgin centre-half Tommy Sanderson - Celtic notched three goals before running out 7-0 victors….just three months before going on to become the first British club to be crowned European Champions.

A year on and the Scottish Cup records were about to be rewritten. Preliminary round wins over Albion Rovers and Tarff Rovers, followed by a first round success against Forfar, set up a mouthwatering home second round tie against Arbroath. A record Borough Briggs attendance of 12,650 celebrated a fantastic 2-0 victory to take City into the quarter-finals, the first - and as yet, only - non-league side to reach that stage of the national tourney.

The thousands of City fans who made the trek to Greenock for the historic last eight clash against Morton saw the Black and Whites perform heroically, only going down 2-1at Cappielow to the First Division side.

The 1970s also provided silverware aplenty. League Champions in 1970 and 1974; Scottish Qualifying Cup winners in 1970; North Cup winners in 1971, 1973 and 1976. Scottish Cup runs also continued, with the 1970-71 campaign only ending after a Monday night 5-0 third round defeat at Pittodrie, the 26,000 crowd Aberdeen’s third highest of the season behind the visits of the Old Firm.

The following season,  wins over Stenhousemuir, Burntisland and Caledonian clinched a home tie against Kilmarnock, the 10,500 attendance disappointed after a 4-1 defeat. Wins over Vale of Leithen, Forfar and Stirling Albion in the 1976-77 tourney earned City a third visit to Ibrox, with Rangers this time running out 3-0 victors in front of a poor 18,000 crowd.

City’s cultured midfielder Ian Wilson departed to Leicester City for a £20,000 fee in 1979, but the club’s fortunes went into decline in the 1980s. There were League Cup and double North Cup triumphs, but no titles as teenage goalkeeper Alan Main was snapped up by Dundee United for £8,000. Main, like Wilson, went on to gain international honours.

The 1989-90 season saw a major Elgin revival as former Manchester United player Steve Paterson guided the Black and Whites to a championship, Qualifying Cup and North Cup treble. Paterson’s untimely departure to unheralded Huntly opened the door for flamboyant local lad John Teasdale, a former Wolves striker, to take the reins.

He looked to have confounded his critics by leading City to a stunning 1992-93 championship triumph but, amid huge controversy, the club was stripped of the title in their centenary year.

During that time striker John McGinlay was transferred  to Shrewsbury Town for £25,000 - another player to go on to earn full international status - while tough-tackling midfielder Mike Teasdale moved to Dundee for £32,000. The subsequent barren years were ended in 1997 with a League Cup success, followed by back-to-back North Cup wins in 1997-98 and 98-99.

City’s Highland League days ended in 2000 when they were elected as members of the Scottish Football League, joining the Third Division along with former north rivals Peterhead. The team struggled in their first few seasons of SFL status and, badly hit by a double dose of floods in the Moray area, the club nearly went under because of crippling debts.

A spurious takeover bid in December, 2005, was thwarted by an eleventh hour counter-bid, with the majority shareholding bought by local sponsors Robertson Group keeping the club in the hands of its shareholders and alive and kicking.

Since then the club’s fortunes have fluctuated, but the recently appointed management team of Ross Jack, the former Everton, Norwich, Dundee, Dunfermline and Kilmarnock striker - assisted by ex-Ross County, Southampton, Raith Rovers, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Livingston and Queen of the South winger Barry Wilson - has fuelled hopes of a real promotion challenge and a return to some of the glory days once taken as par for the course at Borough Briggs.

Elgin had their best season since joining the SPFL as they finished fourth in 2011/12 and reached the playoffs, where they lost to Albion Rovers.

Ross Jack departed Elgin in January of 2014 and was replaced by his former assistant Barry Wilson, who had been managing Highland League side Wick Academy.

In November 2014, Barry Wilson resigned as Manager of Elgin City having been in the job for less than a year. A bad run of results saw Elgin sitting bottom of SPFL League 2.

Wilson was replaced by former Arbroath, Montrose and Brechin City manager Jim Weir. In his first game as manager City drew 1-1 with top of the table Arbroath.

By Elgin City Historian Robert Weir (updated by Jason Bochel and Bill McKenzie).


Leave a Reply