Perhaps that medal is still in existence. I would dearly love to find it, a tangible link to a footballer from Dunblane who is a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
The story of Willie McFarlane is fascinating. Born around 1885 in Dunblane, one of six children, his father was a builder and the family lived in Strathallan House, on the Doune Road. The young man trained as a joiner but was also a talented outside left. Starting out with his local side, he was part of a successful Dunblane team in 1905-06 that won the Perthshire Cup, thumping St Johnstone 7-2 in the final, and also reached the Scottish Cup first round and the final of the Dewar Shield.
In the summer he joined Saints, where his performances soon attracted wider attention, with Blackburn Rovers asking the Perth team to name their fee, before William Wilton of Rangers stepped in with a successful offer of £90 in February 1907. The Dundee Courier gushed about his abilities: 'He is possessed of exceptional speed, is full of tricks, and his crosses to the goalmouth are features of his play.' Rangers gave McFarlane a £35 signing fee, plus terms of £3 10s a week, and a job as a plumber.
Yet somehow it never worked out in Glasgow. McFarlane played only one match for Rangers, a defeat to Falkirk, and that summer moved on to Third Lanark. In a season at Cathkin he featured in just eight league matches, then had a year at East Fife, before ending up back at Dunblane in 1909.
In 1911, he emigrated and settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba. There, his football talents found a new outlet with Norwood Wanderers, the top local team, and as provincial champions they were invited to take part in the first ever Dominion of Canada national championship. Given the distances involved, all four teams travelled to Fort William in Northern Ontario in September 1913, and Norwood came out on top of the mini-league. Details are here.
The entire Norwood Wanderers squad was inducted in 2004 into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, with the composite montage (above) containing the only known image of McFarlane.
Sadly, McFarlane would not live to help Norwood defend their title, as he succumbed to pneumonia early in 1914. By a strange quirk, the championship medals were presented to the Norwood players a month after his death, leaving officials with a quandary. The solution was reported in the Winnipeg Tribune: 'The medal of the late William McFarlane will be given to President Fisher, of the Manitoba FA, and he will send it to the deceased player’s mother in Scotland.'
Intriguingly, it is possible that the gold medal is still with the family, perhaps even still in Dunblane - and that would be a great find! It looks like the one below, which was awarded to his left-wing partner Billy Bradshaw.