The decision to scratch from the competition, and indeed to undertake no further matches that season, was reported in the local paper with a glow of pride: 'Well played Dunblane!' said the Perthshire Advertiser. 'No football will be played at Duckburn Park this season. Nearly all the players on the club's books, not forgetting the officials, have resolved to serve their King and country in the present emergency.'
No-one could have foreseen was that this would be the end of the club known as 'The Heather', not just for the war, but for ever. At least a dozen former players lost their lives in the conflict and Dunblane, which had been one of the county's most successful clubs, would never play a match again.
Since its formation in 1876 by local schoolboys, Dunblane had won the Perthshire Cup no less than 12 times; only St Johnstone had a better record. However, the club had declined in the professional era and there were dire forecasts in the summer of 1913: the annual meeting of the club showed a deficit of £16, and there were so few nominations for the committee that its future was said to be in doubt. The deficit was cleared by holding a cycle parade at Duckburn Park but it was a short term fix and it is quite possible that the club would not have lasted much longer in any case.
The signing-up of the players and officials en masse took a heavy toll. In June 1915 it was reported that 'between thirty and forty past and present members of Dunblane FC are in service at present'. By 1918, the Stirling Observer wrote that a whole team had been lost, mostly with the Black Watch. Of those who were killed, the best known was Robert Main Christie, former Scotland internationalist and President of the SFA, killed in a mustard gas attack in 1918. Another well-known name was William Eadie, a goalkeeper who won the Perthshire Cup with Dunblane in 1906 and had also played for Queen's Park, St Mirren, Partick Thistle and East Fife. The others included the town postman, Peter Gardiner, and 38-year-old John Bayne who had served in the South African war and was a former player with Reading and St Johnstone.
Here is a list of all those known to have been killed in action:
Pte Alex McKay, Black Watch, killed 1 April 1915
Sgt William Eadie, Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regiment), killed 23 April 1915
Pte John Bayne, Black Watch, killed 21 July 1915
Pte James McInroy DCM, Black Watch, killed 26 Sept 1915
Sgt-Major Peter Gardiner, Black Watch, killed 30 July 1916
L/C William Crawford, Black Watch, killed 19 October 1916
L/C David John McInroy, Royal Scots, killed 3 May 1917
Pte Hugh Bruce, Black Watch, killed May 1917
Pte Thomas Cullen, Black Watch, killed 26 September 1917
Pte John Waller, Black Watch, killed 10 December 1917
Pte John Strang MM, London Post Office Rifles Regt, killed 23 April 1918
Major Robert Main Christie QM, Labour Corps, killed 15 May 1918.
After the war, there was no prospect of the original Dunblane FC getting back off the ground. However, the local juvenile club, Dunblane Rovers, stepped up to the junior leagues, and they too played at Duckburn Park. Probably the highlight of their short existence was a 4-0 victory in 1931 over a strong Rangers side, in a fund-raising friendly. However, Rovers also struggled to draw crowds and ironically they closed with the outbreak of the Second World War.
While it is still my intention to write a full history of 'The Heather', and more information will surely follow, it is important to mark this, the 100th anniversary of the demise of Dunblane's football club and the sacrifice of its players.