One of the benefits of being an old git is being able to bore people about how things used to be. Back in the 90s you had Stenhousemuir playing at Ochilview, and East Stirlingshire at Firs Park. So over the years I’ve seen Stenny with the old stand shown below, which is opposite where the new 626 seater Norway Stand is. The old “Doll’s House” stand had 310 bench seats and was built in 1928, 7 years after the Warriors joined the League, to replace the old wooden stand which had burned down. They say the external stairs were an afterthought as the architect forgot to put them in.
The first time I was there was 1992 to see Caley in the Scottish Cup. At that time there was a covered terracing opposite the stand with railway sleepers and cinder, which was quite common back then in football grounds. The photo above was taken from the large Tryst Road terracing behind the goals, which was covered in 2004-5. Nowadays the Tryst Road terracing is used for the away support, but for East Stirlingshire matches in the Lowland League, and U20 Development matches, it is closed. The other two sides of the ground are no longer in use. Also gone is the McCowan’s toffee factory which produced Highland Toffee, Wham bars and Irn Bru bars.
Over the years, Stirling Albion and Falkirk have both groundshared at Ochilview, and currently East Stirlingshire are tenants. Indeed Stenhousemuir themselves might have moved back in 1992 and Ochilview might have been replaced by a supermarket if not for planning difficulties.
There is now a synthetic pitch which helps Stenhousemuir to raise much needed revenue. In 1949-50 Ochilview held a record 12500 for a Scottish Cup tie against East Fife, and in 1951 the floodlights were first used in a match against Hibernian, and paid for by Tommy Douglas the butcher. In 1964, Rangers formulated a plan to remove the Warriors and 4 other small clubs from the league, but this failed and they are still alive and kicking, having won 2-1 at Ibrox in the League Cup in 1972 just to rub it in.
Anyway, back to January 1992. Caley came to town in a Scottish Cup round 2 tie. The pre-match comments of Warriors boss Dennis Lawson showed that he was less than confident about the outcome, with Warriors struggling near the bottom of the old second division. Inverness bookmakers had Caley at 7/4 but the large travelling contingent were delighted to see that in Larbert, Caley were being offered at 11/4…
Stenny had their highest gate for 3 years, around 1500, and went ahead after Caley had lost key midfielder Danny MacDonald to a serious injury. However the second half was all Caley as they struck four times, and finally Warriors centre-half Stevie Prior was sent off after a kick at Charlie Christie.
Another significant match was in 1999 when the Warriors gained a 1-1 draw at Rosewell against Whitehill Welfare. Much to the disgust of the Whitehill faithful, the two goals which decided the replay at Ochilview were scored by a young whippet called Kenny Miller. Kenny was on loan from Hibs and it is said that Stenny paid Hibs £8000 to allow him to play in the Scottish Cup, as the reward would be a tie against Rangers…
Since 1992, the Warriors have had a hard core of about 100 supporters in Norway, who own 5% of the club.
In 2008, Falkirk’s ‘other’ club, The Shire, vacated their home at Firs Park after 87 years, and began groundsharing at Ochilview. They had been at Firs Park since moving from Merchiston Park in Bainsford in 1921. That year, Firs Park held its record crowd of 12000 for a cup match against Partick Thistle. Shire have long been held up, even ridiculed, as an example of a club which nobody needs, and indeed when the SPFL introduced a playoff system, Shire were the first victims, being relegated to the Lowland League in 2016 by Edinburgh City. A young Alex Ferguson started his management career there in 1974 but the high point of their history is probably being promoted as champions to the top tier of Scottish Football in 1932.
But Shire are nothing if not survivors and their hardy band of volunteers and supporters have survived worse, including a merger with Clydebank Juniors which briefly produced the club ES Clydebank, playing out of Kilbowie Park in 1964.
When I first visited Firs Park, people were free to wander around all sides of the pitch. There was a decent sized terracing at the North End, and another covered shelter along the side. The decaying barrel-roofed main stand had been replaced by a smart 200-seat replica in 1992. By the time Shire left, things were a bit more restricted and there was a huge wall at the south end with no access.
The photos below are from a friendly against Chester City in 1992. Later that season I witnessed a 3-2 extra-time win over Vale of Leithen on a freezing, foggy night in the Christmas holidays.
The next time I visited Firs Park was a historic one, as it was the first competitive match for Caledonian Thistle, later ICT, who won 2-0 in a League Cup tie on 9/8/94. Caley legend Wilson Robertson opened the scoring and the attendance was 899.
Earlier I referred to Shire as Falkirk’s other club, but in fact their tannoy announcer always made a point of saying ‘welcome to Falkirk’s Premier Football Club’. Unfortunately I don’t have his name, but he was a legend. One match against Ross County took place on a Sunday in 1995. When it came to half time he apologised that he had no half time scores to read out as it was the day’s only fixture, so he proceeded to go through the entire card from the day before.
My final game at Firs Park was in January 1998 when Shire met Edinburgh City, then of the East of Scotland League, in the second round of the Scottish Cup. The game ended 1-1. The replay at Meadowbank was goalless and Shire went out 4-3 on penalties. City went on to be humbled 7-2 by Dunfermline at East End Park so maybe they did the Shire a favour.
Shire left Firs Park at the end of 2007-8 as the cost of upgrading the stadium would have been ruinous. The final match was a 3-1 win against Montrose, which spared Shire the embarrassment of finishing bottom for the sixth time in a row. By this time the ground capacity was a mere 1800, including 200 seated.