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When Arbroath bashed Bon Accord
IN BRITISH football’s glittering and longstanding history few stories compare to the remarkable story of Bon Accord’s crushing 36-0 defeat to Arbroath on September 12, 1885 in the first round of the Scottish Cup. It is a story fused with falsehoods, muddled scores, on-field antics, absurdity, strange coincidences and one man’s attempt to not be written out of history.
In 1885, the Scottish FA sent out an invitation inviting the newly formed Aberdeen football club Bon Accord FC the opportunity to participate in the first round of the Scottish Cup. Contrary to popular belief, Bon Accord was an established footballing outfit, albeit in their early infancy.
Formed in 1884, the team lacked any real professionalism or footballing know-how, but were delighted when they were drawn with the vastly experienced Arbroath FC, who themselves were formed in 1878.
For Bon Accord, Arbroath FC, who had just turned professional through the legalisation of the sport in Scotland in 1885, were deemed highly attractive opposition. Newly registered as part of the Forfarshire Football Association in 1883, which comprised of 18 teams, Arbroath had earned a good reputation in Scottish footballing circles and a good pedigree as a cup specialist team having beaten Dundee Harp 2-1 at Rollo’s Pier during the first Forfarshire Cup in 1883, watched by over 5,000 specators. The following year they beat Glasgow Rangers 4-3 in the Scottish Cup only to have the match controversially re-arranged due to a complaint by Rangers officials that the pitch was too small.
The Scottish FA sided with Rangers and ordered the match to be replayed whereby they trounced a disheartened Arbroath 8-1. Upset by the manner of their exit, the Maroon Boys sought to make their mark on the competition this time round and set about putting Bon Accord to the sword.
As the big day arrived, legend has it that Bon Accord turned up on the day of the match without any form of standard kit or appropriate footwear. To compound matters, their goalkeeper failed to arrive for the match which saw centre forward Andrew Lornie reassigned to goalkeeping duties. Seen clearly as a portent of what was to follow, Bon Accord, who possessed little footballing prowess, or any player with an ounce of skill that was comparable to Arbroath’s professional players, were promptly thrashed 36-0.
During the heavy rain and windswept match, Arbroath chalked up 43 goals only for referee Dave Stormont to disallow seven ‘perfectly good’ goals for ‘offside’, even though, by his own admission, he felt they were perfectly valid:
“My only regret was that I chalked off seven goals, for while they may have looked doubtful from an offside point of view, so quickly did the Maroons carry the ball from midfield, and so close and rapid was their passing, that it was very doubtful whether they could be offside.”
The Arbroath score should have officially stood at 43-0, had Stormont had not succumbed to a sense of pity towards the visitors as the embarrassing scoreline that was notching up at a rapid pace.
One can also sympathise with Stormont, for the unfolding slaughter mustn’t have been pleasurable to officiate and terribly demoralising for the Bon Accord players.