COWDENBEATH and Lochgelly players used to feature prominently in schoolboy international matches and many were played at Central Park as the Blue Brazil became a fine supporters of the schoolboy game and this week Cowden football historian David Allan, looks at the area's involvement in a level which saw some fine players produced.

John Dougary at one time managed Cowdenbeath Football Club. Earlier though, after the Great War, he was headmaster of Hillend School and indulged his passion for football by running the Cowdenbeath and District Schools League which he had helped found in 1913.

By 1932, John Dougary had become chairman of the Scottish Elementary Schools FA and through his influence, Central Park, Cowdenbeath, was chosen to host a schoolboy’s international for the first time.

Ireland were the visitors. They arrived at the New Station, in Cowdenbeath, and were greeted by a large crowd which escorted them to their headquarters at the Commercial Hotel. A civic reception at the Town House then followed.

Said David: "The match, played on Saturday May 7, drew a bumper crowd of 10,060. Scotland won 1-0 through a goal scored by Ewing (Glasgow RC). The Dunfermline Press commented, “Without disparaging the others in the least, the outstanding successes of the game were the respective pivots Gordon (Scotland) and Kernaghan, with the latter gaining the individual honour. The three Fife representatives – Beattie (Kirkcaldy), Jimmy Bremner (Cowdenbeath) and Davie (Dunfermline) – if not outstanding, were highly successful members of the team.”

"After the match there was a reception for the Irish team and Schools FA at the Palais De Danse. Mr C A Abrahams, chairman of the Irish Schools FA, thanked the Scottish Schools FA for their wonderful hospitality.

"Charles Milne MP presented caps to the Irish players while John Wallace MP did the same for the Scots lads. Provost King presented the match ball to Gordon (Aberdeen), the Scots Captain. Willie Kellie, of the Cowdenbeath & District Schools FA, commended Cowdenbeath FC for being the first professional club in Scotland to grant use of their ground free of charge for a schoolboys’ international.

"Norman Kernaghan later won 3 full caps when with Belfast Celtic and another of the Irish schoolboys, Jimmy McAlinden, who also played with Belfast Celtic, was capped by both Northern Ireland and Eire. He won the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 1939.

"So impressed were the SESFA with their visit to Cowdenbeath that two years later, Central Park was selected as the venue for the international v Wales. On May 5 1934, a vociferous and enthusiastic crowd of 11,200, a record for a provincial venue, gave both teams a rousing welcome. David Calder, from Lochgelly, was in the Scotland side. Scotland won 5-3 with McConnell, of Ayr, scoring a hat trick. Emery of Cardiff, the Welsh inside-left who scored a goal, was the mighty Don Emery, who later returned to Scotland to play for Aberdeen and East Fife. The match had ended with a memorable scene as the two teams formed a guard of honour, the band struck up “Will ye no come back again” and referee Tom Dougary, after shaking hands with the two captains, passed through the avenue to the resounding cheers of the spectators. This was Tom Dougary’s “swan-song” and so affected was he by the scene that he ran into the pavilion with his head bowed.

"This time the after match reception was held at Cowdenbeath Miners Welfare Institute. Mr Milne MP welcomed the Welsh boys to the Kingdom of Fife and presented them with their caps. John Wallace MP then capped the Scottish team, while Provost Walker presented the match ball to the Scottish Captain Swinbourne (Aberdeen). This was followed with numerous toasts including those by John Dougary, president of Cowdenbeath & District Schools FA, referee Tom Dougary and Provost Tom Timmons, of Lochgelly.

"Yet again the Cowdenbeath public had given magnificent support and it was no surprise when, in 1937, Central Park was awarded the game versus England. Once more Cowdenbeath FC provided the ground gratis and Cowdenbeath became the first provincial town to host all three schoolboy internationals."

David recalled: "The English boys and officials arrived in Dunfermline on the Friday evening and were delighted with the arrangements made by Willie Kellie, of the Cowdenbeath & District Schools FA, for their entertainment. Willie actually came from Stevenston in Ayrshire. It was he who discovered Hookey Leonard for Cowden back in his native Ayrshire.

"He was a schoolmaster at Broad Street, Foulford and Lumphinnans during his long career. He also had a gift for entertaining. Willie Wallis was his stage name. He was friends with many of the greats of Scottish showbiz such as Tommy Morgan, Dave Willis, Will Fyffe and Sir Harry Lauder. In the 1921 and 1926 pit strikes he put on charity shows for the local soup kitchens.

"Kellie and John Dougary were members of the Merry Four along with Andrew Mathieson from Lochgelly and Jock McTaggart from Thornton. It was on a visit to Kellie that the four thought of performing together and after some rehearsals the Merry Four was launched.

"They became a renowned local concert party which over a number of years raised a great deal of funds for worthy causes in Cowdenbeath and district. John Dougary was a splendid vocalist. Andrew Mathieson played the cello or violin and on stage he would improvise a violin from a pig’s bladder, a broomstick and some wire to great acclaim and laughter. Jock McTaggart was an accomplished pianist. Jim Naysmith from Cowdenbeath later took over from Andrew Mathieson.

"At 10.00am on the Saturday there was a civic reception at Cowdenbeath Town House for both teams. The Carnegie Dunfermline Trust then hosted a visit to the Carnegie Birthplace Museum, the sports facilities at Pitreavie playing fields and provided lunch at the tea-house in Pittencrieff Park. The teams then returned to Cowdenbeath to join battle.

"England had an obvious height and weight advantage and Henley scored in England’s first attack. Scotland were then reduced to 10 men (boys?) when outside-right Wilson (Lanark) dislocated his wrist. It was 3-1 to England half time when England agreed to let Scotland introduce a substitute. Ultimately the match was a thriller and England just managed to win 4-3.

"The hero of the crowd was Steel (Denny), the midget inside-left of Scotland, who showed an intelligent idea of football marvellous for a boy of his age. Billy Steel was destined to enjoy a great career as was the Scottish left-back George Young (Falkirk) – two of Scotland most famous players.

"On the England side, left half Eddie Spicer played for Liverpool in the 1950 FA Cup final but his career was ended prematurely by a broken leg in 1953. Right-half Bill Ellerington won two full caps for England and played at full back for Southampton. Centre-half Reg Foulkes had a long senior career with Walsall and Norwich.

"A reception at the Miners Welfare Institute took place after the game. Provost Primmer handed out the caps to the English boys while Provost Wilson, of Lochgelly, did likewise for the Scottish team. Mr Wright, of the Scottish Schools FA, paid special tribute to the assistance Cowdenbeath FC was always willing to give to schoolboy football.

"That day they had had a record gate for Scotland with drawings of £717. Bill Hodge (chairman) and John Dougary (manager) replied on behalf of Cowdenbeath FC by stating that they were proud to do everything possible for schoolboy football. The teams and officials departed on the Sunday on a motor tour which took in Aberfeldy, Lochearnhead, Callander and Stirling".