One hundred years of Wigtown footballers

The county town of Wigtown has long been proud of its football team from the Wigtown United of 1913 to the Wigtown & Bladnoch Football Club who play at Trammonford Park today.

Wigtown and Bladnoch Football Club with this years sponsor Martyn Orr, Plumbing and Heating.
Wigtown and Bladnoch Football Club with this years sponsor Martyn Orr, Plumbing and Heating.

These two photographs, taken 100 years apart, show the footballers who represented Wigtown back in 1913 and today’s 2013 team.

Athough both sets of players are around the same age, the modern team can look forward to a reasonably secure future, while the majority of the 1913 team were soon to be swept up in the horrors of The First World War.

Between 1914 and 1918, 54 team members joined and 11 were killed in action. One of them received the highest award given for bravery- the Victoria Cross - while another was awarded the Croix de Geurre and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Wigtown United Football Team 1913-914 Winners of the Galloway Shield Top row (reading from left) - Trainer McKirdy, Anderson, G Todd, Melvin, Sandford, P Richmond, Wells. Second Row: - Clark, Kerr, W Richmond, Fleming, A Todd, R Jones (member of the Committee).

Wigtown player Louis McGuffie joined the army early in the war. In 1915 he went to Gallipoli and later was sent to France. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the battle of Wytschaete in September 1918. An officer in the 5th Battalion, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, described McGuffie’s action:

“It was on the 28th of September, during the Wytschaete attack. The chief strong point in the Boche (German) line was Piccadilly Farm, a fortified house held by a number of machine guns. Time and time again McGuffie rushed machine guns by himself, and knocked out or captured their crews. Then, later, it was found that a party of twenty fellows from another battalion had been cut off and surrounded by twice as many Germans. McGuffie took a couple of men with him, made a surprise rush on them, and surrounded and captured all the Boche.

“McGuffie survived the battle but was killed a week later by a stray shell. He was 26 years old.”

The VC was presented to Louis McGuffie’s mother at a ceremony at the County Building and afterwards it was passed around the crowd of friends outside for everyone to inspect. The medal is now in the Kings Own Scottish Borderers Museum at Berwick on Tweed.

Private McGuffie was buried in The Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Zantvoorde, begium and he is commemorated on a plaque in Wigtown County Buildings.

William Walker was the son of a Wigtown solicitor. He signed up with the 4th Battalion, Royal Scots and fought at Gallipoli in May 1915. In mid-1917, after obtaining his commission 2nd Lieutenant William Walker joined the Royal Flying Corps and was involved in the Third Battle of Ypres. By the time of his death 14 months later, he had become one of the most experienced pilots in the squadron having been promoted to acting captain in the role of flight commander.

On October 8, 1918, a month before the war ended, William Walker left on a contact patrol with his observer. His aircraft was shot down in German-held territory and Captain Walker was killed, listed as ‘Missing in Action’ as his body was never recovered.

The Galloway Gazette of19 October 1918 reported: “Word has been received in Wigtown that Captain William Walker, RFC, is reported missing since 8th October. He is the son of the late Mr A D Walker, solicitor, Wigtown, and served his time with Mr A F Matthews, British Linen Bank, Newton Stewart. Since joining he has been awarded different honours, and has won rapid promotion. He holds the Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Flying Cross, and is a Flight Commander.”

William Walker’s life is commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. The Walker family grave in Wigtown Cemetery includes a memorial inscription to him.

During the war, young men from football clubs all over the region signed up to serve King and Country. Newton Stewart AFC provided 30 men; Stranraer FC 59 men; Excelsior FC (Garlieston) 17 men; Tarff Rovers (Kirkcowan) 13 men; Whithorn 54 men and Creetown Volunteers FC 24 men.