Greystone Rovers Football Club

Greystone Rovers began in 1938 at Huntingdon Park, a now lost playing field between Huntingdon Avenue and Carnegie Street in Dumfries, which at this time was “fitba daft” in the words of James Hutcheon.[1] Founding members of the club included neighbourhood youths Jimmy Scott, Bluff Murray, Bryce Johnstone and his brother Billl, as well as Johnny Wallace whose lifelong involvement saw him become manager, secretary, treasurer and chairman of Greystone Rovers. At first it allowed local boys to play friendly matches at a time when “a ball was worth its weight in gold and if anything happened to the ball during a match, the game being abandoned was not unusual!”[2]

Unsurprisingly for those “hard times in which it started”, Greystone Rovers could not afford a strip, so it was a great help when Bill ‘Winkle’ Scott gifted them one of black and gold in 1939.[3] That year saw the team play their first Dumfries Juvenile League game and win 7-4 against the Nondescripts FC. With wartime travel restrictions and many league players called up, the Second World War saw a return to friendly matches, but Greystone Rovers raised money for the Red Cross too. That period also saw the beginnings of friendship with Norway and eventually a tradition that would continue for decades.[4]

On 1st August 1940 the Rovers played against the Norwegian Army team at Huntingdon Park, fielding Thomson, McRoerts, Fleming, Geddes, Scott, Gordon, McCourty, Milligan, Walace, Dickson and J. Sharp.[5] Thanks to Jim Milligan they secured a 2-2 draw, a result which merits respect – for not only were several of the Norwegian side former Olympic players, but Queen of the South suffered a heavy defeat against the Norwegians that same year![6] Greystone Rovers continued despite some of its own players being called up in 1941, as well as their manager Andrew Young. It was he who organised a reunion of pre-war players at the White Hart Hotel in 1946. That reunion was a sad celebration, since “Mr. Young read out the names of the lads who had died in the War.”[7]

By 1951 the club had firmly re-established itself and won its first trophies, but that summer was historic for the club as the next generation of Greystone Rovers boys embarked on a tour of Norway. This was organised by John Wallace with the help of Major Myreseth, who had commanded the Norwegian brigade in Dumfries. At the other end arrangements were made by Svein Sannem of Sportsklubben Brann in Bergen, who met the 14 boys who sailed from Newcastle when they arrived at Kristiansand.[8] One of those boys recalled that Sannem took them for dinner, but didn’t count on them each having two main courses – as they hadn’t eaten due to a rough voyage making them sea sick![9] Between 14th and 30th July they stayed with Norwegian families in Bergen and played two games against Brann, while in Haugesund the boys were greeted by fellow doonhamer Janet Kennedy and her husband Chris Semb.[10]

Upon returning to Dumfries the team received a telegram from the Secretary of the Scottish Football Association to congratulate them “on a successful tour and for being the first youth side in Scotland to go on a football tour after the War.”[11] Before returning to Scotland though they had to wait in Bergen for their strips to be washed![12] In July 1952 the Brann Juniors team visited Dumfries for the first time, establishing a pattern of biannual exchanges between the two clubs that would continue for years. The Norwegian youths played at Dalbeattie, Dunoon and Palmerston, but also visited Hampden Park, Celtic Park, Ibrox Stadium and Aberdeen.[13]

In its first 50 years Greystone Rovers sent over 400 boys to Norway on 15 different occasions, forging strong links with Norwegian clubs such as SK Brann, SK Haugar, AKRA I.L. and ØUGARD I.L.[14] The commitment of John Wallace and his wife to maintaining the Norwegian connection was so strong that they even attempted to revive the Dumfries branch of the Scottish Norwegian Society in 1971, which had been disbanded four years previously.[15] In 1988 Greystone sent “the youngest team ever to cross the north sea… under the leadership of Graeme Muir”, who in 2017 is now Coach Development Officer for the club.[16] To celebrate 50 years since their first visit, in 2001 many of the original Greystone Rovers team returned to Norway and stayed with different families.[17]

Hutcheon may have regretted intending to “teach they puir foreigners our national gem” and “give them some idea of how the game went” after the humiliating defeat that the Norwegians brought upon Queen of the South in 1940.[18] However Greystone Rovers has ensured that doonhamers and Norwegians have been able to continue enjoying the ‘national gem’ together in the 77 years since. As John Wallace himself said “Greystone Rovers is something special…”[19]

[1] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.4 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[2] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.7

[3] Greystone Rovers, ‘John Wallace’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.3

[4] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.7

[5] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.10

[6] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.4 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[7] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.8

[8] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.8

[9] Interview with Our Norwegian Story researcher

[10] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.8

[11] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.8

[12] Interview with Our Norwegian Story researcher

[13] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.9

[14] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.10

[15] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.6

[16] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.9

[17] Interview with Our Norwegian Story researcher

[18] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.4 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[19] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.9

1 reply
  1. Kerr. RAmsay
    Kerr. RAmsay says:

    In the 1950s we had two visits to Bergen living with the family’s in Bergen had a great time making many friends Jonny Wallace , bill Murray, Bill glen cross, rob bell as far as I remember

    Reply

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