Tammy and the Beast

The following post was kindly submitted to us by Gordon McCreath, who is a keen Ayrshire junior football historian.

When Thomas Geddes signed for Irvine Meadow XI as a full back in season 1902/03, he no doubt had hopes of getting a regular game and of winning cups and medals.  What he could not have expected was to play in a head to head with a mighty opponent, much bigger than the wingers he regularly faced on Saturday afternoons.

Things kicked off well enough for Geddes who played for Meadow with some success for four seasons. In his second season, for example, he played at right back for the Meadow team that reached the Ayrshire Cup final which was to be played at Rugby Park on 2nd April 1904.  However, the weather was so bad that Meadow, their opponents Ardeer Thistle, and the Ayrshire Junior F.A. all agreed to play the game as a friendly instead. 

When the final was eventually played competitively at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock, it finished in a 1-1 draw, with Cairney scoring the Meadow goal. Meadow might have scored another had it not been for Robert Wilson being tackled by a wee dug that had run onto the park.  The Meadow forward was in the act of shooting for goal when the wee dug knocked the ball away from his toe before being sent flying by the surprised Meadow payer.

Meadow lifted the cup at the third attempt, winning the replay by 2-1 but not without a long drawn out battle.  James Wilson put Meadow ahead in the first half, but Ardeer equalised and 30 minutes of extra time were required.  However, there was no further scoring. After a hastily arranged conference it was decided to play another 30 minutes of extra time with the intention of finding a winner.  Meadow scored the deciding goal and the Ayrshire Cup was theirs for the third time, having previously won it in 1898/99 and 1900/01.

The Meadow XI in that replay was:  Bannigan; Geddes, Lyons; R. Wilson, Auld, Cowan; G. Wilson, Armour, J. Wilson, Cairney and Hamilton.

Meadow also won the Irvine and District Cup that season, and Geddes was again at right back in the final when Darvel were beaten 2-0, with goals from James Wilson and James Cairney

He also won a runners-up medal in 1904/05, after being on the losing side when Meadow faced Darvel in the re-played final of the Irvine Herald Cup.  Geddes was at right-half as Meadow took a 2-0 lead with goals from McDougall and Armour.  Medda almost made it 3-0 when ‘a grand corner kick was met by Cairney, whose ruddy cranium almost did the trick, the ball striking the bottom of the crossbar and being got away with difficulty.’ (The Irvine Herald). However, after a player from each side had been sent off, Darvel fought back with three goals in the last half hour to win 3-2. 

Geddes had actually missed the first match which was drawn 1-1, because he was suspended following his sending off in a game against Kilbirnie Ladeside for telling the referee exactly what he thought of him in none too genteel terms.  However, by the time of the replay at Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park, his suspension was over and he was eligible to play again.

Tom Geddes’ Meadow career came to a painful end when he broke his leg playing in a five-a-side competition in connection with the Kilmarnock Police Sports.  A year later when the Police Sports were held again the injury had not healed up and he was still unable to work and arrangements were made to have a collection taken on his behalf.  It was reported that any monies received on Geddes’ behalf would be handed over to him intact, with nothing being deducted.

In May 1906, Queen’s Park sent a team down to Irvine to take part in a benefit match for Geddes, who The Irvine Herald described as ‘a prominent football player in the junior circles.’ The Meadow players did Tom proud before a ‘fairly good attendance’ and beat their illustrious opponents by a one-goal margin.  James Wilson scored the only goal of the game for Meadow.

However, a few years before his injury, Tom Geddes took on what was certainly his biggest ever opponent.  Sangers’ Travelling Circus, which was touring Scotland, visited Irvine in April 1903, bringing with it a different kind of challenge for the influential Meadow defender.  The main attraction of the circus, and advertised as ‘The Greatest Novelty in the World’, was a famous footballing elephant.  The circus sent out a challenge in the form of a penalty shootout, in which local sportsmen were invited to play against the elephant.  Using an oversized ball, the elephant and the sportsman would each take three penalties and the local hero, if he won, was presented with a fine cup. 

On a Tuesday evening in Irvine ’Tammy entered the ring as if he was none too delighted with the game in hand.  The ball, which was about five times as large as the ordinary Association ball, and consequently five times heavier, was placed opposite the elephant’s goal, and when the whistle was blown, Geddes with a well-directed shot, sent the ball through at the corner.’ (The Irvine Herald). His second shot hit the elephant and bounced out of play, but he scored again with the third attempt which was a carefully placed shot. 

The elephant stepped up to take its turn and with a right-footed blaster, nearly demolished the goal frame.  ‘The elephant shot straightly the second time, but Geddes was equal to the occasion and kept his goal intact.  It was thought by everyone that the third shot would be a “stinger,” and so it proved, but Geddes, getting the ball on the whirl, just managed to tip it past the side, thus winning by two goals to nothing.” (The Irvine Herald) So, Meadow’s Tom Geddes won his biggest challenge and took the crowd’s applause along with the Sanger’s Circus Cup. The elephant, it was reported, did not stop to learn how his victor had enjoyed the game, but quietly curled up his trunk and walked away.