26 August: the Arsenal player who was tricked into signing when drunk



26 August 1893: James Tennant tricked into signing for East Stirlingshire (when drunk)

James Tennant played outside left for Woolwich Arsenal in 51 league matches, scoring 8 goals.

We know Tennant was born in Parkhead, Glasgow in 1878, and his clubs are listed as Linton Villa, Parkhead, St Bernard’s, Woolwich Arsenal, Middlesbrough, Watford and Stenhousemuir.   But we also have a story of him in a strange escapade relating to Falkirk and East Stirlingshire – which I recount below.

Tennant was a player who was for several years in and out of the starting XI for the first team, and virtually never a regular.   And he was, on Monday 12 March 1900 the scorer of two goals in the record win over Loughborough

But just one year later, on 27 April 1901m played his final game, a 0-1 defeat to New Brighton Tower. He also made three cup appearances, all in his second season, and scored two goals.

But there is one more thing – and I found this on the Falkirk Football History site and for which I have taken the information mostly verbatim from the site.  I am writing to them today to express my thanks.

It seems that a couple of Falkirk players spent a bit of a boozy night after a match and then while drunk were tricked into signing for East Stirlingshire.  Then on waking up the next day realised what they had done, and tried to rectify their drunken error!

Now I must say that Dean Hayes’ book of Arsenal players does not have Tennant playing for the two clubs mentioned in this case.  But the era fits, and so does the player’s position, so I am taking it that the player is the same man throughout.  At least for the moment.

It all startled with the news on the 26th August that the previous night Thomas Macfarlane, right back, and James Tennant, inside left, of the Falkirk team, had signed on for East Stirlingshire.

They were afterwards duly registered as Professionals by the Scottish Football Association. However both players, through the secretary of the Falkirk club (Mr Robert Bishop) desired East Stirlingshire to release them, on the grounds that they were tricked into signing while drunk, but E.S. refused.

Macfarlane and Tennant afterwards made application to the Scottish Football Association for reinstatement as amateurs, which was rejected on the ground that it was the duty of the players to get the professional forms “reduced” (ie cancelled).

Then followed an action by Macfarlane and Tennant in the Court of Session against E.S.F.C., and several officials and members of committee.

A strong desire was felt and expressed on all hands to have the dispute between the two clubs amicably adjusted, and the subsequent agreement was the outcome of the intervention and efforts of the friends of both parties.

The ultimate agreement stated….

First The Falkirk Football Club shall unreservedly withdraw and apologise for, in writing, all insinuations and imputations contained in the various letters sent by their Secretary to the East Stirlingshire Football Club anent the circumstances and others, under which the said Thomas McFarlane and James Tennant signed foresaid professional forms; and the said Thomas McFarlane and James Tennant and the said Falkirk Football Club, for their Interest, shall unreservedly withdraw and apologise for, in writing, all insinuations and imputations contained in foresaid summons and reduction against the East Stirlingshire Football Club and their members.

Second- In consideration thereof the East Stirlingshire Football Club shall, so far as they can competently do so, grant release to the said Thomas McFarlane and James Tennant of their professional engagements with them.

Third- The Falkirk Football Club and the East Stirlingshire Football Club shall play a friendly game at football at Brockville Park, Falkirk, on the afternoon of Saturday, ninth December, eighteen hundred and ninety three, at half-past two o’clock; the game to be suitably advertised. The price of admission shall be sixpence per head. The members of both clubs shall be admitted free on showing their membership cards. The free proceeds of the gate money shall be divided equally between the two clubs. Out of the share falling to the Falkirk Football Club there shall be paid to East Stirlingshire Football Club the sum of seven pounds ten shillings sterling.

Fourth- Both parties shall concur in having the action of reduction before referred to taken out of court with all convenient speed. The pursuers and defenders in said action shall each pay their own expenses.

Fifth- The Falkirk Football Club and the East Stirlingshire Football Club shall pay the expenses of this agreement equally.

The Falkirk web site that reprints this, adds

“The thing to keep in mind when it comes to this, is that even though Falkirk effectively lost the case and had to publicly withdraw all allegations as to the ESFC getting them to sign ‘under duress’, neither Tennant nor McFarlane EVER played for ‘shire…, and both players trained with Falkirk throughout the three months in which they were only eligible to play for ‘shire. The ES board maintained that it was all above board and they were Compos Mentis when they signed, but all the circumstantial and peripheral clues point to the fact that you should never spend a drunken Friday night in the Blue Bell Inn, Bainsford, else you might wake up Saturday morning a ‘shire player.
There were many fall-outs between the two clubs at the time, but by and large the relationship was amicable.

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