St Duthus FC History

ST DUTHUS FOOTBALL CLUB were formed by a sub committee of Tain's St Duthus Cricket Club in 1885, following the playing of the town's first ever competitive 'association' football game. The match took place at the picturesque setting of Culpleasant Estate between two teams with grand titles, namely the "Lords" and the "Commons". For the winners, a solid silver vase was donated by nobleman Robert de Graéme Graéme of Garvock - the owner of the estate and the man who would a year later be named as the club's first ever President. The original colours of the team were red and white stripes, and playing against teams from across the area, they played under varying codes before becoming founding members of the Ross-shire Junior FA in the mid 1890s.

In 1896, the "Saints" competed for and won the first ever Pattisons' Challenge Cup, which was the first trophy ever to be competed for under the rules of 'Association' football in the Tain area. It had been donated a year earlier by whisky distillers, Robert and Walter Pattison. The Saints were now under the Presidency of the Count de Serra Largo - a retired entrepreneur and former International agent for the Singer sewing company who now resided at Tarlogie Estate. The Tain team had by now developed a fearsome rivalry with Victoria United of Dingwall that would continue well into the 20th century - that was until the late 1920s when the 'Vics' joined the Highland Football League and became known as Ross County.

After the First World War had ended, St Duthus earned the distinction of being crowned the first ever League Champions of Ross-shire when they captured the title during the 1919/20 season, recapturing the Pattisons' Cup the same season. Four years later, they reached the pinnacle of 'junior' football achievements in the region by winning the coveted North of Scotland Junior Cup (now known as the North Caledonian Cup) thanks to a 2-1 win at Thistle Park over prominent Inverness junior team, and North of Scotland Junior league champions, 'Catch My Pal FC'.

After the death of Serra Largo in the early 1930s, the team fell into a two year hiatus before being resurrected by a committee led by George Davidson and Leo Pieraccini. The team now wore a new look black and white hooped kit and they enjoyed success as members of the new look Ross-shire Junior FA, winning both the Mackenzie Cup and Pattisons' Challenge Cup before the advent of war brought a temporary end to football in the county.

THE CLUB re-emerged after the Second World War in 1947, having allowed a year for the Tain Links playing fields to recover from years of inactivity. Upon their restart, they absorbed a "war-time" team, known as The Eastern Rose - a combination of servicemen and foreign nationals stationed in the area - who had very briefly represented Tain and the surrounding villages to play in an early restoration of the Ross-shire Junior League in 1946.

The team was reborn under the stewardship of Hugh Aird, then the proprietor of the St Duthus Hotel, and it was around this time that the Saints appointed their first ever designated "Team Manager", former goalkeeper Norman Ferguson taking the reigns. By the late 1950s, the club had joined the newly formed Ross-shire Welfare FA as founder members as Ross-shire football went though another shake-up. The club temporarily moved to a new ground in 1952 named Coronation Park and they remained there until its eventual sale to Morrison Construction in 1965, then returning to the Links.

As a "welfare" club, St Duthus were in full swing by the turn of the decade, as young manager and coach Christopher 'Christy' Grant had established a popular team which regularly competed for Ross-shire honours. At the same time, Leo Pieraccini, who was still very much a feature in Tain football circles, became synonymous with youth football throughout the town with the introduction of the Pieraccini Cup, a trophy he had donated for juveniles to play for which quickly became a carrot for aspiring youth teams across the county.

Under the management of Christy Grant, St Duthus enjoyed their most successful year as a "welfare" football team in 1963, completing a clean sweep of all four cup competitions, before narrowly missing out on the league championship. It wasn't surprising at all that a number of the Saints' better players went on to greater things with teams competing in the Highland Football League and beyond.

ENTRY INTO THE NORTH CALEDONIAN LEAGUE (then known as the North of Scotland Reserve League) followed in 1972, as St Duthus took the big step towards senior football. The team became known as "Tain St Duthus" at this time - as they began competing against teams far outwith the Ross-shire landscape. As members of the highly competitive "Second Eleven" league, they captured their first silverware in 1975 when they were awarded the MacNicol Shield for having the best disciplinary record in the league - an unlikely first trophy!

On-the-field honours eventually followed in 1978/79 under the management of Edwin Skinner, who led Tain St Duthus to victories in both the Ness Cup and the North Caledonian Cup. The Saints went on to win the North Caledonian Cup a further three times in the 1980s, capturing it in 1983/84, 1986/87 and 1989/90, while also winning the Football Times Cup twice in 1980/81 and 1981/82. By a good margin, the Skinner years remain the club's most decorated era.

The 1990s started well for Tain St Duthus with back to back Chic Allan Cup wins in 1990/91 and 1991/92. However, that was to be the last silverware for the Tain side. Off the field though, strides were being taken to push the club to another level. In the summer of 1993, a high profile friendly match took place at the Links, when St Johnstone traveled to Tain for a glamour tie against Tommy Ross's Tain St Duthus - arguably still the most high profile team to play on the Links. Two years later, Highland League Champions Huntly were the visitors as Tain St Duthus opened their newly leased ground, Grant Park - named after former manager Christy Grant. The friendly match attracted a great crowd for the match as the "top park" became the new home of Second XI football in Tain.

MIDWAY through the 2000s, the curtain temporarily fell on Tain St Duthus. Following a series of managerial changes, and with resources wearing thin, the club committee elected to withdraw the team from the North Caledonian FA at the end of the 2004/05 season. The gap left for a Tain team to compete in the North Caledonian league was temporarily filled for two seasons by Tain Thistle FC, a member club of the Ross-shire Welfare FA, however they tendered their resignation in 2010.

Following a gathering of several football people within the community on Thursday February 4, 2016, preliminary discussions took place to initiate the revival of St Duthus Football Club in a bid to gain membership of the North Caledonian Football Association and bring winter football back to Tain for the first time in eleven years. An Annual General Meeting followed on Tuesday March 22 and office bearers and a committee were elected to take the club forward and a management team of Stuart and Andrew Ross, sons of former manager Tommy, took the team reigns. An application was made to rejoin the North Caledonian FA and this was unanimously accepted on May 28, 2016, thus confirming the revival of St Duthus FC.

In their first season back, the club reached the Jock Mackay Cup Final, narrowly losing out on penalties to Orkney FC. As 2017 continued, the good work the club had completed in its first year was recognised when it was accredited as a Quality Mark Standard award club and at the beginning of 2018, the club took its next big step by introducing a youth wing, starting with the launch of their Under 17 team.

The club won their first silverware of the post-revival era when they defeated Golspie Sutherland 3-1 at King George V Park in the North Caledonian Cup Final on March 10, 2018.


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