HAVING spent the summer fretting over whether their club had a future, Dunfermline Athletic fans will soon have the opportunity to view a remarkable relic of its past.
In circumstances which Pars Supporters’ Trust vice-chairman Drew Main describes as “spooky”, a 126-year-old medal has been presented to the club after it was discovered during an archeological excavation.
Bearing the inscription “Won by J Lawson Dunfermline Athletic 1887”, club historians believe it was presented to John Lawson who played in the 2nd XI Fife Cup final victory over Kirkcaldy Wanderers on 23 April that year.
It was found at Halbeath Farm, on the outskirts of Dunfermline, in June this year by metal detecting enthusiast Les Hannah. Rather than sell it for personal profit, Hannah has donated it to the Pars United fans group who will soon become the formal new owners of Dunfermline Athletic when the club exits administration.
“It’s a magnificent gesture and the timing of it couldn’t be better,” said Main. “It’s quite spooky that this medal, one of the oldest artefacts from Dunfermline Athletic’s history, should have turned up at a time when today’s fans were working so hard to save the club.
“It came to our attention after details of the find were posted on a fans’ forum and it turned out that a member of Pars United had a connection to the farm where the medal was discovered. His great-grandfather, in fact, had been a ploughman on the farm.
“When Les Hannah found out the story behind the medal, he decided to donate it to us on the understanding it did not go to any private collection. It will go on show at East End Park, so that every Dunfermline supporter has the chance to see an important piece of the club’s history.”
The 2nd XI Fife Cup final, in which John Lawson helped Dunfermline Athletic crush Kirkcaldy Wanderers 9-1, took place at Lady’s Mill, now McKane Park, home of Dunfermline Cricket Club who had run a winter-only football section since their formation in 1874. In 1885, a group of players broke away to form Dunfermline Athletic as a football-only club.
The 1887 2nd XI Fife Cup final is believed to be the first trophy success in the club’s history, coming just a week before the first team defeated Burntisland Shipyard 3-1 in the senior Fifeshire Cup final. As Main relates, the story of the medal’s owner is a poignant one.
“Our research suggests that this might have been the John Lawson who lived in the Pleasance Road, Halbeath, near where the medal was found,” added Main. “Sadly he was killed in a coal mining accident at the William Colliery, Crossgates, in 1906 aged 45. The medal therefore also represents the coal mining heritage of many Dunfermline Athletic players and supporters.”
Medal-finder Hannah, from Kirkmichael in South Ayrshire, had travelled to Dunfermline as a member of the Detecting Scotland group to take part in the organised dig.
“I’m not a football fan but I’m more than happy to donate the medal to Dunfermline Athletic for the benefit of the fans and for it to be part of the Club’s history,” said Hannah. “I am supportive of the idea of a fan-owned football club whereby the ownership is spread between hundreds of supporters.”
Paul Goodwin, Head of Supporters Direct Scotland, said: “This is a simple reminder that football clubs have been part of communities for a very long time and for such a rare item to be back in the hands of the people that it means the most to is a wonderful gesture. The Pars fans have worked extremely hard to bring their club back to where it is now, and Supporters Direct Scotland has been delighted to have helped along the way. Hopefully this medal will be the first of many the club will receive in the future.”
Les and his family will be guests of honour at a forthcoming game at East End Park where he will present the medal to Dunfermline Athletic.
Detecting Scotland is currently assisting with various archaeological projects which include metal detecting surveys for the Bannockburn 700 project and survey work with battlefield excavations located near the Forth Road Bridge.