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How Newcastle helped inspire the formation of Carlisle United over 100 years ago

6 years ago

Newcastle United have many modern day links with Carlisle United, such as their one-time manager Bobby Moncur (pictured above), former player Peter Beardsley and of course the two loan players over in Cumbria at the minute: Alex Gilliead and Macauley Gillesphey.

However, after reading an article on The Mag about the possibility of Carlisle v Hartlepool being played at St James Park on 28 December, Jon Tait got in touch and has kindly given us this account of just how involved Newcastle United were in inspiring the actual formation of Carlisle United, over one hundred years ago.

‘Carlisle United was formed following a football fall out.

The Great Border City of Carlisle was a tough place of textile mills, factories and railway workers at the turn of the last century, while ‘out West’ was the home of pitmen and iron and steel foundry workers with a love of rugby.

In between, you had the rural workers of Lakeland; shepherds, hill farmers, dry stone wallers and farm labourers who enjoyed the traditional sporting pursuits of fell running and Cumberland Wrestling, as well as the growing game of Association Football.

In April 1904, Workington had let their ground to the Cumberland FA for the County Cup Final, on the same day that they were due to play Shaddongate United in an important Cumberland League match, believing that they could switch the game to Carlisle. But the arrangement didn’t happen and the match was cancelled.

Shaddongate believed that they’d won the Championship – the West teams disagreed and awarded the silverware to Workington. It fostered a ‘them and us’ mentality that prevails even today.

The other sides competing in the League at the time were Workington, Workington Black Diamond, Keswick, Moss Bay Exchange, Cockermouth Crusaders and Wigton Harriers.

The end of season report issued by the club a couple of weeks later showed they’d taken it in good spirit, in public at least, when they stated:

‘We lost possession of the Cumberland Cup and although we claimed the League championship, we were refused it, and must abide by the decision of the West Cumberland members of the Cumberland League.’

In private, however, it was probably the last straw for Shaddongate.

A year earlier they’d entertained Newcastle United’s reserves and they must have been impressed with the side as they strongly advised them to change their name to Carlisle United and consider joining the north-east based Northern Alliance.

A report on the match, played in early March 1903, reckoned that the game was fast and exciting throughout with Newcastle’s Graham impressing with a brilliant display.

Kerr, G. Stubbs, F. Burgess, Kiddy, Campbell and goalkeeper Smith all shone for the Black and Whites, who’d been formed from the Newcastle East End side in 1892.

It’s a popular misconception that Newcastle United were formed by an amalgamation of the East End and West End sides – likewise, the legend persists that Carlisle United were formed by an amalgamation of Shaddongate United and their bitter City rivals Carlisle Red Rose.

The club was in a good state financially – the balance sheet showed an income of £217 for the previous season, with expenditure of £193. Shaddongate had taken £158 5s 11d in gate money. They’d played 30 games in the Cumberland League, winning 11, losing 17 and drawing two, with 63 goals scored and 63 conceded.

Shaddongate, who had changed the colour of their strip to Blue in 1902, played against Newcastle United again in April 1904 with around three thousand turning out to see the Toon win 4-1 and Fraser hitting a hat-trick for a Newcastle side packed with Scottish professionals. Finley added the other with Spottiswoode netting for the Cumbrians.

‘More modern day problems’

This second visit was probably the big influential factor in Shaddongate’s decision to apply for the Northern Alliance. At a historic Annual General Meeting of the club on the evening of Tuesday 17th May 1904, Shaddongate United Football Club dropped the localised title and was re-named Carlisle United after a heated discussion, with a few people favouring retaining the club’s traditional name. A vote on the change was carried by around three to one. It was also reported that the newly-named side were negotiating to get into the Northern Alliance and they were looking to move to a ‘more central and commodious ground’ with the Association game ‘growing rapidly in public favour.’

But at the Northern Alliance AGM in a Wallsend café in June 1904, Carlisle United’s bid to join, along with applications from Consett Swifts, Dudley Wanderers, North Shields Athletic, Shields Town, Newcastle United’s third team, Hexham, and Gateshead Town for just three vacancies, was unsuccessful.

Shaddongate had thrashed Hexham 7-2 at Carlisle in September 1903, so they must have at least felt they had a better chance of getting in than the Tynedalers. The Northumbrians had played a more attractive, better passing game however.

The voting ballot re-elected Dudley Wanderers and Consett with 11 and 7 votes respectively. There was a tie between North Shields Athletic, Shields Town, and Gateshead, who all received six votes, and in the succeeding vote Gateshead was declared elected.

The Cumberland Association League felt that a disappointed Carlisle United would probably apply for re-admission after failing to get into the Alliance and as it happened they did, falling back in line with the likes of Keswick, Penrith Working Men, Carlisle Red Rose, Workington and Wigton Harriers for 1904/05.

Local rivals Red Rose were the more successful side at the time too, being the Cumberland Shield-holders, Carlisle and District League Champions, and for the second successive season, the Carlisle and District Charity Shield Competition winners.

They’d won it before on three other occasions – in 1896/97, 1898/9 and 1902/3 to equal the record set by Shaddongate United. So the Rose, as they were known, had won every trophy for which they competed in 1903/04, and were reputed to be ‘probably the strongest all-round junior team that has held the Charity Shield during the fourteen years of its honoured career.’ They followed up that success with an application to join the Cumberland Senior League, which was successful.

Carlisle United’s first competitive match saw them take on Carlisle Red Rose in a local derby fixture in the Cumberland League on 21st September 1904, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

The Blues had played a friendly over the Border in Scotland against Maxwelltown Volunteers on the 12th September, so that match has the distinction of being United’s first ever game. It also ended in a draw, 3-3 being the score-line.

So the links between the two sides have long existed – and if it hadn’t been for the Magpies encouragement, the Brunton Park outfit that play today may never have existed.’

Jon Tait is the Carlisle-based press officer of the Northern Football Alliance League.

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