Early football on the Westside
By Angus Graham

The South Bragar team who beat North Bragar 2-0 in 1926. Do you recognise anyone?

I am grateful to my sister Agnes, who stays in Edinburgh, for sending me this very interesting photo, surely what must have been the first of its kind concerning a South Bragar football team. She got it enlarged from a very faded snapshot, in the hope that the unknown members of the team would be eventually recognised by someone somewhere. The Millennium edition of “Eilean an Fhraoich” annual accepted the photo, plus my accompanying article, which duly appeared as I had written it, but I must say, unfortunately, they printed the team photo in their magazine as a snapshot size. It can be understood that this lessened the chances of faces being recognised by readers.

However I trust that “Fuaran” will not make the same mistake, and, that all the South Bragar “stalwarts” will be named, as they rightly deserve to be especially after beating their “bitter rivals” North Bragar Two goals to Nil !!

The following passage is an extract from my article in the annual, which was under the heading, “Who Were the Pioneers of Rural Lewis Football?”

“This rather interesting photograph poses many various questions. I have always been of the opinion that very little was known about football in the outlying villages of Lewis and Harris until the early thirties. I have been trying to recognise the background landscape, as I don’t take it to be in the vicinity of Bragar machair, where in years to follow, many a football “battle” was witnessed.

I would indeed be grateful should any reader assist in putting names to the outstanding players whom we have failed to identify, as well as helping with any other information in connection with the photo, and the occasion. For instance, I cannot imagine a football match being played in collar and tie; therefore, they must have worn some kind of distinguishing outfit.

It could well be assumed that their manager may also have been the cameraman, and that the order of the day would be —shower, dress up and smile. It would be equally interesting to know the names of the North Bragar team; again, does any reader have any information? If so, I’d be delighted to receive such, and when, as it is hoped that Comann Eachdraidh an Taobh Siar is restarted I shall endeavour that even the slightest detail that comes to hand be passed on to them, and filed in the annals of history.”

Sad to say no response came forth, so the only hope is through “Fuaran”. Coming back to the all-important photo, following are the names of the players who have been recognised: -
Standing at the back is goalkeeper John Murray, (Iain Mhurchaidh ‘An Ghobha) 46 South Bragar. Middle Row, far left is Angus MacLean, (Aonghas Mhurchaidh Aonghais Iain) 6 South Bragar. In the centre half position is Angus MacLeod, (Aonghas Iain Aonghais Òig) 18 South Bragar. Far right is Angus Morrison (Aonghas Ruairidh) 24 South Bragar.

The remaining handsome young men in that row are to us as yet unknown. All we are certain of concerning the forward line is, that in the centre forward position, holding the ball that is proudly demonstrating the final result is my own father, John Graham, (Iain a’ Ghàdaidh) 19 South Bragar. To his left I am personally of the opinion is maybe Donald Murray, (Domhnall Anna) 21 South Bragar. If that is correct, we would be thankful to any reader who could put a name to the other three players in the forward line. That leaves us with five members of the team to be identified in all.

I enclose a photocopy of the back of the original snap, which came to be in my sisters possession. As can be seen, the wording, in beautiful handwriting says, South Bragar v North Bragar — 10/7/26 — 2-0. A.M.L .— M.M.L.

Now to the real beginning of rural football in Lewis. History has it that Barvas was the first team, outside of Stornoway, and from what they called “the country,” which played a full eleven-a-side game against a Stornoway team. The match took place at Goathill Park, which was then situated in the vicinity of where Smith Avenue stands today. That friendly match, with its date of 18th April 1903 resulted with a score of Stornoway 4 Barvas 0. However, Barvas gave a better account of themselves in their return home match on the 26th of September with a final score of Barvas 3 Stornoway 5.

The football league was formed in Stornoway around 1920, there were also several cup competitions, and about six teams took part in these. It was in the year 1933 that the Lewis and Harris Association in Glasgow succeeded in a bold and memorable venture, resulting in them presenting the islanders with the coveted silver trophy “Copan Eilean an Fhraoich”. It is seriously believed that this cup was the original creation of football in both Lewis and Harris, maybe because it was only rural teams, which were eligible to compete for it.

On that particular basis alone, it could not have been any surprise to anybody that the “Eilean an Fhraoich” cup final in its first year was contested by two “Siarach” teams — Uig. and West Side. — The latter won both matches by the same score 2-0. The goal scorers were M. Murray and R. Smith in the first leg, in the return match N. Finlayson and R. Smith hit the target against, as it has been said “a very gallant Uig team”.

The West Side team turned out as follows in a 2-3-5 formation, as it was known to be played then, and for many years after.

In goal there was N Murray (Shawbost). Right Back was A.J. MacLean (Ballintrushal). Left back was Donald MacKay (Bragar). Right Half was J. MacLean (Bragar). Centre Half was J. Smith (Bragar). Left Half was D. Morrison (Bragar). Outside Right was D.A. MacLeod (Shawbost). Inside Right was M. Murray (Bragar). Centre Forward was R. Smith (Barvas). Inside Left was N. Finlayson (Brue). Outside Left was W MacLean (Ballantrushal).

Question time — is there any person out there who can come up with a photograph of the above-mentioned team? It is very important because they were the very first winners of “Copan Eilean an Fhraoich”.

Back row L to R
A. Murray (Bragar): C. Mackay (Bragar): A MacLeod (Bragar): A. MacLean (Bragar: J.MacLean (Bragar): Team manager John Morrison (Barvas)
Middle row L to R
D. Smith (Bragar): K. Smith (Arnol): D. Morison (Bragar): C. Murray (Bragar):
Front row
A.J. MacLean (Ballantrushal): D.A.Macleod (Shawbost):