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Arbroath 36 – 0 Bon Accord – Saturday 12th September 1885

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132 Years ago today something very special happened which went on to be part of our club’s rich history.

The result which has never been beaten in association football was equalled on 13th July 2015 when FC Infonet beat amateur side Virtsu Jalgpalliklubi 36–0 in a 2015–16 Estonian Cup match, equalling Arbroath’s 130 year old record for the largest margin of victory.

I wonder what they would all think of the modern game? How would they have got on with today’s athletes? Would they recognise Gayfield? but you can bet your life they would be proud of our success in lifting the championship.

As we look back and celebrate that day, who better to take us on a trip down memory lane than by journalist and author Fraser Clyne.

Arbroath lined up that day with 18 year old John Petrie who would go on to score 13 goals that afternoon.

GK Jim Milne Sr
DF Bill Collie
DF Tom Salmond
DF Hen Rennie
DF Jim Milne Jr
DF Dyken Bruce
MF John Petrie
MF Johnny Tackett
FW Jim Marshall
FW David Crawford
FW Daniel Neil

Irishman Tom O’Kane treated his Harp club mates to a to a slap up tripe and potato supper in the Dundee Arms public house to celebrate a victory which, he believed, would secure the East Dock Street team a place in Scottish footballing history. Earlier in the day, Saturday 12th September 1885, O’Kane had played his part in Harp’s 35-0 slaying of Aberdeen Rovers in the first round of the Scottish Cup.

The referee had noted 37 goals, but Harp’s secretary suggested a miscount must have occurred as he had recorded ‘only’ 35. The match official, acknowledging it was difficult for him to keep accurate details during such a deluge of goals, accepted the lower tally and wired the official score of 35-0 to SFA headquarters.

It mattered little to O’Kane at the time. The Arbroath-based full-back was certain that 35-0 was still a record-breaking result. Even in those early days of organised football, when high scoring games were not uncommon, this was a margin of victory which, surely, would never be matched.

O’Kane, who played for Arbroath before joining his Irish compatriots at Harp, even persuaded the Dundee club’s officials to agitate his former Red Lichties colleagues by sending a telegram to Gayfield boasting of his team’s magnificent achievement.

The Harp players and officials were not to know, however, that Arbroath had, on that same afternoon, actually gone one better against another unfortunate Aberdeen side. At rain-lashed Gayfield, 13-goal John Petrie led the rampant home team to a 36-0 thrashing of a bedraggled Bon Accord outfit.

On receiving the Harp telegram, Arbroath officials took great delight in sending a reply boasting of the Angus side’s superior achievement. Both parties had a good laugh over the exchange of messages, each believing the other was playing a humourous trick.
It was only when O’Kane arrived back in Arbroath on the late Saturday evening train that he discovered the truth. Locals were quick to tell him that the Arbroath result was no joke and Harp’s record-breaking claim was about to be lost.

The athletic Irishman, barely able to sleep, got up early on the Sunday morning and jogged the 18 miles along the coast to Dundee to alert Harp officials to the situation. The Dundonians now seriously regretted correcting the referee’s account of the goal tally, and although it isn’t clear what efforts they made to get the result altered, the score was left as it had been recorded on the Saturday.

Even if Harp’s original 37-0 scoreline had been allowed to stand, there is evidence to suggest that Arbroath may have been able to claim an even higher winning margin. The man who refereed the Bon Accord game, Dave Stormont, admitted in a newspaper article many years later, that he disallowed seven Arbroath goals for little good reason.

He said: “While they may have looked doubtful from an offside point of view, so quickly did the Maroons carry the ball from midfield, and so close and rapid was their passing, that it was very doubtful whether they could be offside. That would have made the score 43-0.”

C’mon the Lichties!

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