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Hebburn Argyle AFC, or as they were popularly known, "The Irish Highlanders" owed their existence to a group of young St Aloysius' parishioners. In 1882 they formed a football club with the name of St Aloysius Juniors. The Rev. Dr Toner was Chairman and Mr T Richardson was Secretary. The club, with 27 members in total, got the use of a field near to the Catholic Church in Argyle Street, and in their first season they scored 137 goals, conceding 35. In those days there were no league games, and clubs played "ordinary," i.e. friendly matches, and knockout tournaments for various trophies. In 1888 they moved to a new, enclosed ground, the club finances having improved sufficiently to permit this. Coincidentally this was also the year that the Football League was founded. Their original Secretary, Mr Richardson, left the town in that year, and he was succeeded by Mr. J. Mitchell, who was one of the original members of the club, and who played a major role in steering its fortunes for the next eleven years.
As mentioned above, the Football League was founded in 1888, and this novel concept quickly spread, with local leagues being established throughout the country. The (original) Tyneside League was established in May 1891, and Hebburn Argyle, as they were now known, applied to become a founder member, but came 13th in a ballot for the 12 places available. This was somewhat ironic, as when the Tyneside League commenced operations only seven of the elected members fielded teams. It collapsed after its first season and a new, unconnected league, was formed with the same title in May 1894.
Shortly after moving to their new ground, Argyle applied for membership of the Northern Alliance, but once again they were unsuccessful. Nevertheless they frequently met Alliance clubs in friendly matches, and in season 1892-93 they played all of them with the exception of Shankhouse and Rendel, winning every game. Such a record could not go unnoticed, and when two vacancies arose in the Alliance the following season Hebburn were admitted along with Dipton Wanderers.
Hebburn Argyle's match record in the days before league membership is impressive, and is shown in the table below.
Their first season in the Northern Alliance was very rewarding; they finished 4th in the table, and demonstrated to everyone's satisfaction that they had the ability to carry themselves at this level of competition. After such a promising start the following season was a big disappointment; they ended up second bottom and narrowly avoided collecting the wooden spoon, which went to Dipton Wanderers.
They learned from their experiences during the 1893-94 season, and for the following campaign a number of professionals were engaged. These included Roger Ord, who had started his career with Argyle before moving to Middlesbrough Ironopolis, and would later move on to Woolwich Arsenal; Jock Sorley, formerly of Blackburn Rovers, and goalkeeper Tommy Cain, later to play for Stoke, Everton and Southampton before returning as landlord of the Golden Fleece in Jarrow. The success of these acquisitions was proven immediately; they entered the Durham Senior Cup for the first time in 1894-95, and reached the final, but their opponents Stockton had home advantage and thrashed them 8-0. However, in 1896-97 Argyle won the Alliance Championship, albeit narrowly, beating Newcastle United 'A' on goal average. Their captain was Patrick Inglis, a local lad, born in Bill Quay in 1872. They also reached the semi-final of the Durham Senior Cup; this time their opponents were Jarrow, who beat them at Monkton Stadium by a single goal.
In 1897-98 they entered the English Cup (FA Cup) for the first time, but went out in the qualifying rounds at Bishop Auckland by 1 goal to nil. A similar fate befell them in the Durham Senior Cup, this time their vanquishers being Sunderland.
After the foundation of Jarrow AFC in season 1894-95 the two clubs had become fierce rivals. Local derby matches attracted good gates; a game played between the two at Hebburn on 1st February 1896 attracted a crowd of 4,000. The teams lining up were: Jarrow - J Cassidy, W Kent (Capt.), R Curry, A Jones, J Barr, J Purvis, W Watson, J Stenton, A Heys, J Wallace, J Kelly; Hebburn Argyle - J Ryder, D Wilson, J Hobson, P Inglis, B Crially, N Errington, A Mowat, W Stewart, G McShane, R Bruce, J Murphy. Hebburn were seeking revenge for a defeat earlier in the season, but as often happens on such occasions a hard-fought game ended in a 0-0 draw. Two weeks later Jarrow made a better fist of it, beating Argyle 2-0 at Monkton. A shot from Hayes was fisted out by the Hebburn goalkeeper, but "Jarrow's forwards pounced upon the ball, and scrimmaged it into the net". McGee secured a second. The biggest struggle between the two clubs however came in 1898-99 when they met in the final of the English Cup qualifying tournament. The prize at stake was a place in the first round proper of the Cup, something no Northern Alliance side had ever achieved. One can imagine the fever pitch atmosphere in the two towns as match day approached. The game was played at Hebburn on 10th December 1898, and a nail-biting 0-0 draw resulted. In the re-match at Monkton four days later both teams managed to score and after 90 minutes the game was level at 1-1. Extra time was called for, and in a thrilling climax Jarrow managed to secure the winner. It was a bitter blow for the Hebburn men; even more so when the draw for the next round was made. They learned that they had missed out on a trip to Goodison Park to meet the mighty Everton, a game which Jarrow lost 2-1. Shortly afterwards Argyle moved to another new ground - the Ellison Ground, tucked in between the Ballast Hill and James Street (now the lower part of Prince Consort Road). The opening ceremony was reported in the Newcastle "Daily Chronicle". (see below)
Argyle finished the season in a creditable 4th place; Jarrow were champions. The popularity of the game had become so great that many clubs, Argyle included, were starting to run reserve sides, and it was the then Financial Secretary of Argyle, Robert Brown, who instigated the formation of the Tyneside Alliance League for these teams. In 1903-04 the reserve side won the Championship of the Tyneside Alliance, beating Willington Athletic 2-1 in the final at Horsley Hill on 30-4-1904.
Ground improvements were carried out during the summer of 1905, and the entrance gates were moved to Prince Consort Road.
Season 1906-07 saw Hebburn Argyle playing in more elevated company. The club had resigned from the Northern Alliance in favour of the newly-formed North Eastern League. They had, undoubtedly, overstretched themselves, and in their first season they finished bottom of the table. Over the next seven seasons they only finished in the top half of the table on two occasions. It is from this period that we have some interesting, though grainy, pictures of the team and their ground, taken from the pages of the "Jarrow Guardian".
Season 1911-12 was more successful for Argyle. Although they only managed to finish thirteenth out of nineteen, they did have some silverware to show for their efforts, in the form of the Tynemouth Infirmary Cup. It was also a success in financial terms, in that they finished the season with a surplus of £37 11s 6d, thanks largely to £100 in transfer fees received from Sheffield United for two players, Bert Pearson and Billy Cook. This was more than the club's wage bill for the season (£85 9s 7d). The Committee comprised Charles Williams (Chairman), John Barrett (vice-Chairman), John Lavery (Secretary), Mr McIlhinny (Financial Secretary), and Mr G Watson (Treasurer).
When the Great War started in August 1914 it caught the football establishment on the hop. Certain elements with a prejudice against football, especially professional football, argued that it was unpatriotic for able-bodied men to be earning money playing football at a time of national emergency. The attitude of the Government however was that the war would be over in weeks, and the season commenced on schedule. What no-one had foreseen was the patriotic fervour of the population. Young men, including many professional footballers, voluntarily joined the armed forces. Clubs found it difficult to raise teams, and when they did do so they played in front of crowds less than half the numbers of the previous season. Clubs struggled through the season, but nearly all of them made a financial loss, and during the summer the North Eastern League decided to suspend operations for season 1915-16.
In the event, a number of clubs went ahead with a local competition called the "North Eastern League - Tyneside Combination". Hebburn Argyle participated in this competition, along with Houghton Rovers, Jarrow, North Shields, Scotswood, South Shields, Sunderland Rovers and Wallsend. The season was divided into two halves, so that each club would play each other four times. Strict regulations had been imposed by the FA, chief among these being the banning of professionals and the restriction of games to Saturdays and Public Holidays. It was not a great success. Even without players' wages to pay clubs found it difficult to make ends meet with so few spectators turning up. Hebburn Argyle finished 5th from 8 in the first half-season, and bottom in the second. The club did not participate in the competition during season 1916-17, and the league itself was wound up at the end of the season. During 1916-17, a team from Hawthorne Leslies' shipyard played at the Argyle ground in the Tyneside Works League, and on 17th September 1917 the following appeared in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle:
When the Great War ended there appears to have been an attempt to revive the club. Records exist of Hebburn Argyle beating Benwell Celtic 7-2 on 18-1-1919, and Dunston Villa 4-0 on 15-2-1919, but these matches appear to have been friendlies. The Football Association seems to have been under the impression that the club would reform, as Argyle was among the list of clubs given exemption from the preliminary qualifying rounds of the English Cup for season 1919-20. However, when the North Eastern League opened its campaign in 1919-1920 Hebburn Argyle was missing. A "Hebburn Argyle Athletic" was playing in the Hebburn and District Minor League, but this was clearly not the Argyle of old. A number of references can be found to matches being played on "the old Argyle Ground", which suggests that the club had disbanded. It was left to Hebburn Colliery, as the town's most senior club, to carry its standard in the Northern Alliance.
The final chapter in the saga occurred in 1920 when the Newcastle Shipbuilding Company leased the old "Hebburn Argyle" football ground for industrial purposes.
|1894-95||Northern Alliance||21||7||4||10||30||42||16||8/12 (2 pts deducted)|
|1906-07||North Eastern League||18||2||4||12||16||52||8||10/10|
|1907-08||North Eastern League||24||9||4||11||37||65||22||8/13|
|1908-09||North Eastern League||34||10||6||18||55||91||26||14/18|
|1909-10||North Eastern League||32||8||4||20||33||103||20||15/17|
|1910-11||North Eastern League||34||13||6||15||38||62||32||10/18|
|1911-12||North Eastern League||36||11||9||16||56||54||31||13/19|
|1912-13||North Eastern League||38||12||6||20||49||75||30||13/20|
|1913-14||North Eastern League||38||14||11||13||55||50||39||8/20|
|1914-15||North Eastern League||38||12||6||20||49||73||30||14/20|
|(a) as per final table published in the Daily Chronicle; at the club AGM the statistics reported were P26 W11 D7 L8 F43 A39|
(b) final table not found, however Argyle were 13/14 with two games to play, and did not require re-election, so they must have climbed at least one place.
(c) 1st half-season
(d) 2nd half-season
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