Ardrishaig Kharki Rangers – an epic tale

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Quite how it came to be stored in the loft of a house in East Lothian is not yet known – but the mystery of a fantastic old football photo has been solved.

Thanks to readers of the Argyllshire Advertiser, the story can now be revealed of the Ardrishaig Kharki Rangers and their unknown 1901 trophy.

As reported in the September 15 edition of the Advertiser, it was Bill and Christine Young who found the photo while clearing out their loft in East Lothian and sent it to the paper.

The original photo had been kept in good condition by being wrapped inside a tattered 1977 edition of the Advertiser which also featured an article requesting information on that self-same photo.

Reading the story in our recent edition, Ardrishaig woman Grace Clifford approached the paper with the full story. Her mother, Margaret S Annan, had kept a newspaper cutting from the time in which players and officials are named.

The 1977 information came from reader Mr Robert Bruce of Ardrishaig. He provided the paper not only with the names, but a bit of detail about the trophy and the match in which it was won in 1901.

The trophy was the Nicol Challenge Cup, presented to the Mid Argyll Football Association at the turn of the century. During the first five years of its existence it was won by the Kharki Rangers in 1901, 1902 and 1905. Tarbert were the winners in 1903 and 1904.

Mr Bruce also recalled that it was not easy to assemble a team around the turn of the 20th century. The two Law cousins, for example, were fishermen and walked from Lochgair to Ardrishaig to meet up with team-mates for that 1901 Nicol Challenge Cup Final, which was played in Tarbert.

His own father, said Mr Bruce, cycled from his job as a gardener at Arduanie for the game.

After the match, which Kharki Rangers won 1-0, the players were so dirty that they ran to the sea and jumped in. No showers in those days.

Mr Bruce also remembered Ardrishaig Kharki Rangers reaching another, very different, final. The lads were beaten by a mining team in the final of the Scottish tug-of-war championships.

The trophy was still around in 1977, at the home of Miss Flora Law in Glen Fyne Park, Ardrishaig. It would be fascinating to know whether the Nicol Challenge Cup is still in Mid Argyll today.

The cup run was famous enough to have a poem written about it, according to Grace Clifford, who was kind enough to hand in a copy of it to the paper.

The teams involved in the match described in verse were Ardrishaig Kharki (or ‘Khaki’ in the poem) Rangers and Lochgilphead.

The epic was kept by her mother, and Grace said: ‘The poem is by JE Scott, and many of the players, both in the Ardrishaig and Lochgilphead teams, are named and – as was the custom in those days – mostly referred to by their nicknames.

Grace added: ‘I wonder who JE Scott was. Obviously he was an educated man who could rhyme and scan competently. Is there anyone able to tell us who he was?’

The Nicoll Challenge Cup 1901

The Khaki Rangers

By JE Scott


  1. Sit doon an’ I’ll tell ye a story

It wasna a great big catch

It wasna a fight at the fit o’ the lane

It wis only a fitba’ match.

2. But Scotland rang wi’ the story

(Machkar will tell ye it’s true)

When the Point boys won by the only goal

Scored as the whistle blew.

3. The Bank Park, boys, was crowded

There were fifteen hundred there!

Harvey sent six reporters

An’ the Oban Times had a pair.

4. Man, it was great, a’vallich!

Man it was simply great,

An the Khakis swore they’d die before

They’d let themselves be bate.

5. Dugal kicked off for Ardrishaig

An’ Fettie and Geerach began

Doon the wing like electric eels

They passed, an’ dribbled an’ ran.

6. The ba’ went across tae Connie

Who sent her back to Cock Bruce

An’ Cock let drive, but Carswell saved

A could greet – but what’s the use.

7. It was then Hughie Vean got excited

‘Huyg’, the Lochgilliper’s pet,

An’ he off doon the field, with the ball at his toe,

Till John Hamilton laid him flet.

8. But Jockie got haud o’ the ba’

A dangerous man was he

Till Sultan cut over an’ cleared

An’ that was a sight tae see!

9. Did I mention that I was playing?

I was one o’ the backs no less

An Bowsie and me were as steady as rocks

An’ sharp as a piece o’ gless.

10. An’ we needed to be a’ vallich

(There’s Machkar’ll tell you it’s true)

For Lochgilphead were pressing us hard at times,

An’ twice they were nearly through.

11. But they never got time to aim at goal

An’ the same at the other end

Where Fettie himsel’ could do nothing

So strong did McKirdy defend.

12. So half time came wi’ never a goal

But man, the play was a trate

An’ the Khakis swore they’d die before

They’d let themselves be bate.

13. The second half was a scorcher

Man, but the play was fast

An’ the Khakis had a’ the best of it

Till we thought we would score at last.

14. But Carswell was playing champion

Ah must give Carswell his due

For the shots went in like bullets

An’ never a one he let through.

15. Connie an’ Cock an’ Geerach,

Fettie an’ Dugal Law

Shot like a dozen Maxims

Till they nearly burst the ba’

16. The crood was mad wi’ excitement

(Did a’ tell ye that afore?)

It was only a minute from time, ma boy

An’ still there was time to score.

17. Ah spat on ma hands a’ vallich

On these two hands you see!

Says I to maself, there’ll never be a goal

Unless it’s scored by me!

18. An’ just as a spoke, the ball came up

An’ right to ma feet it came

For the half o’ a half o’ a second

Ah saw a bit of red flame.

19. An’ then a’ up an’ started

(Machkar’ll tell you it’s true)

I had less than a meenite to do it in

An’ the deed I meant to do.

20. As I ran the length o’ the field

I deedled a dozen men

I was thirty yards from Carswell

An’ then – an’ then – an’ then

21. I shot, and no man living

Could have seen the ball as it flew

Into the net like a cannon ball

A goal! Hurray! Harroo!

22. Half a second afore time up

Man, if ye heard the crood!

If Carswell had tried to stop that shot

He’d be stiffened where he stood!

23. Wha was Quinn o’ the Celtic?

Wha was McColl o’ the Queens?

Whoot is he – Reid o’ the Rangers?

There’s nane o’ them worth twa peens!

24. There’s nane o’ them ever could shoot a goal

Like the goal that I put through

When the Khakis won by the only goal

Just as the whistle blew!


Ardrishaig Kharki Rangers, Nicol Challenge Cup winners 1901 – As named by Robert Bruce in 1977. From left: Duncan McCallum, Jock Dewar, William McPhail, James McVean, A McTavish, Robert Bruce (Mr Bruce’s uncle), Jock MacVicar, A MacGregor (trainer), cousins Angus and Dougal Law, John Hamilton, D Campbell, Walter McEwan and, sitting to the right of the cup, John Bruce, who was Mr Bruce’s father. no_a37OldFootieArdrishaig01