Story of a Photograph: The Football Team

Photographs are great. They can capture a moment so that we can relive it again and again. But remembering what that original moment was can be a little bit tricky. When dealing with pictures that are over a hundred years old, pinpointing when and where it was taken can be difficult, if not impossible. In many cases we have to hope that there is writing on the back telling us who is in the picture or what it shows. But even then, can we believe it?

The City Engineers Football team

Whilst going through the photographs in the City Engineers collection, I came across a small folder containing pictures of social events. There are snaps of a day out for the staff up into the hills of Angus, a triumphant looking picture of some men with a trophy cup and some rifles and 5 pictures of football teams. These intrigued me. Some had no inscription on the back. Others had names, a date and the name of a match.

The City Engineers team that beat the Gas Office 5-0 at Dens Park on 24th April 1922

Two pictures seem to show the City Engineers team from a match with the Gas Office. Was this an annual match? One photograph goes into great detail, telling us the exact date, 25th April 1922, the names of the players, that it took place at Dens Park and even that the Engineers won the match 5-0. Eager to find out more I turned to the newspapers. But even armed with an exact date I could find no mention of the match having taken place. Sadly the official records of the council don’t refer to such an event.

Another picture of the City Engineers Football team, but no date or place is given

But the really interesting picture was the oldest one. This is the picture at the top (and bottom) of this article. There are 11 men in football kit and 2 men in suits at the side of the team. But what makes this interesting is what the men are holding. If you look closely you will see that one has a parrot on his shoulder and another has monkey on his lap. The writing on the back of the picture says “City Engineers vs. Gas Office, 1913”. So what on earth is going on here? Why are they holding a parrot and a monkey?

After a little digging, I discovered that the groundsman at Dens Park, Mr A Gow, kept quite a menagerie, including a parrot, a monkey and even a goat (which seems to have been an unofficial mascot for Dundee FC). So was this the City Engineers or was I looking at a picture of the Dundee FC team? A quick email to the club historian, Kenny Ross, revealed that Dundee FC believe that this is a team photograph and that the men at the side are Mr Gow and William Longair the club trainer. The men certainly seem to be wearing a dark blue kit. One thing we can be certain of is that the picture was taken at Dens Park and before 1921 as the old stand is in the back ground. But, if we believe the 1922 photograph, the City Engineers vs Gas Office matches took place at Dens Park. This could be the City Engineers before the match. If not why does it say this on the back and who wrote it? Was it a mistake or is it a joke?

So is this Dundee FC, or the City Engineers football team in 1913? What do you think?

Football Team with Parrot and Monkey – Dundee FC or the City Engineers?

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