The Unification of Ayr - The Parkhouse Perspective

Last updated : 11 January 2007 By Honestman

Little is known about the formation of Parkhouse in 1886. Apart from the fact that they took their name from Parkhouse Farm where the clubs' founder members did their initial training.

Their first home ground was in Ballantyne Drive, on a plot of ground beside the former Parkhouse Hotel but they quickly moved to the Racecourse, now known as the Old Racecourse.

Ayr Parkhouse 1896/97
Initially they had a good series of results at the level of the game they played but it was a major shock when they took over the lease of Beresford Park in 1888, as the club were not allowed to charge gate money for spectators to watch them play at that level.

In 1889 they built a new clubhouse at Beresford Park and the start of the 1889/90 season saw Parkhouse join the senior ranks of the game, bringing the number of senior clubs in the town to three, after Ayr FC and Ayr Athletic.

The town wasn't big enough for three clubs and Athletic fell into a swift demise. In 1890 Parkhouse extended Beresford Park to include the neighbouring Athletic Park that had been home to the Ayr Athletic club.

In their first ever Scottish Cup tie, Parkhouse defeated the more fancied Kilbirnie 6-1, only to fall to Glasgow's Summerton Athletic in the next round.

The first signs of the fierce rivalry that was to develop with Ayr FC surfaced in 1890/1after an Ayr FC member had approached a number of Parkhouse players in an attempt to get them to move to Somerset Park. The response was fierce with ‘The Parkhouse committee threatening dire vengeance on the offender should he ever come within a certain radius of Beresford Park.'

The club played in the Ayrshire League in 1891/2 season at the end of which professionalism was accepted by the SFA. Players could now be paid for playing football but Parkhouse remained faithful to the amateur code – a stance they were to keep for the next 13 years.

In the summer of 1893, after Parkhouse had finished third in the Ayrshire League, came the first talks of amalgamation between the towns' two remaining senior clubs but the Parkhouse committee remained aloof of the idea, stating ‘Parkhouse have shown that they can live and live well without the patronage of the Somerset gatherings.'

The club joined the new Ayrshire Combination for the 1893/4 season. It was during a league fixture in December of that year that Annbank protested about the state of the pitch following a 6-2 defeat by Parkhouse. Not surprisingly the appeal was quashed, as the pitch was their own Pebble Park!

Silverware came to the club that season in the form of the Ayr Charity Cup after a 3-1 win over Ayr. Amazingly it was to be the first of SIX successive victories for the amateurs in the competition.

The clubs amateur status attracted top amateur clubs to Beresford Park. London Casuals, runners up in the FA Amateur Cup, were crushed 4-0 but there were a couple of defeats at the hands of the mighty Corinthians over the years. A strong friendship was also made with the bastions of amateurism in Scotland, Queen's Park.

Amateurism frowned upon the creation of national league football and at this time neither Parkhouse or Queen's Park would entertain the notion of applying for membership of the Scottish Football League.

In the Scottish Cup, a win over Ayr set the club up on a run that took them all the way to the quarter finals where they lost out 3-2 to eventual finalists Renton, courtesy of a last minute goal after the Beresford Park side had led 2-0 with only 25 minutes to go.
However in 1895, the club won the Kilmarnock Charity Cup after a 5-2 win against Hurlford at Rugby Park.

At the AGM of the SFA in 1895, Parkhouse put up a motion to create the Scottish Qualifying Cup, for all the clubs other than the 16 who automatically entered the Scottish Cup. The motion was carried and the new competition, that still exists today albeit in a slightly different format, was born.

More ground improvements were made to Beresford Park with a new clubhouse being integrated with the grandstand.

The Charity Cup ‘double' was achieved with a 3-2 win over Ayr in the towns' own competition.

Success at this level continued. A 2-0 win over Ayr FC won the Ayr Charity Cup in 1896 while the ‘double' was achieved again in 1897 with a 2-1 win over Annbank in the Kilmarnock version at Holm Quarry and another success over Ayr FC in the Ayr tournament, this time by 3-0. On the Monday prior to the Ayr final, Parkhouse had been thrashed 9-1 by Ayr FC in an Ayrshire Championship fixture at Somerset Park!

The rivalry between the two Ayr clubs remained vibrant. Rows over the ‘tapping' of players and fixture clashing were common and one example of this came on 4th September 1897. This was the day that league football came to Ayr with Ayr FC playing Linthouse at Somerset Park. Despite this, Parkhouse arranged a friendly against Vale of Leven, winning 4-2 at Beresford Park.

During the 97/8 season, Parkhouse reached the semi final of the Scottish Qualifying Cup, only to lose 2-1 to a hotly disputed late penalty to Port Glasgow Athletic. Parkhouse appealed and a replay was ordered at Clune Park, home of the Port Glasgow club but at the second time of asking, Athletic won fairly by the same 2-1 margin. Parkhouse however had qualified for the Scottish Cup and again reached the quarter finals. After accounting for Kilmarnock Athletic in the first round, they came up against Kilmarnock in the last eight. They was to be no ‘Killie double' as the visitors ran out 7-2 winners in front of over 6,000 spectators. The Rugby Park side went all the way to the final
where they fell to Rangers.

However the double was achieved over Kilmarnock Athletic, who lost 2-1 to Parkhouse in the final of the Ayr Charity Cup.

In 1899, Parkhouse entertained Rangers in a second round Scottish Cup tie at Beresford Park. Not only were the Ibrox club the holders of the cup, but only weeks before they had completed their league campaign with a 100% record. No-one gave Parkhouse a chance and the home side went down 4-1in front of 5,500 spectators. For the match, Beresford Park received more upgrading work with a banking to hold a throng of people 15 deep built around the ground. In time for the start of the following season, the wire ropes around the ground were replaced with wooden paling but before then the club had secured their sixth successive Ayr Charity Cup with a 4-2 win over Annbank.

In 1900 Parkhouse reached their first Ayrshire Cup Final. Outwith the Scottish Cup, this was the most prominent competition for local clubs but their bid to become the first Ayr team to win the trophy faltered with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Kilmarnock. The week prior to that match, Parkhouse had a very creditable 4-3 win over a Queen's Park side that had reached the final of the Scottish Cup. However their bid for a seventh successive Ayr Charity Cup title faltered when fixture congestion meant that the competition was not completed. A similar fate befell the tournament the following season after Parkhouse and Kilwinning Eglington refused to replay their semi tie with just one day's notice.

By the turn of the century, the amateur clubs' stance against organised league football had waned. In 1900, Queen's Park had been admitted directly into the First Division of the league given their status and Parkhouse applied for league membership in 1901 when the number of Second Division sides was increased by two. But on this occasion their application was unsuccessful.

At the start of the 1901/2 season, Parkhouse travelled to Belfast where they won a four-a-side competition at the Cliftonville Sports. Parkhouse's reserve side went on to reach the final of the Scottish 2nd XI Cup against Queen's Park Strollers but after a 2-2 draw at the Glasgow Exhibition, Strollers ran out convincing 5-0 winners in the Somerset Park replay.

This was to be the season that finally brought success in the coveted Ayrshire Cup. A goal by Morrow accounting for Galston by a 1-0 scoreline in the Rugby Park final. The club also finished in second place in the Scottish Amateur League and re-applied for entry to the SFL. By one-vote, they were admitted ahead of St.Johnstone.

The clubs' first match in the Scottish Second Division resulted in a 3-1 loss away to Clyde. The following players competing on behalf of Parkhouse on that historic occasion: Thomson, S.Cairns, Hill, Williams, Menzies, W.Cairns, R.Young, Bell, G.Young, Finlay and Garven.

The first league match at Beresford Park saw a 2-0 lead slip to a 5-2 defeat to Albion Rovers but it was a case of third time lucky in their quest for their first league win, coming in a 3-2 win away to Raith Rovers.

However that first season was to end in disaster. Parkhouse finished at the foot of the table and had to apply for re-election. Unbeknown to Parkhouse, Ayr FC had written to every club eligible to vote stating their intention not to vote for Parkhouse and requesting that they do the same. As a result, Parkhouse's bid for re-election failed and league football arrived in Aberdeen.

It was only after the vote that the letters sent by the Ayr FC committee came to the attention of the Parkhouse members and at the clubs AGM, the members demanded that Ayr's letter be sent to every major newspaper. The rivalry between the clubs had reached new depths.

The 1904/5 season was spent in the Scottish Combination. In the Scottish Cup, Parkhouse travelled to Ibrox to play Rangers and held their heads aloft after a narrow 2-1 defeat to the eventual finalists. But it was in an Ayrshire Cup tie against Beith that the seasons' most unusual event was to take place. Linesman in those days were appointed one from each club and in this match the neutral referee took the step of ordering the Beith linesman to the stand!

A major date in Parkhouse's history is 20th October 1905. Ex-Provost Templeton presided over a meeting of the clubs members where it was unanimously agreed that the club turn professional.

At the end of that first professional season, Parkhouse reached the final of the Ayrshire Cup, only to lose 1-0 to Ayr.

During the close season, the Scottish Second Division was expanded again and again Ayr Parkhouse applied for membership. It came as a surprise when Parkhouse's application was accepted. After all they had only picked up 16 points in the previous seasons campaign in the Scottish Combination. However some sterling work behind the scenes by Tom Steen won the day for Parkhouse. Steen was a well respected official who went on to become a major player in the development of Ayr United and was treasurer of the SFA between 1907 and 1927.

League football returned to Beresford Park on 18th August 1906 with a 2-1 win over Abercorn. At the end of the season, the Ayr Charity Cup returned ‘home' following a 3-2 win over Ayr, coming just a week after they had suffered a 6-0 defeat at Somerset Park in an Inter-County Shield tie.

Ayr Parkhouse 1902
Despite a repeated desire by the Ayr footballing public for the clubs to amalgamate, in the belief that such a move would bring First Division football to the town, the two clubs continued to be fierce rivals. In 1908, Ayr FC protested against the inclusion of 3 players in the Parkhouse team for an Ayrshire Cup tie. Parkhouse themselves then lodged a counter protest. The match was played and ended 1-1 but Ayr FC failed to turn up for the following weeks replay, in the hope that the Ayrshire Football Association would order a replay to be played at Somerset Park. As a result of this non-appearance, Parkhouse claimed the tie. The AFA ordered that the match be replayed at Beresford Park where Parkhouse eventually ran out 5-2 winners

Although now a professional club, the Committee still retained the ‘sport for sports sake' attitude of the amateur ranks. During a match at Logie Green against Leith Athletic, the committee approached the home side and offered to share responsibility for the re-appearance in the second half of the Leith centre half who had been in their opinion, unjustly sent off.

Again the semi final of the Scottish Qualifying Cup was reached but after gaining a 1-1 draw at Brechin, Parkhouse surprisingly went down 2-1 in the Beresford Park replay.

However Parkhouse were having their best ever season in the league, eventually finishing sixth in the Second Division. With only a few games remaining they had been contenders for the Championship itself only for a late collapse in their fortunes.

Talk of amalgamation reared it's head once more. In April 1909, a meeting at the Cowan's Temperance Hotel drew up a draft agreement for amalgamation. Namely:

  • Both clubs go into voluntary liquidation
  • The new company have nominal capital of £3,000 and take the assets of both clubs
  • New club be called Ayr United
  • Both grounds be used alternatively for a period of five years by the new club

    However the Ayr directors delayed in putting the plans before their shareholders and after four weeks had passed without any response from the Somerset Park side, Parkhouse withdrew from any future negotiations.

    But after another season where neither side had set the heather on fire, Ayr finishing 7th in a 12 team league and Parkhouse bottom, talks of amalgamation were re-opened and an Emergency General Meeting of both sets of shareholders was held. Ironically both clubs had qualified to meet each other in the final of the Ayrshire Cup and before the game; the Directors of Ayr FC stated their desire to join forces with their local rivals. The clubs' shareholders backed this view.

    On 9th April 1910, Ayr beat Parkhouse by the only goal of the game at Somerset Park to win the Ayrshire Cup. It proved to be the last match for both sides as independent clubs. On April 29th it was agreed in principle for the clubs to amalgamate and at the following meeting, with backing from both sets of shareholders and Ayr United FC was formed


Founded: 1886

Ballantyne Drive (1886)
Racecourse (1886 – 1888)
Beresford Park (1888 – 1910)

Colours: Navy & Cream

Nickname: The Parkies

Ayrshire Cup Winners

Ayr Charity Cup Winners
1894; 1895; 1896; 1897; 1898; 1899; 1907

Kilmarnock Charity Cup Winners
1895; 1897

Scottish 2nd XI Cup Finalists

Membership of the Scottish Football League
(Second Division)
1903- 1904
1906 - 1910