The story of how St Mirren formed is not straightforward, and throughout the years it was often believed by some that the club was founded in 1876 and not 1877, confusing the formation of the rugby club with the evolution into a football club the following year.
The name ‘St Mirren’ as a sporting organisation within the town actually has roots from 1872 however, when the Hazelwood Cricket Club decided to change their name after only two years of existence to pay tribute to the patron Saint of the town, and the foundations of the football club were born as this club would branch into playing into rugby football and then association rules football, which we know simply as football today.
With a ground in the north of the town in the then Hamlet of Shortroods, Saints as a cricket or rugby team would play local sides from within Paisley and Barrhead, and the first Renfrewshire Derby as we know it today, took place in 1876 when Morton hosted St Mirren at Garvel Park in Greenock and won by 65 runs.
Later that calendar year Saints briefly shifted to a Rugby football XV, but after only a few months some of the players dipped their toes into the world of a new organised sport played with a round ball, and in the Autumn of 1877 these team members decided to form a football club called St Mirren.
The Saints website www.stmirren.info tells us the following of these events:
“In 1877 one of the members, a Mr J. Shearer from Renfrew, suggested that the club should change to the new game of association football that was becoming increasingly popular throughout the country. After a meeting of the committee, it was agreed that the club would take up the new sport and Mr F. Muir and Mr T. Graham were charged with buying the necessary equipment to begin playing football.
With money tight, the two men walked to Glasgow to visit Harry McNeil’s sports shop. There they purchased a ball and other equipment. Mr McNeill, a Queens Park man, enquired about where the men had come from, and upon hearing that they had walked from Paisley he told them that they were the first people from the town to purchase a football and as a gesture of good will he gave them the money for their train fare home and wished them good luck in the venture.
On the 29th September 1877 a trial match was held between two teams to see who would represent St Mirren FC in their first match the following week.
The two teams lined up in the 1-2-2-6 formation that was used at the time.
A. Wallace J. Stewart
J. Eadie W. Reid
F. Cunningham, D. Drennan, TF. Graham (Capt), A. Goudie, J. Robb, T. Graham.
Reserves – Thomson and Craig
Vice Captains team
J. Orr, J. Fisher
J. Cunningham A. Crawford
J. Goold, J. Paterson (Vice Capt), W. Jack, J. Galbraith, J. Shearer J. Allan.
Reserve – Younger
On the 6th October at Shortroods Grounds in Paisley, home of St Mirren Cricket Club, the following players were selected to represent St Mirren in their first official Association Football match.
J. Fisher J. Stewart
J. Goold W. Reid
J. Shearer, J. Paterson, J. Galbraith, F. Muir, T. Graham (Capt) D. Drennan
It is interesting to note that two players, J. Adam and F. Muir were selected for the team but had not participated in the trial match.
John Goold had the honour of scoring the first goal for the Saints as he scored following good work by Muir who set up Graham. His shot landed close to the line and Goold forced it over. The match ended 1-0 to St Mirren.
They were to come back down to earth in the following weeks however as on the 20th October, Saints travelled to Pollockshields in Glasgow to play Ailsa Reserves in their first away match. They were soundly defeated 7-1.
On the 3rd November 1877 Vale of Calder visited Shortroods and inflicted Saints first home defeat with a 2-0 victory”
Saints would finish the calendar year by beating Johnstone Castle Rangers 1-0 at Shortroods in mid November and on New Years’ Eve, the club held their first ever Gala night in celebration of the promising start made by the club in its first few months in a packed out Globe Hotel in the town. This tradition is still going strong today with the annual player of the year dinner.
Although the first team played in scarlet and blue hoops from the outset and were initially the club colours, the second XI played in black and white. It would be around six years before this switched and the now long identifiable colours of Saints were completely established.