A versatile and talented left sided footballer, Charlie Pringle was born on the 18th October 1894 in the then Renfrewshire village of Nitshill to parents Robert and Grace, joining his two older brothers and sister also in the household. Although the family were originally from Ayrshire, father Robert was an engineman and the Pringle’s settled in Renfrewshire for work reasons, moving to the tiny settlement of Inkerman on the outskirts of Paisley when Charlie was just one year old.
This hamlet will not show on any map today, but it stood on Blackstoun Road at the edge of Ferguslie towards Linwood and was built specifically to house employees and their families of the nearby Ironstone mines. In total there was seven pits rich in Ironstone at this exact location, (sixteen in total stretching from Ferguslie to Linwood) but over the decades they also produced a variety of raw materials ranging from crude oil to shale gas and finally became a brickwork by the time Charlie lived here.
The settlement consisted mainly of five banks of cottages and the family lived at number 130 Inkerman Row; however, over the years a store, church, school and schoolhouse, reading rooms and a bowling club were built for the population which peaked about 1000 in the early 1880’s. Today, only one cottage remains along with the school/schoolhouse and the bowling club, with the rest of the hamlet mostly demolished in 1938 and the remaining population relocated to Linwood and Elderslie.
2. Current St Mirren Park
3. Love Street
4. Underwood Park
X. – Paisley Cross
Life would have been difficult for young Charlie in this hamlet, and within a few years he had two younger siblings alongside him in the family cottage taking the household total to eight, however the area was not connected to the national electricity grid therefore lighting was only available via gas whilst heating options were either a coal or wood fire with the obligatory shared toilet in the back garden for good measure.
The residents of Inkerman had retained a fierce rivalry with neighbouring mining settlements over the years, and a few decades beforehand in July 1859 tensions reached boiling point following a 12th July Orange march from Paisley Cross at 6am which dissected Renfrewshire over the next few hours attacking predominantly Catholic mining and labouring settlements, and ended on the outskirts of Inkerman around 2pm where three hundred residents were ready and waiting at Linwood Bridge for the rampaging mob.
The march by this point contained women and children, and on seeing Inkerman residents ready to defend their village branding hefty mining gear and swords, detoured to the nearby ‘Redan’ mining village just over the Black Cart in Linwood where their numbers were swelled by willing Orangemen ready to battle.
This sectarian fuelled hatred had been intensified by the arrival of thousands of Northern Irish workers (some reports at the time believe it was in fact created entirely by this migration in Renfrewshire) who had transferred their nonsensical differences from Ulster to the central belt of Scotland. This was a new issue for authorities in Paisley as there had be no recordings of such gatherings before 1850 in the area. That said, the Paisley Police are reported to have allowed the mounting violence to continue through Millarston, Johnstone and onto Linwood, and some officers had even taken part.
The shocking violence that eventually took place during the crescendo of this senseless battle upon the crossing over the Black Cart, where one man was killed and several others seriously injured was rather fancifully called “The battle of Linwood Bridge” in local folklore, but with hundreds fighting for an hour on the bridge and sporadic incidents continuing for days after, it would be accurate to suggest it certainly was an extremely serious incident. Inkerman reportedly remained untouched during and after the violence, and casualties in the Oranagmen camp were to be far more serious than that of those defending their village suffered.
Tensions continued for days after, and the residents of Inkerman were reported to have ‘sworn revenge’ for the events of the 12th July and in particular the beating to death of Patrick Rush by retreating Orangemen, an innocent 67 year old Catholic man returning from his work as a besom maker (old broom) and been caught unwittingly in the violence. Special officers were drafted in from Johnstone and eventually 150 members of the Royal Sussex militia joined them after another battle almost took place between the residents The Redan and Inkerman on the 14th of July again of the bridge, which remains intact today on Bridge Street in Linwood:
Although before his time, it is probably accurate to assume this was a tough place for Charlie to be brought up in as these grievances are unlikely to be quickly forgotten, and it is likely he would have developed a resolute and rigid character as a result, but instead of going down the mines or following his farther into engineering, the youngster became a talented footballer and played for local amateur side Inkerman Rangers before joining Maryhill Juniors in 1913. A few years later, Saints recognised the talent of the 5ft & 7 inches tall wing half and bought the 22-year-old for a small fee in what would be Hugh Law’s final signing for the club before John Cochrane took over the following month.
In a similar way to Jock Marshall, Pringle was utilised all over the park during the war years and beyond; also playing at half back, outside left and even as the centre forward, particularly in 1921 on any occasion Dunky Walker was not available, but it was at his natural position of half back where the young local lad flourished.
In his debut season, Pringle would score five times including a goal on his second appearance for the club against Dumbarton and was the heartbeat of the team over several seasons winning many admirers in the press with his accomplished displays, particularly when Saints won the 1919 Victory Cup. The international selection committee were also impressed by Pringle, and on the 25th January 1921 the Saints man lined up for the Scottish League against Ireland, giving the half back a first taste of playing for his country.
The following month on the 12th February, Pringle was selected for the full Scotland squad and made his international debut against Wales during a 2-1 victory for the Scots at Pittodrie in front of 20,824 spectators becoming St Mirren’s eleventh full internationalist, and a proud moment for his family and all inhabitants of his small hamlet on the outskirts of Paisley.
This would turn out to be the only cap Pringle earned in his career, however his form remained excellent for Saints as Cochrane started to build a side capable of challenging for honours, but as always seems to have been the case in Scottish football, clubs were at the mercy of richer ones from England who could buy the cream of our talent and after 143 appearances for Saints over six years, Manchester City purchased the wing half for £1,410 making it officially a club record by virtue of it being just £10 more than the fee Middlesbrough paid for Jock Marshall a few years earlier.
Pringle would spend six seasons at Maine Road playing over 200 matches, including a spell as club captain and played in the 1926 FA Cup final as his former Saints teammates were beating Aberdeen 3-0 on the last game of the 1925/26 season having won the Scottish Cup a fortnight beforehand. Unfortunately, Charlie couldn’t add a medal of his own, and in front of over 91,000 spectators Bolton beat City 1-0.
The following season City were relegated, but bounced back immediately in the 1927/28 campaign with Pringle captaining the side, however this would be his last season at the club as he took the rather unusual step of joining a brand-new club called Manchester Central who played in the regional Lancashire leagues, however there is more to the story than this first suggests.
This new club were founded in 1928 by ex-Manchester City director Charlie Roberts, who was also a former England centre half and appointed former Manchester City, Manchester United and Wales legend Billy Meredith as coach who just happened to be Charlie Pringle’s father in law. The two men appeared together on half a dozen occasions for City when the former Saints man first moved down to England and Meredith incidentally played football until he was 50 years of age in the English top-flight and had an astonishing 34 year playing career, starting in 1890!
Roberts and Meredith believed that this new club could gain support from the east side of Manchester after City had moved from here in 1923 to Maine Road, and although the early signs were good as up to 10,000 turned out for some matches, their route to the football league was blocked by both established Manchester clubs, with United particularly worried they could face proper decline due to their poor financial state should a new club become prominent within the city.
Manchester Central folded after only four years in 1932 as they had no route to the football league, but Pringle left the club a few years beforehand and had spells with Bradford Park Avenue, Lincoln City and Stockport before retiring in 1933.
Later in his life Charlie Pringle became a coach and had a spell back with Saints in the 1940’s but lived the rest of his life out in the Manchester area.