Village support helps the Swallows to a milestone

The St Monance team of 1954
The St Monance team of 1954

Formed in 1893, St Monans belatedly joined the other villages in the East Neuk in forming their own club.

The 1937-38 side.

The 1937-38 side.

Few know more about the side than local man Willie Fyall, a former Scotland youth international, whose encyclopedic knowledge he was happy to share with the Mail.

St Monans Swifts Junior Football Club were officially formed at a meeting in the town hall on August 31, 1893.

Their first official game was against fellow junior side Anstruther Rangers.

However, despite attempts from league bosses to get them into the East Fife Junior League, the side played only friendly games for some years before eventually deciding to join the East of Fife Juvenile League (Mitchell Trophy) in 1900.

A young Willie Fyall on Scotland duty.

A young Willie Fyall on Scotland duty.

Success was immediate, as Willie explains: “Results would suggest that they won this trophy.

“The Swifts continued as juveniles, but in 1906 the St Monans Swifts Juniors were reformed and new pitch was provided by Mr Finlayson, Coal Farm.

“Their first game was a drawn friendly on Saturday, December 1 against Colinsburgh Violet.”

The Swifts made their debut as a junior side in the Howe of Fife Junior League and went on to lift their first piece of silverware, the Janetta Cup, in May 1908.

After moving to a new home ground near to Craigiewells Farm, a new team was set up in St Monans which won more favour with the locals.

“From season 1910 the Swifts team was made up with players mainly from Leven, Methil and Buckhaven. No St Monans men played for the Swifts in the majority of games,” said Willie.

“St Monans Rangers Juveniles were formed and the local supported them more than the juniors.”

Footballing matters took a back seat as the Great War raged across Europe before the Swifts re-grouped, being granted a ground by Mr Stevenson, Craigiewells Farm.

The Swifts would go on to dominate the football scene, racking up league and cup wins galore during the 20s, before eventually returning to the amateur ranks.

The following years were laden with success for the Swifts who by now had generated a huge support.

Over 1000 supporters turned out to Station Park to watch them pip Pitenweem to the league title in 1930-31.

It’s remarkable to think it, but the village team would regularly record attendances in their thousands when they played vital home games.

Such was the level of success and support, Willie believes the side could have been harbouring loftier ambitions.

He said: “At the end of season 1935-36, St Monans Swifts were refused membership of the Scottish Football Association because their ground was not enclosed.”

Could the Swifts have been thinking about going senior?

The arrival of World War Two again put a halt to organised football in the area.

After returning, the Swifts played amateur and continued to dominate across the coming decades – until things collapsed in the 1950s.

Towards the end of the 1959 season, the Swifts hit serious financial trouble and, in order to continue in the league, were advised to change their name. They became the St Monance Swallows under the charge of a new committee and chairman Robert Smith.

Jimmy Hutt was placed in charge and he would go on to lead the side to four Fife Amateur Cup wins, six league titles, 16 local cups and five league section wins.

After Jimmy retired, Jock and Bill Ritchie, Lawrence Kinnear and Chapman Mathers steered the Swallows to a league title and three more cup wins.

But sadly the good times weren’t to last.

“From 1982 and throughout the 90s the Swallows experienced lean times and it was surprising they survived,” said Willie.

“Heavy defeats and a lack of players would have closed down many clubs – but due to the resilience of locals and incomers they survived.”

The Swallows now play in the Fife Amateur Association leagues.

“Sponsorship is important and St Monans continue to rely on not only their own efforts such as the 100 club, but on local businesses and the Mayview Hotel – their main sponsor since the 1980s,” said Willie.“Without the community, St Monans Football Club would not have survived for 120 years.”