Scottish footballers in Denmark, 1898-1914. Part One: Queen’s Park at the International Festival of Gymnastics in Copenhagen, May-June 1898 – A Team Sheet.

Dr. Matthew L. McDowell, University of Edinburgh (@MattLMcDowell)

This research is part of two journal articles that are being put together by myself and Allan B. Grønkjær. Costs were funded by the Annie Dunlop Endowment at the University of Glasgow.

Matthew Taylor recently stated that British sports historians are behind the times when it comes to examining British sport’s transnational elements. [1] This is especially the case for the pre-WWI years of Scottish football. While some (though not enough) examinations exist of the intra-British Isles football during this period, when examining sporting links with continental Europe the historiography gets even more sporadic.

Edinburgh, Newcastle and Hull had comparatively easy access to Scandinavia and the north of Germany. The Leith, Hull and Hamburg Steam Packet Company operated regularly between these cities, Copenhagen, and Kristiansand in Norway, delivering primarily Danish agricultural products to the UK, and providing a regular conduit for transportation. It is understandable, then, that by 1914 Copenhagen became a logical destination of British football clubs seeking continental summer tours. Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, Rangers, Hearts and (especially) Celtic  were considerable spectator attractions for clubs and select teams from the non-professional world of Danish football. [2]

But early Danish footballers were certainly knowledgeable of British sport. Many middle-class British migrants worked in Copenhagen businesses (especially in agriculture) during the late nineteenth century, with middle-class Danish families often making the return journey. This often makes it difficult to disentangle ‘origin’ myths within Danish football: was it started by British migrants, or by Danes who visited the UK? Regardless, the educated Copenhagen circle which founded the Danish Football Association (Dansk Boldspil Union. DBU) in 1889 viewed themselves as staunch amateurs.

After a Danish visitor to Scotland witnessed the Scotland v. Wales match at Fir Park, Motherwell, in March 1898, arrangements were made for Queen’s Park to take part in two matches at the International Festival of Sports and Gymnastics (Den Internationale Gymnastik- og Idrætsfest), being held in Copenhagen from 30 May to 2 June that year. It was an amateurs-only affair, making Queen’s Park a logical choice from a Scottish professional game that was awash in openly-practised professionalism at the turn of the century. QP were the first British club to play on the continent, and only the second to go abroad, after fellow amateurs’ Corinthians’ tour of South Africa the year before. [3]

Queen’s Park were anomalous in the Scottish game. They had managed to maintain their amateur status after the Scottish Football League (SFL) was introduced in 1890, and after professionalism was formally legalised by the Scottish Football Association (SFA) in 1893. By 1898, Rangers and Celtic, the two clubs who soon be known as the ‘Old Firm’, were already beginning to manipulate their increasing popularity to great effect in the corridors of the SFA, which had previously been dominated by Queen’s Park and its more self-consciously bourgeois officialdom. QP, certainly, did not represent the future of the Scottish, or wider British game.

But their presence in Denmark in 1898 is considered to have had a galvanising effect on the game in the country. [4] Paradoxically, it was designed to be this way: the organisers of the Festival hoped to learn football tactics from Scotland’s premier amateur club. (Paradoxical, of course, because coaching of any stripe bordered on being taboo in amateur sport.) What’s more, as the Festival was funded in large part by a grant from the Danish government, the expenditure needed to be justified in terms of gate money, and Queen’s Park’s secretary J.M. Miller was keen to sell the quality of QP’s amateurs in order to maximise the potential draw to an audience. 7,000 spectators showed up for the first match against a DBU select squad, while 4,000 showed up for their second. Their matches were the main event of the gymnastics festival, which additionally featured cricket (at the time, a popular sport amongst middle-class educated Danes). A German football club, Hamburg-Altona, were also present, although they were considered a secondary attraction.

One of the pleasures of being a historian is the admitted buzz of finding documents and artefacts like the one below.  This was a list of players, their positions, their international appearances, their vital statistics (sans age), and their playing qualities. It was handwritten by J.M. Milller, in English, for the eyes of the Festival organisers. It gives unique insight into the way in which QP’s own amateurism was marketed by the club. (Savvy readers will also recognise the name of one of early Scottish association football’s celebrities, Robert McColl, he of R.S. McColl newsagents’ fame. [5] ). It is also remarkable in discussing the physique of the Queen’s Park side. Did the Danes know how to measure ‘stones’?

This record was not located in the UK, however: it is based in the Danish State Archives (Rigsarkivet) (@StatensArkiver) in Copenhagen, in the files of the Festival organisers, the Danish Sports Federation (Dansk Idræts-Forbund, DIF). For those who wish to study the transnational context and connections of Scottish/British sport’s history, who knows how many more documents await us in overseas archives?

If I’ve copied anything in error, feel free to let me know.



Queen’s Park Team to play at Copenhagen, at International Festival.

Goalkeeper. John Gillespie. Usually plays right or left back and has taken part in International Match against Wales in 1896, is very fast and a powerful kick. Height 6 feet. Weight about 12 stones.

Right Back. John L. Ritchie. Played in International Match against Wales in 1897 & was captain of the Scottish Team, is very fast and a splendid Tackler. Height 6 feet. Weight about 12 ½ stones.

Left Back. Thomas Murray. This has been his first season in First Class Football. Speedy & exceedingly Powerful Kick.

Height 5 feet 11 inches. Weight 12 stones.

Right Half-Back. Jas. H. Irons. A Sturdy little player and capital Tackler. Splendid Gymnast. Height 5 feet 7 inches. Weight 11 stones.

Centre Half-Back. Alex. J. Christie. Played in International Match against Wales in 1898, an exceedingly fast dashy player & splendid Tackler.

Height 5 feet 8 inches. Weight 10 ½ stone.

Left Half-Back. James F. Templeton. First Season in First Class Football. Magnificent Tackler & powerful Kick.

Height 5 feet 7 inches. Weight 10 stone.

Outside Right. David Wilson Jr. First Season in First Class Football, a very promising young player, fast. Trickly Dribbler & Capital Shot.

Height 5 feet 10 inches. Weight 10 ½ stones.

Inside Right. Hugh Butler. A Sturdy & very Clever little player.

Height 5 feet 5 inchees. Weight 11 ½ stones.

Centre Forward. Robert McColl. Captain of the Team. Played against Wales in 1896, and against Ireland in 1896, 1897, 1898, allowed to be the best Centre Forward in Scotland. Very fast. Splendid Dribbler. Magnificent Shot.

Height 5 feet 7 ½ inches. Weight 11 stones.

Inside Left. Davidson Berry. Played against Wales in International Match in 1894. Speedy, beautiful dribbler, and a perfect artist in the game.

Height 5 feet 7 ½ inches. Weight 10 ½ stones.

Outside Left. Robert A. Lambie. A young brother of William A. Lambie, Scotland’s last year’s Captain against England at the Crystal Palace. A very fast, promising young player, and a splendid shot.

Height 5 feet 6 inches. Weight 11 stones.


David Stewart. Half Back. International player. Member of Q.P. Committee, last year’s Captain.

William Stewart. Forward. Very fast, tricky forward, (illegible) dribbler.

P.S. The party will be in charge of Messrs. Alex. Hamilton, Stev. Burnett Jr, 2 from Committee, will probably be accompanied by Mr. Chas. Campbell, who played against England for 10 Internationals.

Further editor’s comments

John Meffen (@John_Meffen) has been touch to say that, in fact, QP was NOT the first British club to tour Europe.  Clapton FC were the first to do it in 1890, when they visited Antwerp. There were, in fact, several smaller clubs based in Kent and Essex that toured Belgium, the Netherlands, and the north of France. I await any further additions and corrections. (It emphasises my point about how little we collectively know about early transnational association football.)


[1] Matthew Taylor, ‘Editorial – sport, transnationalism, and global history, Journal of Global History 8 (2) (2013): 199-208.

[2] Allan B. Grønkjær and David Holt Olsen, Fodbold, fair play og forretning (Aarhus: Turbine Forlaget, 2007), 38-40.

[3] Chris Bolsmann, ‘South African Football Tours at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: Amateurs, Pioneers and Profits’, African Historical Review 42 (1) (2010): 91-112.

[4] Grønkjær and Olsen, Fodbold, 38-39.

[5] Robert A. Crampsey, ‘McColl, Robert Smyth (1876-1959)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) (, accessed 7 November 2008).

[6] Rigsarkivet, 10366, Dansk Idræts-Forbund, Folder 133  (Korrespondance og diverse materialer): Letter from J.M. Miller to G.L. Schmidt, 24 May 1898, ‘Queen’s Park Team to play at Copenhagen, at International Festival’.


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4 responses to “Scottish footballers in Denmark, 1898-1914. Part One: Queen’s Park at the International Festival of Gymnastics in Copenhagen, May-June 1898 – A Team Sheet.”

  1. Neil Kaufman says :

    Hello Neil Kaufman, historian of London based Leyton Orient Football Club. In August 1918 it was reported that Orient had on trial a Danish international player named R. HJORTON. I was wondering who or where I could find out more information about this footballer.
    Thank you

    Neil Kaufman

  2. Morten says :

    Sounds interesting. But Hjorton is not a (typical) danish name. Must be misspelled. But if you find him or any other danish players in British football, please let me know as I’m writing about the topic. Morten – e-mail:

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