Bogie Broon has the last laugh

Clackmanan Juniors with Bogie Broon 2nd from left in back row.

Taphophilia - enthusiasm for cemeteries and graves.

It looked easy. Too easy. After a year of researching Bogie Broon and attempting to restore the legend of a lost Alloa hero - writing several thousand words in the process - I intended to finish the journey by paying my respects in Clackmannan Cemetery. What better way to spend the afternoon before Alloa's crunch play-off semi-final against Raith Rovers? The bus rolled through the villages of West Fife: Newmills, High Valleyfield, Kincardine, once mining communities of the sort in which Bogie Broon had lived and worked. In the shadow of the disused Longannet Power Station we passed the grave of William Brown, one time teammate of Bogie and the man who had succeeded him as Wasps skipper in 1909. William had starred for Alloa in a thrilling derby win against Bogie’s Clackmannan in September of that year. Two days later he was crushed by falling rock in Brucefield Colliery. I had visited William's grave previously and left flowers, tightly wrapped in black and gold, before travelling to the Recs to see Alloa win 6-1. It was almost as if it was meant to be that day. Now Bogie would be honoured in the same manner, the flowers nestling in my bag beside a map of Clackmannan Cemetery as I jumped off the bus.

I really should have known better. In the beginning the plan was just a short series of articles. But every turn uncovered further questions. Illegitimacy for starters. Bogie Broon was really Alexander Sinclair, who was probably really Alexander Brown. This Alloa legend was actually a Clackmannan boy. He made the Wasps wait for his signature before inspiring them to national glory. The fans adored him. "Follow Bogie he will lead you, in the fairest manner, and we will show what we can do with the Black and Yellow banner", they would sing, as Bogie's Wasps, unbeatable at home, annexed the 1908 Scottish Consolation Cup. Unbeatable that is, until Bogie Broon defected back to Clackmannan and skippered his home town club to two famous cup triumphs at the Recs. "The bottle blowing town was a place of gloom", the local press had exclaimed. A spell at Millwall followed where Sandy struggled for games but endeared himself to the Dockers by flying into tackles against their great foes West Ham. He helped out at Luton when their right back was killed - yes, killed - by a late tackle from a man named Fred Goodwin. Back at Clackmannan, the SFA banned Sandy for 10 months for striking an official - it seems Bogie took exception to the ref’s bunnet - before retirement.

So Alexander Sinclair wasn't short of stories. Yet he didn't talk much about his career in later life. His family knew he had been a footballer but little else. The legend of Bogie Broon appeared to have died with the old man and the fans who had watched him. But one of those fans at least had recalled the song. It had appeared in a series of books that Clackmannanshire District Libraries had published in on local history in the 80's, along with lots of other precious wee gems that can so easily be lost without appropriate support for libraries. The song was a start but Alloa had 3 Browns in the early 20th century (William and his brother John played in the same team as Sandy Brown) and there was no indication which was Bogie. The answer came through Facebook – social media can be a force for good - from Bogie's great-grandaughter, who knew his nickname but was keen to find out more. The nickname was the key and Isabel Sinclair had unlocked the door. I followed Bogie and he showed me what he did with the Black and Yellow banner, and more. Now I had followed him all the way into Clackmannan Cemetery. My search for Alexander Sinclair would conclude where he himself had taken his final journey.

Up and down the graveyard I traipsed in the early May sunshine, my map only as good as the map reader trying to decipher it. I couldn't find Bogie Broon, nor indeed two family friends buried in Clackmannan. After an hour and a half of increasingly frantic searching I was forced to concede defeat. A failed taphophile - for by now my enthusiasm for cemeteries and graves had waned considerably - I picked some gravestones and left my flowers. Well, you can't take daffodils to the football, and these graves looked like they hadn't seen flowers for a while. I trudged out of the cemetery and headed for Alloa. Bogie Broon had seen me off at the final hurdle. I suspect he might well have enjoyed that.

Alloa 2 Raith Rovers 0, May 2nd 2018.

Was this a bad omen? Was my failure to locate old Sandy an indication that it wouldn't be Alloa's night? It was not. Jim Goodwin's team turned on one of their finest performances of the season on a beautiful Wee County evening. The old place roared and Alloa grabbed the initiative. It was like 1908 all over again. This was just the start. The Wasps finished the job against Raith Rovers then dispatched the Sons of Dumbarton in the final, just as Bogie’s team had done in the Scottish Consolation Cup a century before. I should never have doubted them. Alloa always win when I spend pre-match in a graveyard. A new season and new challenges lie ahead. Anybody know a good cemetery near Firhill?


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