Peebles Rovers were members of the Scottish Football League, Third Division between 1923 and 1926 and had only a modest record – finishing 14th and 8th in the two full seasons played and were 14th in the unfinished 1925-26 season. All told, Peebles Rovers played 86 Scottish Football League matches, winning 28, drawing 15 and losing 43. They scored 159 goals and conceded 190. Their record victory at their Whitestone Park home was 7–1 v Beith on April 18, 1925. Best away was 5–2 at Galston seven days previously on April 11, 1925.
Peebles Rovers themselves were active long before the Third Division, being formed in 1893 and have played in the Scottish Cup proper over twenty times. Their first appearance was back in 1907–08 when they lost 4–0 away to Celtic. In their first five appearances they were drawn away from home on each and every occasion, spanning nine ties in all. They managed to win three of these and draw two, including holding Hibernian to a 0–0 draw at Easter Road in 1923 – easily their best result in the competition.
Other than a replay win over St Cuthbert’s Wanderers, they didn’t have a home tie until beating Keith 7–3 in 1926. They drew away to Albion Rovers in the next round before losing the replay. They also drew with their Coatbridge namesakes in 1957 and again lost the replay.
The season before that they were involved in a marathon tie with Brechin City. There was a 1–1 draw away, 4–4 at home after extra time, 0–0 in a second replay at Easter Road, again after extra time and finally losing 6–2 in a third replay, at Tannadice.
After that they took some serious hammerings, losing 10–0 away to St. Mirren in 1959, 6–1 at home against Ayr United the next year and then a 15–1 slaughter away to Hibs in 1961. Joe Baker scored nine that day and his brother Gerry grabbed four in the earlier debacle at Love Street.
Their final appearance was better though. In 1965-66 they drew 2–2 at Dumbarton and took the Sons to extra time in the replay before losing 3–2.
Their greatest moment in the Qualifying Cup (South) came in the 1953-54 competition when they defeated Shawfield Amateurs 6–1, Burntisland Shipyard 7–0, Selkirk 4–2 (all at home) and Coldstream 4–1 after a 1–1 draw away to reach the Final. Latterly the club was only an associate member of the Scottish Foodtball Association due to the inadequate facilities at Whitestone Park, thus becoming ineligible to compete in the Qualifying Cup and Scottish Cup.
While Peebles Rovers won many minor and local competitions the highest level they played at – the Third Division apart – is the East of Scotland League which they won on six occasions – 1928–29, 1932–33, 1933–34, 1934–35, 1935–36 and 1945–46.
In 1966–67 Rovers joined the junior grade of football and entered a period of decline until they rejoined the senior ranks in the East of Scotland League in 1980–81. When that set-up was altered to two divisions in the late eighties they found themselves in the (lower) First Division. Although they won promotion several times, their stays in the Premier were of short duration. In season 2007–08 Peebles won promotion into the East of Scotland Premier Division.
Largest crowds to watch them have been 14,000 and 10,453, both at Easter Road in the Scottish Cup in 1923 and 1961. The record gate at Whitestone Park is recorded as 1,750 for the 4–2 first round Scottish Cup win over Gala Fairydean in 1961.
Pictured above is the first ever Rovers team in 1893 (picture donated by Stuart Robertson)
Back: Tom Sheil, Andrew Veitch, Tom Kelly, Tom Dempster, Jim Mitchell, William French (Trainer)
Middle: James Freer, Bill Jack, Jim Fairbairn, Jocky Yellowlees, Johnny Lockhart, George Laidlaw.
Front: GB Branson, Bob Freer
In the modern era Peebles lived a largely yo-yo existence, with very little in the way of consistency. That eventually came to haunt the Rovers, and by December 2012, the team was hanging by a thread at the bottom of the East of Scotland League. But, change was on the horizon and in 2013, we saw the appointment of one of the most significant figures in the clubs history; John O’Hara.
O’Hara, along with assistant Jamie Fraser, oversaw the transformation of a club in turmoil, into a club that was battling in the upper echelons of the league table.
Within two years, O’Hara took a side that was hanging on for dear life to a historic double of League and King Cup in 2014-15. That sunny day, and indeed the season as a whole, at the Edinburgh College Sport Ground where Peebles lifted the King Cup, courtesy of a two fantastic goals, was the fruit of a great deal of labour, and remains one of the proudest days in this club’s history.
O’Hara departed the club in 2016 for Newtongrange Star, and his former backroom staff member and Rovers’ cult hero, Ger Rossi took over.
Rossi now looks to promote local lads to the first-team, and create a bright and promising future for all the young stars of tomorrow that Peebles has to offer. And so, the red and white journey continues…