The Border pioneers (1880–1899)
History records that an initial meeting was held with great success in Bogies Close Hall in October 1879 with the view to form a Football Club in the town. A committee was formed and an opening game against Hibernian was arranged to launch the new venture. The kick-off was arranged for March 1881, the venue the cricket club, the result a 0–14 reverse, and so was born the oldest football club in the Borders. By 1882 Selkirk were recording good victories against leading Edinburgh clubs, Holyrood (8–2) and St Bernard’s (4–1).
Research indicates that by 1883 the club were fielding a second XI, competing in the Second XI Challenge Cup. The same year an extraordinary request was received by the club, Melrose Football Club (later Melrose RFC), invited seven players to represent Selkirk in a new kind of game—seven-a-side rugby. It was members of Selkirk Football Club in the absence of an organized rugby club that represented the town in the world premier of the shortened rugby game—Melrose Sevens! A non-footballing honour also came the way of the club when member A. Stuart was appointed President of the East of Scotland Football Association.
In 1890–91 a new trophy was instituted, the ‘Association Borders Counties Challenge Cup’ (Border Cup), which Selkirk won at the first time of asking, defeating Hawick Rangers, 4–3, in the final tie.
A highlight of the 1891–92 season was a visit from Queen’s Park, who at the time were one of the greatest club sides in the world. In front of a large crowd, Selkirk kept the score down to a respectable 4–1 defeat. Defeat by Vale of Gala in the defence of the Border Cup title was the first defeat by a Borders team for seven years.
Season 1892–93 saw the club become a member of the Scottish Football Association and retain the Border Cup.
In the seasons from 1894 to 1899, Selkirk won the Border Cup twice in succession, and were runners-up on two other occasions. The club also recorded their first Border League Championship in 1897, defeating Peebles Rovers 4–0 in a play-off. 1898 saw the team record an amazing 7–2 victory over Morton in the Scottish Qualifying Cup. Wull Brown a key player during this time became the first recorded player to sign for a league club (Heart of Midlothian).
Home at last (1900–1939)
Season 1903–04 saw the return of the Border Cup to Selkirk, although it took two replays to finally defeat Peebles Rovers at Victoria Park, Innerleithen.
1905-06 saw the team come close to winning its first honour from out with the Borders region, after a 3–1 reverse at the hands of Berwick Rangers in the final of the Consolation Cup. There was some real consolation however, when Selkirk were awarded once more the Border Cup. This time due to the non-appearance of Vale of Leithen come final day in Kelso. Almost of greater significance to matters on the field, Selkirk were able to outbid the let a local farmer offered with to graze sheep on part of the underhaugh by the River Ettrick. This led to the club having their first home after years of nomadic existence—Ettrick Park.
After a period of consolidation due in part to the formation in 1907 of the rugby club in the town the football club won the Border League for the season 1909–10. 1914 saw a repeat of the 1906 Consolation Cup final, again with Berwick Rangers winning, this time by 3 goals to 2.
With the outbreak of the Great War, most competitive sporting activities were halted until 1918. Sixteen members of Selkirk Football Club made the supreme sacrifice and many more were to suffer from physical or psychological injuries. Sporting pursuits also took time to recover and forget.
Season 1923–24 saw the first post war trophy paraded at Ettrick Park with a 2–1 victory over Civil Service Strollers in the Border Cup final. Later the same season, the Consolation Cup yet again eluded the ‘Souters’, this time losing out to Coldstream by 2 goals to 1 in front of 2,000 spectators.
The 1920s brought hard times to the woollen trade in the town, and the club relied on the many friends it had made during the preceding years. Celtic, Hibernian and Queen of the South were all willing visitors to Ettrick Park, swelling the coffers and fending off what would be otherwise certain bankruptcy. It was during a visit by a Hearts XI that Bob Mercer died while leading his young charges in order to benefit his former club.
A significant honour was bestowed in the club when former player James Fairgrieve was elected president of the East of Scotland Football Association from 1925–28.
Season 1930–31 saw the return of the Border Cup, after defeating Coldstream 2–1 in the final. The club also managed a creditable 4–4 draw against a strong Hearts side with much to the Selkirk team’s relief, legendary centre forward Barney Battles, Jr. acting as referee.
Selkirk were able to retain the Border Cup at the climax of the 1931–32 season, defeating Berwick Rangers at Raidstane Park, Galashiels. By this time the game was booming in the town, with regular attendances of over 1,000 recorded.
1933 witnessed a famous Scottish Cup tie, with Selkirk defeating all-professional Bo’ness 3–0 courtesy of a ‘spectacular’ Jimmy Tranter hat-trick.
The opening of a new pavilion at Ettrick Park was celebrated by the visit of Queen of the South in 1937.
Season 1938–39 saw the Border Cup return once more to Selkirk, this time requiring a replay and extra time. Teenager Sandy Adamson scoring the winner in a 3–2 victory over Penicuik Athletic.
As the 1939–40 season kicked off, World War II broke out. A directive from the SFA immediately suspended all non-Army or junior competitive games heralding the end of another era in the club’s history.