At this time every November, thoughts turn to remembrance of those who have served in our Armed Forces and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. We at Station Park have a proud history of our players, fans and committee with links to the armed forces and I thought it appropriate this year to mention just a couple of them.
It is well known that the formative years of Nairn County were disrupted by the First World War, indeed we joined the Highland League in 1914, the same year that global and bloody conflict broke out. What, perhaps, is less well known is that one our early players, a man who was with Nairn County as a player, committee member and eventual Chairman, was a flyer in that conflict, who went on to win the Military Medal.
Fred Knowles joined the army as a private but went on to transfer to the 40th (Army) wing, a forerunner of the modern Royal Air Force. Posted to Palestine to serve with the Egyptian Expeditionary force in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, Fred trained as an Observer/Gunner. In those still early days of flight, the aircraft he flew in were two-man models such as the Bristol F 2B Fighter which had open cockpits and reliant upon a single engine of limited power. Nevertheless, between November 1917 and January 1918 Fred was credited with shooting down six enemy aircraft making him an Ace. This feat was recognised by the King, who awarded Fred the Military Medal in April 1918. Fred ended the war as an Air Mechanic and returned to Nairn. Almost immediately, he featured in County's debut season in the Highland League, notching his first goal for the club in a 4-2 win over Forres on 25th October 1919.
Fred Knowles played a key role not only in Nairn County's history but in the history of Nairn as a whole. He was active in local politics and served as Provost of Nairn for many years while also being instrumental in establishing the caravan site by the harbour which to this day welcomes tourists to the town.
Eric Geddes is another who features prominently in the history of Nairn County. Eric was the long time player, trainer and coach with County serving from the late 1940s through to the early 70s. Renowned as a knowledgeable proponent of skilful football and a keen trainer, Eric was a key aspect of the club's success during the early 60s. However, few if any knew of Eric's service history with the RAF, serving with Bomber Command during the European Campaign from 1941. Eric was badly injured when his plane was heavily damaged during a raid, suffering severe burns, which affected him for the rest of his life.
Finally, one of County's most revered players, the great Davy Johnston, who is the club's record goalscorer and voted into the Nairn County Team of the Century, was cruelly affected by war. Davy's father, John, was killed at the Irrawaddy Crossing during the campaign against the Japanese in East Asia. John himself was a skilled footballer, who played for Dunfermline Athletic and himself was often seen at Station Park helping out before being called up.
Nairn County, like all parts of the community in Nairn, has many links with all branches of the armed forces. This November we welcome Poppy Scotland to the park for a collection and the club will take part in the ceremony of Remembrance at the town's War Memorial. We remember all individuals affected by conflict across the globe and particularly, we remember those of Nairn who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The great Bill Shankly once said that football is not a matter of life or death, its more important than that... it is really not.