Ness FC: Formation and History
This section details the history of Ness FC in its current guise, i.e. the team that was was entered into the Lewis & Harris senior league in 1977 - though this may be expanded to cater for earlier versions of the team; in a similar vein it will, over time be updated to include some of the team's more recent history. Watch this space!
The content below has been taken from the highly recommended book "Football in Ness: A history of the game in North Lewis":
Entering the League
Following the success in junior football it was expected that a senior Ness team would be entered into the league imminently. Unfortunately, no application had been forwarded before Stornoway Football Association’s AGM in 1975, resulting in Murdo “Deedo” Macdonald calling a meeting in Ness Hall, with a view to getting the senior team entered into the league by whatever means necessary. The posters advertising the meeting had a simple but effective message: “Nach duisg sibh! - “Wake Up!”
The message had the desired effect and, at a well attended meeting in the Ness Hall, there was unanimous agreement that a senior team should once again be formed. Not surprisingly, the instigator of the meeting, Murdo Macdonald, was elected Chairman with Calum Iain Macleod and Norman Mackenzie appointed as Secretary and Treasurer.
With the club duly re-formed, there still remained the small problem of convincing the Stornoway Football Association to call an extraordinary general meeting to consider a late bid from Ness to rejoin the league. The Chairman, Willie Reid of United, having strong Ness connections, was sympathetic to their cause and, as a result of his gentle persuasion, the Club was re-admitted to the League. This caused great inconvenience since the league fixtures and cup draws had to be re-done to accommodate the latecomers.
With only two and a half months to the start of the season the selection committee of Murdo Macdonald, Donald J Campbell and Donald 'Duff Macleod had their work cut out to recruit a squad in time. A mystery benefactor who supplied the team with a set of green and black vertical striped strips turned out to be the club chairman.
A Combination of Youth and Experience
There was certainly no shortage of young players eager to take up the challenge of senior football. However, whilst they certainly possessed talent and energy, it was obvious that youthful exuberance by itself would not stand up to the test presented by the stronger and more physical senior game. Fortunately, there were still a number of older players around such as Donald 'Coileach' Mackenzie, Angus "Teocaidh' Smith, Tanner' Macleod, DR Morrison and Donald Murray (Dòmhnall a' Làdaidh) to add experience to the dozen or so promising teenagers now eager to make their senior début.
The new team's first competitive game against at Fivepenny ended in a 5-1 defeat. As might be expected, the results in this first season were inconsistent, with peaks and troughs. The potential of the side, however, was there for all to see and was well borne out in a 3-3 draw with Point, league champions in the thrashing at home by a very competent Back team served as a timely reminder that there was a long way to go before they could mount a serious challenge for the league championship. A mid-table finish, with sixteen points from eighteen games, seemed a creditable performance in the first season.
The following year, former player Murdo 'Luchag' Macritchie was appointed as team manager, replacing the three-man selection committee. Despite not winning any honours, the team finished a very respectable fifth in the league, only seven points behind winners Harris. When Angus Smith and Corrie Macritchie were both nominated for the Lewis and Harris Player of the Year at the end of the season, it was obvious that supporters across the island were beginning to notice the Ness team's steady improvement.
After being deprived of competitive football for ten years, the resurgence of the Club brought a new vibrancy to the community. This was reflected in the number of people from across the district who were willing to serve on the committee or assist the club in one capacity or another. Community interest in the team could also be measured by the number of people of all ages who turned out in all sorts of weather to watch games. On summer evenings a turnout of up to 300 was not unusual. As there were no dressing rooms, players would change in their cars or standing in the open. This often proved to be an entertainment in itself as players hopped from one leg to the other whilst seeking to maintain some sort of dignity as the cold wind from the Atlantic whirled around their legs.
The provision of changing accommodation rooms was recognised by the committee as one of the key requirements if the Club was to progress along with teams such as Back and Point who already had such facilities in place. Grants from various bodies, principally the Western Isles Council and the Highlands and Islands Development Board, enabled the Club to commence building dressing rooms incorporating sheltered spectator terracing in 1976. Making use of the Government funded Manpower Services Commission (MSC) Job Creation Scheme, which was set up to provide work opportunities for the long term unemployed, the Club was able to recruit the services of local tradesmen and labourers who were more than pleased to earn a wage in providing a new local facility. The project was completed in February 1977 when Ness played a friendly against Stornoway Athletic in front of around one hundred spectators. The success of the project led the Committee to consider other initiatives which might benefit the Club and the wider community, using Job Creation Scheme manpower.
When John 'Cloodie' Macleod was coaxed away from Stornoway Athletic, his presence was considered by many to supply the vital missing element of gritty determination that Ness required if they were to challenge seriously for honours.
Although the team started the season well and went twelve games without defeat they slowly slipped back in the league and failed to progress to the latter stages of all other competitions with the exception of the Lewis Cup where they reached the final against Harris.
Having lost 6-0 and 6-2 to their opponents in their two previous encounters, no one gave Ness much chance of upsetting the form book, given the strength of the Harris team and the fact that Rasper Macdonald, Ness' main goal threat, was missing through injury. As often happens, however, the team were spurred on by the underdog tag and produced an outstanding performance against the current league champions to win 2-1, with goals from Corrie Macritchie and DJ Murray. The winning of the first trophy since 1960 was a memorable occasion in the history of the club and signalled the coming of age for many of the young players who had recently stepped up from the junior game.
The closing paragraph of the match report in the Stornoway Gazette summed up the thinking of many people at the time when it stated:
This could very well be the beginning of the greatest success story in the history of Lewis football.
Shortly after their success in the Lewis Cup another trophy was to make its way to Ness when the under 18 team won the Ladywell Cup after defeating Back by three goals to two: the club's first ever trophy at junior level. In the team that evening were two players - Calum Finlay Morrison and James Thomson - who would achieve great success with the senior team thereafter.
To be continued...