The claret & amber yoke shirt

The unique colours of Bradford City and Motherwell

The origins of Bradford City’s claret and amber colours date to 1884 when they were adopted by Manningham FC to replace their existing black shirts. As narrated previously on this blog [1] and on VINCIT [2], the choice of colours is most likely explained by local military heritage and patriotism.

Manningham FC opted to wear hooped shirts with the width of the claret hoop said to have been twice that of the amber. In 1903 the new Bradford City club retained claret and amber but opted for striped shirts by virtue of the fact that hoops were more commonly associated with rugby.

In 1908, at a time when the Bradford City side was struggling at the bottom the first division, the club adopted its bantam nickname [3]. By that stage the team was wearing an all-claret shirt with amber trip.

In 1909 the club adopted a new shirt design, nowadays referred to as its ‘yoke design’ which coincidentally had a resemblance to the plumage of a bantam as the graphic from the same year shown below demonstrates.


The yoke shirt was worn in the 1911 FA Cup final and apart from a solitary season was retained until 1928 when it was replaced by stripes. (Nevertheless, such was the affection for the shirt design that had been associated with the club’s greatest achievement that it was revived between 1948 and 1953.) [4]

1911

Torrance shirt 2

Shirt worn by Robert Torrance, BCAFC 1908-18 (NB Bob Torrance was Killed in Action during World War One)

Until 1912, Bradford City was the only senior club in Great Britain to wear claret and amber but in that year both Dumfries FC (a forerunner of Queen of the South) and Montrose FC adopted a yoke shirt in exactly the same colours and design. The following year, in 1913 Motherwell FC adopted the very same yoke shirt as introduced by Bradford City. Motherwell FC had originally played in blue and the reason for a change in colours to assumed to have arisen from the fact that there were frequent colour clashes with other sides and that the club sought a distinctive look. [6]

Motherwell’s first game in claret and amber was for a Scottish League fixture with Celtic (1-1, at Fir Park) on August 23, 1913. The Motherwell Times of 29th August reported that ‘Punctual to time the teams took the field, Motherwell wearing their new colours. The general opinion regarding the new colours is that while they may be distinctive they are by no means pretty.’

Motherwell shirt

The connection with Bradford extended to more than just the same colours because the new Motherwell shirts were manufactured by the Bradford firm, Sports & Pastimes Ltd Athletic and School Clothing Manufacturers, owned by the Fattorini family. Whilst the core Fattorini business was that of jewellery, the diversification into producing sports medals, trophies and badges had proved particularly lucrative. Tony Fattorini for example had derived leverage from his own sporting interests and Fattorinis were known as the designers of the FA Cup as well as Northern Union trophies. It was an incredible coincidence that the first winners of the new FA Cup trophy in 1911 was none other than Bradford City with whom Tony Fattorini was involved. The launch of the Sports & Pastimes business to sell sporting apparel and equipment was thus a logical extension of existing activity.

Whilst Sports & Pastimes advertised its range of sports equipment extensively throughout Great Britain, there is a good chance that the Motherwell directors decided upon the supplier following a recommendation. It is quite possible that they were impressed by the shirts worn by Dumfries and Montrose although it is unknown whether Sports & Pastimes supplied these.

The understanding among Motherwell supporters is that their club secured the shirts from Bradford City and this gives credence to the suggestion that they did not source them directly from Sports & Pastimes – in other words confirming that an intermediary was involved.
My belief is that an introduction was provided by someone whose contribution to the golden era of Bradford City should not be under-estimated. That individual was Thomas Paton, a man who was said to have been publicity shy – a factor that might explain (although does not excuse) why he has been overlooked in earlier histories about Bradford City AFC. [7]

Of course the Motherwell directors could well have written to Bradford City to request detail of the club’s kit supplier. However it is entirely consistent with Paton’s reputation that he had an involvement in Motherwell’s new colours and endorsing the Sports & Pastimes business.

Paton was probably one of the best networked individuals in Scottish football and with Lanarkshire having been a hotbed of football enthusiasm, he would have had his ear close to developments at clubs such as Motherwell. By maintaining links with Scottish sides at both junior and senior level, Paton had been consistently successful at introducing talented players into the Bradford City side and arranging player transfers. Furthermore, as a shareholder at Park Avenue it seems possible that his influence had extended to securing the appointment of Tom Maley as manager of the Bradford club in February, 1911.

Motherwell shirt rear
The above shirt is currently on display in the Summerlee Museum in Coatbridge – the very same as that of Bob Torrance. It was in the possession of Craig Brown who played for Motherwell between 1919-24 and now owned by his grandson, Keith Brown. A centre-half, Brown was transferred from… Bradford City who he had joined as a 21 year old in 1914. He had previously spent the 1916/17 season on loan at Motherwell. Hailing from Ayrshire he probably welcomed the opportunity to return closer to his roots and despite changing clubs he would continue to wear the same style jersey! (NB It is unknown whether he actually wore this shirt in a game.)

BrownCraigMotherwell1923.jpg

Motherwell retained the yoke shirt until 1924 when the club opted for claret and amber stripes. Whether the striped shirts were sourced in Bradford is unknown but surely Bradford City can be credited with having provided the inspiration. However in 1928 Motherwell introduced a new shirt design which has been the one more commonly associated with the club, that is an amber shirt with a broad claret band.

In 1983 it was the turn of Motherwell to give Bradford City a new home shirt design. First worn in Scotland in 1982/83, the same Patrick kit was adopted by the Bantams the following season.

The Motherwell side has worn some decent shirts in the last few decades. Those responsible for the design of a future Bradford City strip could do worse than deriving some inspiration from north of the border!

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My thanks to William Kay for his assistance with information about Motherwell FC and its history.

The following provides further detail about Bradford City’s nickname, colours and kit as well as Thomas Paton…

[1] Military heritage and the adoption of claret and amber by Bradford City AFC

[2] Bradford’s military heritage and the sporting links

[3] The origins of the Bantams nickname

[4] Traditional BCAFC claret and amber shirt designs

[5] More about Bradford City crests and nicknames

[6] Montrose FC wore a claret and amber yoke shirt between 1912-15 and Dumfries FC, 1912-19. The style was also popular at the time with amateur football teams in the Bradford district which may suggest a Sports & Pastimes connection. Similarly a surviving photograph confirms that the Bramley (Northern Rugby Union) team wore a yoke shirt in 1916.

[7] Brief biography of Tom Paton by Ian Hemmens, taken from LIFE AT THE TOP (pub Bantamspast 2016):

Thomas Paton was born in Midlothian in 1868 and was initially involved as fixture secretary for St. Bernards FC of Edinburgh, Scottish Cup Winners in 1894 and at that time credible rivals to Hearts and Hibernian. After qualifying as an accountant he came south to Bradford in 1901, appointed as secretary of Yorkshire Woolcombers Association Ltd but in 1904, after the company’s liquidation in the High Court, he established an accountancy practice, Messrs Paton, Boyce & Welch at Piccadilly, Bradford.

Whilst in Bradford he became involved with Bradford City AFC, probably introduced through his business contacts in the city. Working alongside secretary-manager Peter O’Rourke, he used his network north of the border to entice players to Valley Parade. The likes of Jimmy and Peter Logan, Jimmy MacDonald and Harry Graham all arrived from St Bernards FC. Additionally, he captured future legends of the club including Frank O’Rourke, Jimmy Speirs, Robert Torrance, Dave Taylor, Jock Ewart and Tommy Cairns from Scotland as well as the England internationals Evelyn Lintott and Dickie Bond. All of these men contributed to the club’s so-called golden age before World War One that included FA Cup victory in 1911.

He joined the board of directors just after the incorporation of the club in 1908 before resigning in 1912. In 1928 he was instrumental in helping achieve a restructure of the Bradford City board which helped avert financial disaster. In 1907 he had favoured the merger of Bradford City at Park Avenue and had invested as a shareholder in Bradford Park Avenue in 1909.

In 1925 Paton retired to Girvan, Scotland although kept his house in the Chellow Dene district of Bradford. Nevertheless, he remained involved with football and helped facilitate the transfer of Scottish International Alex James from Preston North End to Arsenal in 1929. This particular arrangement came about from his friendship with Jock Ewart (who had moved to Preston in 1928) and that with Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman who knew Paton from his time in West Yorkshire as manager of Leeds City and then Huddersfield Town. Paton died in 1946, aged 78.

[8] A bantam…