The history of Elgin City can be neatly divided into pre- and post-millennium.
Before 2000, City were major players in the Highland League, left behind by their major rivals from Inverness in 1994. In 2000, Elgin followed Inverness Caledonian into the Scottish Football League – but not up the divisions to the top.
City, also known as The Black & Whites, were formed in 1893 out of a merger between Elgin Rovers and Vale of Lossie. Rarely able to break the monopoly held by clubs from nearby Inverness – victory in the North of Scotland Cup a much-celebrated exception in 1898 – Elgin moved to their current home of Borough Briggs shortly after World War I.
Conveniently close to the town centre, the new ground attracted 5,000 in 1923 for the visit of St Mirren in Elgin’s first home tie in the Scottish Cup. The club went on to win the Highland League in 1932, another in 1935, then further titles and North of Scotland Cups in the 1950s.
The club’s real glory years came in the 1960s, with record gates cheering on terrace heroes such as Willie Grant and Gerry Graham. Grant had only just signed for City in 1960 when he hit the opener against Celtic in front of 11,000 for a Scottish Cup game at Borough Briggs. Elgin then succumbed to two late strikes in the last six minutes.
That decade, ‘King’ Willie’s phenomenal scoring record saw City dominate the Highland League. In 1967, in a Scottish Cup replay under new floodlights at Borough Briggs, Elgin beat Ally McLeod’s Ayr 2-0, before being rewarded with a plum tie – at Celtic. Some 1,500 City fans headed down to Glasgow on two special trains to boost the Parkhead attendance to 34,000. They saw King Willie almost repeat his feat of 1960, with a breakaway chance going just wide, before Celtic struck three goals in three minutes, right on the stroke of half-time. The soon-to-be European champions ran out 7-0 winners.
With local distillery worker Grant coming to the end of his playing career, Gerry Graham stepped into his goalscoring role. In the Scottish Cup the following season, a record 12,608 filled Borough Briggs for Elgin’s victory over Arbroath. The first non-league side to reach the cup quarter-finals, Elgin narrowly succumbed at Greenock, 2-1 to Morton.
Ever prominent in the 1970s, with regional silverware and further memorable cup ties against Aberdeen, Kilmarnock and Rangers, Elgin dipped in the 1980s and looked like being left behind altogether when Steve Paterson took them to a first Highland League title in 16 years in 1990. His replacement John Teasdale then tried just that little bit too hard to win another in the club’s centenary season of 1992-93, his tactical attempt to change the fixture calendar ruling out the title win.
Following the successful rise of Inverness Caledonian after their league accession in 1994, Elgin and fellow Highland League club Peterhead were elected to the SFL in 2000.
Now having to fulfill regular fixtures in Scotland’s Central Belt, Elgin found the transition difficult, finishing bottom of the Third Division in their first season. A flooded Borough Briggs hardly helped scant finances and for a while it seemed as if City may not survive. But with East Stirling invariably buffering Elgin from last place in the league ladder, the club plugged away until brighter times under former Norwich striker Ross Jack arrived as manager.
Familiar with the challenges of Highland football after his work in football development here, the Moray-born Jack gradually lifted Elgin out of the bottom two and into a play-off place in 2012.
Taking a 1-0 lead to Albion Rovers in the two-leg semi-final, Elgin fell to a late decisive save and an 18-yard overhead kick winner in the dying minutes at Coatbridge.
With star striker Craig Gunn still among the goals, Elgin missing out on the 2013 play-offs on goal difference, Jack bowed out in 2014.
Two years later, incoming Jim Weir took City to a highest-ever second place in renamed League Two, only three points behind winners East Fife. Though Elgin again lost in the play-offs, Weir remains in place for 2016-17, striker Shane Sutherland back scoring in his third spell at Borough Briggs.
Elgin’s home since the time of Lloyd George, Borough Briggs feels as remote as it actually is. Perched between the River Lossie and Elgin’s ghostly medieval cathedral, this is the northernmost senior football ground in the UK.
Including a main stand of 500 seats, installed after Scottish League accession in 2000, the ground can accommodate an overall capacity of 4,500. With little price differential between a seat and a standing place on the three terrace areas – on grass banks behind each goal and beside the main stand – there’s little reason for neutrals to join the braver souls open to the elements.
Visiting supporters are allocated one side of the covered enclosure facing the main stand.
Borough Briggs is close to Elgin bus station, but a 15-20min walk from Elgin train station on the other side of the town centre. Buses between the two, including the Nos.30, 31C, 35 and 341, are quite regular Mon-Sat and pretty sparse on Sundays.
A taxi shouldn’t cost more than £3-£4.
If you’re walking, head straight up Reidhaven Street, keep going in the same direction as you approach the town centre, turn left at the High Street, right up Alexandra Road to the roundabout, where you veer left up Haugh Road. Boroughbriggs Road is after a Tesco store.
Elgin have a simple admission policy of pay-on-the day £12 (cash-only) at the turnstiles, £14 for a seat in the main stand. Discounted prices are £7/£9.
Prices should drop a couple of quid for cup games and friendlies.
Open on match days, the club shop near the main office sells items such as Elgin shopping bags, aprons, ties and onesies.
Pubs in the north-west corner of Elgin town centre, where North Street and High Street meet, are handy as pre-match options.
Choosing The Granary means you get to see football action on an 84-inch screen – it’s also spacious and family-friendly. Just across Thunderton Place, the White Horse Inn fills with its crowd of loyal regulars, with busy chatter around a pool table.
A few houses along the High Street, The Victoria (No.211) is a cosy, traditional alehouse, just right for a pre-match swiftie.
If you’re coming from New Elgin over the Lossie, then the friendly Rising Sun on Bridge Street is good for pub food and TV football.
At the ground, the match-day Elgin City Club Bar under the main stand is a very comfortable place to enjoy a pint for home and away fan alike – sometimes too comfortable, some opting at half-time for its warmth and TV screen over 45 minutes of wind and rain outside.