Like many of today’s modern sides, Argyle started out in a small way and in fact were an off-shoot of an amateur organisation known as Argyle Athletic Club. Various versions have been told of their origin, but the most feasible is that in 1886 a few keen former college pupils and public school boys met at the Borough Arms to discuss the formation of an athletic club in the Mutley area of Plymouth. Soccer was to be part of the activities from the start in those days when rugby was the main sport in the “Three Towns”, which consisted of Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse.
The name ‘Argyle’ is unusual to say the least, so controversy surrounds how the name was adopted. One school of thought says that it derived from a local street named Argyle Terrace where the club’s committee used to meet in The Argyle Hotel. Another says that the club was named Argyle in honour of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were stationed at the time in Plymouth and whose football skills were much admired. Or was it that ‘Argyll’ and ‘Argyle’ were fashionable names at the time due to Queen Victoria’s’ fascination with all things Scottish? One is for sure however. At the inaugural meeting the clubname ‘Pickwick’ was among those rejected, so unfortunately the nickname ‘The Teabags’ sadly doesn’t make it into this book.
Argyle AC’s matches in their formative years were played on a number of unspecified open pitches in and around the town but when local rugby club Devonport Albion moved out of their Home Park in 1898 Argyle AC came in. When in 1903 the club successfully applied for membership of the Southern League, they were encouraged to change their name to Plymouth Argyle to give a stronger sense of identity in the bigger catchment area. The insular character of this area had early influenced the local rugby scene to sport green and white for their colours and Argyle did likewise, adding a touch of black. These colours were to stay throughout the club’s history.
While other clubs abandoned green (see for example Burnley) because of its unlucky connotations, Plymouth have stuck steadfastly with this unusual (for England) colour of shirts. Until the Sixties the design was fairly monochrome with only a slight variation to the green shirt. For many years Plymouth were the only team in England not to need a change strip. In the early Sixties Argyle sported a quite innovative and somewhat stylish kit of all white with a broad green hoop edged in black.
Over the subsequent years they tried inter alia white with green trim, green and white stripes, green with black pinstripes, green with white sleeves, and one year a design which defies description, being green with a broad white sash and various trimmings. For Argyle the green has never been particularly unlucky, but then again luck has not exactly been the watchword either. By the way, ‘The Pilgrims’ celebrated their first championship for 43 years in 2002 with the introduction of a new away strip of green and….tangerine.
Plymouth Argyle have embraced two different badges through their history. One is in fact the shield in the arms of the city and county borough’s council, on record at the Heralds’ College. It shows the saltire of St Andrew, to whom the mother church of Plymouth is dedicated. The four towers represent fortifications.
The more familiar badge is the one that depicts the Mayflower which sailed from Plymouth to America in 1620, carrying the early settling Pilgrims to the New World, and also giving rise to the illustrious nickname. That journey is of course is nothing to the journey Argyle supporters are asked to make to Darlington on a wet Tuesday November evening!