On holiday in Scotland we were passing Glasgow and had to just visit the old ground of Third Lanark who suddenly went out of business in the 1960’s. Unfortunately I am old enough to remember them as the results came through on the teleprinter.
Third Lanark AC founded in 1872 were one of the founder members of the Scottish F.A. in the same year. They were formed out of the 3rd Lanarkshire Riffle Volunteers and had a successful start to life winning the League in 1890 and the Scottish Cup in 1889 and 1905. Their great achievement was staying in the top flight for most of their existance but it all started to go wrong in the 1960’s. They were relegated in 1965 but found it hard going in the second tier as much influenced by off field problems. The biggest story to hit the local press was that they were going to sell their famous Cathkin Park Ground for housing and move to East Kilbride. Both on and off field performances led to their attendances falling to a tenth of previous seasons. The board now offered the ground to Glasgow Corporation and announced that they were moving to Bishopbriggs north of Glasgow. No satdium was ever built and after finishing second from bottom of the league they played their last game in April 1967. A judge reviwing their financial plight put in place a winding up order on the club and a subsequent Board of Trade enquiry found irregularities regarding the finnances of the club. Although the board were heavilly critisised for their running of Third Lanark no formal charges were ever brought against anyone.
This is only a fraction of the tale and it is Cathkin Park that is the story here. Having read in the past of this ghost ground I wanted to see it myself. We parked in a residential street which at the end of this cul-de-sac was an entrance into a woody park. You initially walk down a path through the woods and through the trees you can see a bright green field shining in the summer sun. Walk further and some old terracing appears with the metal barriers still in position. This is the home of Third Lanark but more is to be revealed by a couple walking their dog. They were not surprised to see people taking it all in but were soon chatting and saying they were not football fans. However they had a pride in the area where they lived and in the park. They told us that when Third Lanark folded the local council took it over with the view to build houses but in the interim sections of the terracimg were dug up by the Parks Department and were used as a tree nursery. The trees were never moved and today their leafy full grown state add to the charm, intriege and myth of the place.
The couple then explained that Cathkin Park with its 50000 capacity was the second Hampden, home to the Scotland national team and the place where the first one stood was at the bowling green just outside the park over the railway bridge.
First however they told me the ground is used by a youth team of the Jimmy Johnston Accademy. They said the grass had been cut 3 times recently and now lined out for its first match post Covid. Standing in the middle of the pitch I felt good to think that a youth team would be playing here amongst the ghosts of football’s past. What an inspiration for them. But there was more, a plaque on the ground I was told I must see but taking a photo I had no idea of the relevance and still don’t.
Being mid morning I asked for the nearest cafe and they directed us to Salamagundi on the Cathcart Road via the first Hampden.
We walked out of the park past the Youth teams club house and out onto the railway bridge. Now we were lost with roadworks disorienting us.
Help was at hand as a man in t shirt, shorts and Celtic socks and carrying a pair of trainers exited a car and walked across the road towards us. Realising he must be a Football fan I asked where the first Hampden was, which turned out to be just down the road. He explained the scoreline of the first International and I countered that I was at Wembley for the 9-3 game, good football banter. However his recollection was listening to it on the radio and his the hero, goalkeeper Frank Haffey having a night mare. At the end of church the next day he said he used some colourful language about his hero in front of the priest and was dragged off by the ear to be chastised later.
To have remembered the game I realised he must be about my age so I asked if he had been playing walking football. He indignantly replied no proper football and immediately put me to shame and made me feel very inferior. I put my foot in it there. He explained that the first Hampden now a bowling green had been built by Queens Park F.C . My new found friend said that recently an archaeological group had been excavating around parts of the Bowling Green.
We walked on and found the site of the first Hampden where a painted memorial facing the railway line tells of Scotlands 5-1 win over England and the involvement of Andrew Watson the first black footballer to play for Scotland.
Queens Park had to move because a railway company wanted to build a line right through Hampden. Hence the move to Cathkin Park which suited their needs until they again they moved to the current Hampden Park as we know it today. But it does not stop there as as recently as 2020 Queens Park F.C . decided to end their amateur status which they had kept since 1875 and agreed a sale of Hampden Park to the Scottish FA. Queens Park are now getting Little Hampden which is next door up to League standard and hope to get it licenced and move there in the next 12 months. If I had known this on the day of my visit I would have gone there too. Oh well a future adventure beckons.
Again Mary Queen of Scots seems to come into view of everything, it is understood that her army passed through Cathkin Park in South Glasgow on the way to the Battle of Langside where she was defeated and effectively ended any hope of regaining her rule over the country
How much of this is urban myth and how much reality I don’t mind. I just find it fascinating, enjoyable and amazing the impact that football has on people and the pride people having in talking about their space.
Of Course we did make it to the cafe, Salmagundi (a mixture, an assortment) and it lived up to its name and reputation. Described by the local people I met as a bit Boho the menu would be able to cater for all. I had vegetarian haggis with portobello mushrooms and an egg based pattie in a brioche bun with brown sauce. Delicious and obviously a well used place with a constant stream of sit ins and take aways. Thanks for the recomendation.