Friday, 11 January 2008

Song For The Hi Hi

Quote from Hippocrates, engraved in a stone, situated at the back of the centre terrace at Cathkin Park, Glasgow. Now sadly defaced by local sub-human scum. To some, History is indeed bunk........

The story of Third Lanark should not be left to me to tell, it's too complex and absurd. So it's a relief that there are a few websites that will hlep me do most of the job. They can be found here, here and here. Especially the last link, as it gives you the rough current position of Cathkin Park and any continuing Third Lanark concern. What I was surprised to find out was that the ground is used as a gay cruising spot and a shooting gallery for south side junkies. I knew it was a hang out for neds and Buckie slurpers, the smashed bottles on the terraces tell you that much, but it's certainly a dark,dingy and secluded old place, even in broad daylight on a warm summer day. It's not hard to imagine that it might be one of Glasgows less alluring haunts after dark.

Cathkin Park shut it's doors to football, professional or otherwise, in 1967. At the time of the club's closure, the ground, at least on the surface of things, looked to be in sound shape. There had been a new 'modern' main stand built some years earlier to replace the old barrel roofed affair, and the rest of the ground was no better or worse than any other middle order Scottish football ground of the time.

In 1966, there were five professional football teams in Glasgow, not including Queens Park, who played their football in the senior leagues, despite remaining amateurs. Queens Park resided just over the other side of Mount Florida from Third Lanark, at Hampden Park, though by the 1960's, they had been overtaken by the professional game to such an extent that they were permanant fixtures in the old Scottish 2nd division (there were only two large divisions in Scotland back then). Ironically, while Thirds went on to claim a relatively lofty position in Scottish football between 1900 and 1961, they actually inherited their stadium from Queens Park, a ground that had once been known as 'Hampden Park', a ground that had hosted cup finals and at least one Scotland v England international before being sold and re-christened.

The other pro teams in Glasgow were Rangers & Celtic (the ugly sisters), Partick Thistle (Cinderella, of course), Clyde, who resided in Rutherglen, a district that skirted the city boundary in those days and Third Lanark, or 'The Hi Hi' as they were known. It could be argued that they were the Partick Thistle of South Glasgow, and as former player Ally McLeod remembers, they were prone to being the butt the same old jokes from the waggish elements of the Old Firm herd.

Throughout the seventies, the ground rotted. It had been sold for housing, but Glasgow City Council denied planning permission. The culprit, the 'Rank Bajin' of the piece, Bill Hiddleston died not two years after the clubs demise, and while it was obviously a tragedy for his family, it certainly wasn't for the old twister himself or many of the Thirds faithful, as it meant he body-swerved a fair few years in the nick and the truth about the demise of the club and his fiddling never did come under full legal and public scrutiny.

The main stand was eventually demolished, as was the terrace enclosure and the area became part of Glasgow's parkland. The pitch still remains, along with a new(ish) set of goalposts, and has been used generally for amateur football over the years. The old terracing is still there in parts. About half of it has had trees planted on it, but the 'amphitheatre' feel of the old stadium still lives on. The first time you see the place, especially if you come in from the Prospecthill Road/Florida Avenue side, is like chancing upon a hidden world, in much the same way as one might discover a half hidden archeological wonder. In the last five or six years, the concept of a team bearing the name 'Third Lanark' has come and gone with depressing regularity, but it's only in the past year that the notion of an amateur team playing as Third Lanark at Cathkin Park has taken root.

I went to see such an encounter last year and to be frank, it was one of the best games of football I've seen in a good long time. Pro teams moan about the condition of pitches. The Cathkin pitch was a mess, yet both teams served up some good football, played mainly on the ground and to feet. It was a pleasure to watch. The pictures in this post and the one below come from this cracking tie. It was the fortieth anniversary of the demise of Third Lanark, so how did they commemorate it? With a game against their nearest neighbours Queens Park of course. Ok, it was the QP U21 side, but let's face it, though Queens are technically amateurs, they have a youth development scheme that makes most pro teams look ridiculous. Even if most of them only go on to be mediocre talents, filling up places in the Junior ranks and the lower leagues, QP seem to be doing more than most other clubs in Scotland in terms of finding that elusive 'talent' that a country as small as ours needs to even think about competing at a respectable level.

The game ended 4-3 to Thirds, and was watched by about 100 people, mainly brought out by the nostalgia, the anniversary, the exhibition in the clubhouse...........It certainly wasn't the weather, which was inclement to say the least. I went back in autumn 07 for an amateur league encounter and as far as I know, I was the only person there watching the game from the terraces. It's hard to shout "C'mon The Hi Hi!!" when you're the only person there. I didn't fancy being stared at by both teams, the manager, the physio and the ref. The current Third Lanark web page can be found here, along with their current fixtures.

The story goes on. If the Wikipedia entry above is to be believed, then I can only hope that someone comes along and decides to turn the place into a showground or municipal park of some sort. Fell the trees, re-pave the terracing, build a modern 1-2000 seater stand, widen and re-configure the cinder track and use the place for.............well, loads of things. Parades, sports days, speedway demo days, concerts, rallies etc (all daytime obviously, it's a residential area). Think of it as a sort of living museum piece. As I said in a caption below, there are damn few places like Cathkin Park left in Britain, I think it would be great idea to bring the place back to something approaching it's former glory whilst getting as much practical use out of it as possible.

Ach! A man can dream, can't he?

Oh, and of course, a place for a team called Third Lanark to play football.


Malc said...

By God, that made me feel good! I've only just had time to follow up all the links and so on.
What a cracking story. Thanks.

Every town should have a speedway track, by law.

Crumpled Caitlin said...

Hey, this is interesting how your documenting the landscape and history of Glasgow through a photo-journal. It's very much like me writing about Niagara Falls... I'm really getting into local history. It's fun and kinda cool. Love your photos too~


iLL Man said...

Cheers folks. I'll answer yr comments properly soon. I'm not connected just now, so I have to bum time on other peoples pc's.

iLL Man said...

Now, to answer both comments.......

Malc - Glad you enjoyed the piece. My main love is Partick Thistle, but Third Lanark are what I'd regard as a fascination. I agree totally about the Speedway. Petrolhead fun without having to go out into the middle of nowhere. I'll miss Ashfield when it eventually comes time to move.

iLL Man said...

Caitlin - Cheers! To be honest, I had set this site up to document the vanishing elements of Glasgow. Eventually I realised it was probably beyond me and best left to the 'Hidden Glasgow' site, which can be found in the side-bar. Instead, I decided to utilise the small collection of photos from football grounds around Scotland that I have on file, whilst adding new ones, as and when..........

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