Local Dumbarton lad Drew Busby had scored Thirds’ solitary counter, and unwittingly entered Scottish Football’s History Books, becoming scorer of Thirds’ last ever goal.
But few in attendance at this match would ever have guessed that only a couple of months later the appointed liquidators would march into Cathkin to finally close the Park gates for good, following their full investigation into every aspect of Third Lanark Athletic Club.
So sadly the cries of “Hi Hi Hi!” frequently heard around so many Scottish Football grounds over an at times glorious 95 years of existence would be heard no more.
That evening, the fans, who had so faithfully supported the club throughout a most trying campaign, were left bewitched, very bothered and completely bewildered.
Most accepting that although football is certainly NOT the be all and end of all life – the everyday involvement in being very much part of a community club, and enjoying the many friendships forged over the years, in a happy, relatively safe environment, cannot be a bad thing – and of course there was no real alternative to fill a Saturday. In addition every real Football fan knows that it is not only the match day that’s involved. We all lap up the previews, the reviews, and press snippets in between. Indeed it is a way of life for tens of thousands. Please remember that and continue to support your team at whatever level of the game. I promise you would miss it, if it were taken from you.
Come August 1967, former Thirds fans had no option but to test out pastures new in an attempt to plug the gap – but around 85-90% of former Cathkinites fairly quickly found that there was no adequate football alternative, and were simply lost to the game. I do feel that possibly Pollok Juniors benefited most from Thirds exit, but to a limited extent.
Remember too it was absolutely final for Thirds – straight into liquidation – no ‘administration’ loophole for escape. Even now it seems so wrong – particularly when the relatively paltry sum of £40,000 was their total debt.
THE BEGINNING OF A LOVE AFFAIR
Let me take you back to 1936, when as a very young boy, I attended my first ever Thirds match with an Uncle. It was the Cup Final at Hampden in April. Thirds were playing Rangers. The sides who lined up before a crowd of 88,859 were:
Thirds – Muir, Carabine, Hamilton, Blair, Denmark, McInnes, Howe, Gallacher, Hay, Kennedy, Kinnaird.
Rangers – Dawson, Gray, Cheyne, Meiklejohn, Simpson, Brown, Fiddes, Venters, Smith, McPhail, Turnbull.
A combination of magnificent goalkeeping by Dawson, and desperate defending took the Cup to Ibrox, and left yours truly with my favourite football expression – ‘we wuz robbed’.
The following season I was gifted my first season ticket – 5/- or 25p. For that pricely sum I could attend, every home league & cup match in addition to every home reserve game!
That season ended with me totally hooked as a Thirds fan. Over the years until their demise I attended over 800 of their games home & away.
HISTORY OF THIRD LANARK
Third Lanark was born in 1872. A group of soldiers of the 3rd Lanark Rifle Volunteers attended the first Scotland v England, international match at Hamilton Crescent, which ended 0-0. They instantly took a fancy to football and on return to barracks they gained permission to form their own team.
The club had three nicknames: the Redcoats, the Warriors and the Hi Hi’s. The latter came about by accident, when during a match in the late 1890’s a defender belted the ball so high out of the ground that the crowd started screaming High High High and that nickname stuck ever since.
Thirds played in three grounds – Victoria Park from 1872 to 1875, first Cathkin 1875 to 1904 and New Cathkin 1904 to 1967. The latter was actually the first Hampden Park, before Queens Park moved to their present site in Mount Florida.
For the great majority of their life Thirds wore scarlet jerseys, white shorts, white stockings with three top scarlet bands. With their alternative strip being white jerseys and black shorts.
In 1904 they changed their name from Third Lanark RV for the only time – and became Third Lanark AC.
Thirds won every possible domestic honour – admittedly perhaps only once or twice:
· Division One Champions 
· Division Two Champions 
· Scottish Cup 
· Glasgow Cup 
· Glasgow Charity Cup 
Their last Major Cup Final appearance took place at Hampden in October 1959. Opponents Hearts deservedly won the Cup on a narrow 2-1 scoreline. Thirds’ diminutive goalkeeper Jocky Robertson, 5’5” stamped his name with pride all over the 90 minutes, with a magnificent display.
They lined up against Celtic in the Glasgow Cup Final of April 1963 when, captained by former Ranger Sammy Baird, they beat Celtic 2-1 to lift their last ever trophy.
Another fairly proud record is seen from their operating in the Scottish First Division – the equivalent of today’s SPL – for all but 12 seasons.
We cannot forget their involvement in Europe in Season 1961-62 when they lost out 2-1 in both legs to Rouen of France in the Franco British Friendship Cup.
In December 1954 there appeared on Cathkin’s horizon one Bill Hiddleston – who although enjoying a very short period of months in his Director role, before being sent packing, returned to haunt and eventually end the sheer existence of Thirds in the 1960s.
A FLAVOUR OF THIRD LANARK
To encapsulate 95 years of history of Third Lanark, is a particularly challenging task, but I will provide a wee flavour of their involvement in Scottish Football.
There were so many characters in the Scarlet it is always difficult to highlight everyone’s favourite but the following selection are amongst the best known.
From the early 1900s – Jimmy Brownlie, Jimmy Raeside, Hugh Wilson, Tommy Sloan and Willie Wardrope.
THE FALL OF THIRD LANARK
Season 1964-65 proved to be the beginning of the end for Thirds. Bill Hiddleston had returned in 1962 and gained full control of Thirds. Manager George Young, along with club trainer and three directors immediately resigned in protest. Player unrest increased and led to a general clearout of players – Hilley had been sold to Newcastle United, with Harley and Gray joining Manchester City.
A despairing final season of 1966-67 ended tragically for the club. Years of haggling, board room squabbles and political intrigue led to the inevitable. Liquidation.
The signs were clear enough in 1964. By this time Thirds, under the guidance of Hiddleston, had sold more than a full team of stars in under three seasons. Their most successful side of 1961 had gone with the exception of four players.
During this time there were constant Board squabbles and player unrest. Restrictions were placed on training facilities, while hot water and floodlights were frequently unavailable.
Frequent assurances given to players by the board did not materialise and all of this not surprisingly resulted in ultimate disaster and the liquidators were called in to examine the affairs of Third Lanark.
Their full report pointed the finger at Mr Hiddleston. Its damning indictment included the following statement, “It seemed clear that Mr Hiddleston for whatever reason had made his mind up to secure control of the company and in this he eventually succeeded. The general picture to emerge then is that the Club came to be run by him with the tragic acquiescence of other Directors, as an inefficient, unscrupulous one man business, with no regard for the provision of the Company Act, the articles of Association of the Company or in the interest of shareholders…. Clearly excluded from any of this involvement were all the persons who had ceased to hold office on or before 20th May 1965.”
Former Cathkin legend Dave Hilley, in the course of speaking at the launch of my book, “Still Seeing Red” in August 1996, said, “To me Third Lanark was simply a wonderful football club, which although not winning too many trophies, provided their tens of thousands of fans over the years with many happy memories and barrow loads of honest effort and entertainment.”
For the record the last ever Third Lanark side was:
Russell, Connel, Heaney, McLaughlin, Little, McEwan, Rundell, Craig, Busby, May, Kinnaird.
Consequently it is even more surprising that some 42 years after their demise, Third Lanark lives on in the minds of many. I am still involved in fielding around 20-25 emails per week, trying to provide answers to queries on all aspects of the club.
Gone they may well be, but not forgotten.
For those interested in the history of Third Lanark and in statistics also, you will find comprehensive details and photos of the club through the ages on my website along with other fascinating items. Do feel free to contact me with comments or queries.
For more information and history of Third Lanark, visit Bert Bell’s excellent website at www.thirdlanarkac.co.uk.
First Published in Issue 1.7 of The 12th Man Scottish Football fanzine