Cathkin Park - Historic Football Grounds
A Profile Of A Truly Historic Venue In Scottish Football
Cathkin Park is a large park in the South of Glasgow, previous home to Third Lanark Football Club. It’s a stadium some will have fond memories of, and it’s estimated that in its prime, it held up to 50,000 fans. Nowadays, the stadium is a shadow of its former self, although 2018 has seen steps taken to restore the stadium back to how it once was.
Glasgow’s Cathkin Park was one of the most famous football stadiums in Scotland, albeit with a slightly rocky history. It’s most well-known as the home of football club, Third Lanark.
The stadium was built and opened in 1884 as the home for Queens Park F.C who had now been forced to move out of their previous stadium since a railway track was being built. When it was first built, the stadium was named Hampden Park, and the first match at the stadium was a 0-0 draw between Queens Park & Dumbarton. This match saw a crowd of up to 6000.
Not long after, the stadium became too small for Queens Park, and they set about moving somewhere else. Cathkin Park became home to Third Lanark, a team who totally rebuilt the stadium; changing the name from Hampden Park to New Cathkin-Park (as they had already played at a Cathkin Park not far away). With the rebuild, the stadium could seat up to 50,000 fans.
Trouble for Third Lanark
What started great didn’t end well for the team, and in the 1960s they ran into trouble. Mismanagement as well as financial difficulty caused the club to enter liquidation. The last match played by Third Lanark at Cathkin Park was on the 25th April 1967. The team drew 3-3 against Queen-of-the-South, with this match containing the last ever senior football goal at Cathkin Park.
On May 13th 1967, a Junior game was played. It was the Cambuslang Rangers versus the Rutherglen Glencairn. This match is notable because it marks the last match that was played at the park before the home team, Third Lanark A.C went bankrupt later that year.
These days, the football stadium is thought of as totally abandoned by some people, although it still provides fond memories for a few old enough to have taken a game in here. While it used to be a bustling stadium for fairly popular team, the stadium has now become a part of Scottish Football history. The remains of its terraces can still be seen and the pitch is still visible to those who wish to visit this football “Easter Egg.”
Children in the park still play football on what used to be the pitch, with the stands still surrounding them – possibly seating just a few proud parents, instead of thousands of football fans. A reformed Third Lanark team currently play in the park, as well as Hampden AFC. The reformed Third Lanark team still wear the same bright red stripes of the previous Third Lanark team.
Cathkin Park has also been used by the film industry. The old ground has been used to film TV shows and news items over the past decades, including Peter Mullan’s NEDs.
Cathkin Park Ltd
There are some people however, who don’t want to give up on the Cathkin. Cathkin Park Ltd are committed to protecting Scotland’s football heritage for generations to enjoy. The company is not affiliated to any team, instead concerned with trying to restore the park to what it once was, as well as making it safer to visit.
Cathkin Park-Ltd claim that the former international football arena is the most important football ground in Scotland, and it must be protected at all costs. While Glasgow City-Council have been caring for the site since 1967, the project they put in place was abandoned and trees have been destroying the concrete under the terracing.
The company wants to save the remaining terracing and restore the park to its former glory. They claim that the park is potentially a World Heritage Site and for this reason it needs to be protected. They are planning to bring tourists to Glasgow while making the former stadium a safe and enjoyable place to be.
The Restoration The Park
Cathkin Park-Ltd’s restoration began in February, 2018. Their work so far has included the stone work on the West Corner Terracing, removing up to 50 years of overgrown moss, dirt and rubbish. They are committed to taking the restoration slowly and doing everything properly. However, despite the damage being done by the trees, Cathkin Park Ltd are determined to keep the park as picturesque as possible. They want to restore the terrace while retaining the look of the stadium.
The reaction so far from joggers and park users has been positive. In just 35 weeks, Cathkin Park Ltd have made the terraces far safer to be on as the steps have been cleared. Once all 5 terraces have been restored, the former stadium will look totally transformed, but they will still have a long way to go to bring it back to how it was.
Now, 35 weeks in, the group have made remarkable progress. Large roots below the old ground have been cut out and huge amounts of moss has been removed. The stone is in surprisingly good condition, and they aim to have the East terrace totally restored by the end of the year. The group are making a documentary to monitor their progress.
Cathkin Park truly is, one of the greatest footballing wonders of the world.
Supporters Direct Scotland Interview Simon Weir
- Full Transcription -
Simon Weir: Doors shut in 1967 I think. The ground actually should shut down six or seven when Third Lanark went bust and it was used off and on. I think the council- what happened was the ground was then sold for housing. They realized there was a caveat in the council to say that it could never be built on, it must remain a playing field, which is great. That’s why to this day we’ve still got the park.
I think the council and then some schools used- I know it was used for a school’s final. After that in the 70s and things as well. The ground was continually used. The football has been played here since 1884. We’ve got 126 years of unbroken football history even when the ground was shut and of course, kids would break in and play football there every day as well. There was a few finals, a few games. A lot of clubs, the Rangers boys club and Celtic boys club trained here as well. It was always used, but slowly over the years it’s been vandalized and abandoned.
Just behind me, we’re in the east section of the terracing here. Just to my right would have been a pavilion building which Third Lanark brought from the original Cathkin Park just two streets away and stands as well that they rebuilt in the early 60s, they put a new stand up. These were of course burnt out in the 1970s and by the 1980s were falling apart. It was all gone I think by 1980-81.
Behind me, you see lots of trees as well. There’s five main sections of terracing left out underground. If you’ve not been here before, one complete empty site where the stand and the pavilion used to be, but where the trees are now is not terracing. It was actually landscaped and I met a guy whose uncle landscaped the ground. There now 150 foot high and out of control, but originally they were seedlings and I’ve got a great picture of when it first all planted and the trees are tiny. The trees you see now 150 feet were that size. They were seedlings and they were then used in public parks and streets as well. Some of the streets where you live will have trees from Cathkin Park.
Part of my reason for getting involved was I always wanted to do football tourists. Obviously, football in Scotland started here. A bunch of Highlanders that became Queen’s Park were over in Queens Park Rec which is there. It’s great to think in 1867 they were tossing the cable across the road. There’s a new game football. Football develops from there from a corner of Queens Park Rec now where the new hospital is.
Queens Park, of course, they organized. They become the first football club. 1872 is the first international over Hamilton Crescent because there isn’t a football ground. The biggest involved sports at the time was cricket which though it’s now become an elitist sport or the time it was all cricket grounds. Obviously, Hamilton Crescent home of West of Scotland held the first Queens Park/SFA game against England.
Third Lanark obviously grew from there as well. Third Lanark were formed by five guys who were at the game who then went to the Orderly Rooms in Howard Street and formed Third Lanark Football Club from 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers. They were looking for a ground. They enclosed the ground at Victoria Road and then moved to first Cathkin. But the story about this ground starts with Queens Park who then moved to the bowling ground- the bowling club across the road which if you still look at it still looks like a football ground.
The Queen’s Park, when they built this ground, they were going to build a- the train company was coming through this current district railway I think was going to come through. They said if we’re going to cut through your land, you need to move. We’ll pay to have the room across the road, leveled built into the hill, and build the ground there. That’s what Queens Park did, so in October 1884 that’s ground dormant. It’s not as it was just now in the pitch was actually about thirty yards over from where it is now. This natural amphitheater-like hill wasn’t cut into. Instead, they brought their own stands and pavilion building from across the road to here.
It’s a great tradition of moving buildings around between these two and three grounds. When they moved out in 1903 they fell out with the Third Lanark who had agreed to move in, smashed all the terracing down and this as you see here, was built in 1903. That’s a potted history of the way the ground is now and it was one of the best stadiums in Britain. It was one of the first proper all tickets grounds in British football, and is very important to the way British football was then played.
If we look at the one across the road, this is where the passing game even in Barcelona to this day without ticky-tacky, without- the passing game was invented there simply because the Scottish guys were small. They’re playing against huge rugby-playing public school Englishmen and they went off and passed the ball to the side. This passing game changes the whole thing from 1-1-8 to 2-2-6 and passing football. A very- a vitally important ground simply for that.
Part of it was my great grandfather played here. He even scored a hat trick in his debut for Third Lanark in 1915-1916 and scored over 50 goals for them. Played four seasons here and it was obviously a magical place for him as well. I’ve been in London and even though the ground was here I was a West End boy. I moved to South Side there for a run. I came around here and suddenly found this famous Cathkin Park was still here and I was amazed at how much still remained.
I started just doing a bit of gentle restoration of it just because it was crumbling. If you look at some at the wall, the moss, and the walls was crumbling. I started the restoration, get invited, met some Third Lanark guys, did some press with them get invited onto the board and ended up buying the original name. I know I’m not going involve with them as well other good different guys running it. Part of the big thing was to get Cathkin used again for Third Lanark. That was a dream to get them back here, but obviously, it’s this would cost millions. When you look at it, it’s been a public park for 50 years, so I doubt there would be a professional football ground again.
Again I came back with this idea to do football tours, to take them to Queens Park Rec, Hampden Bowling Club across here. This is a football tour where you can actually get in the pitch. You can score a goal and these famous old goals have been here since 1884. Part of the council’s problem with that was that the terracing wasn’t safe to walk down I thought oh I’m going go back and clear.
I cleared one section down in the West End and then the next section. Then we managed to get better council help with the Jimmie Johnson Academy a registered charity they managed to get the Community Payback guys in. The Community Payback guys come in and help scrap this done and pick up the leaves and do a gentle restoration as well. But it’s kind of addictive, this place gives you Catherine madness.
Every bit of spare time I’ve got I’m an actor anyway so I’ll get plenty of spare time. But any spare time I’ve got, I come down and do a little bit of work. It’s starting now to really come together. Obviously, you’re fighting nature, but that was part of it. It’s a family thing for me, it’s a big, big family connection for me. I’m huge on family history. Some of the players that played here, the connections to every club and every football you’ve ever heard of is here.
For me, if this was in Greece this would be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of these places– it’s in an unfashionable part of Glasgow. It’s the back of Governor Hill before Tory Glen. It’s not a loved place except by those who used this park. This park was a magical place for everyone who lives around here.
What I’ve always thought was missing here was there’s nothing to take away, there’s nowhere to have a coffee, there’s nowhere to go to the toilet here. Even for the dog walkers, there’s nothing for them. If you’re a grown top or you’re interested in sports grounds, not just football, rugby, cycling, athletics, box and this was a multi-sports venue but unbelievable heritage. Same heritage as 3rd Hampden up the road, but there’s nothing to take away from it, there’s nothing tangible.
Part of my plan, working with the Jimmie Johnston guys as well, working with the council hopefully as well, is to make us some lasting memorial here. Restore what’s left even if we can never get the trees down and never get it looking like it was, we can fix up what’s here, we can get the running track down so the community can use it again for athletics. For just for running on you break your ankles if you go it just now but I’m taking it down just another couple of inches as well, just leveling it all out.
Little bits starting to pay off here as well. Obviously, you’re fighting nature and that’s part of it as well. It’s part of our re-education part here. This is an unbelievable local asset and even if it is like this forever I’d be happy because it’s still here. That’s the most important thing to me, that Cathkin Park remains. There’s two or three bits of Terrace and that’s still really good but this is what happens, nature eventually will come and destroy this. Why not just restore it a little bit at a time and it works. Part of what we’re doing is try to raise funds now.
Now, obviously, we’re a limited company. I started a production company called Cathkin Parkland because of my love of Cathkin Park and because it’s what was done. If we can make drama, documentaries, TV dramas, films, and live shows, it brings up a life and interest again that puts Cathkin Park’s name out there in every poster we do, and also raise funds for this because this is going to be expensive.
If you do it bit by bit slowly but surely what I’ve found as the best way to do this place is just a little bits at that time. There’s creating a huge interest again as well got a great following on Twitter, got a great following the blog as well. Lots and lots of good wishes for that. Turning that into cash is different. We’d rather raise it ourselves, then go back to the council and we’ll go, “This is what could be done. Let’s make this a legacy project for the 2020 Euro Finals. Let’s make less every time you got Commonwealth Games right in here. Why isn’t less the legacy?”
My main goal with this project is to provide a lasting legacy. It’s the way I live my life anyway as well. I’ve got myself seven years to get this place turned around and one year into it already and we made a big improvement. Obviously, I’m busy in things as well, and I can’t get lot’s of volunteers down until we get permission. It all depends on lots, lots more variables, but ideally what would like and I’m working with Jimmie Johnson guys on this, is a museum here.
This should be a living breathing football museum. A museum we don’t just walk around things in cases where you see old medals like that. Where things are tangible you can touch you can run around the track, you can get on the pitch you can score a goal would put Nets up you score a goal there but that’s something for the local community to take away. There has to be a cafe here.
That’s what I would like I would like obviously an extension to the SFA Museum which is brilliant. I have been to every football museum in Europe, that one up there is still the best. I would like an extension to that. There’s so many more things that they can’t display. Wouldn’t that be great here wouldn’t that be great to have a football museum all the way down here, or sports museum?
But in the meantime what we’re looking at doing is getting like if you see behind me we’ve got big storage containers with the goals and things are kept in. but maybe looking at something that opens out into an office. That could be a reception area for people to come to the ground. I’m working on a couple of pamphlets and books to print up as well. There’s something tangible for ground toppers and those who are interested on the ground to take away.
Then you realize some of the boxers have fought here. Benny Lynch fought five fights here. It’s one of the reasons why Benny was one of the first stories we came up with there’s a show- where’s the legacy for that? All of these things could be pulled in here. There was you know William Ely and the O’Neill brothers and how do O’Neill brothers formed rangers it was all from here. They all performed here. They all did athletics meets here. They were in the regiment here’s as well that luxury of our volunteers.
The legacy and history you could pull together of Glasgow social history, of this area alone as well, because Governor Hill is forgotten about. This area has a great- especially in the Industrial Age, it has a great history. A fascinating history for those that have moved here now. There’s nowhere to show that.
This is a museum of social history of the regiment that was here as well, of the sports and social inclusion that was here. This was the people’s club. When it was Third Lanark, they were the soldiers. Queen’s Park was seen as the professor’s obviously it was more of an aristocratic gentlemen’s club that way. This was the people’s club, this was when the Jewish community came to watch as well. It was their team. When Third Lanark died in 1967 a lot of people were lost to football, a lot of people were lost a sport. But unless it’s constantly kept in the forefront of people’s minds and they see actually tangible things happening here, then I think there will be a legacy. I think I’m the museum here is my dream.