Saturday, 13 August 2011

Third Lanark

Click here or read below for my interview with Simon Weir, who is trying to restore Cathkin Park, the home of Third Lanark Football Club. It was published in the official Raith Rovers matchday magazine.

Coppers & Cold Water - Cathkin Park

In last season's programme, readers may remember I visited Cathkin Park, the home of Third Lanark. The crumbling ruins have since been partially restored by Scottish actor, Simon Weir. Weeds have been ripped out of the terracing, the walls have been painted white and crush barriers sport the traditional red colour of 'The Hi Hi's' once again.

I caught up with Simon last week and amongst an incredible roller-coaster history lesson he outlined his plans for the club, before explaining just why he got himself involved in the project in the first place. “I've always fallen in love with Cathkin. I came across it by accident and I noticed it was falling apart. I was doing family history at the time and found out that my great grandfather played for Third Lanark. He was there for three seasons and scored a d├ębut hat-trick against Aberdeen! I bought the Third Lanark company and registered that. I'm the owner now, which I'm delighted with and we've now trademarked the badge.”

Cathkin was also the venue for numerous international football matches, but unknown to many, the ground was used for a variety of sports such as rugby and boxing. “There was rugby internationals there, Scotland and England played in a 1896 fixture and Benny Lynch fought there three times in the thirties as well! Everyone thinks of him at Shawfield.”

With such a rich and successful history I then asked what was the cause for Third Lanark's sudden downfall into liquidation and as is common with the collapse of football clubs, Simon revealed a villain. “The problem was, there was a guy called Bill Hiddleston who was the bad chairman and it's by him that I measure myself every day. He brought his cronies in and basically we just horsed all the money. We paid the players in coppers from the turnstiles, there was no hot water in the showers, even Henry McLeish talks about coming for an East Fife game and they would have to bring their own light bulbs for the dressing room! It's kind of what Clough used to do as Nottingham Forest, cold baths, no electricity, the same thing happened at Third Lanark, twenty years before that! It was getting drawn into the ground. A guy broke his arm and Hiddleston said “for f*ck sake, don't cut the jersey! Nowadays you would go into administration and you would get a chance, you'd get demoted twenty points and you'd be kicked out the league, back then it was straight to bust. There was no chance for reprieve.”

Whilst the history of Cathkin is fascinating, Simon is just as enthusiastic about the plans for the ground's future. “It's the fact that it's all still there, that's the amazing thing. My plan was for Cathkin never to be developed as a modern football stadium. It was always to keep the ground as a public park. People walk their dogs there, you couldn't ever stop that and I wouldn't want to because it's been a public park for fifty years. The place is only still there because it was decreed open space, so it could never be built on. We want to set it up as a Victorian football stadium, so we would rebuild a classic stand and have the little pavilion building, that was the most important thing. It would have modern facilities inside, a multi-sports venue that always preserved a lovely grass football pitch. That's still the big plan. We're going to do it through sensible fund raising. My big thing is Victorian sports in Glasgow.”

Back to the present day, progress has been kick-started. With both Third Lanark and Edinburgh side St. Bernards having been formed by rifle volunteers, the two sides met in Edinburgh last Saturday to fight for the 2011 Rifle Volunteers Cup. Third Lanark were the eventual winners, edging out their east coast rivals 3-2. Simon wants to keep up the hard work and now, 'The Hi Hi's' will face Queens Park next week. “We're playing Queens Park at Lesser Hampden on Wednesday 10th August, which will be an absolute cracker! We want to get a crowd down for that as well. We're going to have an annual Hampden Cup, so we're just trying to find an old trophy just now!”

The Third Lanark story rumbles on and Simon promises there is much more to follow. “Nobody was interested in the place for fifty years and now everyone wants it! Third Lanark have been trying to get this eight years, the amateur team played there for six years and then were forced off to play elsewhere. The Sunday league team that we're starting is just to get guys in thirties playing football again, under the Third Lanark name. We couldn't even get the park booked before. But just wait, there's going to be some big developments soon.”

written by Will Lyon

1 comment:

  1. The Queens Park match will be rescheduled for September. Date TBC. Was postponed due to the Scotland match at 'bigger Hampden'.Will post details on the FRIENDS OF CATHKIN PARK Blog next week.