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Cathkin Park – Glasgow’s Forgotten International Football Stadium

Cathkin view

Cathkin Park was once the home of the now defunct Third Lanark F.C, and was, at large, the epicentre of Scottish football in the late 19th century. Third Lanark were once as prominent as Celtic and Rangers, who spent much of their career in the premier division and even won the Scottish Cup twice; while their 20,000-capacity grounds, originally known as Hamden Park, staged a number of Scottish Cup play-offs, the British League Cup in 1902, and even two international games. Despite its considerable level of usage throughout its 70-year tenure, Cathkin Park fell into a state of total disrepair after Third Lanark went bankrupt in 1967. Who were Third Lanark, and what remains of Cathkin Park?

By James McKean

Queen’s Park-era

Cathkin was originally constructed for Queen’s Park Football Club in 1884 and was named Hampden, the name being carried over from the teams’ last stadium, the original Hampden Park. Queen’s Park made Cathkin their home between the years of 1884 and 1903. At a time when the Scottish Football League wasn’t established, and when football wasn’t recognised as a profession, Queen’s Park dominated the amateur football scene in Scotland during their tenure at Cathkin. Considered pioneers of football skill, the team were often invited to compete in the FA Cup at this time, the first Scottish team to do so, and become the only Scottish team to ever reach the final, on two separate occasions. In 1890, the Scottish Football League was formed, but Queen’s Park originally rejected the invitation to join, seeking to maintain their amateur background. Despite remaining technically as an amateur club, some of the most famous footballers of the day played for the club, including captain Charles Campbell and centre forward Robert Smyth McColl, who both graced Cathkin’s grounds. Queen’s Park eventually left Cathkin in 1903 and moved into the new Hampden that stands in the south east of Glasgow today.

During the Queen’s Park-era, Cathkin also played host to some of the most significant footballing events of the day and a number of Scottish Cup Finals, including the 1899 final between Celtic and Rangers, and two British international games: the first witnessed Scotland beating England 1-0 to an audience of 10,000 in 1884, and the second saw Scotland 4-1 victorious over Wales, also the same year.

Cathkin ParkThird Lanark-era

Third Lanark started in 1872, and were originally called Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers, being a team exclusively for members of the volunteer corps. The team originally played at the original Cathkin Park, which was built in 1872 and kitted out with a grandstand and pavilion. Located near Crosshill, this original Cathkin was also well used, and even hosted the 1882 Scottish Cup Final.

Third Lanark took over Cathkin in 1903, and just like Queen’s Park before them, they too carried over their former park’s name to the new grounds, labelling the stadium New Cathkin Park. Third Lanark had the whole site renovated, demolishing the grandstand that Queen’s Park had constructed, and replacing it with their own stand, transported over from the old Cathcart. It was in 1903 that the team shortened their name to Third Lanark as former ties with the rifle volunteers were cut.

Third Lanark were the first team ever to enter into the Scottish Premier League, and, having reached the final several times prior, won the Scottish Cup Final in 1889. The new Cathcart pitch kept their success rate ascending, as Third Lanark became the Scottish Football League champions during the 1903-04 season.

Difficulties started to emerge after the war, as Third Lanark entered a yo-yo phase during the 1920s: After the initial relegation in 1925, Third Lanark experienced a total of three relegations and three promotions by 1935. Success was met sporadically thereafter: they reached the Scottish Cup Final again in 1936 and 1959; beat Rangers in the Scottish Charity Cup in 1954; and, during the 1960-1961 season, beat Hibernian 6-1 taking their tally up to a historic 100 goals for that season. But, as the 1960s progressed, Third Lanark began to face serious problems: they started the 1965 season in the Second Division; low-fan attendance became common, with a mere 297 spectators recorded at Cathkin Park 15th of April 1967; and on the 25th of April, played their final game at Cathkin, which was a 3-3 draw against Queen of the South.

In May of 1967, Third Lanark announced they were moving to a new stadium in Bishopbriggs, and that New Cathkin grounds was to be turned into housing. However, this new stadium never saw the light of day, and Third Lanark were declared bankrupt. A Board of Trade Investigation was later conducted and uncovered the financial wrong doings that had been going on behind the scenes. Bill Hiddleston, the final manager of Third Lanark, had been embezzling the club’s finances: paying players late, not paying Cathkin’s bills, and even stealing from the club’s own lottery. In June of 1967, a liquidator was appointed, while the Scottish Football League terminated the club’s membership.

Cathkin Park todayWhat Remains of the Stadium?

Cathkin Park was left abandoned following the demise of Third Lanark A.C. The main stands were demolished over the next decade, leaving only the terraces from 3 sides of the field, the pitch, and the goal posts. In 1977, Glasgow Council were ready to demolish the rest of Cathkin, however, later decided to preserve what was left as the grounds and to open the area a public park. Cathkin Park stands today as a historic relic of one of the original professional Scottish football teams and gets visited regularly by football fans. Fittingly, the reformed Third Lanark A.F.C amateur team uses Cathkin as their home grounds today, as do other amateur teams Hampden AFC and Jimmy Johnstone Academy.