In his centenary history of the Scottish Football League, the late Bob
Crampsey claimed that the death of Third Lanark in 1967 is perhaps the most painful of all losses sustained by Scottish League football.
Its easy to see what Bob Crampsey meant. Thirds had been founder members of the Scottish Football League in 1890, Scottish
Cup winners in 1889 and 1905 and Scottish League champions in 1904. They had also been original members of the Scottish Football Association
in 1873 and only Vale of Leven were also able to boast of being founder members of Scotlands two main football organisations.
had many other claims to fame during their ninety-five year history, as detailed so well in John Litsters thoroughly researched and
beautifully produced Life and Death of the Hi Hi but the purpose of this short article is to (belatedly!) look at a question raised
in these pages by the always informative Jim Stewart on page 15 of SFH 120. As a footnote to an item entitled Christmas Day 1909 Jim
Does any SFH reader know why Third Lanark and Dundee chose to play their League fixtures at Cathkin Park during
this period on Christmas Day? Thirds always had a large Jewish following, which may give some clue as to why they, alone of the League
cubs, chose to play at home on this public holiday, but why Dundee as the opponents?"
The Thirds v Dundee Christmas holiday
series began in 1904. Christmas Day in that year fell on a Sunday so that on December 26 Glasgow was, to quote the Dundee Courier
very largely on holiday. This offered the two clubs an opportunity to experiment with playing on Boxing Day. Had the weather
been more favourable, the Courier explained the following day, the experiment of playing the match on a Christmas holiday would
have proved an unqualified success. Instead of keen, clear air, one associates with the merry Christmas season, the atmosphere was
charged with a dense yellow fog. In the city day was practically turned into night. The suburbs, however, fared better, and although
things were cheery enough out Cathkin way, the depressing conditions generally made the spectators hold off. Financially the game
was a failure, the total drawings amounting to only £52 but from the point of view of real good football it was a great success.
Part of the Couriers enthusiasm for the idea of Dundee FC playing on Christmas Day was no doubt influenced by the realisation
that a preview, report and review of a Dundee league match would help fill up some space in the sports pages over three days editions.
Details of the next four matches in the series are as follows:
1905-06 Monday 25 Dec 1905 1-2
1906-07 Tuesday 25 Dec 1906 2-0 4,600
1907-08 Wednesday 25 Dec 1907 1-1 8,000
Friday 25 Dec 1908 2-1 7,000
The Christmas Day 1908 edition
of the Dundee Courier carried the following observations by Critic:
When Dundee and Third Lanark ventured to play a Scottish
League match at Cathkin Park on Christmas Day four years ago there were many head-shakings as to its success financially. Each year
the "gate" has increased in size, until to-day it is equal to that of a Saturday match. Christmas Day football will soon be more general
in the cities, where large numbers are on holiday. The days of friendlies are past, I regret to say, and it is but right that clubs
should take advantage of the holiday to wipe off a delayed or unfinished game. Everybody who is anybody in the world of football will
be at Cathkin witnessing the battle between Dundee and Third, and if the game is anything like its predecessors it will be one worth
The subsequent sequence of Thirds Christmas matches with Dundee is shown below:
1909-10 Saturday 25 Dec
1909 0-2 12,000
1910-11 Monday 26 Dec 1910 2-0 7,000
Monday 25 Dec 1911 1-0 10,000
1912-13 Wednesday 25 Dec 1912 4-1 8,000
1913-14 Thursday 25
Dec 1913 2-1 10,000
1914-15 Friday 25 Dec 1914 7-0 4,000
Christmas Day 1915 Dundee played Hibernian at Easter Road whilst Thirds hosted the visit of Hearts on the same day. We can only speculate
whether the ending of the Thirds v Dundee sequence was at the behest of the Scottish Leagues fixture compiler or a Dundee FC decision
due to the 7-0 drubbing experienced by the Dens Parkers in 1914!
By that year, playing football matches when large numbers are
on holiday was recognised by many clubs as eminently sensible. From 1914 onwards both Thirds and Dundee played on Christmas Day against
other teams but occasionally, when the fixture list permitted, they resumed their innovative holiday rivalry.
If that, in part
at least, deals with Jims first question its more difficult to be precise in response to his Thirds always had a large Jewish following
contention, which John Litster also refers to in Life and Death of the Hi Hi . With the greatest of respect to both Jim and John,
I can find no evidence to substantiate that claim at any time in Thirds history and, as the following figures show, it certainly didnt
apply in 1904.
In Scotlands Jews A Guide to the History and Community of the Jews in Scotland author Dr.
Kenneth E. Collins includes the following in his chapter on Jewish immigration:
Migration to Scotland in significant numbers
did not really get under way until the 1890s. There were about 2,000 Jews in Glasgow in 1891, and this number increased to about
7,000 a decade later. By 1914 there were about 12,000 Jews in Glasgow.
The above figures and the districts of the city where
most Jews lived at the time should be borne in mind when considering Jims large Jewish following assertion. Before the beginning
of the twentieth century most of Glasgows Jews lived in and around the city centre but there were the beginnings of a Yiddish-speaking
community in the Gorbals, just south of the River Clyde.
After 1901 the establishment of synagogues to the south of the
Gorbals is the best indicator of the Jewish communitys pattern of movement in Glasgows south side and their proximity to Cathkin
Park. Eventually there were three Orthodox synagogues in Thirds immediate catchment area plus a small Reform synagogue, but there
were none in 1904, when the decision to play football on or around Christmas Day was first taken by Third Lanark.
Queens Park Synagogue was founded around 1906 and probably had around 500-700 members at that time. A second place of worship, of
similar size, was established in Langside around 1915 and a third Hebrew congregation was created in Crosshill, the area of Glasgow
containing Cathkin Park, but this was not until around 1933. This is also the year that the Reform synagogue was set up in nearby
So there were probably around 2,000 to 2,500 Jewish people living in the combined Govanhill/ Crosshill/ Langside/
Strathbungo area in the 1930s but it is likely there would have been no more than half that number living in these districts in December
During Season 1904-05, despite being reigning league champions, a typical league fixture at Cathkin Park attracted
attendances of around 4,000. Admittedly this figure is based on newspaper estimates and is probably understated but in any case it
would have required a significant percentage of the immediate local Jewish population, estimated at no more than 1,000, to have been
regular attendees at Thirds home matches for their effect on the size of the Cathkin crowd to have been worthy of consideration at
any time of the year.
It should also be pointed out that Shabbat (Sabbath), Judaisms traditional day of rest, begins
at nightfall on Friday and lasts until nightfall on Saturday, thus the number of orthodox Jewish people who would regularly watch
Saturday football at Cathkin in the early years of the twentieth century is at the very least open to question.
probability the very small size of any Jewish support for Third Lanark in 1904 is unlikely to have been a consideration when the boards
of Third Lanark and Dundee discussed the advantages and disadvantages of playing football on 26 December 1904. More plausibly, the
very small size of Third Lanarks total support in 1904, from all quarters, may well have been the reason for experimenting with holiday
Bob McPherson, 30 Holly Road,
Broughty Ferry, Dundee DD5 2LZ
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