Heart of Midlothian & the romance of club titles

Romance and sport can often be a dark art and yet if you look at the club names of some football or rugby football clubs you begin to get a sense of history and nostalgia that puts a club at odds with it being run for love and run as a business. 

Take the name behind the one of the oldest club in Scotland. They are based in the heart of Ednburgh yet are called Heart of Midlothian. Why?

Well, the club has its origins in a group of friends from the Heart of Midlothian Dancing Club. Incredible yet true. The pals apparently bought a ball before playing local rules football at the Tron from where they were directed by a local policeman to the meadows to play instead. At this stage local rules football was a mix of rugby and football as we know it. In December 1873 a match was held between Queens Park and Clydesdale at Raimes Park in Bonnington.This was the first time that Association rules had been seen in Edinburgh and members from the dance hall watched the match and in 1874 decided to adopt the association rules.The new side was called Heart of Mid-Lothian Football Club with the club taking its name from the Heart of Midlothian jail, which was demolished in 1817 but was kept fresh in the mind by Walter Scott’s novel The Heart of Midlothian.

Isn’t this all absolutely marvellous stuff! Beats by a country mile a club being called Edinburgh City doesn’t it! 

Scottish clubs excel in their fabulous names. Take Hibernian for example. The club was founded in 1875 by Irishmen from the Cowgate area of Edinburgh. The name is derived from Hibernia, the Roman name for Ireland. 

Then there’s the mighty Celtic, a club based in Glasgow. Here So how did the name come about? In the founders of the club wanted a name to attract crowds to help out the local charities. An obvious idea was to emulate Hibs and name ourselves Glasgow Hibernian (Hibernian is an archaic Latin term for Ireland). However, this was not going to be popular with some from Edinburgh, and it was decided to choose Celtic to reflect not only the Irish heritage of the club but also the Scottish origins and foundations. Celtic’s ethos was to be an ecumenical institution, and the historical ties of Scotland and Ireland were to be reflected in our name, and no word better captured that than “Celtic”. 

Drop south of the border and you find my very own Tottenham Hotspur. Based in north London Tottenham is easy enough, but why Hotspur? The history of Tottenham Hotspur began under a street lamp just across the road from what is now the Spurs Store on High Street Tottenham, London N17. Some players from the local cricket club and the local grammar school – St. John’s Presbyterian – were at a loss as to what to get up to during the winter and so they decided to start playing football. This was back in 1882. Unsure about what to call themselves, they named themselves after the youngest son of the Duke of Northumberland, Percy, who went by the nickname of “Harry Hotspur”. It was the valiant nature of his derring-do heroics, that they thought it was an appropriate title to adopt, so Hotspur FC was born. Under the chairmanship of the Reverend John Ripsher, the club was reorganised in 1883, took to wearing all navy blue and played their games at Tottenham Marshes and the name change to Tottenham Hotspur followed the next year. Brilliant isn’t it!

What about my local club, Nottingham Forest, Preston North End or Rushden & Diamonds. 

Then move over to rugby union and you find Harlequins, Leicester Tigers, Saracens and Wasps. 

These names are great reminders that sport is far more than just the minutes it is played. Often it is a defining factor in someone establishing who they are. It is a part of the tribe that defines their very existence. 

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