Third Lanark Athletic Club was a professional football club based in Glasgow, Scotland. Founded in 1872 as an offshoot of the 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers, they were one of eight founding members* of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) in 1872 and the Scottish Football League (SFL) in 1890.
The remains of Third Lanark's home ground sits undisturbed in the south side of Glasgow. The pitch at Cathkin Park is still marked out, however no regular football is played on it.
Third Lanark were one of the founding members of the Scottish Football League in 1890. Yet there is little memory of their existence since their bankruptcy in 1967. What remains of the ground is the crash barriers from the terrace and a forest of trees surrounding three sides of the field. Please bare in mind that this is a stadium that would regularly hold 50,000 fans. The main stand was dismantled soon after bankruptcy and there is nothing around the stadium or within the city remembering a team that played here for more than half a century. That's a slight untruth; as there is in fact a small sign at the entrance of the park (pictured above) but it is plagued with historical inaccuracy and this annoys me hence the reason I stand by my previous statement that there is no fitting remembrance to the once great side. (Cathkin Park was the home of Third Lanark between 1903 - 1967, not as the sign suggests. It was, in fact, Queen's Park home - the second Hampden - between 1884 - 1903).
Third Lanark won their first league championship in 1903 – 1904. The Hi Hi's won the Scottish Cup twice in 1889 and 1905. The club was still playing at the top level and attracting large crowds until a few years prior to their rapid dissolvement. Only six years before their collapse they were third in the Scottish First Division behind Rangers and Kilmarnock. They even built a new stand, to accommodate more supporters, in 1964 – three years before financial mismanagement and collapse.
The club deteriorated under the deliberate neglect of chairman Bill Hiddleston. Hiddleston was a local glass merchant who made the decision to make the club so unattractive that no one would wish to play for them. He sold the clubs best players, mostly on the cheap and sometimes for free. Those who remained were rarely paid on time, if at all. There are stories that the manager Bobby Shearer would collect coins that had slipped through the turnstiles to make up the players wages. The facilities were poor; there was no guarantee of hot water in the bathroom. It was well-known that away teams brought their own soap and lightbulbs for the changing room.
Hiddleston's policy lead to poor attendance which caused the club to disintegrate. His master plan was to sell the land on which Cathkin Park was built to be sold for housing.
The new stand that was built in 1964 left the club in debt, and after a number of complaints, the club were investigated and a Board of Trade inquiry found large-scale corruption. This including defrauding the club lottery. The lottery, a £200 weekly prize, was rarely paid out. Likely lining the pockets of the four directors at the club, including Bill Hiddleston. Hiddleston managed to evade prosecution as he died of a heart attack the year of the inquiry. Ironic for a man who never truly had a heart.
However, the ground had been sold. It had all, seemingly, gone to plan. But when the ground was sold to local builders it was discovered that planning permission could not be granted and so the land was turned into a public park and the old terrace remains to this day.
Just over 30 years later and some interest was sparked up again. In 1996, an amateur football club was set up under the name Third Lanark. The new club has every intention of restoring this famous name to senior football and are in the hope of returning to play regular football at Cathkin Park.
Since 1996 the club has expanded to include a youth set-up and a girls academy. The team wear the original colours, and have an overseas benefactor leading the charge of their long-term plan.
*Original eight: Clydesdale, Dumbreck, Eastern, Granville, Kilmarnock, Queen’s Park, Third Lanark, and Vale of Leven
Supporter of Glasgow Celtic, member of United Glasgow FC and a keen writer.
"The day that I decided, you're the best team I ever seen"