Last year the National Museums Scotland Library received a number of vintage football annuals: The Boys’ First Book of Scottish Soccer and The Scottish Football Book from 1949 to 1965. These made me reminisce about my childhood obsession with Roy of the Rovers, Shoot and Match magazines and Panini football stickers. I always wanted to know the clubs’ early history, records and unexpected stories.
If you’re interested in sporting history, the Research Library has a small and wonderfully eclectic Sport and Pastimes section, which has been developed over the years from acquisitions and very kind donations.
The books complement the object collections. Many of these can be seen in the Sporting Scotland gallery on Level 6 of the National Museum of Scotland, which includes the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame. This helps researchers investigating the many sports linked with Scotland, which are steeped in history.
Take football, for example. The library holds the book Rejected F.C. of Scotland : Vol. 1 : Edinburgh and the South : histories of the ex-Scottish League clubs by Dave Twydell, which interestingly records stories of clubs such as Edinburgh City, who have reformed and are once again fighting to remain in the Scottish Football League.
Did you know that on St Andrew’s day in 1872, the first ever official Scotland versus England football match took place at Hamilton Crescent in Partick, Scotland. The 0–0 draw was watched by 4,000 spectators.
And what of rugby football and its early international history? Scotland did in fact win the first official Rugby International, staged on Monday 27 March 1871 in Edinburgh at the Academical Cricket Club, Raeburn Place, Stockbridge. There were 20 players instead of today’s 15 a side, and victory was achieved by a goal and a try, to a solitary try by England. The first try in International rugby was scored by Angus Buchanan; this was duly converted by W Cross, providing the first full score and ultimately the win.
Down in England, Scotland’s Rugby Union team have only won four times at Twickenham since 1926. The last victory was way back in March 1983, with tries from Roy Laidlaw and Tom Smith. The other three victories took place in 1971, 1938, 1926 and a 12-12 draw in 1989. The Scottish Sports Hall of Fame recalls inductee Robert Wilson Shaw’s memorable moments in 1928, where he scored two tries at Twickenham to help Scotland to their second victory there, and to win the Triple Crown.
At least results at Twickenham are a little more competitive than the badminton results in the early 1920s!
Interested in athletics? The library also holds historical books about the Chariots of Fire Olympics, including the official report from the British Olympic Association:
The museum also displays a variety of sporting historical trophies and medals, including the Silver Jack Bowling trophy of the Edinburgh Society of Bowlers, c.1771.
This is very appropriate as an early map of Edinburgh by William Edgar from 1742 shows a bowling green existed where now the south-west part of the National Museum of Scotland stands – but no plans have been put forward to reinstate one in the Grand Gallery…
The library also holds two books relating to the prominence of Leith in Scottish sporting history, with both horse racing and golf moving from Leith to Musselburgh in later years.
In Sports and pastimes of Scotland historically illustrated, Robert Scott Fittis mentions the sands of Leith and the King’s Prize; the museum currently displays a gold teapot, the King’s Prize for horse racing at Leith races, 1738, made by James Ker, in the Spirit of the Age gallery on Level 3.
‘The Goff: an heroi-comical poem in three cantos’ by Thomas Mathison and Thomas Thornton’s A sporting tour through the northern parts of England, and great part of the highlands of Scotland, printed for Vernor and Hood c.1804, both satirise the efforts of golfers playing at Leith Links and The Green, Glasgow.
The museum currently has on display ‘The Stone of Destiny’, the last curling stone launched by Rhona Martin MBE to win the 2002 Winter Olympics Gold Medal in Salt Lake City, while the library has a copy of The history of curling and fifty years of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, with a beautiful Japoniste style cover.
Sadly, once again this winter there was no outdoor curling Bonspiel or Grand Match. Traditionally a match between the north and south of Scotland, it was last held on the Lake of Menteith in Stirling in 1979.
Inspired to explore our sporting collections? You’ll find the Research Library on Level 3 of the National Museum of Scotland. It is open to visitors during museum opening times (from Monday to Friday, 10:00 to 17:00), and there are 12 study spaces and comfy seating. You can browse the collection here.