Hearts FC

History of Hearts



The Old Tolbooth of Edinburgh

The Heart of Midlothian Football Club takes its name from the Old Tolbooth (tax-house) of Edinburgh that stood in the Royal Mile, adjacent to St.Giles. The original building was also used as a meeting place for the Parliament; the Town Council; the Privy Council; and the High Court. However, after 1640 it housed the city prison and the hangman's scaffold stood on a two-storey annex. This sinister building was referred to as the "Heart of Midlothian" and today, the entrance is marked by a heart formation of the causeway stones.

Although it was demolished in 1817 the prison was such a notable landmark that it was remembered in a famous novel, "Heart of Midlothian", written by Sir Walter Scott. The names of his books and characters were regularly adopted for a number of diverse purposes, such as The Heart of Midlothian Dancing Club from where our football team emerged.

From Washing Green Court to the Meadows

We know this from the writings of George Robertson who first watched Hearts in 1878 and eventually became the club secretary; a director; and first historian. George documented the early years and his lecture notes are held in the club's archive. He was certainly close to the original players, Robertson's parents living in Washing Green Court, situated off the South Back Canongate (now Holyrood Road) at its junction with Dumbiedykes Road. This was the site of the neighbourhood refreshment rooms that catered for all manner of functions and activities including the Heart of Midlothian Dancing Club. 

The pals from the dance club also decided to play football and "tradition" has it that a policeman directed the lads from the Tron Kirk to the Meadows, where he thought their energies could be put to better use kicking a ball rather than hanging around the streets. It was said that the youngsters purchased a ball from Percival King's shop in Lothian Street and proceeded to the East Meadows. There the seeds of the Heart of Midlothian Football Club were sown although they first played under local rules that were a mixture of both rugby and soccer codes.


Football Association Rules reach Edinburgh

However, in December 1873, the best players of Queens Park FC and Clydesdale FC played an exhibition match at Raimes Park, Bonnington to introduce Football Association Rules to Edinburgh. Among the 200 spectators were a number of the dance hall footballers who then decided to adopt Association Rules during the early months of 1874 and their restructured side was called Heart of Mid-Lothian Football Club after their other favourite pastime.

The precise date of the club's formation was never recorded, but as it was during 1874 that the players and members adopted Football Association Rules, this has become the accepted date that the Hearts, as they are popularly known, was established.

Hearts join The Scottish Football Association

There was no mention of Hearts in the newspapers during season 1874-75, but the team was clearly playing as the club immediately appears as a well-established organisation at the commencement of 1875-76. In fact, in August 1875, Heart of Midlothian FC was strong enough to join both the Scottish Football Association and become a founder member of the Edinburgh Football Association (now the East of Scotland FA). The club registered its colours as "marone" which is the old Edinburgh spelling of maroon, although the first team picture shows the players in white with a heart on the left breast.

Tom Purdie was the first captain and home matches were played on the East Meadows Public Park, which was used by many teams including Hearts greatest rivals, the Hibernians. The club was based in Anderson's Tavern, West Crosscauseway and that establishment was recorded as Hearts' headquarters by the SFA. The players changed in an upstairs room in the tavern until 1876 when a stripping box was erected in the Meadows Schoolhouse.

Captain Tom Purdie

The team (white shirts)

The team (white shirts) in 1875-76 with captain Tom Purdie holding the ball

Hearts hit the Press

At the end of August 1875 the "Scotsman" reported a challenge match on the East Meadows between Hearts and The Third Edinburgh Rifle Volunteers.

This was the first time the club was mentioned in the press, but the Volunteers ran out 2-0 winners.

In October 1875 the team also played its first Scottish FA Cup-tie, against the same opponents. At Craigmount Park in the Grange, Hearts held the Volunteers to a 0-0 draw and the teams met again in the East Meadows before several hundred spectators and again drew 0-0. In accordance with the rules of the time, both sides moved on to the next round where Hearts lost 2-0 to Drumpellier FC in Coatbridge.

On Christmas Day 1875, Hearts challenged Hibernians for the first time and despite playing without three men for the first 20 minutes, Hearts won 1-0 at the East Meadows. This was the first recorded match against the greens.

Hearts' First Honour

The team did not compete for several months in the autumn of 1876, due to a shortage of players.

However, Hearts were still members of the SFA and were included in the Scottish Cup, although the playing situation forced the club to withdraw after being drawn against Dunfermline FC. Many of the remaining men turned out for St Andrew's Football Club and by January 1877, Heart of Midlothian had re-emerged having absorbed St Andrew's and its players and having adopted a new strip of red, white and blue hoops.

Hearts First Successful Team
Hearts First Successful Team

Hearts first successful team with the Edinburgh FA Cup in 1878

For season 1877-78, the shirts were dyed to the much loved maroon and coincidentally, the club gained its first honour when on 20 April 1878, city rivals, Hibernians, was defeated in the Fourth Replay of the Edinburgh FA Cup Final (now the East of Scotland Shield). The "maroons" defeated the "Irishmen" 3-2 at Powburn to become the champion club in the capital, with John Alexander scoring the winner late in the game. Captain, Tom Purdie, long remembered the occasion not only due to the result but because he was attacked by a mob of Hibs supporters on his way home.

At this time, the game consisted of cup competitions and challenge matches with the most important events being the Scottish Cup and the Edinburgh FA Cup, both of which generated great excitement.

Hearts Search for a Home

At the start of season 1878-79 Hearts were still playing on the East Meadows and the club's headquarters was now Mackenzie's shop in nearby Chapel Street.

However, the Meadows were now overcrowded with spectators milling around and interfering with matches. Hearts therefore played important fixtures at the Edinburgh Football Association ground at Powburn, above where Saville Terrace now stands, and here the club was able to charge admission money.

Hearts won the Presidents Cup in May 1879 beating Hanover FC 5-4 in the Final at Powderhall Grounds. However, Hibs won the more prestigious Edinburgh FA Cup and began a period of dominance that lasted for nearly ten years.

This did not stop the growth of the club and prior to the start of season 1879-80 it was strong enough to secure its own private park at Powderhall Grounds. This was not the well known dog track but a pitch next to the railway line, standing on what is now the city refuse works. 

In October 1880 Hearts were the first Edinburgh side thought capable of challenging Queens Park, but the Maroons lost 8-1 before 3,000 fans at Powderhall Grounds. Nevertheless, at local level Hearts were a major force along with Hibernians, St.Bernard FC and Leith Athletic. This position was underlined on 30 October 1880 when Hearts defeated Anchor FC by 21-0 in the Edinburgh FA Cup, a result that remains the club's record confirmed victory.

The first grandstand at Tynecastle

Hearts move to Gorgie-Dalry

The first grandstand at Tynecastle

Hearts move to Gorgie-Dalry

In January 1881 Hearts became the first city club to play in England, although the team lost 4-2 against Aston Villa and 2-0 against Blackburn Rovers.

Another major step forward came in February 1881 when the club took over a private field in the flourishing industrial suburb of Dalry where it has long been associated. This was not the present ground, the pitch being laid out on the site of what is now Wardlaw Street and Wardlaw Place. Facilities were quickly erected including a pavilion and an uncovered stand, and the first Tynecastle was officially opened on 9 April 1881 with a match against Hanover. Hearts won 8-0 and admission was 6d (2.5p) with ladies admitted free. 

In season 1881-82, Hearts ran three teams, but could not match the leading clubs in the west and an 8-1 reverse against Vale of Leven in the Scottish Cup on 21 October 1882 stood as Hearts record defeat for nearly one hundred years. The team picked up near the end of that campaign and won the initial competition for the Rosebery Charity Cup, defeating St Bernards 2-0 in the final with Andrew Lees and Bob Waugh scoring the goals.

hearts badge

Hearts badge in 1880 on the annual dance ticket

Hearts badge in 1880 on the annual dance ticket

Hearts Suspended

Following the Charity Cup win the club's fine team was ravaged by English sides who lured Scotsmen down south to play professionally. This included Hearts' captain, Nick Ross, who was tactically ahead of his time and he starred for Preston North End, the first English Champions.

In season 1883-84, Hibs beat Hearts in both the Scottish Cup and the East of Scotland Shield (formerly the Edinburgh FA Cup). Our city rivals did not have the same recruitment problems, as in those days, Catholic and Irish lads from all over Scotland wanted to play in a green shirt. Accordingly, with them dominating the local scene, Hearts were forced to make underhand payments in order to attract and retain quality players. While this policy was not unique to Hearts, in October 1884, the club became the first to be suspended by the SFA following a protest by Dunfermline FC. Hearts beat the Fifers 11-1 in the Scottish Cup, but were expelled from the competition and suspended after it was found out that James Maxwell and Chris McNee were in receipt of 26/- per week (£1.30).

In November 1884 the Heart of Midlothian Committee admitted the irregularities and after a new Committee was elected, the club was quickly re-admitted to the national association.


The Edinburgh FA Cup: 1877-78
The President's Cup: 1878-79
The Rosebery Charity Cup: 1882-83


Tom Purdie