What's in a name?
Hearts Heritage

What's in a Name?

This page was written to compliment the temporary exhibition installed in the Hearts Museum for the 150th Anniversary of the club.  The exhibition will remain in place throughout 2024, with thanks to The Abbotsford Trust and Edinburgh Museums for the loan of significant items that help tell the story of the history of the naming of Heart of Midlothian Football Club.

Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott’s interest in literature began in his early childhood; he read extensively, expanding to different genres, such as history and gothic romance. Scott enjoyed stories, storytelling and poetry. His interest, or some say passion for Scottish history evolved during his childhood as he relished in hearing stories from relatives and spending time exploring different parts of Scotland (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannia, 2023).


Story of the Heart of Midlothian

Inspiration for ‘The Heart of Midlothian’ novel, came in 1817.  Mrs Thomas Goldie of Craigmuie, the wife of a government official, wrote to Scott about Helen Walker, a farmer's daughter, who in 1738 walked from Dalquhairn in Dunfrisher to London on behalf of her sister Isobel.  She went to see the Duke of Argyll and persuaded him to petition the Queen, to grant Isobel a Royal pardon. Scott changed the names of the sisters and took this tale as inspiration for his story.  

The Heart of Midlothian story revolves around the character Jeanie Deans, a young woman from a humble background. Jeanie's sister, Effie Deans, has been wrongly accused of infanticide and is facing execution. Despite Effie's protestations of innocence, she refuses to provide an alibi that could save her life.

Jeanie is a devout and virtuous character who sets out on a journey to London to seek a pardon for her sister from Queen Caroline. Along the way, she encounters various challenges and faces moral dilemmas. The novel explores themes of justice, morality, and the social and political issues of the time.

The novel is praised for its rich historical detail, complex characters, and exploration of moral and social issues. It remains one of Sir Walter Scott's most important works and a classic in Scottish literature.


Fun Fact!
In 1816, Sir Walter, in a letter to Mr. Terry an actor and confidant, thus alludes to this interesting addition to his "gabions”.

"I expect to get some decorations from the old Tolbooth of Edinburgh, particularly the cope stones of the doorway, or lintels, as we call them, and a niche or two, one very handsome indeed! Better get a niche from the Tolbooth than a niche in it, to which such building - operations are apt to bring the projectors. (Maxwell-Scott, 1893, p.63)"  

This door, which is built into the west end of the house, was presented to Sir Walter by the Magistrates of Edinburgh in 1817, when the ancient prison of Edinburgh was pulled down.


Story of the Tolbooth

The Tolbooth is not only intimately connected with a long history of national crime and misery, but also with brighter days of loyal parliaments, and ennobled by the names of some of those who were imprisoned within its walls.  Already old and ruinous in the reign of Queen Mary, its destruction was even then contemplated. The Tolbooth stood close to the Church of St. Giles, occupying half the width of the High Street. "Antique in form, gloomy and haggard in aspect, its black stanchioned windows opening through its dingy walls like the apertures of a hearse, it was calculated to impress all beholders with a due and deep sense of what was meant in Scottish law by squalor carceris. (Maxwell-Scott, 1893, p.64)"


Fun Fact! 
 ‘Squalor carceris’ is a legal term used in Scots law, that refers to the strictness of imprisonment that a creditor can enforce on a debtor to make them pay their debt or reveal any hidden funds. It does not mean that imprisonment is unhealthy or unpleasant, as it did in the past. Squalor carceris is not necessary for imprisonment on meditatio fugae warrant, where only security is required. (LSD Law 2024).


The Old Tolbooth was composed of two parts, one more ancient and solid than the other, and much resembling a border tower.  It had indeed probably been a kind of peel, or house of defense, used for public purposes by the citizens of Edinburgh. It may very likely have been the very "pretorium burgi de Edinburgi” (Latin name for Tolbooth).

The first floor of the prison was occupied by the hall, originally used as Parliament House, and in which in later days a curious double window was pointed out as having then formed the door through which the sovereign entered. It is said that on these occasions, a sort of temporary bridge was thrown between this aperture and a house on the other side of the street, by which the sovereign in regal robes made his state entry. In more modern times one end of the hall was partitioned into two small rooms for the use of the chaplain of the prison. At the end of the apartment hung a board on which were inscribed the following verses:

" A Prison is a house of care,

A place where none can thrive,

A touchstone true to try a friend,

A grave for men alive.

Sometimes a place of right,

Sometimes a place of wrong,

Sometimes a place for jades and thieves,

And honest men among."

Chambers, Traditions of Edinburgh. (Maxwell-Scott, 1893, p.64)


The Porteous Riots

The Old Tolbooth became the scene of the famous Porteous Riot, an excerpt on this, from Sir Walter in ‘The Heart of Midlothian’:

When the mob had surrounded the prison, "a select body of the rioters thundered at the door of the jail and demanded instant admission. No one answered, for the outer keeper had prudently made his escape with the keys at the commencement of the riot and was nowhere to be found’.


Naming of Places

Sir Walter Scott had a significant influence on the naming of Scottish places through his literary works, particularly his romanticised depictions of Scottish landscapes, history, and culture. Scott's writings, which often incorporated vivid descriptions of Scotland's natural beauty and its rich historical tapestry, captured the imaginations of readers both within Scotland and around the world.

One of the most notable ways in which Scott influenced the naming of Scottish places was through his novels, many of which were set in specific locations throughout the country. Places featured prominently in his works often gained increased recognition and popularity, as readers sought to visit the settings described by Scott. For example, Scott's novel "Waverley" depicted scenes set in the Scottish Highlands, contributing to the romanticisation of that region and attracting tourists and visitors.

Additionally, Scott's deep appreciation for Scottish history and heritage led him to explore and celebrate various aspects of Scotland's past in his writing. He frequently referenced historical figures, events, and landmarks, thereby bringing attention to lesser-known aspects of Scottish culture. As a result, some locations mentioned in Scott's works experienced renewed interest, and their names became more widely recognized.

Scott's role in the popularisation of Scottish culture and identity during the 19th century had a broader impact on the naming of Scottish places. His writings contributed to a renewed sense of pride in Scottish heritage, which influenced the naming of streets, buildings, and landmarks in towns and cities across Scotland. Many places chose names that reflected Scottish history, folklore, or literary references, in homage to Scott and the cultural movement he inspired.

Overall, Walter Scott's literary contributions played a significant role in shaping the perception and naming of Scottish places, both by directly inspiring the names of specific locations featured in his works and by fostering a broader appreciation for Scottish culture and history (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannia, 2023).

The prison was such a notable landmark that it was splendidly recalled in a famous novel, “Heart of Midlothian”, written by a native of Edinburgh, Sir Walter Scott. The names of his books and characters were regularly adopted for several diverse purposes, such as The Heart of Midlothian Quadrille Assembly (a dancing club) from where our football team emerged. 


The Quadrille Assembly

The Heart of Midlothian Quadrille Assembly was a social club that played a pivotal role in the formation of the Heart of Midlothian Football Club. The quadrille was a type of dance popular in the 19th century, typically performed by four couples in a square formation. The assembly was likely a gathering place for social events, including dances and other activities, where members of the community would come together for leisure and recreation.

On March 4, 1889, amidst the presence of many original members, The Edinburgh Evening News recounted the club's inception: "The Hearts had an intriguing beginning, as in 1875, they emerged from the Heart of Mid-Lothian Quadrille Assembly Club. Following an evening gathering of this dance club, the members ventured to the Meadows, borrowing a ball from a cricketer named Howie, and played until the ball burst. This spirited endeavour continued, leading Mr. James Reid to realise he had enough funds to purchase a new ball."


The Football Club Origins

An age-old "story" suggests that a policeman guided the boys from the Tron Kirk to the Meadows, believing their energies could be better spent kicking a ball rather than loitering in the streets. The youths acquired 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 planted, although the young men likely played under local rules, blending elements of both rugby and football codes.

The precise date of the club's formation is not known exactly, 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.

The club's formation can be traced back to a group of young men who were members of the Heart of Midlothian Quadrille Assembly, a social and dance club in Edinburgh. According to historical accounts, during one of their gatherings some members of the assembly decided to engage in a game of football in the Meadows, a public park in Edinburgh.

The impromptu football match is said to have sparked enthusiasm among the participants, leading them to establish a more formalized football club. Among the founding members were Tom Purdie, who became the club's first captain, and James (Jake) Reid, who played a pivotal role in securing equipment and organizing the early activities of the club.

Initially, the newly formed club played under local rules that were a blend of rugby and football codes, reflecting the evolving nature of football during that era. The early years of Hearts were characterised by informal matches played against other local teams and clubs.


The Early Games

Sat 16 Oct 1875 - Hearts 0 Third Edinburgh Rifle Volunteers 0 Scottish Cup R1 Hearts first Scottish Cup Tie

On 28th August 1875, Hearts played their first recorded match against a team called The Third Edinburgh Riffle Volunteers, losing 2 Nil. This marked the beginning of a long and storied history for the club.

Over the years, Heart of Midlothian FC grew in stature and success, becoming one of the most prominent football clubs in Scotland. They have won numerous domestic titles, including the Scottish league championship and the Scottish Cup, and have established a dedicated fan base known for their passionate support.

Today, Heart of Midlothian FC continues to compete in Scottish professional football, participating in the Scottish Premiership. The club's iconic maroon and white colours and their distinctive crest featuring the Heart of Midlothian, a historic landmark in Edinburgh, serve as enduring symbols of their proud heritage and legacy.



Additional Information from Abbotford House, Home of Sir Walter Scott:


Scott was born in Edinburgh’s Old Town of Edinburgh in 1771. His father was a successful lawyer, his mother the daughter of a Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh University. He was descended from some of the oldest families of the Scottish Borders, and after suffering polio in 1773, was sent to his grandfather's farm at Sandyknowe in Roxburghshire, below the historic Borders keep of Smailholm and looking over the Eildon Hills. Living here until 1775, and listening to stories from his grandfather and others, the young Scott developed his life-long love of Border history and folklore.

On returning to Edinburgh, he attended the High School and Edinburgh University. In 1792, he became an Advocate, and was appointed Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire in 1799. This allowed him to travel across Scotland in search of history and material to use in his poetry and fiction, eventually publishing his monumental Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders in 1802.

It was in the Borders that Scott was happiest and, after initially renting a cottage at Lasswade, he and his wife Charlotte moved into a more substantial country house at Ashestiel near Selkirk in 1804. It was there that he wrote the great epic poems The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Marmion (1808) and Lady of the Lake (1810). With his fame, fortune and family growing, Scott turned to creating Abbotsford, which was completed in 1824.

As his great friend and rival Lord Byron’s success as a poet grew, Scott decided to concentrate on new literary ventures, blending fictional dialogue with historical fact to an extraordinarily successful degree. Scott is regarded as having created the historical novel on the publication of Waverley in 1814, which is the only book in the world to have a train station named after it. Along with Guy Mannering (1815) and The Antiquary (1816), each of Scott’s first three novels is set at a time of national crisis and are studies in the evolution of modern Scotland. The Tale of Old Mortality (1816) examines the creation of a political middle ground between opposing fanaticisms. The Bride of Lammermoor (1819) is a Romeo and Juliet tragedy with an emphasis on the political context that destroys the lovers. The Heart of Midlothian (1818) is an extended but unresolved debate on the nature of justice, while Ivanhoe (1820), the first novel to be set outside Scotland, fashions a moral tale on male power and the abuse of women and racial minorities.

Sir Walter Scott is one of the most successful authors of all time and is the second-most quoted writer in the Oxford English Dictionary after William Shakespeare. Scott’s creativity, wit and understanding of human nature remain on display in his works, but it is only through visiting Abbotsford that one can truly understand the man himself.



Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford is one of the most famous houses in the world.

Standing on the banks of the River Tweed near Melrose in the Scottish Borders, Abbotsford was Sir Walter Scott’s creation and, after his death in 1832, somewhere visited by millions. It was built on the proceeds of a phenomenally successful literary career, and Scott became determined to keep it in his family as he worked to pay off huge debts after near-bankruptcy in 1825. Abbotsford is an enduring monument to the tastes, talents and personal tragedies of its creator.

Scott was an obsessive collector of books, artefacts, weaponry and more, much of which can still be seen in the Abbotsford Collections. But his home was his most cherished possession, ‘the Delilah of his imagination’, his ‘Conundrum Castle’ and ‘flibbertigibbet of a house’ that would ‘suit none but an antiquary.’ Its architecture and interior design made it an iconic building of the 19th century Scottish Baronial style, and it remains a key site in the history of European Romanticism.

Around the world, there are “Abbotsfords” named after Scott’s home, including in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States, as well as three London streets. Scott was a generous host and during his lifetime Abbotsford was visited by writers, politicians, noblemen and many of his readers. After Scott's death, it was opened to the public in 1833 and has never lost its place as a place of literary pilgrimage and monument to one of Scotland’s greatest sons.




Abbotsford - The Home of Sir Walter Scott

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Frank Boyle

Frank Boyle studied illustration at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, then worked in the art department of DC Thomson & co. for a year before heading to London. He did freelance work there and gradually became more of a cartoonist than an illustrator. Humour has always played a part in his work and when he returned to Scotland, where he produced cartoons for several Scottish newspapers. Between 1999 and 2015 he was cartoonist of the Edinburgh Evening News, producing a daily topical cartoon called Boyling Point. 

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The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannia, December 21st, 2023, Sir Walter Scott | Biography & Facts | Britannica

Maxwell-Scott, Mary Monica, Abbotsford. The Personal Relics and Antiquarian Treasures of Sir Walter Scott, London, 1893, pp 63-65.

squalor carceris definition · LSData