The 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers

Third Lanark are unique in the annals of Scottish if not British football as they were borne from the 3rd Regiment of the Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers in 1872. Volunteer forces were raised during the Napoleonic Wars but most were disbanded after the French defeat at Waterloo in 1815. French naval expansion in the 1850’s caused ‘invasion panic’ and in 1859 Volunteer Corps were re-created. Members of the corps received no pay and provided their own uniforms and equipment. The Lanarkshire Volunteers were made up of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Corps with the 3rd based in the Strathbungo area in the south side of Glasgow. 

The 3rd Lanarkshire Corp was made up by the amalgamation of several independent units including the ‘8th Coy Etna Foundry’ and the remainder of the ’78th Corps Old Guard of Glasgow.’ Their increasing ‘professionalism’ was confirmed in the Volunteers Act of 1863 by which time the Volunteers could now be called out for active military service instead of being utilised solely for defence purposes.

In May 1881, there was a major reorganisation in the British army. Regiments ceased to be numbered and instead took names associated with their recruiting area or an element of their history. The Volunteer Corps were now linked with the regular army and the four Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteer Corps became the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Volunteer Battalions attached to the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) were formed in 1881 by bringing together two single-battalion regiments: The Cameronians or the 26th Regiment Foot (raised 1689), and the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry (raised 1794), which respectively became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the new Regiment. The Cameronians were unique in that they were the only regiment in the British Army to have a religious origin, having been formed by Covenanters.

Each regiment now had two regular service battalions, one based at home recruiting and training, and one serving overseas. At regular intervals the two battalions would exchange roles. The Regiments 1st Battalion took the name The Cameronians, whilst the other Battalions, including the Volunteers, were known as Scottish Rifles, a distinction which remained until the 1920s after which all Battalions used the Regiments full name. It was Queen Victoria’s wishes, that the Regiment became a rifle regiment, as a result of their great skill as marksmen, rather than ordinary infantry, thus becoming the only Scottish Rifle Regiment. This distinction was, by army tradition, considered a great honour.

The increase in professionalism within the club meant that changes were pending and the tenuous link with the regiment was finally severed in 1903 when they became a limited company and dropped the regimental title from their name (although retaining the colours of the Rifle Volunteers) and re-registered with the Scottish League as the ‘Third Lanark Athletic Club’

The Haldane Army reforms of 1908 was to herald the end of the famous name of the 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers when they were disbanded, only to reform as the 7th Territorial Battalion of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). The 1st, 2nd and 4th Volunteers became the 5th, 6th and 8th Territorial Battalions, respectively. The turning point for the Volunteers came when they served overseas for the first time in the Boer War and had distinguished themselves fighting alongside the regular battalions. The ultimate test for the new territorial battalions was not far away, with the advent in 1914, of what was to be the most cataclysmic conflict of those modern times, The Great War

Third Lanark History

The first Scotland v England football international at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow in 1872 inspired the regiment to start a football team of their own, subsequently becoming one of the original members of the Scottish Football Association.

A meeting was duly advised by the intimation of a public notice on the 12th December 1872 by members of the 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers and the meeting was convened in the Regimental Orderly room in East Howard Street, Glasgow. Private Broadfoot explained that the meeting was called for the purpose of organising, if possible, a Football Club in connection with the Third Regiment. He further reported that Lieutenant-Colonel H E Crum-Ewing, the majority of the Officers and twenty-five other members of the Regiment had signified their willingness to support such a club.

Sergeant Wilson then moved: “That we, the Members now assembled should form ourselves into a club, to be called the 3rd Lanark Rifle Volunteers Football Club.” The motion was seconded by Private Taylor, and unanimously approved of. The Uniform

First to be debated was the ‘uniform,’ which was to consist of:

·         A scarlet Guernsey or Jersey (the colour of the regiment uniform)
·         Blue trousers or knickerbockers
·         Blue stockings

A subsequent meeting decreed that the number 3 should be displayed on the Guernsey. The first playing field of the team was the Regimental drill ground at Victoria Road, Glasgow which was situated just to the south of the Regimental Headquarters, with occasional indoor training at Regimental drill hall in Coplaw Street, Govanhill, before ultimately moving to a ‘new’ ground, Old Cathkin Park in 1875.

The ground was offered to the team by the then owners ‘Dixons’ which was a well known ironworks in Cathcart Road, Glasgow and after making the surface playable goalposts and crossbars (as opposed to tapes) were erected. A grandstand was built in 1878 with the ultimate accolade coming, for all the subsequent hard work carried out in developing the ground, when in 1884 Old Cathkin Park was chosen as the venue for the then annual Scotland v England match resulting in a 1-0 win for Scotland which was their 5th win in a row against the ‘Auld Enemy’.

The team was enjoying a particularly successful period at this time and in 1885 recorded their highest ever score defeating St. Andrews 11-0 in a 3rd round Scottish Cup match, a score line which was to remain unsurpassed throughout their illustrious history.

Scottish Cup Victory

The football club was now entering the most successful period of its short existence with season 1888/89 as the best to date winning the Scottish cup by defeating Celtic in what was to be known as the ‘snow final’. A large crowd had arrived at Hampden Park for the final, unfortunately, the snow had got there before them and was ankle deep on the pitch.

general opinion was that the surface was unplayable, but the referee decided to proceed with the match which Third Lanark RV won 3-0. Not surprisingly Celtic lodged a strong protest and following a special meeting at the Scottish Football Association a replay was ordered.

The ‘warriors’ or ‘redcoats’ as they were affectionately known (for obvious reasons) prevailed with a great 2-1 win and thus won their first trophy since inception. They accomplished this feat of endurance in grand style as they had to play a total of 13 games within the eight scheduled rounds due to several replays along the way. This was by no means to be the limit of their success and by the end of the Century the Glasgow Charity Cup was captured three times.

A New Badge – New Victorys

The increase in professionalism within the club meant that changes were pending and the tenuous link with the regiment was finally severed in 1903 when they became a limited company and dropped the regimental title from their name (although retaining the colours of the Rifle Volunteers) and re-registered with the Scottish League as the ‘Third Lanark Athletic Club’.

Their first success under the new badge was not long in coming with the winning of the Glasgow Cup that season.

Trophies were still on the agenda and the greatest achievement any club could aspire to was securing their national league championship and this was won for the one and only time in the clubs history in 1904. What makes this achievement so remarkable was that all their matches were played away from home at either Hampden or elsewhere due to the new ground not being ready for occupancy for that particular season.

This was to be their final move and the ground, which was purchased from Queens Park FC, was located on Cathcart Road, Crosshill just ‘up the hill’ from their previous home and was to be called New Cathkin Park and what better way to celebrate the new ‘home’ than to round off an excellent season by winning the Glasgow Cup.

The Scottish Cup was won again in 1905 when Rangers were defeated 3-1 after a replay and with the Glasgow Cup again being secured in 1908 the future was certainly looking bright as the club moved forward into the new century. Runners- Up ten times as well, they won it one last time in 1962/63. The Glasgow Charity Cup was claimed 4 times between 1890 and 1956.

Following a few years of yo-yoing between the leagues, 3rds won the Second Division twice in 1930/31 and in 1934/35. In their whole 95 year history up until 1967 the club were only out of the top division in Scotland for 12 seasons, a great feat in itself.

The End of an Era

The last day of season 1960/61 saw Third Lanark reach an historic landmark. They beat Hibernian 6-1 at Cathkin Park to reach a commendable 100 goals for the season, and their win secured an honourable third place in the most competitive First Division league table.

The ‘scarlet’ goalscoring machine of Goodfellow, Hilley, Harley, Gray and McInnes had done it again. What price that strike-force in the market of the 1990’s. Only a short four years later the club’s ultimate agony began. One dismal chapter of events followed another, until season 1965/66 found Thirds kicking off in the Second Division, having been relegated as a consequence of their most disastrous season ever, bringing the club only three wins from 34 matches in the league.

There followed yet another two seasons of mediocrity and discontent, ending in the humiliating defeat at Boghead Park when Dumbarton recorded a 5-1 score line, on Friday, 28th April 1967. This game ended the soccer involvement of Thirds, as a senior professional club.

The following months brought a Board of Trade investigation, revealing constant player squabbles and bitter internal wrangles for power. These events finally took their toll and eventually a liquidator was appointed. Shortly after this move the dreaded announcement was made and Third Lanark went out of business.

A New Beginning

The 3rd Lanark Supporters Club contiued to function until 1971 being run by the Thirds legend Dave Hilley’s father. During this period many Thirds fans did not know what to do. The unreported and often unappreciated fact was that many families who supported the club not only lost their team, but were among the largely working class support who at that time put their hard earned money into the club and lost it all. The anger and dismay continued amongst the fans, but unfortunately much of the country’s attention was focussed elsewhere with two of their city rivals enjoying very successful spells in Europe: Celtic winning the European Cup on 25 May 1967 2-1 against Internazionale and Rangers being runners up in the Cup Winners Cup Final on 31 May 1967 beaten 1 -0 by Bayern Munich. The success of these two clubs over the next few years helped to keep Thirds off the front pages for a crucial period. City rival Thistle also heped to push the club’s demise off the news aganda by beating Celtic 4 -1 in a League Cup final in 1972.

However, no matter how much the country focussed on other Scottish clubs many Hi Hi fans set about trying to keep the club’s name alive. Local MP Sir Teddy Taylor bought the name from the sequestrators in 1967, hoping to help resurrect the club, and a number of attempts to bring the club back began. Third Lanark Juveniles, ran by John McFadden, began in 1972 and continued to play through to 1977. Among its players was a very young Pat McGeady who was captain for 2 years. Among their successes was getting through to the finals of the Daily Record National Juveniles Cup Final on two occasions.

Third Lanark Amateurs were founded in 1973 and ran until 1982. They were seperate from the Juveniles team though they had the same aim of restoring Third Lanark to Scottish football. In 1980 they competed in a Grand Challenge match with Queens Park – this game was held at Lesser Hampden and was a sell out – with an attendance of over 4500.

The chain linking the clubs to their historic past continued and in 1996-1998 the Third Lanark under 18’s were formed by Jim Weir and the following year Third Lanark Ladies’ FC were founded inspired by the 1999 Women’s World Cup. The 24-strong ladies squad were managed by Andrew Page. From 1999 to 2003 Third Lanark Ladies played regularly at Cathkin Park.

In 2004 Third Lanark Under 19’s were formed by Peter Docherty, Pat McGeady and Matthew Curry and successfully won the Under 19’s League trophy. Unfortunately the team did not perform in seasons 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 with coach Peter Docherty becoming ill. The club re-started in 2007 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Third Lanark’s withdrawal from Senior Scottish football and again run by Matthew Curry, Pat McGeady and Peter Docherty. Willie Mulligan joined in December 2007 and continues today to be a key member of the coaching staff. Peter Docherty quit in 2010 due again to his continuing poor health. To mark the 40th anniversary a match was organised with Queens Park in May 2007 at Cathkin Park which resulted in an attendance of over 500 and thrilling encounter in which Thirds won 4-3.

Present Day

The Third Lanark Committee was set up in 2009 with former player Alan Mackay chairing. The committee was charged with exploring the feasibility of setting Third Lanark on a more ambitious journey towards professional football. The committee changed over time and Simon Weir a popular Scottish actor and Kieron Dempsey formerly of Partick Thistle were introduced to the club. Simon was soon to be made chair of the club and had ambitious plans but due to work commitments moved away from the club back to the theatre.

With Simon gone, Pat McGeady stepped in as chair and helped to cement the relationship with John Sweeney in Canada who later became the club’s Honorary President. Pat used his period in charge to widen the club’s appeal with a particular focus on gaining a new and revitalised fan-base, before handing over the role of chairman to Kieron Dempsey who had until then been Director of Planning, Development and Community.

In his eight month period as chair Kieron stabilised the club, restructured and brought in new expertise in order to follow through on the vision of getting the club back to playing football consistently at the highest level. During this period the club became only one of a handful of clubs in Scotland, and indeed the United Kingdom, to appoint a woman to the board with Elaine Bellamy joining in 2014 as Director of Grants and Fundraising. When Kieron left the club board the position of chair was taken over by Ian Alexander who continues the drive to create a sustainable business model that will suit the club's ambitions both on and off the field. The ambition of taking the club back to Cathkin remains as important to the club as does the drive to regain its position at the top in Scottish Football.

Today, Third Lanark are moving forward. The Warriors have started the climb back to the top for that is where the Hi Hi belong.