IT IS nearly 150 years since the first match between Scotland and England – the game held on November 30, 1872, at the current West of Scotland Cricket Club ground, is recognised by Fifa as football’s inaugural international.

Just a year later, the original Hampden Park opened on October 25, 1873, and became home to Queen’s Park FC and the Scotland national team until 1883. 

It closed due to the building of the Cathcart Circle railway line.

Last month archaeological experts finally proved that what is now known as Hampden Bowling Club is the site of the first national stadium.

Archaeological digs proved that records found by Hampden devotee Graeme Brown, which suggested the bowling club site was the first Hampden Park, and now a campaign is due to be launched this week with the hope of securing UNESCO World Heritage status for the place where it is considered football began.

Tomorrow a virtual meeting of experts and enthusiasts will join together to discuss the history and legacy of the first Hampden and explore the stance that Scots led the way for the modern game which is played and watched by millions around the world.

The evidence to back up records discovered by Mr Brown, of the Hampden Collection initiative, came just weeks after the site was given a reprieve when it was feared Hampden Bowling Club itself might have been in jeopardy. Members managed to elect a new committee and secure time to be able to carry out a structural report for repairs to the clubhouse. Had they been unable to elect a committee the lease would have been lost with the site reverting back to arms-length council organisation City Property.

The National: Former Scotland and Queens Park player Joseph TaylorFormer Scotland and Queens Park player Joseph Taylor

In 2017 Mr Brown, who was then with Hampden Bowling Club, discovered a railway map proving Hampden Bowling Club’s legendary tale and this year digs were carried out in a bid for hard evidence. And with 12 months to go before the 150th anniversary of the first international, Mr Brown believes now is the time for Scotland’s contribution to football to be recognised and the site of the first Hampden being protected.

Brown leads what has become known as The Hampden Collection and Football’s Square Mile - the World’s Biggest ‘Open Air’ football museum in Glasgow which follows the discovery of the foundation stone of the World’s first enclosed purposefully built international football ground.

Brown, who will bring together a panel of guests for the event, said: “The next stage of the footballing journey is to get the entire 1st Hampden Site recognised as the epicentre of World Football. However, to do that, and to bring the story to life, we have brought in a number of other sites that have huge significance in the story of football, and as launched earlier this year, created the world’s biggest open-air football museum.

“In our opinion, this is the way to stamp Scotland’s claim, and also brings huge amount of opportunity to tell this story. Football’s Square Mile is the way to do it and the campaign to make it a UNESCO World Heritage Site will be launched this week which will be one year to go until the 150th anniversary of the world's first international football match.”

The National: Joseph Taylor's great grandson Colin discovered the grave in Cathcart CemeteryJoseph Taylor's great grandson Colin discovered the grave in Cathcart Cemetery

Brown realises it will be a difficult process, but says they are ready for the campaign.
“With the timing and significant dates next year, along with the possibility that Scotland could be playing at the World Cup, we want to put the spotlight on just how important the discovery of the first Hampden and Football’s Square Mile is. If this was anywhere else in the world that could lay claim to the beginning of football as we know it, it would be a world tourist attraction so why not here.”

Carrying out a geophysical survey, as well as excavating six trenches in the Queens Park Recreation Ground and Kingsley Gardens site, the archaeologists revealed evidence of the foundations of the first Hampden Park pavilion where the first players to play for Queens Park and Scotland would have got changed before matches and where the team officials would have sat.

The National: One of the sites on the Hampden walking tourOne of the sites on the Hampden walking tour

They also found tantalising evidence of the original playing surface, sealed beneath over a century of earth and grass, as well as numerous artefacts dropped by the early supporters including beer bottles, juice bottles and clay pipes.

Dr Paul Murtagh, Senior Project Officer at Archaeology Scotland who managed the 1st Hampden Dig Team, said the project was unique in more ways than one as it brought people together.

Dr Murtagh said: “This was a project which was part of  Archaeology Scotland’s New Audience Project, funded by Historic Environment Scotland, and brought people from different backgrounds and nationalities together. Football was the hook for this and while it not be their own country’s heritage they were helping to establish part footballing heritage.

“We were very lucky to have records to got on but it was when we dug the trenches and with the use of geophysics we could really pinpoint the site. The findings, which included artefacts from people who would have stood on the terraces, really give you something tangible from that moment in time.”

The National: A group enjoying the Hampden tourA group enjoying the Hampden tour

Glasgow Football Tour founder Lindsay Hamilton had been aware of the myth surrounding the site of the first Hampden Park, but like many people didn’t think much more of it.

It was only when Brown approached her to consider working on a Hampden walking tour that she found out more.

“I’ve been offering tours around Glasgow’s five main stadiums for many years and I love telling people about our footballing heritage,” said Ms Hamilton. “Before covid I had been taking tourists from all over the world to Hampden Park, Ibrox Stadium, Celtic Park, Cathkin Park and Firhill as well as part of a 30-minute minibus tour.

“Graeme was on my first tour and I remember him saying to me do you want to help me save Hampden Bowling Club and I wondered what he was talking about, but it was the rumour that it was the site of the first Hampden which Graeme then went on to find the map from the National Records of Scotland which showed where it would have been.”
Due to covid restrictions Ms Hamilton’s minibus tours of the football grounds couldn’t go ahead, so a walking tour of the Hampden sites was developed.

“The idea came about for the walking tour bringing in the three Hampden sites and was a chance to be able to tell the story of and significance of the beginning of world football and the game we know today,” Ms Hamilton added.

“People were keen to get outdoors and embraced walking more during lockdown and we ran nine walking tours this year. When you tell people about the history behind the first Hampden Park they are in disbelief. I think people on the tour, who were all Scottish as we still didn’t have international visitors at the time, felt very proud and we want people to go on tell the story and pass it on. The first Hampden needs to be protected and should be celebrated as the site where the modern game watched by billions around the world began.”

One football fan who joined the tour had a particular interest in Scotland’s football heritage as he is very much part of it.

Colin Taylor, the great grandson of Joseph Taylor, was drawn to the tour on his first trip to Glasgow to investigate his football history.

“I was always told as a youngster that Joseph Taylor played football for Queens Park,” Colin said. “Later I was told he also played for Scotland, but kind of took that with a pinch of salt. When my father passed away in 1993 I started to get interested in family history and with my father’s brother, my paternal uncle, who was by then in his mid-1970s, started looking through old photos and we found one of Joseph and one of his grave. My uncle said he had looked for Joseph’s grave in the 1980’s but assumed it was in Langside and thought it had been lost during bombing in the Second World War.”

Ten years’ ago Colin discovered the location of Taylor’s grave by accident.

Colin added: “It was a simple email to Cathcart, I emailed every cemetery in Glasgow, and I discovered where he rested. I was also contacted by the historian Andy Mitchell who sent me more information on Joseph and a photo of his grave. 

“I saw an opportunity this year after lockdown to go to Scotland for a few days and visit Joseph’s grave and visit Hampden. I was intrigued by the three Hampden’s story and the discovery of the very first Hampden.

“I joined a walking tour in September and I achieved my ambition of seeing Joseph’s grave, seeing the original Hampden where he played, and Queen’s Park where he also played and practised.

I could feel goosebumps looking at the old pavilion at the bowling club and imagining Joseph not only playing there but also being instrumental in some major decisions as he was president of Queens Park for a year after he finished playing in 1878.