Programme: The Scottish Winter


Presented by the British Society of Sports History (Scottish Network) and the National Galleries of Scotland
This one-day conference will examine the history of sport during the winter months in Scotland (attendance fee £15)

Dewars Centre, Perth – the Home of Scottish Curling
Wednesday 15 November 2017


Curling Gold Medal Winners, 2002 Winter Olympics (National Galleries of Scotland) REUTERS / Peter Andrews

10.50-11.00 Welcome

11.00-11.20 The Surf Scene in the North of Scotland: an environment of change · Matt McDowell, University of Edinburgh
11.20-11.40 St Andrews, the Home of Women’s Lacrosse · Dr Fiona Reid Glasgow Caledonian University and Jane Claydon, President of Lacrosse Scotland and lacrosse historian
11.40-12.00 Scottish Pantomime and the Winter Show: ‘Oor Ain Folk’ fantasy · Paul Maloney and Adrienne Scullion, Queen’s University Belfast
12.00-12.20 Session discussion

12.20-1.10 Lunch

1.10-1.30 Historical Curling Places of Edinburgh · Lindsay Scotland, curling historian
1.30-1.50 An East Lothian Curling History: reflections · David Affleck, independent researcher
1.50-2.10 Making Curling Cool: narratives of the nations at the 2002 Olympic Games· John Harris, Glasgow Caledonian University and John Vincent, University of Alabama
2.10-2.30 Session discussion

2.30 End


Call for Papers: The Scottish Winter

Presented by the British Society of Sports History, Scottish Network
Dewars Centre, Perth – the Home of Scottish Curling
Wednesday, 15 November 2017

This one-day conference will examine the history/histories of tourism, sport, and leisure during the winter months in Scotland. Suggested paper topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • Winter holidays in the Highlands and Islands
  • Winter sports in Scotland (including curling, skiing, ice skating, etc.)
  • Mountaineering, hill walking, Munro bagging, and the winter landscape in Scotland
  • Outdoor activities and winter weather
  • Transport and winter tourism in Scotland
  • Labour and the winter tourist economy.

Abstracts should be no longer than 200 words, and should be sent by Thursday, 31 August 2017 to both Imogen Gibbon ( and Matthew McDowell ( Any queries should also be sent to Imogen or Matthew.

As BSSH Scotland does not typically receive institutional support for its events, a small fee will be charged by the conference organisers for attendance.
Please forward this to any of your colleagues and postgraduate students who may find this of interest.

The Scottish Summer


Presented by the British Society of Sports History (Scottish Network) and the National Galleries of Scotland Royal Montrose Golf Club Wednesday, 7 June 2017


11.00-11.30     Registration with tea/coffee

11.30 – 11.40  Welcome

11.40-12.00    The Scottish Summer in Winter: representations of Clyde holidays and sailing ‘doon the watter’ in Scottish pantomime fantasy · Paul Maloney and Adrienne Scullion, Queen’s University Belfast

12.00-12.20    Security, Sport, Sun & Sex Appeal: Scottish outdoor swimming pools with particular reference to Fife and Angus · Eric Simpson, author and lecturer

12.20-12.40   Golf and the Scottish Seaside · Alastair Durie, University of Stirling 12.40-1.00 Session discussion

1.00-2.00       Lunch

2.00-2.20      ‘To Retire was Ignominious’: class participation and masculine identity in Skye mountaineering, 1860-1901 · Michael James, University of Nottingham

2.20-2.40       A ‘world of solitude and romance’: mountaineers and tourists in the late-Victorian Highlands · Alan McNee, author

2.40-3.00      The Road to Crummie-Toddie: Anthony Trollope, sporting Scotland, and The Duke’s Children (1880) · Chris Harvie, University of Tübingen

3.00-3.30     Session discussion

3.30              End



Presented by the British Society of Sports History, Scottish Network and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery


Wednesday, 7 June 2017

This one-day conference will examine the history/histories of tourism and leisure during the summer months in Scotland. Suggested paper topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • Holidays on the Scottish coast
  • Literary interpretations of the Scottish summer
  • Tourism from outwith Scotland
  • The family during Scottish summer holidays
  • Transport and Scottish tourism
  • Labour and the tourist economy
  • Sport and tourism during the Scottish summer
  • Outdoor education/fraternalism during the summer months
  • Food and drink during the holidays.

Abstracts should be no longer than 200 words, and should be sent by Friday, 30 January to both Imogen Gibbon ( and Matthew McDowell ( Any queries should also be sent to Imogen or Matthew.

As BSSH Scotland does not typically receive institutional support for its events, a £15 fee will be charged by the conference organisers for attendance.

Keep your eyes open for the call for papers for The Scottish Winter, a companion conference being held in Perth on 6 December 2017!

Please forward this to any of your colleagues and postgraduate students who may find this of interest.

Scotland Awheel

Duncan R. Jamieson, Ph.D.

Ashland University

Ashland, OH  44805,  USA

Despite popular belief, there is no evidence that Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan (1812-1878) invented the bicycle.  While he did build an early boneshaker which is on display in Glasgow, it is not the first, though it is an early rendition of a machine that went through significant changes until the 1870s when the high wheel appeared, to be followed by the safety in the 1880s, the diamond frame which remains the most popular design today.  Even if the bicycle was not invented in Scotland, the first woman to gain notoriety by riding one may well be Mary Marchbank who in 1842 rode the machine built by her uncle.

With the arrival of the high wheel or ordinary, people began riding further and further, traveling independently, when and where they wanted.  For those interested in setting records, John O’Groats became a popular destination, with the first ride from London made by members of the Middlesex Bicycle Club in June, 1873.  These men averaged ninety-seven kilometers a day, followed seven years later by two men from the Canonbury Bicycle Club who rode the 1407 kilometers from Land’s End to John O’Groats in twelve days, averaging 112 kilometers a day.  Not limited to bicycles, a tricyclist, Alfred Nixon, rode from Land’s End to John O’Groats in fourteen days in 1882 and then reprised the ride two years later, finishing in eight and one-half days (today with improved roads and better equipment the record is forty-one hours).  By 1892 the Cyclists Touring Club determined it to be a “classic route,” Though the first around the world cyclists, Thomas Stevens, did not venture into Scotland on his epic journey, many of the early imitators did.  The Australians George Burston and Harry Stokes, the Americans Thomas Allen and William Sachtleben and the Canadian Carl Creelman all cycled through parts of Scotland, with Creelman reaching John O’Groats.

Land’s End to John O’Groats may be a “classic route,” but there are many other parts of Scotland that have attracted cyclists for decades.  People racing from point A to point B to set a new record miss the pleasure of riding in the slow lane, which is enjoying the sights and sounds and meeting the people along the way.  When the American churchman Winfred Ernest Garrison rode through Scotland in the 1890s he took six hours to climb Ben Nevis before continuing north to Inverness.  There he turned south, touring Stirling Castle before arriving in Edinburgh, where he felt the presence of John Knox.  He found the Scott Memorial “as lofty as a cathedral and graceful as a lily,” but the bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln, a memorial to the Scottish dead in the American Civil War, moved him the most.  The American expatriate, Joseph Pennell, who cycled the length of Great Britain, enjoyed the Scottish lowlands for their scenic beauty, an opinion shared by several other riders who took the time to write of their experiences.  However much Pennell enjoyed cycling in England and on the continent, nothing surpassed the beauty of Scotland or the friendliness of the people.

A dozen American high school students, chaperoned by two teachers, rode through England and Scotland in 1892, developing a deeper interest in British history and literature.  When they returned to the United States they each made presentations to their schoolmates at Brookline High School.  The low cost of traveling by bicycle made the journey possible while traveling independently added to their learning.

Tony Hammerton spent two weeks in the Highlands with friends.  The freedom to travel where and when they wanted at their own pace made the bicycle the ideal vehicle in 1900. They saw the best of Scotland, from Loch Lomond, “the Queen of inland waters,” to the mighty mass of Ben Cruachan.  Familiar with the works of Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott, Hammerton compared his experiences to those of Boswell and Samuel Johnson in Fort Augustus or Robert Burns in Aberfeldy.  Hammerton’s itinerary took him past Balmoral Castle, Queen Victoria’s Scottish home.  He noted the flag which signified her presence, the last time before her death in 1901.  A contemporary of Hammerton, the Reverend Alexander A. Boddy regularly rode through the borderlands.

E.E. Henderson found it disappointing that so many of his fellow Scots knew more of Europe than their native land. He reveled in the fresh air and freedom, making multiple trips of a few days to a few weeks in the late 1890s and early 1900s. He traveled in weather ranging from sunny and warm to cold and wet.  Nothing fazed him as he enjoyed his journeys so much words failed to capture the scenes.  He treasured these breaks from the crowded city which imprisoned him until his next bicycle escape.

Riding a few years later Walter Arnold Mursell’s travels always gave him a new lease and a new grip on life.  Not merely a machine, his bicycle, which he viewed as a dragon or a chariot of fire, allowed him to travel for the sake of the journey, not the destination.  The only drawback had become the motor car, The Road Hog, far more dangerous than dogs.  Motors spewed noxious fumes while their drivers were “infernally aggressive and provocative.”  Despite the increasing abundance of automobiles the passing scenery so struck Mursell he found words incapable of capturing the beauty.  Each ride was a miracle, with the continuous going the chief delight.

During World War Two Bernard Newman, the most prolific bicycle travel author, lectured frequently on the war effort due to his intimate knowledge of European geography from his many bicycle journeys on the continent.  He rode through Scotland often, reveling in the fact that he rode where Scott, Burns and Annie Laurie had lived.  While being transported to another lecture by the RAF he rode in a two seat airplane with no room for his bicycle, affectionately called George.  After he was seated the crew put George in his lap, a wheel on either side.

Two Americans posted to Great Britain during the war rode through much of Scotland.  Fred Birchmore who a decade before had ridden around the world toured Scotland awheel while Clifford Graves saw his first ten speed bicycle when posted to England.  It took him six months to get one, which he then rode through Scotland.

As nearly everyone who takes a cycling holiday will confirm, the last day is always bittersweet, though the journey’s memory carries the rider to the next event.  Though all these cyclists rode in many other places, they each praised Scotland’s varied beauty and encouraged others to follow in their wheel tracks.  If you’re interested in more about cycle journeying in general, may I point you toward my book, The Self-Propelled Voyager (New York and London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015).  For the specific journeys mentioned above, the bibliography is as follows.

Birchmore, Fred A.  Miracles in my life:  tales of a happy wanderer.  Hockessin, Delaware: Cucumber Island Storytellers, 1996.

Graves, Clifford L.   My life on two wheels: with an appendix describing the most popular tours of the International Bicycle Touring Society.  La Jolla, CA: Manivelle Press, 1985.

Hammerton, Tony.  Tony’s Highland Tour. London: Horace Marshall & Son, 1901.

Henderson, E. E. and J. Walker. Camp, Cycle and Camera in the Highlands.  Edinburgh: John Menzies and Company, 1905.

Mursell, Walter Arnold. Two on a Tour.  Paisley, Scotland: A Gardner, 1909.

Newman, Bernard. British Journey.  London: R. Hale Ltd., 1945.

Yankee schoolboys abroad; or, the New England bicycle club in Scotland, England, and Paris. July-September, 1892.  Brookline, MA: C.A.W. Spencer, 1893.

Programme: Cross-Border Sport, the 3rd annual symposium of the British Society of Sports History, Scottish Network

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Robert Burns Cinema, Dumfries




1020       WELCOME — Matt McDowell, University of Edinburgh


1030       ON THE BORDER

Hugh Hornby, Played in Britain

How the Scottish Rules became the English Rules: the importance of cross Border links in the evolution of the sport of bowls

Richard McBrearty, Scottish Football Museum

‘Football’ in the south of Scotland in the mid-nineteenth century

Lindsay Scotland, Independent Researcher

The Historical Curling Places Project


1200       BREAK


1215       PLENARY ADDRESS — Chair: Matt McDowell, University of Edinburgh

Tony Collins, De Montfort University

Rugby in the Borders and at the Borders


1315       LUNCH



Nicola Burton, Independent Researcher

One Gaffer; Two Countries – Jock Wallace in Glasgow and Leicester

Derek Martin, Manchester Metropolitan University

Pedestrianism: the six-day races in Scotland 1879-1882




The Story of Gil Heron: The First Black Professional Footballer in Scotland

Lee McKeown, BSSH Scotland Webmaster

Gilbert Heron (1922-2008) is best known for becoming the first black professional soccer player in America and as the first black professional footballer to play in Scotland for Celtic Football Club in 1951. He is also known as being the father of the jazz musician Gil Scott-Heron. Born in Jamaica, Heron would move to Canada as a child and would eventually play football in America for the Detroit Corinthians and later the Detroit Wolverines. Heron would prove to be a successful striker and became top scorer of the 1946 North American Soccer Football League. In 1947, Ebony magazine even described Heron as the ”Babe Ruth of soccer”.


(Gil Heron)

Heron was no ordinary sportsman. He took part in a variety of different sports with Dimeo & Finn (2001) stating that Heron ”was an all-round sports man who ran and boxed and, while in Glasgow, played for leading Scottish cricket clubs too”. In 1940 Heron was even the 1940 boxing Golden Gloves champion of Michigan. BBC Caribbean describes Heron as a ”sporting renaissance man” due to his success in a wide variety of sports.  While Heron enjoyed success in a variety of sports, it is his time in Scotland that he is arguably most famous for.

According to Wilson (2013), during the summer of 1951, Celtic would embark on a tour of America following a successful 1950/51 season which saw Celtic win the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1936/37 by beating Motherwell 1-0 in the final with a goal from John McPhail. It was during this tour of America that Heron was spotted by Celtic. There are, however, conflicting reports of how Heron was noticed by Celtic. Some reports suggest that Heron played against Celtic in a match in Detroit while others suggest that he may have been tipped off.  Nevertheless, Wilson states that Heron who was discovered in Detroit quickly earned the nicknamed of the ”Black Flash” due to his speed and skill with the ball. While Heron was paraded as the first professional black footballer in Scottish football history, he was not the first non-white to play in Scotland. Andrew Watson played for Queens Park during the 1880’s, winning the Scottish Cup. Additionally, the Indian player Mohammed Salim was given a trial by Celtic in 1936 although he did not accept it and thus never played a first team game. Interestingly, Salim played in the reserve trials bare footed and refused to wear football boots as he had previously played bare footed in India.

Gil in Wolverines jersey

(Gil Heron in 1947 with the Detroit Wolverines)

Nevertheless, Heron saw the chance to sign for Celtic as a golden opportunity, claiming in a 1951 interview that ”Glasgow Celtic was the greatest name in football to me”. Heron was given a public trial against a selection of Celtic players divided into green and white teams and scored 2 goals. He impressed Celtic chairman Robert Kelly and was offered a 1 year contract which he accepted.  However, this public trail was not a one off event to display the skill of Gil Heron. Celtic had a free public trail at the start of each season during the 1950’s and 1960’s to parade potential new signings to the general public. Gil’s son Gil Scott-Heron (2012) described in his autobiography that the contract offer from Celtic was a ”Jackie Robinson-like invitation for him. It was something that had been beyond the reach and outside the dreams of blacks”. Indeed, Jackie Robinson had been the first black to play professional baseball in Major League Baseball when he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Previously, black professionals had only played in the segregated Negro Leagues and Heron would follow in the footsteps of Robinson by breaking down racial barriers by becoming the first black professional footballer in Scotland.  Heron would make his Celtic debut on August 18th 1951, with The Ottawa Journal of Ottawa, Canada, reporting that day that ”for the first time in Scotland’s soccer history an American star will play for one of Scotland’s most famous clubs, Glasgow Celtic”.


(The Ottawa Journal, 18th August 1951)

Heron’s debut would be in a League Cup match at Celtic Park against Morton and he would score the second goal in a 2-0 victory in a match with over 40,000 in attendance. The goal he scored was impressive as Heron swiftly struck the ball on the turn inside the penalty area against Scottish internationalist goalkeeper Jimmy Cowan. Heron would again score in a 2-0 win over Airdireonians on 29th August. In a counter-attack Heron ran with the ball from the centre-circle and unleashed a stunning 20 yard strike against Fraser who was also a Scottish internationalist goalkeeper. However, despite showing earlier promise, Heron would have difficulties at Celtic.  It has been claimed that a major factor why Heron did not succeed was because was not a physical player and struggled to adapt to the Scottish game.

Gil playing pool snooker John Glass portrait

(Gil playing pool)

However, Celtic historian Tom Campbell believes that existing players in the Celtic squad did not like Heron. It has been suggested that established stars such as Charlie Tully and John McPhail possessed significant influence in the dressing room, which Celtic manager Jimmy McGrory did not properly control. Campbell (2008) states that ”there were definite cliques within the club. McPhail was a charismatic character, he was the centre forward and he’d won the Cup for Celtic in 1951, but I think the other players kind of played to him, and almost visibly resented any player trying to take his place. There wasn’t quite the professionalism there should have been”. Heron was seen as a threat to the popular John McPhail and often found himself isolated on the pitch. Bobby Collins, though, was not impressed with the treatment of Heron and showed his disapproval by refusing to pass into space for McPhail in a match against Third Lanark. While McPhail and Tully saw Heron as a threat, he did have friends at Celtic, with Sean Fallon in particular befriending the Jamaican. However, it must be pointed out that the treatment towards Heron was not personal or racially motivated. Campbell claims that Leslie Johnson, another striker, was also treated in a similar fashion as he was also considered a threat to McPhail’s place in the team.

Eventually, Heron was relegated to the reserves where he would score 15 goals in 15 appearances. Despite his successful reserve scoring record, Heron would not play again until December in a 2-1 victory over Partick Thistle, however, he failed to impress on his return. While Heron was not recalled to the first team, he would be called to the Jamaican national side to play a series of matches against a Caribbean all start side in February 1952. Heron would score 4 goals in 3 games in front of a combined audience of over 70,000.


(Jamaica v Caribbean All Stars poster 1952)

Another reason why Heron was unsuccessful at Celtic may also have been his poor disciplinary record. Heron was red carded in a reserve match against Stirling Albion on January 2nd 1952 for fighting an opponent. Celtic chairman Robert Kelly did not look favourably towards players with poor discipline and Heron’s days at Celtic appeared to be numbered after this incident. The season would prove to be a failure for Celtic, finishing in lowly 9th place and winning no trophies. As a result, Heron would not be offered a new contract. Following his release from Celtic, Heron would be signed by Third Lanark who were at the time also a respected member of the Scottish top division. Heron would go onto play 7 games in total for the Thirds at the start of the 1952/53 season. All 7 games Heron played where in the League Cup and he scored a total of 5 goals during his time at the club, with 2 goals being scored on his club debut.


(Gil playing for Celtic)

It wasn’t just football that Heron played while he was in Scotland. During the summer of 1952, Heron would play for Poloc Cricket Club in the south of Glasgow before signing for Third Lanark.  He would also play for Ferguslie in Paisley during the summer of 1953. After leaving Third Lanark, Heron moved to England to play for the Kidderminster Harriers for season 1953/54. It was a bright start for Heron before he was eventually relegated to the reserve team, similarly to his time at Celtic. Heron was forced to leave the club at the end of the season due to the club suffering financial difficulties which forced them to sell a number of their star players.  After leaving the Kidderminster Harriers Heron would return to Detroit with his second wife who he had met at Celtic, and they would go onto have 3 children together.

Gil with Milne, Boden, Mallan, Fallon & Bonnar and Ladies at Largs 1951

(Gil with Celtic teammates and partners:Roy Milne, Alec Boden, Jimmy Mallan, Sean Fallon, Gil Heron and John Bonnar )

While Heron did break racial barriers by becoming the first black professional footballer in Scotland, his appearance would not lead to a significant change in racial attitudes. According to Onuora, (2015) a black player would not play in the top flight of Scottish football again until Mark Walters played for Rangers against Celtic on 2nd January 1988. While Walters was indeed the first black player to play in the Scottish top flight since Gil Heron, Paul Wilson who played for Celtic in the 1970’s was mixed race. Born in India, Wilson had a Scottish father and a Dutch-Portuguese mother who had ethnic links to Africa. In 1975 in a 1-1 draw against Spain, Wilson became the only non-white player to be capped by the Scottish national team during the 20th century.  Wilson was subject to racial abuse, and in a 2011 interview he stated ”I got it right bad but was strong and able to never react, retaliate or gesture because I had grown up with all this racism. I got so much stick at school and beyond.” While the signing of Heron did not lead to a significant change in the public attitude, it was nevertheless a step in the right direction. Heron may not have been a footballing success in Scotland. However, his is warmly remembered as a cult hero and as a pioneer for being the first to cross the professional colour line of Scottish football during a time when blacks were not yet considered equal to whites.

Note – Special thanks to the author of The Shamrock article The Noble Stride – Celtic and the Pioneering Herons for providing a great amount of information as well as the images used in this article. Thanks must also go to the Celtic historian Tom Campbell and Third Lanark historian Bob Laird for helping to provide information about Gil’s playing days in Scotland.

Link to: The Noble Stride – Celtic and the Pioneering Herons


Campbell T (2008) Charlie Tully: Celtic’s Cheeky Chappie, Derbyshire: Breedon Books Publishing Co Ltd

Dimeo P & Finn G, ”Racism, National Identity and Scottish Football” in Carrington B & McDonald I eds (2001) Race, Sport and British Society, London: Routledge

Onuora E (2015) Pitch Black: The Story of Black British Footballers, London: Biteback Publishing

Scott-Heron G (2012) The Last Holiday: A Memoir, Edinburgh: Canongate Books

Wilson B (2013) The Official History of Celtic Football Club, Liverpool: Celtic FC Limited

Wilson B, Gil Heron

[Accessed 19/7/2015]

Interview: Paul Wilson on Stein, Celtic and Racial Abuse in the 1970s, 10th October 2011, The Scotsman

[Accessed 24/7/2015]

Remembering Gil Heron, The Sunday Herald

[Accessed 24/7/2015]

The Gillie Heron Story, 9th January 2009, BBC Caribbean

[Accessed 27/7/2015]

The Noble Stride – Celtic and the Pioneering Herons

[Accessed 19/7/2015]

U.S Negro to Play for Glasgow Celtics, Ottawa Journal, 18th August 1951, The Celtic Wiki

[Accessed 19/7/2015]