George Park has written a book – see Issue 178– about former St Bernard’s Football Club, once a local giant on the Scottish scene but now mostly forgotten. He told Spurtle all about it.
I’ve lived in the same flat in Royal Crescent all my life – 66 years. It overlooks the site of the club’s final ground: now Royal Bank of Scotland’s car park at Fettes Row. I worked for RBS for 35 years, retiring in 1995, and found evidence that the the club’s accounts had been maintained at the old Queen Street branch at the foot of Castle Street. Things just escalated from there.
While St Bernard’s were on a par with Hibs and Hearts in the early years of their existence, they subsequently lost their appeal. They had a succession of financial troubles after professionalism was legalised, and were known as the club with nine lives. Most of their existence (1878–1942) was in the Second Division of the Scottish League and, unlike Hibs and Hearts who have had an almost unbroken existence in the top flight, struggled to survive with a small Supporters Club.
An ageing directorate and losing their place in organised football during the Second World War contributed to the club’s demise. The ground was sold, and for a football club a ground is a must.
I’ve always maintained a keen interest in the game and am involved with the present-day St Bernard’s Boys Club, currently celebrating its 61st season. After research lasting 24 years, I was very keen to have a history published of what once was a famous local club. It was never to be a profit-earning project and – given that I had the resources to finance the printing – CCLASP (Children with Cancer and Leukaemia, Advice and Support for Parents) seemed an excellent cause to benefit from the sales. I received a lot of encouragement from Billy Hunter, the ex-Scottish international who is involved with that charity and an author in his own right. So far around £5,500 has been raised.
Copies of St Bernard's FC: or When the Well Ran Dry (225 pp.) are available at £7.25 from the following outlets: News Plus Newsagents (156–8 Dundas St), Clark’s Bar (142 Dundas St), Thompson Sports (53 Elm Row), Hanover Health Foods (40 Hanover St), Colin Campbell Sports (68 Inverleith Row); or direct from the author at 15 Royal Crescent, Edinburgh EH3 6QA.
The historic photos displayed here (all courtesy of George Park) show: (1) an aerial view of St Bernard's FC's ground – the Gymnasium – below Royal Crescent; (2) the Scottish Cup winning side of 1895; (3) the 1906/07 side; (4) the triple cup-winning side of 1907/08. The club's badge appears on p.3 of Issue 178.