History of Hillhead Sports Club
"What" say the Ancients, "do they know of the Hillhead Club who never Scotstoun knew>"
At the turn of the 20th Century, while many small clubs existed within Hillhead High School, the was no real club for former pupils to maintain contact after graduating from the school. This gap was identified by an enterprising young lawyer called James Grieve, who on the 10th of October 1902, convened a meeting of 90 men, who unanimously resolved to form the Hillhead High School Club. Initially its sole object was to “promote social intercourse among the members by holding an annual reunion Dinner” but sports sections soon emerged. It is believed that Bernie spoke at one of the early dinners, although the exact date is unknown.
Initially the Club catered for many sports, including football, cricket (ladies initially!), ladies hockey and athletics, with the strongest section initially being the Literary and Debating Society! Having no grounds on which to play, the club negotiated to base itself at the Glasgow Agricultural Society’s Showgrounds at Scotstoun (now Scotstoun Sports Centre) which brought sport to Scotstoun for the first time.
The rugby section came into existence on 27th June 1904 and, taking over the fixtures of the declining Partickhill RFC, initially fielded 2 teams with an occasional 3rd XV making an appearance. The first league fixture played was a dramatic no score draw with Lenzie, on 8th October 1904.
Having been absent from after school activities for 5 years, in 1910 Mr David Craik suggested that the club should take over the courts of the almost defunct Maryhill Tennis Club, to bring Tennis to the Hillhead High School Club. For the very modest sum of £43 (about £2,500 today) Hillhead acquired three courts and a pavilion, and for the first time had premises they could call their own.
Following disruption during the first world war, 9 “FP”s got together in December 1918 to form an executive committee with a view to establishing a memorial to honour the 180 former pupils killed in action during the war and to attempt to acquire some lands on which to locate the sporting activities of the Club.
Around the end of the 19th Century, what had previously been the fields of South Balgray Farm (seen in the map opposite from 1958) had been set out for “feuing” (or housebuilding) along with most of the lands in the surrounding area, under the control of the Kelvinside Estate Company. They then sold off smaller plots to ambitious developers who began building the large terraced properties surrounding the area today.
However, due to a new property tax introduced in 1909 and the disruption caused by the First world War, the various developers who acquired the lands ran out of funds and were forced to put the land up for sale.
Initially however, after investigating “Hughenden” as a possible location, it was discarded as being too small, as it did not initially include the land along Great Western Road, which was earmarked for the continuation of Devonshire Terrace (then Marlborough Terrace) houses.
(This had come to a halt following the collapse of the Western Bank, circa 1890. The incomplete building project can be clearly seen by the “gap toothed” blocks jutting from the unfinished Devonshire Terrace where it stops at the club grounds by Great Western Road. The new boundaries can be seen in the map opposite from 1893).
Negotiations instead were well under way to acquire a part of Bankhead Golf Course, and several fund-raising initiatives set about raising the £5,400 required, which came from Member donations, local Education Authority assistance and most notably a three day bazaar in the McLellan galleries over 2nd to 4th December 1920, when nearly £4000 was raised. Unfortunately however contractual negotiations and higher than expected costs for roads and sewers led to the Committee having to re-think the entire project.
The impending delay however proved fruitful, as, having failed to secure a new developer to complete the Marlborough Terrace build, the Kelvinside Estate Company were forced to place the whole of Hughenden as we know it now up for sale. Seizing the opportunity for a very astute purchase, on the twenty second day of February, Nineteen hundred and twenty two (2/2/1922), the 9 Trustees got together in the offices of James Dunlop, Solicitor (178 St. Vincent Street) to form what we now know as Hillhead High School War Memorial Trust Limited.
The 9 trustees were: Duncan Macgillivray (Headmaster), James Carnegie Proudfoot (Journalist), Isabel Christison (Widow), Esther Alice Wilson (Teacher), David Craik (Teacher), Janet F.D. Stewart (Art Mistress), Jane Macdonald (Teacher), William F. Findlay (Joiner And Cabinetmaker) & S.E. Houston (Chartered Accountant)
The Trust managed to raise some £6,000 (around £127k in today’s money) and successfully managed to acquire the “18.5 acres of land behind Marlborough Terrace” which became known as Hughenden (although the alternative name “Redlands” was almost chosen). The trustees’ mission was simple:
“To acquire lands, buildings and other property for the purpose of a sports and recreation ground as a memorial to those former pupils of the Hillhead High School who served and gave their lives for their King and Country during the Great War of 1914-1918 and to erect form and maintain any buildings, Clubhouse, Recreation Rooms, baths, gymnasia, dining rooms, playgrounds, and other premises that may be necessary or convenient for the business and objects of the Trust and suitably to furnish the same.”
They also took over Hillhead High School Club and all their operations and committed to run a club and establish a Clubhouse for the Members. Interestingly, they also committed to form and maintain a Library at the grounds, although this was taken over by sporting activities soon after. By the end of 1923, having secured further funding, the fencing was completed, the pitches soiled and sewn, the tennis courts made and the pavilion completed, which comprised of the main bar as is now with changing below.
The club was officially opened on 24th May 1924, by Sir Charles Cleland, and the mural tablet inscribed with the names of the fallen, was dedicated by the Very Rev. Dr. John Smith: “When, as is natural enough with the passage of years, we incline to take Hughenden for granted simply as our ground, we should do well to ponder on the toll of youth that was its price. Cha do thill ach an cliu – only their renown has come back to us – but their names are deeply graven on the tablets of memory”
In 1925, in the first major sporting event hosted at the club, the Finals of the West of Scotland Tennis Tournament were played at Hughenden. The tennis section then were enjoying great success and were the largest in number (and oldest in residence at Hughenden), had four competing teams and held regular garden parties and dances for all members.
The picture opposite shows the preciding Hillhead Headmaster, Duncan Macgillivray, who was one of the 9 original Trustees, standing proudly on the newly acquired grounds at Hughenden.
A few years later saw continued success of the rugby section which had rapidly overtaken tennis to become the largest section. So strong was the growth and popularly for spectators that, in 1934, an 800 seat grandstand was constructed to seat the growing and lively crowds who attended the home games. The stand was constructed using cutting edge “cantilever” technology for the roof which would allow an uninterrupted view for all spectators, a technique which would go on to be widely used in similar projects. So popular was the rugby that trains were laid on specially to bring spectators to the ground, stopping at Hyndland Station, which is now the site of “Old Station Park” on Hyndland Road. Continued success and popularity led to the stand being extended at both ends in 1956, funded by Charles Hepburn, owner of “Red Hackle” whisky (who notably also funded the installation of the first underground heating system for Murrayfield!).
The picture opposite is an extract from a newspaper of 1934 showing the newly completed stand at Hillhead full to capacity during a first Xv rugby match against local rivals “Accies” (Glasgow Academicals)
Although Cricket was the first sport to be played in Hillhead (1904) this is the first photograph we have from1923.
1965 was a very important date in the life of Hughenden, as it saw the first bar being opened within the clubhouse, which at that time was operated on a volunteer rota basis. Memories strangely become hazy after then! Around the same time, an extension from the pavilion along the tennis courts (forming an “L” shape) provided changing for ladies Hockey on the ground floor and a small function room (with piano) upstairs. Funding for this was raised in no small part by the School, with every pupil having to bring in a sixpence every Friday. The fund raising effort was topped off by 4 nights of concerts held in the School Hall , with sell out appearances for Charlie Bell’s band, The Staccatos.
Until 1969 the club was still a Former Pupils Club for Hillhead High School, however when Hillhead changed from being a fee paying to a comprehensive school, the club took the decision to open its doors to all-comers. This proved a positive move for the club and brought many more members through the doors.
Recognising the new status, the gents hockey section of Strathclyde University (who had recently lost their “home”) approached the club to seek association which would offer them a new base. They were happily welcomed in with one condition – they were not allowed to play on Hughenden’s grass pitches, which were to be reserved for the sole use of the ladies who had played there since the acquisition of the grounds.
In 1974 a further extension (to fill in the “L” shape) was added, which provided the large function room (the Bobby low Room) and the two squash courts. One of the major fund raising events for this extension was a sponsored walk from Hughenden to The Kirkhouse Inn at Strathblane and back. Such was the dedication to the cause that the numbers who completed both legs were in triple figures.
In 1988 an opportunity arose for an amalgamation of the rugby section with a neighbouring rugby club, Jordanhill, who were struggling for players at that time. They had access to grounds at Kilmardinny, which were much needed for the ever expanding Hillhead Rugby Club, and so saw the lauch of Hillhead Jordanhill RFC. Sadly the use of Kilmardinny was short lived but the amalgamation remained and continues today.
Throughout the 80’s and well into the 90’s, the legendary Hughenden Disco occurred every Friday evening in the function room to raise funds for the club. People travelled from far and wide to attend the legendary discos, where 250 lucky persons (never more, rarely less) danced and drank the night away, and a few even “struck lucky” from time to time. Managed by volunteers from alternating sections of the club, these discos brought much needed cash to the club but sadly faded in later years and were eventually finished off by the club’s ventures into professional rugby and by the granting of many late licences to pubs nearby.
In 1996, the Glasgow Mid Argyll Shinty Club joined the Sports Club, and although unable to play Shinty matches at Hughenden, they made use of the pitches for training and for social functions. Then, and now, they played their shinty matches at Peterson Park, Yoker, known to many as “Garscadden”.
In 1999 Hillhead Sports Club began building relationships with Glasgow Caledonian Reds and the Scottish Rugby Union which resulted in hosting of Glasgow’s home games at Hughenden, mostly on Friday evenings. Well attended (2,000-3,000 regularly cheered on Glasgow), a fantastic atmosphere and a busy bar all seemed very positive, however in truth the club were not enjoying the financial rewards one might imagine from such a venture. In fact, the investment required in grounds and spectator areas, along with negotiations which were less than favourable towards the club, saw the start of the ever growing debt which the club began to amass. After 6 years, Glasgow Rugby left to play at Firhill, and the club were in a financial position which no amount of Friday night discos could correct.
Interest on borrowings became unmanageable and, as was being experienced by clubs nation and world wide, declining members numbers left the club with no option but to sell off some of its only asset to clear the debt and allow a fresh start.
Negotiations with one developer in 2007 sadly ceased when the property boom came to a sudden end a matter of weeks before the deal was concluded. At this time however the writing was on the wall, and the inability of the club to guarantee funding to provide new and improved facilities for both the Hockey and Squash sections, led to these sections taking the decision to move away from Hughenden and play their sport elsewhere. Hillhead Hockey club still play extensively, basing themselves at Woodend Tennis and Bowling Club and playing on pitches at Jordanhill School and others nearby. It is understood that Hillhead Squash Club dissolved upon leaving Hughenden.
Subsequent negotiations with an alternative developer finally resulted in a section of the clubs land being sold to Bett Homes (trading as Manor Kingdom) in December 2010. This sale brought much needed cash to the club, clearing the debts completely, and also allowed a much needed upgrade to the clubhouse to be done.
Following extensive refurbishment and addition of two new extensions (providing an extended fuction and changing areas to the West and a glass fronted cafe area to the East) on Saturday 8th october 2011, Hillhead Sports Club re-opened it’s doors for sport and more. A partnership With Cafe Source Too brought a Cafe Bar to the Ground Floor and a new gymnasium and weights room added a new facility for members. Fully refurbished playing surfaces improved matters outside for all sports.
Compiled by Keith Fowler
With thanks to David Welsh, Fern Stewart, Charlie Bell, Christine MacDonald, Bernie Mitchell, Gus Napier,
Hillhead High School Club 1902 – 1952, A.D. Campbell and Directors, 1952
Played in Glasgow, Ged O’Brien, 2010
Along Great Western Road, Gordon R Urquhart, 2000