See Part 1: Greenock (1946) – Stirling (1949).
See Introduction to Part 2.
Along with the services that started in Greenock (1946) and Stirling (1949), several football commentary services started in Scotland during the 1950s and 1960s.
These towns and cities included Dunfermline (1951), Kilmarnock (1952), Glasgow (1952), Edinburgh (1952), Dundee (1953), Ayr (1953), Aberdeen (1956), Arbroath (late 1950s) and Paisley (1968). In many cases these commentary services in Scotland used the skills of people who for some years had been giving commentaries to the blind.
In Greenock commentaries that started in 1929 at the Morton Football Club for the blind supporters seated in the commentary box were in 1946 also relayed to patients in hospital by the Morton Blind Fans Association.
In Edinburgh commentaries to the blind fans of the Hearts Football Club, which were started in the late 1940s, were also extended in 1952 to simultaneously include hospital patients.
- Dunfermline (Circa 1951)
David Samson, who carried out the first hospital broadcast from the Kilmarnock Football Club in January 1952, wrote: “I do know that the Dunfermline service started before us, but whether by one month or one year I am not sure”.
No further historical information on the original Dunfermline commentary service was discovered whilst researching this book. Neither the date when the first football commentary service started nor when the original commentaries ceased is known.
In September 1986 Graham Dobbin of the ‘Dunfermline & District Hospital Broadcasting Service’ (Radio West Fife) re-commenced the football commentary service from the Dunfermline Football Club. In 1992 Radio West Fife had a full sports team and was providing a comprehensive sports service throughout the year.
- Kilmarnock (January 1952)
The first football commentary service from Rugby Park, Kilmarnock, took place in January 1952 and was relayed to the Kilmarnock Infirmary and Kirklandside Hospital. The commentator for that first match, assisted by David Samson, was Jim Cuthbert who had previously been commentator to the blind at Ibrox. Jim was invited to do the commentaries by the Kilmarnock FC Supporters’ Association. About a year later, however, he returned to Ibrox to commentate on the Rangers’ games when they were first relayed to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. David became the main football commentator for some twenty-one years, assisted by the sports writer Hugh Wilson, son in law John Campbell, and Frank McArdle.
On January 20 1962 the ‘Kilmarnock Standard’ reported: “Land Lines Carry Rugby Park Story to the Hospitals and Eventide Homes. The report went on to say, “On Saturday most of the male patients – and some of the women too – in local hospitals can have a prescription they don’t mind taking. As the hands of the clock move towards 3 it is time for their weekly ‘dose’ of relayed closed circuit commentaries by GPO landlines from Rugby Park, home of Kilmarnock FC. The soccer fan in hospital need never feel out of touch with his favourite club. Every Saturday, and sometimes in mid-week, a four man team acts as the ‘eyes’ of the supporter absent through hospitalisation”.
The broadcast relay system, which cost about £450 a year to maintain and operate, was administered by the Kimarnock FC Supporters’ Association. Landlines eventually carried the commentaries to five hospitals – Kilmarnock Infirmary and Kirklandside Hospital, Kilmarnock; Ballochmyle Hospital, Mauchline; and the Ayrshire Central Hospital and the Ravenspark Hospital, Irvine; plus two Kilmarnock eventide homes; The Mount and Springhill. Hugh Wilson reported that he would never forget an old lady in the Infirmary who had liked the commentaries so much she had given him a ‘tammy’ for a visit he was making to Wembly. The team’s work did not stop with commentating. They visited patients in hospital and entertained patients from one of the hospitals to tea in Kilmarnock.
David Samson recalled that the team had commentated on Kilmarnock games from Hamden on three occasions, and Ibrox once. He was personally called upon twice to do commentaries for the blind by “Rex” Kingsley who was the ‘Commentaries to the Blind’ pioneer at Hampden Park. David also recalled that they had had terrific cooperation from the club managers; Malcom McDonald, Willie Waddell and Walter McCrae.
In the late 1970’s the Kilmarnock FC Supporters’ Association withdrew their support. Sadly, the service, after encountering considerable difficulties in trying to raise funds, fell into disuse and ceased to be in about 1979 after twenty-seven years operation.
- Edinburgh (20 September, 1952)
On Saturday, 20 September 1952 Wemyess Craigie, a commentator for the Edinburgh Hospitals Football Broadcast Committee announced “Hibs 3 Hearts 1” to end the first hospital broadcast to the Royal Infirmary and Leith hospital in Edinburgh. An Appeal to Hibs’ followers in 1952 read: “Within the next few days – it might even be sooner, if Post Office Telephones can complete the work, Easter Road will be linked with Leith Hospital and the Royal Infirmary and patients in both hospitals will have an opportunity of hearing a running commentary on the games as an alternative to the normal BBC programmes, via their bedside headphones. Credit for the original idea must go to Stirling, but for months now Mr Joe Gribbins and his supporters’ Association have been striving to introduce this additional service for the benefit of patients in our great Edinburgh hospitals. A site has been allocated for the broadcasting box at the rear of the stand. A sum of £80 will be needed annually and this will be met by the Supporters’ Association. Every sportsman and woman in Edinburgh is invited to consider the appeal and address their donation to the Programme Shilling Fund”.
The first broadcast from Easter Road was followed immediately by one from Tynecastle, the home of Hearts of Midlothian FC, whose first commentator was Mr W (Monty) Aitken. In 1954 Tom Wilson started commentating at Tynecastle and was to continue to do so, missing very few matches, for 30 years.
In 1953 Wemyess Craigie wrote: “The rental of broadcast lines to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Leith Hospital is £104 per annum but additional lines to equip all the principle hospitals would raise the rental to an estimated figure of between £500 and £700 per annum. It is our desire, therefore, to raise a sum of £7,000 which will guarantee 10 years’ rental”. In addition to Wemyess two others were actively involved in the early commentaries at Easter Road. An article entitled “Behind The Scenes” in the Hibernian FC Programme of Saturday 19 December 1953 reported: “Tom Miller first broadcast when Wemyess Craigie’s voice failed during a match. Tom ‘one of the very best’ to quote his partner, carried on for him without turning a hair and since then has shared the broadcasting duties. The third member of the Easter Road broadcast team is Jimmy Bourhill who chips in at halftime and at the end with summaries of the play”.
Over the following years fund raising efforts continued and local newspapers and football programmes carried many reports and announcements on the commentary service during the 1950s. In September 1957, after nearly 150 broadcasts Wemyess Craigie retired.
By 1961 the sports service from both Easter Road (Hibernian FC) and Tynecastle (Hearts FC) had spread with the expansion throughout the Lothian area of a vast Post Office land line system that reached 16 hospitals. Hibernian FC withdrew from the sports service in July 1967 and the Hearts Supporters Club decided that they could no longer afford the high land line charge associated with, by now, 18 hospitals. As a result six hospitals were disconnected and by February 1968 a further six were axed. It was during 1973 that the music based Forth Radio Network, a hospital broadcasting service established in 1961, took over the financial responsibility for the land line system. After a short break in the late 1980s broadcasts from Hearts FC resumed.
- Glasgow (About 1952)
Two sports commentary services, at Rangers FC and Celtic FC, started in Glasgow during the early 1950s. A third service, at Hampden Park, is known to have a long history and is thought to have started in the mid 1950s. By the mid 1970s all three services had been connected to Hospital Radio Paisley and the number of hospitals able to receive the commentaries increased considerably.
See 9. Paisley.
Rangers (About 1952): The first football commentary service in Glasgow is thought to have started at the Rangers Football Club in 1952 but no detailed records have survived. An Edinburgh newspaper in late 1952 made reference to a service in Glasgow and, as mentioned in the history of the Kilmarnock service that started in January 1952, Jim Cuthbert: “Went back to Ibrox to become the commentator when commentaries of the Rangers’s games were started to the Southern General hospital in Glasgow”.
In late 1973 Hospital Radio Paisley persuaded the Rangers Supporters Association to fund a landline from Ibrox to their studios in the High Street. The original service is known to have continued until 1983, the last commentator being Ian Fleming.
Celtic (14 August 1954): A football commentary service called ‘Celtic Hospital Broadcast’, operating under the auspices of the Celtic Supporters Association, was inaugurated on 14 August 1954. It was opened by “Rex” Kingsley of the Sunday Mail, in the presence of Association President J J Mc Cafferty, the General Secretary H Delaney and two ex players, Andy Bell and Jimmy Walsh.
The broadcast was originally fed by a GPO landline to the Belvidere Hospital, but by about 1971-72 the commentaries were connected to the hospitals served by Hospital Radio Paisley. From the late 1970s to 1986 the commentator was Jimmy Divers. By the mid 1980s the broadcasts were being received by 12 hospitals in Glasgow and Paisley.
Hampden Park (1950s): Commentaries on home games, internationals and major cup-ties were being broadcast in the 1950s from Hampden Park, the home of Queen’s Park Rangers, to the Victoria Infirmary. On many occasions the football commentaries were also relayed to hospitals in other towns and cities in Scotland. The date of the first commentary is not known.
In 1986 Damon Quigley, Head of Sport, Hospital Radio Paisley wrote: “The original service has been going for a great deal longer than HRP (which started in 1970). With the linking of HRP to the Victoria Infirmary in the mid 1970s we were able to receive the commentaries and transmit them to the other hospitals. This was all that the somewhat antiquated equipment was capable of, although on big occasions HRP supplied station equipment and personnel to both improve signal quality and allow two-way communication. Happily up-to-date, brand new equipment, has been installed in the past few weeks, having been funded from money raised in the Glasgow marathon. Our commentators are Richard Wolson, the junior partner in that he first broadcast from Hampden around thirteen years ago, and Maurice Marks, who can call upon almost a quarter of a century of experience at the job”.
- Dundee (About August, 1953)
Credit for starting a football commentary service in Dundee in 1953, at both Dens Park (Dundee FC) and Tannadice (Dundee United FC) goes to Mr James McClure (who was to devote some 30 years to developing the TOC H Hospital Service there). His wife recalled in 1988: “Jim began the service in the winter of 1953 and got the idea from a man in Greenock. In the summer of 1954 he was collecting earphones for the hospital patients”. An old landline map, date unknown, shows the service being relayed to ten hospitals and rest homes in the Dundee area. The audience was estimated at 2500.
The TOC H magazine of May 1957 reads: “Dundee Branch gave launched an appeal for funds for their football commentary scheme”. Records from June 1958 show that Rev P B Clayton Vicar of All Hallow By The Tower Church, London, and Founder Padre of TOC H, travelled to Dundee to attend a fete in the grounds of the Ballinard Hotel. The function, organised by the Dundee Branch, was in aid of funds for the Football Commentaries service to hospitals.
In 1991 the football commentary team consisted of ten members and the service was being received in the Dundee Royal Infirmary and Nine Wells Hospital.
- Ayr (1953)
In 1953 the Ayr Supporters Association came up with the idea of starting a football commentary service from Somerset Park and gradually extended it during 1954 (the date of the first broadcast in 1953 is not known).
Gordon Lees who joined in 1955 (and was still broadcasting over 30 years later) recalls: “I can remember being given a test to see if I was good enough. I had to talk for 1 minute 30 seconds describing a leaf falling from a tree! I passed the test and found myself giving commentaries using a hand microphone, sat in the front row of the stand. In those days collections were held at the pit heads and bus drivers used to stand at the gate collecting. The 1956-57 season saw a new approach when the link between the Supporters Association and the broadcasts gave way to the formation of a Registered Charity called the “Ayr Hospitals Relay Fund”.
A Glasgow newspaper reported in October 1958: “The Ayr United Hospitals Relay Fund has been operating during the past year. Volunteer commentators send over eye-witness accounts of the games at Somerset Park to Heathfield Hospital, the County Hospital and the Welfare Home and Hospital. The organisers hope to extend the scheme when funds permit. At present a new studio is being erected over the gymnasium, from which the broadcasts can be made uninterrupted by the c1amour of the crowd”.
From 1959 the system was gradually extended to bring in Ailsa Hospital, a very large hospital on the outskirts of Ayr, together with the old folks’ geriatric hospital of Biggart Home in Prestwick. The quality of the broadcasts was highly praised at that time and Templeton House, which was in fact an old person’s home run by the Church of Scotland as a private enterprise, themselves paid to be connected up to the system and paid an annual rent for the use of the broadcasts.
Over the years, good cooperation was maintained with several other broadcasting systems and, in particular, the Kilmarnock Football Club relay and the Rangers Football Club relay were closely associated with the Ayr United service. Commentators were exchanged during matches between the various teams. As the years went by the Ayr broadcasts were enlarged to take in record programmes prior to commencement of games and this eventually, in about 1983, led to a regular broadcast of record requests on Sunday.
By the late 1980s the Ayr Hospital Relay Fund was entirely dependent on voluntary contributions. The Rotary Clubs, Round Tables, Works Organisations, Benevolent Funds all making major contributions.
- Aberdeen (1956)
A service called “Aberdeen Hospitals Relay Association” started to broadcast football commentaries to hospitals in 1956 from Pittodrie, the home of the Aberdeen Football Club.
A diagram of the Post Office landline system dated July 1967 showed the service connected to the City Hospital, Royal Mental, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (Foresterhill), Woodend, Tor-Na-Dee Cults, Morningfield and Glen-a-Dee Banchory.
Gordon Buchan, who leads the team of commentators at Pittodrie, reported in 1988: “We cover all football matches including European Ties, Premiere League and Reserve Premiere League games, Scottish and League Cup fixtures, Youth Tournaments ‘and friendly matches. We have done these broadcasts continuously since 1956“.
- Arbroath (Late 1950s)
In 1986 Malcolm Finlayson of Radio North Angus wrote: “Football commentaries were being broadcast to Arbroath Infirmary from the Arbroath FC ground for many years. This service, which has now been disconnected, was operated latterly by the Arbroath Round Table. I believe that the service could date back to the late 1950’s or early 1960’s“.
Bill Lakie wrote: “I was involved, through the Round Table, with the football commentaries at Gayfield Park. As far as I can remember it commenced in the 1950’s and operated until the late 1960’s. I carne along in the early 1960’s and broadcast only on Wednesday and New Year garnes, being a shopkeeper prevented otherwise. Arbroath Round Table raised money through sales of work etc to pay and install the Post Office line to Arbroath Infirmary”.
The service operated with about 10 members, each of whom took their turn to give the commentary. Doug Cashlowe (late of BBC Sports) was one of the original staff.
- Paisley (about 1968)
Football commentaries from Love Street, the home of the St Mirren Football Club, to the Royal Alexandria Infirmary in Paisley started circa 1968. One of the original commentators, who continued until 1984, was Douglas Crichton.
The 1974 ‘NAHBO Directory of Hospital Broadcasting Organisations’ records: “Paisley & District Hospital Broadcasting Service (Radio Paisley) formed in June 1970. Serving four hospitals and relaying a sports commentary service from St Mirren and Rangers”. The football commentaries from St Mirren were the prime motivating factor in the formation of Hospital Radio Paisley (HRP), which was formed to supplement the existing service with music, etc.
In 1986 Damon Quigley, Head of Sports, Hospital Radio Paisley wrote: “In the formative years of HRP the responsibility for our sports output was taken by the Programme Controller, and it may have been as late as the mid 1970s before a post of Head of Sports was created. One of the first of these was Brian Roberts, who returned to HRP after a four year gap to become Head of Sport for a second time, succeeding Douglas Kerr in 1983. When Brian gave up the position at the end of that year he was succeeded for a short spell by Mike McLean, before I was appointed in March 1984. For the most part I have merely tried to follow the guidelines and build upon the foundations set down by Brian Roberts. These involve the maximisation of information and diversity within our sports programmes. This is undoubtedly reflected in the proliferation at HRP of events from which we have done outside broadcasts during my time as Head of Sports: Western Union and International cricket, Scottish National bowls championships, Glasgow and Greenock marathons, basketball (able-bodied and disabled), all Glasgow Tigers speedway fixtures and the 1984 Open Golf Championships at St Andrews”.
The commentators at Love Street in 1986 were Liam Ronnie and Jack Melville.
See 4. Glasgow.