Skip to content

Sport of the Nation

July 20, 2010

The title of this post refers not to the various degrees of devotion displayed for Les McKeown, Lorraine Kelly and James McAvoy, but to the so called Beautiful Game – football (even now the World Cup 2010 is but a distant memory, this is a game some folk – football widows and widowers alike – may still be fed up with).  

The Doonies versus the Croonies on New Year’s Day by Alexander Carse, dated about 1810 – the oldest known example of a football painting, Dr John Robertson, Courtesy of Bourne Fine Art

Whilst carrying out research for the Portrait of the Nation sport exhibition Sporting Life – I was stunned  to learn how important a role the Scots had in the development of the modern game.  

Football in all its forms will be represented in the exhibition – from the festival Ba’ Games of Scotland to possibly the world’s first football club, founded in Edinburgh in 1824 and onwards to the explosion of association football from the 1870s and its subsequent place in the Scottish consciousness as the spectator sport. 

The Kirkwall Christmas Ba’ Game, 1910 by Tom Kent (1863-1936), Orkney Library and Archive (can you spot the presence of Inspector Clouseau, undercover in Orkney, in the melee?)


Queen’s Park Football Team was the first ‘modern’ club to be formed in 1867.  In the 1870s Scottish clubs were formed in numbers and these wanderers, crusaders, rovers and rangers soon found themselves playing for the Scottish Cup from 1873.   The world’s first international football match, between Scotland (all of which were Queen’s Park players) and England, was played in Glasgow in 1872 with the result being a 0-0 draw.  It was during the course of this match that those first international football spectators and paparazzi bore witness to the combination and passing play of the Scots.  This was a more scientific approach to the game than the English technique of individualistic dribbling with the ball and brought the Scots much success in the 1870s and 80s.  A large number of Scottish players, known as the Scotch Professors, were drafted into English teams in order to spread this style of play. 


Scotland ‘Rosebery’ shirt worn by R.S. McColl (1876-1958), later known as Toffee Bob for his newsagent chain, in the international versus England in 1900. McColl scored a hat trick and kept the ball (exhibits in the Scottish Football Museum)


The perfect 2010 World Cup Final to bring the Scottish heritage of the game full circle would have been Uruguay versus Spain – the oldest football teams in both these countries were founded by Scots.  Other countries where Scots had a major influence in the introduction of the game include Brazil, Argentina, China, Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, Austria, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada.  The Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park is a must-see attraction and I must thank Richard McBrearty for all his help in sourcing football images in preparation for Sporting Life.

For more football-related imagery from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland, type ‘football’ into the simple search facility for our online collection.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 2:26 pm

    Great post, I also like your pictures. They are touching

  2. Sue Diamond permalink
    July 21, 2010 1:02 pm

    I love the Rosebery shirt – perhaps some replicas in the shop?

  3. August 28, 2010 10:12 am

    Good article- I enjoyed reading about the history of the game. Didn’t know about the connection to the Newsagents chain before.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: