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History of the Queen's Park Football Club 1867 - 1917
Chapter XXXV.—Third and Greatest Hampden


In June, 1894, the lease of second Hampden had just been renewed for another five years by Messrs. Dixon Limited, as from 1st August following. Mr. W. Sellar, the newly-appointed president, raised the question of the unsatisfactoriness of spending large sums of money in improvements with no fixity of tenure, and suggested the advisability of buying ground outright at Battlefield, or in the neighbourhood of Hampden Park. A committee of two, Messrs. Sellar and Geake, were appointed to make inquiries about new ground by buying outright, or a ninety-nine years' lease. Nothing, however, definite resulted until August, 1896, when the committee considered plans and estimates for the purchase and formation of a ground to the east of Hampden Park, including pavilion, two stands, cement cycling track, and a cinder track for foot races, which had been prepared without any request from the club by Mr. Alexander Blair, F.S.I., and voluntarily placed by him before the committee. The ground sub-committee had already gone into these plans, etc., and the probable cost had been estimated by them. Mr. Blair was introduced to the meeting, and submitted his plans and estimates, and explained them in detail. The meeting discussed the matter fully, especially the cost of the ground, and the various means of raising the necessary capital. Mr. Sellar, the president, was authorised to ascertain from the landlords at what price they would sell the ground. Messrs. Dixon Limited quoted a price per square yard for ground to the east of the present quarters, but the majority of the committee were rather disposed to acquire the present ground by purchase, with extension round about, and Mr. Blair was requested to give a rough estimate of the probable cost of such a scheme. The sub-committee were to go into this latter proposal, and report. Mr. Sellar at the half-yearly meeting reported progress, stating the club was very seriously handicapped, living on a lease which could be terminated at any time. The stand accommodation could not be increased with safety. The committee considered it advisable to purchase the second Hampden Park and ground adjoining, amounting altogether to thirteen acres. The Dixon Trustees were willing to sell at a price the committee thought reasonable, for the part they owned, and negotiations were carried on with the Corporation of Glasgow for the purchase of the remainder of the ground contemplated. The money was to be raised privately, and the membership would not be personally liable. The lenders would require to depend on the assets of the club only. It was not then proposed to form a limited company. The question of a new street to the south delayed the negotiations for a time, Dixon's Trustees and the Town Council being in consultation on the point. In February, 1898, the club was informed the Corporation refused to sell, and Messrs. Dixon Limited were not in a position to give a definite answer. The club now decided to look elsewhere, and made full inquiries regarding suitable ground in the neighbourhood. The lease of Hampden Park expired in 1899, and President Lawrence and Messrs. Geake and Sellar were appointed as a subcommittee to inquire into the whole question of the lease and ground, and report. When the question of a new lease arose, Messrs. Dixon informed the club they were themselves only sub-tenants of the ground, and their term expired in three and a half years, beyond which they could not give the club the ground, and for that period the rent was to be 150 a year instead of 115. The above sub-committee had not been idle meantime, as they had in view a piece of ground in close proximity to Hampden Park, which could be purchased at a moderate figure, and they were authorised to go further into the question. Now greatest Hampden Park looms on the scene. The sub-committee had approached Mr. Alexander Blair, surveyor to the agents of Mr. Henry Erskine Gordon, of Aikenhead. Mr. Blair had drawn out plans of ground on the Aikenhead estate, which the subcommittee considered very convenient and suitable. The ground was immediately to the south of Mount Florida, the extent being ten and a half to twelve and a half acres, fronting Somerville Drive, which could be obtained at a cost of 850 per acre, which meant about 10,000, Mr. Gordon being willing to accept 6,000 in cash, and to allow the remainder to remain on bond at four per cent., repayable in instalments of 1,000. Mr. Blair explained what cutting and levelling would be necessary. The club was to form half the streets, bear half the cost of sewers, to build a brick cover over the Mall's Myre burn, which ran through the ground, at its own expense, and have a right of passage through Somerville Drive for all time coming, with immediate entry after making satisfactory arrangements with the agricultural tenants, the price to be paid at Candlemas (2nd February), 1900. Armed with a favourable report from Mr. William Clark, of Messrs. M'Creaths & Stevenson, civil and mining engineers, Glasgow, on the marketable value, and suitability for athletic and feuing purposes of the ground, the plans were laid before a special general meeting of the club, 22nd November, 1899. There was a little difficulty over the working of the minerals under the ground, as it was stated this might cause a subsidence at some future time, affecting the feuing, and probable damage to the brick sewer, which last was to be an expensive item to construct. The mineral tenants were to be asked not to work the coal beneath the park; but on a survey of the coalfield, on behalf of the superior, by Messrs. William Robertson & Son, mining engineers, it was found that there was no workable coal seam under the proposed site. To shift the site further west would have cleared the coal measures, but Mr. Clark, the club's engineer, reported, to do so would be a much more costly undertaking. The sub-committee, Messrs. Lawrence, Geake, and Sellar, under the circumstances, decided to take the risk of subsidence, even though Mr. Clark thought workable coal might still be obtained on the eastmost site, and he suggested that Mr. Gordon be offered 100 less—that is, 750 per acre for twelve and a half acres—and the club take all risks. This met with the approval of the full committee. Negotiations were entered into with Messrs. A. J. & A. Graham, the law agents of Mr. Gordon, and ultimately 800 per acre was agreed upon—4,000 cash down, and the balance, 6,000, was to remain on heritable bond at four per cent., the latter to be paid off in 500 instalments at the convenience of the club, no member of the club to undertake individual personal responsibility. When the present lease of the mineral tenant expired, a condition was to be inserted in any new lease that Mr. Gordon would be liable for surface damage to the extent of 1,000, the club meantime during the run of the existing mineral lease to take all risks, as before mentioned. The lease of Messrs. Crookstons, who worked the coal, expired in 1912, and the ground had been immune from disturbance. The estimated cost of levelling and formation, building covered sewer, forming streets and sewers, surface drains, and turfing pitch was 2,470, and purchase price of ground 10,240. The special general meeting called for 3rd April, 1900, to homologate the action of the committee, decided to leave over the formation of streets and sewers (900) and turfing of the pitch (200), and go on with the other items in the estimate of formation, expending thereon 1,370. The office-bearers and committee were elected trustees for all club property, with the usual powers, particularly power to feu, sell, or borrow. Messrs. M'Creaths & Stevenson were appointed engineers for the formation of the ground, of which firm Mr. Clark was a member. The finance and ground committees were con- stituted a special committee for the purpose of formulating a scheme for meeting the cost of formation and equipment of the ground. This committee put forward certain proposals for raising money, which were unanimously adopted by the general committee of the club. At this time the club had 4,550 on deposit receipt and 210 on current account. The necessary steps to complete the bargain were taken. Mr. Blair, in September, 1900, submitted to the committee a model of the new grounds as he suggested that they should be laid out, and it was agreed that the whole of the ground belonging to the club, twelve and a half acres, be utilised for football and athletic purposes, that the pitch be removed further northward to leave more space on the south side, that the pavilion be placed in the centre of the stands on the south side, and that space be left for a cycle track with banking, etc., as shown in the model. All the preliminary arrangements for acquiring a new ground had been carried out under the regime of Mr. Lawrence. At the annual meeting. in May, 1900, Mr. Arthur Geaka, who was so closely identified with the construction of second Hampden Park, was elected to the presidential chair for the second time, so that his" great experience might be at the disposal of the club. Schedules were issued at once, and estimates taken—the work of levelling, etc., to be completed within six months. The club would remain at Hampden Park for another season; indeed, they retained the old field until August, 1903. Mr. Robert Provan, contractor, Grosshill, secured the contract for this preliminary work, and had two-thirds of the work completed by the end of July. The same contractor also undertook the second part of the construction—namely, the covering of the burn, formation of the field, and turfing the pitch. Good progress was made by November, 1901, quite to the satisfaction of the club's engineer. By May, 1902, things were very well forward, the enclosure rapidly assuming definite shape. The turfing of the playing enclosure was finished, and a great deal of the banking had been done. The amount spent on the work so far had reached 3,000. Accommodation had been provided for 40,000 spectators standing, 4,000 on stands, and 530 on pavilion. The chairman (Mr. Geake), at the annual general meeting in May, 1902, in explaining the progress of the construction of the new ground, gave the above figures, and added that were the proposed cement cycle track not constructed accommodation would be provided for an additional 17,000 spectators, besides giving a largely increased reserved area in front of the pavilion and stands, and, as cycle racing was on the decline, a cycle track would be unnecessary, and would mean a great loss to the club in the way of spectator accommodation. What the club had now to consider was the erection of the buildings, etc., necessary to equip the ground. A paling or fence was absolutely necessary, as was a stand. A temporary pavilion might serve the purpose for a few years. It had been decided to erect a permanent pavilion—delayed meantime—between the two stands and opposite the centre of the field, with press box, and the drains had been arranged accordingly. Messrs. M'Creaths & Stevenson, the engineers, had reported the banking could be made up gradually to hold 100,000 spectators. The probable cost of dressing slopes, putting division rails on embankments, railing round track, and corrugated iron fence enclosing grounds, would be about 4,000—making roads, running track, and erecting pay boxes were not included in the above items. Mr. Geake saw his way clearly to meet all these obligations. After consultation with Mr. Clark, of the above firm, and Mr. Alexander Blair, it was decided to select two good architects to work in conjunction with engineers, who were to submit competitive plans for the Pavilion and stand. Messrs. Miller and J. B, Wilson were the two architects chosen, with Mr. Bonn, engineer. Messrs. Clark and Blair prepared specifications, on which the architects were to base their competing plans. It was a comforting statement that the chairman, Mr. Geake, announced to the half-yearly general meeting, that everything in connection with the ground was paid so far, and no further substantial sum would be required before the annual meeting in May, 1903. At a committee meeting in the Alexandra Hotel, 5th December, 1902, the plans prepared by the two architects were examined, Messrs. Clark and Blair being present. These plans, after careful examination, were remitted to Mr. W. H. Dinsmore, measurer, to measure same, and report as to the cost thereof in each case. Mr. Dinsmore's report was remitted to Messrs. Clark and Blair for examination and advice. The report of these gentlemen favoured the plans of Mr. James Miller, with some slight alterations, and it was unanimously agreed to accept Mr. Miller's designs for the pavilion and stands. That gentleman, in January, 1903, was authorised to proceed with the preliminary work of the stands at once, and so prevent further delay.

Mr. Geake, the retiring president, was enabled to inform the annual meeting in May, 1903, that the stands would accommodate 2,200, and the enclosure in front of each stand 5,000. He thought there would be little difficulty in financing the scheme. The stands would cost about 5,000, and this work was entrusted to Messrs. P. & R. Fleming, whose estimate of 5,085 was later accepted. Mr. Alfred Dalziel was elected president at this meeting. On 23rd June, 1903, the Queen's Park Football Club was incorporated as a limited liability company, and went ahead with its work under the same officials and committee as a board of directors, with Mr. Dalziel as chairman and president. The ground was now approaching completion—that is, so far as the playing pitch and surroundings were concerned, though the stands and pavilion continued to give the management food for thought. The fencing was in the hands of Messrs. P. & B. Fleming, and the enclosure was rapidly taking shape. In the absence of a pavilion, temporary headquarters had been secured at 113 Somerville Drive, a vacant house on the ground floor, opposite the park, while a small detached pavilion was being erected, capable of holding the home and; visiting teams.

The question of financing this gigantic enterprise was faced by the club with a stout heart. Contracts involving an expenditure of many thousands of pounds had been entered into, and payments had to be met as necessity arose. In this emergency the business acumen of Mr. John Liddell, one of the joint treasurers of the club, proved a valuable asset. From time to time he placed before the committee the aggregate sums due, and put forward concrete proposals regarding their discharge. He interviewed bank managers, suggested methods by which money could be raised, and in this latter respect the many friends of the club gave generous and practical help. The ground itself, being now the property of the club, was an asset of considerable value—about 10,000--and, with this to fall back upon, should it be necessary, all difficulties were overcome, and this not forgetting that a bond existed for 6,000 on the property. Suffice it to say that, with temporary assistance from the bank, support from friends, and judicious and careful management, all obstacles were safely surmounted, and the chairman was able to tell the annual meeting in April, 1910, that the club was free of debt, and everything completely cleared off, with a balance of over 100 to the good. Attention could now be directed to the erection of a pavilion worthy of the club and its magnificent enclosure. Few clubs could have entered into such a gigantic undertaking, certainly no professional club. The sources of revenue of an amateur and a professional club of equal standing are the same, and in the question of economy in management the amateur club must always have the advantage.

The main consideration of the construction of the field, which is situated in a natural basin, is the safety of the public. An enclosure was made which surpasses any existing athletic enclosure in size, in originality of design, and in the all-important matter of security. Using the bottom as a basin for the playing pitch, which is thirty-five feet below Somerville Drive, the slopes have been utilised as standing room for spectators, the ground in its main idea reminding one of the Crystal Palace football enclosure. At Sydenham, however, the slopes still remain slopes without any support, while here the space has been broken up and divided in such a manner that comfort is secured, and a full view of the proceedings in the arena obtained. The entire enclosure is inside a corrugated fence eight feet in height. Entering the ground from Somerville Drive on the north, the spectator looks down on the various vantage points, and chooses his position. The long sides and curved ends of the ground have been banked with great care, and, in addition, a new theory for controlling large, swaying crowds has been used. Practically the tier plan has been adopted, the spectators standing on solid ground, not as in other such enclosures on wood and steel supports. To minimise the danger of swaying and crushing, divisions have been created of uniform size, so that eighty people inside one of these divisions form a group by themselves. This has been done by enclosing spaces adjacent to each other on three sides with wire cable one inch thick, the cable being inserted in massive barrier posts, which again are steel-stayed, and have a special concrete foundation. The whole oval, with the exception of the reserved stand enclosure and stands, is split up in this fashion, and the beauty and safety of the plan will be realised at a glance. The main entrance is from Somerville Drive, where quite an artistic gateway has been erected. Over fifty turnstiles have been provided. Though on the opening day the stands were not quite ready, they were finished by the contractors, Messrs. P. & R. Fleming, before New Year's Day, 1904 ; but the handsome pavilion of four storeys which now adorns the ground was not completed until 1914. This pavilion was opened with some ceremony. It is admittedly a ground now for the greatest things—grand in conception and great in area—and only the greatest successes can be deemed adequate reward for the enterprise which rendered such an enclosure possible. In view of the International match between Scotland and England, played at Hampden Park, 7th April, 1906, plans were submitted by Mr. Alexander Blair for a reserved stand and press box combined, in the centre space between the east and west stands, where the pavilion was ultimately erected, which was to afford accommodation for 450 spectators and eighty reporters, and to cost 450. This was in January, 1906, and the work was completed in time for the International on 7th April, and served its purpose until the new pavilion was completed in 1914.

Mr. Nisbet, Master of Works for the City of Glasgow, inspected Hampden Park in February, 1910, and passed the ground as being sufficient to accommodate with safety 125,000 spectators, provided a stair was put up at the southeast corner of the embankments to permit of spectators ascending and descending with safety. Messrs. Shaw & Son undertook the work at an estimated cost of 250, and six new passages and new breakers, breasting, etc., were fitted. It might be said with these last improvements Hampden Park had been completed, with, of course, the exception of the pavilion, whose position was still occupied by the reserved stand. As the club was now entirely free from debt, and all liabilities cleared off, attention could now be directed to the pavilion, which was the only thing required to make Hampden Park the finest enclosure and the best equipped of its kind in the world. The triangular piece of ground fronting Somerville Drive had just been acquired from Mr. Gordon, of Aikenhead, at a cost of 6s. per yard, which secured for all time coming freedom of access to the ground entrances. Some 1,136 square yards were bought at a cost of 341. Though the project of taking in more ground to the west had been entertained, and the price per acre obtained, the committee came to the conclusion to delay action in the matter until better times came back. Perhaps this was a mistake, as the value of the ground has greatly increased, and had it been purchased at the time it would have been a bargain, and now an asset of importance. The committee may have erred on the side of caution, but then it must not be forgotten large financial responsibilities lay before them, and perhaps after all they adopted the wiser course.

MR. ALEXANDER BLAIR, F.S.I.

Perhaps to no one more than Mr. Alexander Blair, F.S.I., is due, not only the inception, but also the construction of newest Hampden. It was he fixed on the site, the most appropriate that could have been selected, and he it was who drew the plans, cast the estimates, and generally laid the foundations of the finest football enclosure in the kingdom. His interest in the club was that of a member only, yet he had a wide athletic as well as a professional experience, and this is what no doubt led him to devote the latter to the development of the former—a combination which he placed at the disposal of his club in a crisis in its history. Mr. Blair was in a peculiarly favourable position to help the club, being a surveyor in charge of several large estates in and around Glasgow, including that of Mr. Gordon, of Aikenhead, from whom Hampden Park was ultimately purchased. While doing justice to both parties, his engineering knowledge was of the greatest benefit to the club. He suggested the best possible way the ground acquired could be utilised. He supervised contracts, and gave his assistance generally to the committee, who, not being specialists themselves, could not have successfully tackled difficulties as they arose without Mr. Blair's valuable assistance. The club, in the first place, made him a member of committee, so that he could be at hand when dealing with matters of importance and urgency. Having been promoted to the high Government post of Chief Valuer of the Valuation Department, Inland Revenue, with Edinburgh as his headquarters, the club decided to take this opportunity of expressing its gratitude to Mr. Blair, whose connection with the Queen's Park had extended over a period of twelve years, by making him a life member of the club in November, 1909, and in other ways recognised the work he had done, voluntarily and willingly, for a club in whose success he had taken the greatest pride. Hampden Park will for ever remain a monument to his skill and enthusiasm. Mr. Blair was at one time a prominent official of the Scottish Cyclists' Union, and occupied the presidential chair of that body. In the days of the G.O.O. (good old ordinary) he was a successful racing cyclist, and won several prizes on the track, in those early days the races being for the most part on grass—a fact which impressed Mr. Blair, as there were few cinder tracks at the time. Mr. Blair took a special interest in tracks, and while acting as track inspector for the S.C.U. he suggested several improvements both in the laying, construction, and banking of tracks, which suggestions were adopted by the Queen's Park when laying their cinder paths on second and third Hampdens.


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