Murray Meikle Memories from the 70’s
My Dad had been taking me to Tynecastle since I was five years old. Back then, in 1973, Hearts weren’t doing too well but they were my Dad’s team which meant they were my team. They were also the local team so we were able to walk to the games from our house. My Mum always would make sure I went to the games in my best clothes – or at least what she considered to my best clothes, which unfortunately contained a lot of yellow.
I can’t remember too much detail of the games I saw in those first couple of years but I do remember where my Dad and I used to stand – about a third of the way up the terracing at the McLeod Street end, behind the goals and slightly to the left.
I remember the toilets, which were basically a wall against which generations of Hearts fans would relieve themselves. There weren’t too many women at the games in those days; little wonder when you think of the conditions.
Being part of a crowd, swaying as one with my Dad at my side, cheering and chanting, and then taking about 20 minutes to get out of the grounds – those are the things that have stayed with me. However, when I was seven years old, I was diagnosed with Perthes Disease, a potentially degenerative hip disease which meant I was unable to get around without a calliper on my right leg and a big platform shoe on my left foot. It meant I couldn’t play football and it meant I couldn’t get to Hearts games.
In 1976, Hearts got to the Scottish Cup final and I was thrilled when my Dad told me he had tickets for us and my Uncle Billy for the main stand at Hampden. I was taken to the game in a wheelchair and I still clearly remember the sight as I was moved into my seat – a big blur of people in the stand opposite, more people than I had ever seen in my life before. The official attendance was 85,000 but it looked like the whole world to me.
The 1976 final is famously remembered as the one where the first goal was scored before 3pm – the match kicked off a minute early and Derek Johnstone scored for Rangers within the first 30 seconds. I don’t remember too much more of the game but I do remember Graham Shaw’s consolation goal for Hearts and hearing, for the first time during the match, cheers from the Hearts fans.
My hip condition was treated successfully and I was soon able to get back to Tynecastle. But as I got older, my Dad was going to fewer games and I was going alone or with friends. In 1986, Hearts got to the Cup final again (one week after the devastation of losing the league on the final day of the season) and my Dad and I had tickets together. Unfortunately my Dad didn’t feel too well on the morning of the final and so I went with our neighbour, John, who was an Aberdeen fan. He was therefore delighted to see his team win 3-0, although he wisely kept quiet during the match.
It was another 10 years before Hearts got to the final again – only to be destroyed 5-1 by Rangers. Around this time I was wondering whether I would ever get to experience what my Dad experienced – seeing Hearts lift the Scottish Cup, as he had in 1956. Then, only two years later, it happened. When the final whistle blew on that glorious day at Celtic Park in May 1998, I wept. I wept for my team and I wept for my Auntie Margaret, another huge Hearts fan who had passed away months earlier. And in those moments I felt a connection with my Dad and my home. My Dad who had loved days like these and who passed on that love to me.
When I look back to the games I attended with my Dad, I think of his kindness. For example, it couldn’t have been easy taking a disabled boy to the Scottish Cup final and yet I cannot recall it causing him any problems. And quite often the best bit about going to see Hearts was the walk home, chatting about the game and eating the chips he bought for us at Roseburn.
My Dad now suffers from dementia and his memories are fading fast, but mention any Hearts player’s name from the 1950s and 1960s and my Dad will reel off all kinds of facts and figures – who Hearts bought them from, who they sold him to, the goals they scored. It is in those moments I see in his eyes the Dad I knew as a child.