The Maryhill FC story starts in a closemouth in Gairbraid Avenue, just a short free-kick from the club’s current Lochburn Park home.
The year was 1884 and included in the congregation that day was Thomas Lennie, who would go on to become something of a father figure at the club. An immediate decision was taken to form an association football club. Maryhill were up and running.
In those days, Maryhill was something of a tough place to live, with the inhabitants seen as ‘unruly’ and local papers carried many reports of drunkenness and fighting. It was a community where folk earned their living from heavy industry that had sprung up around the Forth and Clyde Canal; paper mills, calico printing, saw mills, boat building yards and gas and iron works.
Locals were known as hard working, but also hard living and extremely lawless. The population was swelled by hundreds of Irish labourers who had crossed the water to work on building the Glasgow to Dumbarton and Helensburgh railway line. But that meant an exponential increase in the number of public houses, and at one point it is said there was a public house for every fifty-nine inhabitants!
On a visit to the area in 1829, absentee landlord John Dunlop was so appalled at what had become of ‘his village’ that he formed Britain’s first Temperance Society. Maryhill was also granted Burgh Status so that it could have its own police force!
But to the football club, and after occupying Gilshoch Park – which was ‘situated near the centre of the village’ – for a year, the club moved to Kelvinvale Park, which was secured for an annual rent of £5. This ground was located close to where Asda now sits in Summerston.
The turnstiles at the ground consisted of a table placed beneath a railway bridge, which was located about 300 yards from the ground itself. 2p in today’s money would grant you entry.
In the very early days of the club there was little organised football and the odd cup tie apart, all clubs played friendly matches.
The first colours to be worn by Maryhill were navy blue and white one inch stripes with dark blue knickers. The following season we had switched to black and white perpendicular stripes.
It’s believed the club first introduced our current red and black stripes prior to the start of the 1905/06 campaign.
But within two years of forming the club, Maryhill had THREE teams, and crowds of 1,000 for cup ties at Kelvinvale Park were not uncommon.
In fact, just fours years after formation, Maryhill reached their first national cup final when they opposed Wishaw Thistle. The first attempt to settle the destination of the Scottish Junior Cup saw the Hill lose 3-2 at Gasworks Park in front of 9,562 spectators, although a protest by Maryhill saw the tie re-arranged, again to be played at Gasworks, and this time 9,500 saw Maryhill win 2-1.
A second protest, this time from the Lanarkshire side, meant the tie was rescheduled for Ibrox Park, and on this occasion 10,000 supporters watched a thoroughly entertaining contest, although Wishaw prevailed by three goals to one.
But Maryhill had served notice of their intentions to be taken seriously in the ever growing world of Scottish Junior football. They were just getting started…