Hearts open memorial garden to honour fans at Tynecastle

The memorial garden at Tynecastle opens. Picture: Toby Williams
The memorial garden at Tynecastle opens. Picture: Toby Williams
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Several months ago the site of the “Shed” at Tynecastle Stadium was little more than a dumping ground piled high with 
rubbish.

Once sheltering generations of Jambos, the famous structure was demolished in the mid-1990s to make way for the Wheatfield and Roseburn stands.

But the area has resumed its rightful place at the heart of Hearts following its transformation into a unique sanctuary adorned with memorial wall plaques dedicated to loved ones gone but not forgotten.

This time it will be a place not of cheering and chanting but of quiet reflection, an oasis of calm where those who supported the club can be remembered after they’re gone.

Opened yesterday by club saviour Ann Budge, the centrepiece of the Forever In Our Hearts Memorial Garden is a sculpture of the club’s crest.

Hundreds of people braved biting winds to mark the latest milestone in the club’s proud history, including Hearts boss Robbie Neilson and his squad ahead of today’s away clash with Aberdeen.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ms Budge said: “This was the site of the old Shed and has always been special and is special once again. When we took over the club about 18 months ago and I took my first walk around this area, I was absolutely flabbergasted.

“It was virtually derelict. My first words were ‘My goodness, what an incredible waste of space – surely we can put it to much better use’. And to see this space today, totally transformed, is something that everybody at the club is tremendously proud of.

“I have been totally blown away by the passion of Hearts supporters. On match day I frequently meet with several generations of Hearts supporters and they are almost always talking of those who are no longer with them but who were fanatical Hearts supporters.

“This space is for them. It’s somewhere they can come to fondly remember those who are no longer with us in a place where they shared very many happy memories.”

Alongside the main crest are seven benches, each representing one of the seven Hearts players who lost their lives in The Great War.

Bosses at the club said they hoped a bronze football rising from the middle of the Hearts emblem would become a touchstone, like the nose of the bronze statue of Greyfriars Bobby worn smooth by people rubbing it for luck.

A custom-built room for quiet reflection includes an intricate and ornate stained-glass window, originally made for and presented by John Robertson.

Club chaplain Andy Prime, who conducted the ceremony, likened the transformation of the derelict space to the revival of Hearts’ fortunes.

He said: “The transformation is stunning, and almost symbolic of the recent history of our club. Once a club on its knees, now its heart is beating strongly. This [garden] demonstrates that we are more than just a business, more than just a football club – we are a family.

“This is for our family. It is our hope that it becomes a space of silence and of solitude in the shadow of the old Shed where thousands of people have sung for their beloved Hearts, a place to remember and celebrate the lives of our loved ones.”

The idea of creating a garden was first mooted last year by Hearts chief operating officer Scot Gardiner over a cup of coffee with Robertson.

“I had read an article about some sort of memorial garden at Manchester City,” said Mr Gardiner. “It was the kernel of an idea that led us to where we are today. John Robertson was absolutely vital in helping the club and put his heart and soul into the project. He identified this area and was as much of an inspiration as when he was banging in goals.”

The proposal was put to the board at the beginning of the year but after months of planning, it took only nine weeks to build it.

Six workmen worked around the clock to create the garden – five Jambos and one Hibby.

The project has been jointly funded by the club and a generous bequest by a fan via the Foundation of Hearts.

Ms Budge also unveiled the first in a series of plaques on a wall which can accommodate up to 9000 names. Families can pay £215 to have the names of loved ones engraved and immortalised.

The owner, whose uncle Charles Brydon is commemorated here, was noticeably emotional during this part of the ceremony.

She said: “He was only seven years older than me. He was more like a brother and when my grandmother died very young, he stayed with us.

“He was an integral member of my immediate, nuclear family. Charles was the first Hearts fan I knew. He was an influence but at the time I wasn’t really interested in football.”

Also among those who attended the unveiling was 78-year-old Frank Mackay, brother of former Hearts and Scotland midfielder Dave Mackay, who died earlier this year.

He said: “Hearts Football Club has meant an awful lot to the whole family all of our lives. My father was a staunch supporter from his early days and we were brought up around Tynecastle. This whole thing is marvellous. The tributes and the plaques on the wall are superb.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com