Hearts in 50 objects: No.13 – Oldest photo of a Hearts team

The Hearts team from 1875 pose in typical Victorian-era style, resplendent in their white kit with maroon stripe
The Hearts team from 1875 pose in typical Victorian-era style, resplendent in their white kit with maroon stripe
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Barely visible through the sepia-tinted effect of time, this is the oldest original photograph of any Heart of Midlothian football team.

The picture is from 1875 and shows the club’s players the year after Hearts officially began playing games on the East Meadows in Edinburgh.

The kit in the picture is the original Hearts strip even though it bears little resemblance to the one worn by modern players at Tynecastle. It is all white with a maroon heart on the breast and a maroon stripe running down the trouser leg. Football was in its infancy in Scotland at the time and shorts had not properly been introduced.

Hearts’ playing squad in 1875 was considered one of the strongest around and, as such, they joined the Scottish Football Association and the Edinburgh Football Association. They also took part in the Scottish Cup and the Edinburgh FA Cup (which would later become the East of Scotland Shield) for the first time.

At the end of August 1875, The Scotsman reported on a match between Hearts and the Third Edinburgh Rifle Volunteers. As this was the first time the club had been given any mention in the press, it is regarded as their first recorded game and is often why some use 1875 as Hearts’ year of formation.

The Hearts team was: Jake Reid, Tom Purdie, P Donnachie, A Chalmers, Hugh Wylie, William Hardie, J McBeth, P McBeth, J Donnachie, George Mitchell and W Johnston. The captain on the day was Purdie, who is regarded as the first proper captain of the club. Most of the above are believed to be in this photograph although there is no record of exactly who is who.

The kit concerned didn’t last long. In fact, reports from the time state that Hearts briefly disbanded in 1876 due to a shortage of members and had to withdraw from the Scottish Cup. They quickly reformed early in 1877, though by then their kit was red, white and blue hoops with MFBC on the badge (Midlothian Football Club).

Historically, it was common practice for team photographs to show players lying down near the front like in this one. Benches and arranged seating weren’t used as other team-mates stood with arms folded or with a ball in hand.

Nowadays, team photographs are something of an art. Players are instructed how to stand, where their arms should be and to tuck their shirts inside their shorts. The attention to detail is far greater in modern kits, too. Back in 1875, people were still digesting the concept of football as a sport and learning the rules, so kits were of very little importance in the grand scheme of things.

• See more great items from Hearts’ history at the club’s museum. For opening times, go to www.heartsfc.co.uk/pages/museum