Hibs in 50 objects: No.45 – Hibs’ historic lights

One of the floodlights
One of the floodlights
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The Easter Road floodlights were part of the furniture in Leith for more than 40 years before being demolished in the mid-90s, however, they played a huge part in cementing the Hibees as one of the forerunners of the European game.

The idea to construct floodlights at the stadium was born from a tour of Switzerland four years earlier when the Hibees took on BSC Young Boys Bern in a floodlit match in the Swiss capital.

Chairman Harry Swan was reportedly so impressed by the way the lights illuminated the pitch, he insisted that, for Hibs to retain their status as innovators of the modern game, floodlights would be immediately installed in Leith.

However, the Hibs chief had a stadium a little closer to home to thank for the plans going ahead.

In October 1951 Hibs were invited to play a ‘floodlit challenge match’ at Stenhousemuir’s Ochilview Park.

From a marketing standpoint, it was a masterstroke by bosses at Ochilview. Hibs were one of the bestin the country at the time, with the celebrated famous five forward line beginning to take shape. Under the guidance of Harry Swann, they would be Scottish champions at the end of the season, having finished runners-up to Rangers the previous year.

In short, the Hibees were a marquee opposition, one those staging the show intended to cash in on. Posters advertising the game were plastered all around Stenhousemuir and the surrounding area, proclaiming it a “floodlighting attraction,” one that was very nearly over before it started.

Swan also saw it as an opportunity to test out the floodlit fixture in Scotland, before making any official decision on the floodlighting system to use at Easter Road.

Around 8,000 tickets were bought ahead of the showpiece, but on the day of the game, a thick fog descended over Ochilview putting kick-off in doubt. It also did enough to convince almost half of those with tickets that it would be called off, so only 4,500 turned up, but those who did were treated to a goal-fest.

Under the illumination of 18 standard lamps donated by a local butcher, the Hibees swept to a thrilling 5-3 victory.

For Swan, the experiment proved highly successful. The Easter Road floodlights were first used in a friendly Edinburgh derby match in October 1954, with the hosts going down 2-0 to their city rivals Hearts.