Fans share memories as Tynecastle main stand is demolished

BUILT for function rather than looks, it was perhaps fitting that the demise of Tynecastle's main stand should begin with little fanfare.

Monday, 15th May 2017, 8:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th May 2017, 1:26 pm
Demolition works at Tynecastle to make way for the new main stand. Picture: TSPL

As the heaven’s opened over Gorgie, a sodden gaggle of workmen today began the painstaking process of dismantling the century-old structure.

For 107 years, she bore witness to some of the Jambos’ greatest nights, both domestic and European.

Club legend Jim Jefferies said it was time for the club to move with the times, but he was sad to see the old stand go.

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“I remember some great, great games in front of that stand - and some fantastic European nights. Coming back to beat Leipzig 5-1 and Bayern Munich.”

And it was not just on-field glory but old school training regimens down in the bowels of the main stand’s concourse that stick in the mind after Jim joined his boyhood club in 1967.

“We had some tough sessions in there with trainer John Cumming. The gym was so small, we used to play three, four and five-a-side and you’d get some punishment, pushed up against the walls.

“He was a fantastic man and he knew what he was doing. It really toughened us up and you’d take a few knocks.

“He had this circuit where you’d jump over a long vault and then climb up a rope. The ceiling was angled because of the slant of the stand so you’d come down with skin off your hands.”

And of the new £12m stand, Jim added: “You have to accept that once it’s built, it will take the club forward. It’ll be easier to attract people in with better facilities and generate more revenue.”

One rain-soaked fan made the pilgrimage from his Musselburgh home yesterday morning to watch the end of an era.

“I just wanted to see what was going on,” said the 43-year-old, before being put-off by the elements.

For cabbie John McEvoy, 59, demolition work brought memories flooding back as a lifelong Jambo - and sneaking into the posh seats.

“My first game would’ve been in 1967 with my dad when I was ten but the first memory when we beat Rangers 1-0 in the quarter final of the Scottish Cup in 1968.

“We went on to reach the final but lost 3-1 to Dunfermline.

“In those days it was terracing all round and the main stand was only for the people who could afford it.

“Us kids used to hang about the turnstyles and get a ‘liftover’ from grown ups. It was what you did back then.

“About 20 minutes before the end of the game, they’d open all the doors so people could leave. When I was 11 or 12 we’d go and sit in the main stand for the last ten or 15 minutes.

“When I was older, I was a season ticket holder in the main stand with my daughter for three years about 17 years ago.

“They’re good memories but I remember the players of the 1960s the most, the likes of Donald Ford, George Miller and Jim Cruickshank was the goalkeeper.”

As workers began stripping out the interior of seats and dugouts yesterday, before the bulldozers are called in, word of a shared history between club and contractor emerged.

The same firm demolishing the stand built it in 1914 - and it’s founder is even believed to have turned out for the Jam Tarts before a change of career.

Hardies construction manager Derek Ferrier, fittingly enough a Jambo himself, takes up the story.

“It’s a piece of history this stand,” said the 59-year-old.

“The most amazing piece of history, or that I find amazing anyway, is that our firm’s founder John Hardie played centre half for Hearts.

“He played two games before studying as a surveyor and in 1913 started the company.

“And it was his company that worked on this stand and now the same firm is knocking it down.

“I’ve been a season ticket holder for years. My lasting memory was watching Willie Bauld’s last game.”

The club annals reveal the only player called Hardie in the early 1900s was a junior trialist who made one appearance for the first team.

That was on December 31, 1906, when Hearts beat the then famous Corinthians 1-0 at Tynecastle before a crowd of 4,000. The scorer was a junior grade trialist called Hardie.

Former city councillor and season ticket holder of 30 years, Steve Cardownie, said the stand conjures up great memories down the years - but now is the time to move on.

“It’s lived beyond its time and now there’s a stand being built for the 21st Century - I think it’s a great move by Hearts.

“To be honest, it wasn’t the best view. You had people in front blocking your view and pillars coming down from the roof. It was cramped too, with no leg room. As for the toilets… you couldn’t print that.

“My best memory? That has to be Mark De Vries scoring four on his home debut against Hibs.”

Steve said he expected the new stand’s design to maintain the raucous Tynecastle atmosphere.

“The sound of fans stamping on the wooden stand reverberating around the ground, that’ll be gone but it’ll be replicated by the even stronger sound of a stand full of Hearts fans,” he said.

“The new stand will be right on the pitch as well and I think the atmosphere will be improved. Hearts is a family club now and the new stand is more fitting of that.”

Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray led a fans’ buy-out of the club four years ago from controversial former owner Vladimir Romanov.

“This is a historic day for the club and cemented its future for many generations to come.

“It’s the result of a remarkable achievement of the supporters in coming together and saving the club.”

Asked for this lasting memory of the stand, Ian recalled the scenes after Hearts’ 1998 Scottish Cup win - their first for 42 years.

“The main stand was packed to the rafters - it was absolutely jumping,” he said.

As the club revealed a limited number of seats, bricks and memorabilia could be purchased from the Main Stand, some fans appeared more interested in present-day events on the pitch. “I couldn’t care less about the new stand, if I’m honest,” said one fan in the Tynecastle Arms on Gorgie Road. “I just want to see better results.”