Hibs in 50 objects – No.40: How Hibs inspired club that became Dundee United

The inauguration of Dundee Hibernian on August 18th 1909
The inauguration of Dundee Hibernian on August 18th 1909
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Upon formation, Hibernian’s status as a club to represent the large Irish community in the Capital had far-reaching effects on cities with sizeable immigrant populations across Scotland.

However, while the club’s initial success was most prominently felt in Glasgow, another of Scotland’s best-known clubs can trace their roots back to the pioneering Hibees.

Dundee United may have adopted their current name as far back as 1923, but before that, the Tannadice club were known as Dundee Hibernian.

Initial attempts to cultivate support among the Irish community failed after the dissolution of Dundee Harp in 1894. Harp never competed in a national league system, instead sticking to local and regional competitions and went out of business in 1894 after failing to meet match payments to opponents.

In May 1909, following several aborted attempts to form a new club, local bicycle trader Pat Reilly and a group of Irish businessmen established the new Dundee Hibernian, also taking the green and white colours of their Edinburgh namesake.

By August, the new club were ready to play their first fixture and celebrated their inauguration with a friendly at the newly crowned Tannadice Park against Hibs in front of a crowd of more than 7,000.

Billed as a ‘Gala Football Match’, Hibernian took to the field in the black and white hooped jerseys of neighbours Leith Athletic with the future United in green and white.

The enthusiastic Reilly had promised a brand new bike to whichever player was the first to find the net, with the honour going to the Hibees’ John O’Hara, who put the visitors a goal up in the second-half.

However, the hosts fought back to claim a credible 1-1 draw when Jamie Docherty made history by becoming Dundee Hibs’ first ever scorer.

The club would be saved from financial oblivion in 1923, before being renamed ‘United’.

They played their final game under the Dundee Hibernian guise in a 1922 Scottish Cup second round defeat by Nithsdale Wanderers.

• For information on Easter Road Stadium Tours, contact bmcgoldrick@hibernianfc.co.uk