Find out about the history of some of the earliest floodlights used in Scottish football.
Stenhousemuir FC are regarded as the pioneers of floodlit football in Scotland, though it has to be acknowledged that there were floodlight attempts in Inverness, with Inverness Caledonian, back in the early 1930s. The lights used in this earlier experiment had a bizarre second life in 1934 as, when they were dismantled, they were taken to Loch Ness to aid a search for the fabled Loch Ness monster. They were later reinstalled and featured in charity games until 1950 when they were damaged by a fire.
The floodlight experiment at Ochilview started in December 1945 when a club supporter and general football fan donated funds not only for training lights but for a sound system as well. At the time, the identity of the person who had funded the enterprise was unknown to the general public, but he was eventually named as Tom Douglas, a local butcher. The lights were first seen by the supporters after the Dumbarton game on the 15th of December 1945 as they were not allowed to be used for actual matches before that time.
The following Saturday the 22nd of December 1945 the sound system was used prior to a game against St. Johnstone when music was played and the teams were announced. This was one of the first times, if not the first time, that this had happened in Scottish football. It became a story in the following day’s Sunday Post.
The Warriors (Stenhousemuir FC) were always a strong part of the community and the lights became a focus of the district for the V.E. celebrations in 1946. It was estimated that 1,500 locals danced the night away. The lights certainly added to the atmosphere for the celebrations that night.
Floodlights in the Spotlight
When used for their original training purposes though, it is unclear how much the floodlights were appreciated by the local residents. They were discussed at the annual local Citizens Association in October 1946 along with topics listed in the jottings page of the Falkirk Herald which included cycling on pavements and dog fouling. Three years later though, the first floodlit match took place at Ochilview, with a Charity match. A Larbert and Stenhousemuir Old People’s Welfare Committee notice in the Falkirk Herald announced the event as “Operation Floodlight”:
The game was not a serious one, but it was historic and successful, with Peter Cowan of the “Old Warriors” being mock arrested until money was collected to bail him out. Other details are supplied below, though disappointingly, the teams were not named.
The First Professional Football Match in Scotland
There was another charity game against The Old Bairns later that season, which was a precursor to the first ever game between two professional teams in Scotland: the game against Hibernian (Hibs) on the 7th of November 1951. Stenhousemuir had hoped to play Hibs in the Penman Cup that night in November, but the Scottish Football Association would not sanction a competitive match under lights at that stage, though they did allow a friendly game to take place. On the 20th of October 1951, Hibernian agreed to the November match, and preparations were put in place for the game. The Warriors decided to make it an all ticket affair and the ruling in such circumstances meant that they had to charge league prices which were a minimum of 1s 6d for adults or 7d for concessions.
It was felt that more lights were needed before the game, so the previous week there was a dummy run with a trial game. Four extra lights, which were portable, were brought in, making a total of eighteen floodlights. Some issues were ironed out through this experiment and the lights were repositioned for the Hibs game. Rather than play in black as normal, the referee W. Liston of Larbert decided on khaki jackets. Stenhousemuir were to feature in their Maroon and White barred jerseys whilst Hibs were in their green tops with white sleeves. Thus the first ever game between two league teams took place on the 7th of November 1951.
By Sandy Reid, Great Place volunteer 2020.
This is part of the Our Clubs, Our Communities: The Football Heritage of the Falkirk Area project.