Had regimental football history played out a little differently, we might be reminiscing about the unfortunate loss to the Scottish game in the 1960s of the 23rd Renfrewshire Rifle Volunteers, the 3rd Edinburgh RV or the 10th Dumbarton RV. In the formative years of the Scottish game new clubs with origins in the citizen army Volunteer Force were quite commonplace, but none came close to the impact or the longevity of the Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers. As military links loosened in time, the club would become more commonly known as Third Lanark – or by their nickname of the Hi-Hi – but that distinctive regimental background remained an enduring part of the club’s quirky identity throughout its 95 year history.
The club was formed in 1872 and played a pioneering role in the early days of organised football in Scotland. The Thirds were founder members of the Scottish Football League, first proposed and part-funded the Glasgow Charity Cup and became one of the first Scottish teams to tour Europe and South America. By the turn of the twentieth century Third Lanark was firmly established as Glasgow’s third club and enjoying a period of great success on the field. The First Division title was won in 1904 and their second Scottish Cup success followed a year later in dramatic fashion. Third’s striker Hugh Wilson had returned home from Sunderland and he scored two brilliant goals in a famous 3-1 replay win over Rangers.
Third Lanark’s famous Cathkin Park ground originally hosted Queen’s Park and when the Spiders moved over the hill in 1903 to a new site where the modern-day Hampden stadium still stands, Third Lanark bought the vacated ground which would become their home for the next 64 years. It took several years of work to prepare New Cathkin Park (the New was later dropped) for hosting games, so Thirds had to ground share over the hill with Queen’s Park for the duration. That 1904 title win was all the more laudable considering every League game was technically played away from home.