Campaign to save ground of forgotten club St Bernard’s

The King George V park by Eyre Place. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The King George V park by Eyre Place. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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It flickered briefly as a leading light in Scottish football, rivalling Hearts and Hibs for bragging rights in the capital.

But now, a grassroots campaign is gearing up to save the former home of a long disbanded Scottish Cup-winning football club.

St Bernards FC in its heyday

St Bernards FC in its heyday

The name of St Bernard’s FC – in their time, known as the Saints – may be unknown to modern day supporters, but the Edinburgh club was once a force to be reckoned with.

Its victory in a Scottish Cup final at the tail end of the 19th century earned it a place in the record books, though its success didn’t last long.

What was once its ground has long been used as a car park for a Royal Bank of Scotland data centre. With the bank planning to close the offices at Dundas Street, Fettes Row and Royal Crescent it has been earmarked for a residential development.

However, community groups are urging RBS to donate the site to the City of Edinburgh Council so that St Bernard’s proud heritage can be safeguarded, and in doing so create a cherished open space in the heart of the New Town.

A clutch of famous players turned out in the blue and white of St Bernard’s over its 65-year history, including Scotland international, Mark Bell, Peter Simpson, the Crystal Palace striker, and Chelsea winger, Willie Ferguson.

The club’s annus mirabilis was 1895, when it defeated Renton 2-1 to claim the Scottish Cup at Ibrox. The team were carried shoulder-high back to their train, with large crowds gathered at Waverley Station joining in the celebrations.

The triumph, however, marked the beginning of the end for St Bernard’s. The following season, its stars were snapped up by rival clubs.

Despite a run to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup in 1938, it played out its final years in the second division before being forced to sell off its ground in 1943. David Price, a retired architect and planner, believes the side deserve to be better known in Scottish football circles. “There are information boards around the edge of King George V park which mention the history of St Bernard’s, but I’m not sure how many people read them,” he explained. “It has a small but important place in the Scottish game.”

A founder member of the Drummond Civic Association, Price is part of the group urging RBS to donate the car park to the City of Edinburgh Council.

RBS intends to apply to the local authority for planning permission for a mixed use development that would include around 350 flats.

These have been described as “coffin shaped” buildings that would “bear down brutally” by another group of residents, the Friends of King George V and Scotland Yard Parks.

READ MORE: St Bernards FC play their last match in 1942

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