EDINBURGH’S famous Royal Mile is normally a beacon for tourists drawn by the street’s rich history and gothic beauty. However, as hundreds of jubilant Heart of Midlothian fans gathered around the police cordon and open-top bus yesterday, it was all about history in the making.
The team that beat city rival Hibernian 5-1 in the Scottish Cup final on Saturday was congratulated by newly-elected Lord Provost Donald Wilson in the City Chambers as a large crowd, dressed in maroon and white, waited expectantly outside. Across the city, an estimated 100,000 fans took to the streets.
Two months before the start of the Edinburgh Festival, a different carnival atmosphere arrived in Scotland’s most famous street.
Occasionally, the crowd burst into song, with “Hearts, Hearts, glorious Hearts” a favourite.
They waved flags, flung infants onto shoulders or leaned out of windows on the Royal Mile to get a better view. A girl with midfielder Rudi Skacel’s name written on the back of her Hearts shirt stood on a bollard to try to spot the Hampden hero.
Police were not so starstruck as to allow the goal scorer to sneak a bottle into the chambers under his maroon and white wig.
However, outside, the beer flowed as fans chinked bottles and cans, champagne corks lay on the pavement, while families basked in the May sunshine and party atmosphere.
Suddenly, a roar erupted from the crowd closest to the chambers as the team left the council building.
A round of applause followed, rippling up and down the High Street, fans with hands raised high above heads.
There was a blast from horns and then a round of singing at the expense of Hibs: “Hearts are having a party, Hearts are having a party, Hearts are having a party, while Hibs are in their beds!”
The first person to walk on to the bus carried a video camera – sent to capture the moment.
To the crowd’s delight, he was soon followed by the man who had masterminded one of the greatest days in their history. Club manager Paulo Sergio walked on to the open top double decker with the Scottish Cup held high above his head.
The trophy was then passed from player to player, so each of them could hold it aloft, greeted by roars from the crowd. Jim Fisher, 75, from Gilmerton, was watching with grandson Adam, 11.
“What does it mean to us?” he said. “It’s a historic day for Heart of Midlothian Football Club.
“I’m here with my grandson. We were at Hampden yesterday, it was the first time he has seen a Scottish Cup final, and it was against Hibs, which makes all the difference.”
Bruce Hanna, 54, from Mountcastle Terrace, in Edinburgh, said: “It’s one of the best days ever. Even the sun has come out for us. I was there yesterday and it was absolutely brilliant.”
There was little sign of the city’s other team, as the majority of Hibs fans opted to lie low.
For many, it was an emotional day. Gillian Fairbairn, 39, a civil servant from Livingston, said: “It’s amazing. My whole family have come out for this – my brother, mum, dad, nieces – it’s a fun family day.
“I never thought I’d see the club win the cup once, let alone three times, and beating Hibs was amazing. When the fourth [goal] went in I had tears streaming down my face.”
As the open-top bus made its way through the capital, before the players completed a victory lap around Tynecastle, it was not the last tear to be shed that day.