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At the start of the 1909-10 season, Hibernian travelled to Tayside to play the recently formed Dundee Hibernian, the home side's first ever fixture.

The game played on Wednesday 18 August was to officially open the former Cleppington Park, recently renamed Tannadice.

With both clubs registering similar dark green colours, the Edinburgh side had borrowed black and white hooped jerseys from near neighbours Leith Athletic especially for the occasion.

A local bicycle shop owner who had played a prominent part in the formation of the Dundee side, promised a brand new bicycle to the player who scored the first goal on the new pitch.

The prize was won by Edinburgh Hibs John O'Hara, who opened the scoring during the second half. In front of a 7,000 crowd the home side scored late in the game to record a credible 1-1 draw, a result that in the circumstances pleased all involved.
During that inaugural season, Dundee Hibs played their games in the Northern League, but at the start of the following season they were elected into the Scottish Second Division.

After another period playing in the Northern League during the Great War when Second Division football had been annulled, they were readmitted into league football in 1921.

Ending that season in second bottom place, the club resigned completely from the league. Reinstated again the following year, they began the new campaign as Dundee Hibs, but within weeks had changed to Dundee United – a name now familiar to us all.

A copy of the photograph from the game featuring the players and officials of both sides was gifted to United by the Hibernian Historical Trust on the occasion of the Dundee club's centenary in 2009.

 

Dundee Hibernian 1

Dundee Hibernian vs. Edinburgh Hibernian on 18 August 1909

 

Before a game between the sides at Tannadice that year, Hibs historian Tom Wright presented a framed copy of the photo to the grandson of the young boy seen leaning on the railings behind the players.

On the extreme right of the front row is the recentlycapped Hibs full-back James Main, who had played in Scotland's 5-0 victory over Ireland at Ibrox the previous March.

Now considered a mainstay of the side, the cultured and well respected Main, had improved out of all recognition since signing for the club from Motherwell in 1904 and around that time Hibs had rejected a bid from Newcastle for the player. Main was part of the Hibs side that made its way to Glasgow to face Partick Thistle on Christmas Day 1909, Hibs' first ever game at the recently opened ground.

On the way to Glasgow, Hibs captain Willie Duguid took ill on the train and was unable to take part in the game.

Vice-captain Sam Allan was injured during the warm up and James Main was made captain for the day, the first time he had received the honour.

Although overhead the weather was fine, underfoot the conditions were dreadful, the heavily sanded pitch both ice bound and treacherous, and there is no doubt in hindsight that the game should not have gone ahead.

Just before the kick-off Main was overheard telling the Hibs manager Dan McMichael that the players were risking life and limb playing on such a surface. They were to prove prophetic words.

Just before half time, the player had to be helped from the field after a fierce, but entirely accidental collision with Partick player Frank Branscombe.

He appeared to have recovered somewhat after the game and was able to walk the mile or so to his house on the outskirts of West Calder after the train journey home.

But during the evening his condition deteriorated and he was taken to the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh in the morning where he died a few days later.

His funeral in the local West Calder Cemetery on 3 January 1910, attended by the Hibernian players and officials and a large contingent from Partick Thistle, was one of largest ever seen in the area.

Today James Main's last resting place is marked by a slightly weather beaten, but still impressive nine-foot tall granite memorial. At one time it was surrounded by a small enclosure of granite posts but only one remains today still bearing the legend.

 

Original service sheet from the funeral of James Main in West Calder Cemetery on 3 January 2010

 

'This enclosure was subscribed for by a few friends and supporters of Hibernian Football Club as a token of respect for the late James Main.'

In 2010 a marble plaque that had been commissioned by the Hibernian Historical Trust commemorating the death of James Main was unveiled in the concourse of the Famous Five Stand by descendants of the player.

If you can add to any historical article, perhaps with special memories, a favourite story or the results of your original research, the Hibernian Historical Trust would love to hear from you.
You can kindly contribute by contacting us HERE.