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Football memories project reveals Scotland's first floodlight system in Inverness in 1933 was scuppered in bid to capture Loch Ness Monster


By Val Sweeney

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The hunt for the Loch Ness Monster in 1933 – fuelled by a massive reward – scuppered a floodlit football experiment.
The hunt for the Loch Ness Monster in 1933 – fuelled by a massive reward – scuppered a floodlit football experiment.

Research to gather memories of football in Inverness has revealed the remarkable story of how the hunt for the Loch Ness Monster brought a floodlit football experiment to an early end.

The floodlight system – believed to be the first in Scotland – was installed in Inverness in 1933 but despite being deemed a success, it was short lived as the Nessie phenomenon gripped the nation.

The floodlights had been installed at Caledonian's home ground in Telford Street, Inverness. But after just a couple games, the lights were dismantled and relocated to the shores of Loch Ness where a huge reward – the equivalent of £1.4 million today – was being offered for the capture of Nessie.

It was not until 1959 that a major floodlighting system was installed at Telford Street when Rangers and Celtic players playing in an Old Firm select side took to the field against Caledonian.

A plaque marked the installation of floodlighting at Caledonian Football Club ground in 1959.
A plaque marked the installation of floodlighting at Caledonian Football Club ground in 1959.

The fascinating story was revealed to Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s Football Memories Group by Jamie Gaukroger, co-ordinator of High Life Highland’s Am Baile culture and history web site.

He said the first game in Scotland under what would be considered modern floodlights (high-powered bulbs mounted on tall pylons) took place in front of a 2500-crowd at Telford Street Park on March 22 1933 when Caledonian beat Clachnacuddin 2-1 in a benefit match to mark the long service of Caley players Andrew Mitchell and K.J. Whitton.

Three lamps, each of 1000 candle power, were erected on poles along the two sides of the park and according to reports at the time "play was never difficult to follow", although poles at either goal might have prevented a slight shadow in the centre of the field.

A white ball was used and it was renewed periodically as it became greyish, the match report added.

A second floodlit game was played a few weeks later when Caledonian defeated Aberdeen University 4-3.

The verdict of the North of Scotland Football Association was that floodlight football had a promising future in the north.

But the experiment was not repeated due to other events in the following months.

"A few weeks after the floodlit game had been played, the upgrading of the A82 Inverness - Fort William road was completed and it was a huge improvement which brought many more visitors to the area," Mr Gaukroger explained.

They included a businessman and his wife who spotted a "most extraordinary form of animal" crossing the road in front of their car.

"Their sighting was published in the Inverness Courier, whose editor used the word 'monster' to describe the creature," Mr Gaukroger said. "And the media phenomenon of the Loch Ness Monster was born."

By October 1933, London newspapers were sending correspondents north to cover the story and a reward of £20,000 – the equivalent of £1.4 million today – was offered for the monster’s capture.

Mr Gaukroger continued: "People camped out along the shores of the loch, trying to spot the beast and in order to assist with the search, Caley’s pioneering floodlights were dismantled and taken a few miles down the road to Loch Ness to set up to assist the search for Nessie."

Report of strange spectacle on Loch Ness in 1933 leaves unanswered question

There were attempts at floodlighting involving Morton and Third Lanark but the first recorded Scottish League game under floodlights in Scotland appears to be Stenhousemuir against Hibernian on November 7 1951.

The 1959 line-up to mark the installation of floodlighting at Caledonian;s ground. Back row – Ballantyne (Caley), Beattie (Celtic), Mackintosh (Caley), Jim Lornie (Caley), Paterson (Rangers), McGillvray (Caley), Kennedy (Celtic), Christie (Caley), Millar (Rangers), McBeath (Caley), King (Rangers) Front: Crerand (Celtic), McKenzie (Caley), Baird (Rangers), Ingram (Caley), Tully (Celtic), Tulloch (Caley), Queen (Rangers), Clyne (Caley), Conway (Celtic), Munro (Caley), Hubbard (Rangers).
The 1959 line-up to mark the installation of floodlighting at Caledonian;s ground. Back row – Ballantyne (Caley), Beattie (Celtic), Mackintosh (Caley), Jim Lornie (Caley), Paterson (Rangers), McGillvray (Caley), Kennedy (Celtic), Christie (Caley), Millar (Rangers), McBeath (Caley), King (Rangers) Front: Crerand (Celtic), McKenzie (Caley), Baird (Rangers), Ingram (Caley), Tully (Celtic), Tulloch (Caley), Queen (Rangers), Clyne (Caley), Conway (Celtic), Munro (Caley), Hubbard (Rangers).

It was not until 1959 that Caledonian installed a floodlighting system at Telford Street and to mark the occasion on March 11, pulled off a major coup by attracting an Old Firm Select side north.

Caley put up a sterling performance but lost 4-2 to their Glasgow rivals in front of an estimated 6000 fans.

Sammy Baird (3) and Jim Conway scored for the Old Firm Select while Rodwill Clyne and Jimmy Ingram replied for Caley.

Celtic came north in February 1972 to open Inverness Thistle’s floodlights. At this time, Thistle were the Highland League champions but no match for Celtic who won 5-0.

Clachnacuddin opened their first floodlighting system in 1961.

Gordon Fyfe, joint chairman of ICT Community Trust which is promoting the project in partnership with High Life Highland, said: "The Nessie floodlight story is just one of the fascinating memories that our project is unearthing.

"Inverness has such a rich football history and it is fun researching the stories that made the headlines down the years and recording the stories of players, officials and supporters who helped make them."

The trust is keen to stage a permanent Inverness Football Memories display in the city and welcomes any donations or the loan of memorabilia that will enhance the project.

Am Baile is hosting the Inverness Football Memories Project which features more than 200 photographs as well as memorabilia and the football memories of more than 40 players and supporters from ICT, Inverness Thistle, Caledonian and Clachnacuddin.


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