How Heart of Midlothian FC got its name

Scottish football clubs no longer rub shoulders with Europe’s elite as much as they used to but one thing can never be taken away from them: Scottish clubs have the most wonderful names in world football.


Let’s reel them off: Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Hibernian, Hamilton Academical, Queen of the South, Clachnacuddin, Inverurie Loco Works, Strathspey Thistle, Gala Fairydean, Dalbeattie Star, Lossiemouth, Stenhousemuir, Vale of Leithen, and – perhaps most famously – Heart of Midlothian (Hearts) from Edinburgh.


What is the ‘Heart of Midlothian’?

Visitors to Edinburgh’s Royal Mile should not be shocked at the sight of people spitting outside St Giles Cathedral. They’re aiming at a heart-shaped mosaic of tiles where once stood the 15th century Old Tolbooth (demolished 1817), which was not only the administrative centre of the city but also the site of many public executions.


This mosaic is the Heart of Midlothian, marking the entrance to the Old Tolbooth. It is traditional to spit on this spot as a good luck ritual and a sign of distain towards those executed for their crimes. Midlothian itself was the historic county in which Edinburgh stands.


Celebrated writer Sir Walter Scott took up the story in his 1818 novel The Heart of Midlothian, set in the backdrop of the Porteous Riots of 1736. A disturbance had been sparked by the execution of two smugglers, and John Porteous, the captain of Edinburgh’s City Guards, ordered his men to fire into the crowd, killing several. He was later lynched in revenge by a mob that had stormed the Old Tolbooth.

Hearts of Midlothian FC

Hearts’ logo is based on the original Heart of Midlothian

The formation of Heart of Midlothian FC

Sir Walter Scott’s shadow is huge in Edinburgh. His memorial dominates Princes Street and it was not uncommon for names of his books and characters to feature in sports and societal clubs. This was the case with Hearts.


The club was founded on the grounds of The Heart of Midlothian Dancing Club in Edinburgh. Some of the dancers decided to take up football, although the club’s historians believe this code would have been a mixture of both soccer and rugby until the club adopted Football Association rules in 1874 – the official foundation year of Heart of Midlothian FC.


The club originally played in white before switching to the club crest maroon for which it’s known today.


And that is how Heart of Midlothian FC got its name.

Header Image: The Heart of Midlothian mosaic, Royal Mile, Edinburgh.
Credit: Neal Fowler via Creative Commons

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  1. My Great Grandfather was a founding member and a Scout. They first played at the Meadows. He was presented with a Gold Pocket watch, which is still in the family today. I was born on 22nd April 1956, My Father missed my Birth. He was watching Hearts win.

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