In going to the football every other Saturday, or whenever the TV people decide the game should be, I am generally consistent. I get a train to Edinburgh then walk to the ground, usually up London Road then Easter Road to Albion Road and round by the Famous Five Stand and in the East Stand. Sometimes, though, I like to mix things up and go a slightly different route. It keeps me from getting bored plus it satisfies the bit of me that just needs to walk as these diversions invariably take a wee bit longer. I was aware of a footpath at the back of the Meadowbank Shopping Park, to the south of the stadium, that led to the back of the ground through a fairly recent housing development called the Lochend Butterfly. In the spirit of research, I decided to go that way just to see where it took me.
The Meadowbank Shopping Park is just like any other retail park anywhere. It has a smattering of shops, lots of parking spaces, a fast food place and footpaths that take the pedestrian around the edges rather than directly through it. That was what I did, cutting around the side of Sainsbury’s. There were a few others doing the same thing so I drifted back behind them as this was new territory for me. The path was narrow anyway, surrounded by big boards keeping us out of the construction site. It led into some houses on the splendidly named Lawrie Reilly Way. Lawrie Reilly, who died in 2013 at the age of 84, was the last surviving member of the Famous Five, Hibs’ formidable forward line of the 1950s, formed, as any Hibee would surely know, of Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull and Ormond. When housing developments tend to have generic street names, and generic houses to match, those names with local resonance make a small difference.
Over the railway, the road split. The right fork would take me to the back of the East Stand, which is where I sit, but I was running early so I followed it until I came to the back of a huge red-brick building bearing the words ‘JAMES DUNBAR’ in prominent white letters. This was the Dunbar’s lemonade factory, now artists’ workshops. I like ghost signs, or those advertising products and services that aren’t there any more. There are a few in Edinburgh, Leith Walk and George IV Bridge in particular, and the Dunbar factory is a cracking example.
The Dunbar factory also gives its name to the South Stand at Easter Road, nicknamed the Dunbar End. I soon arrived at the back of the South, a part of the stadium I haven’t been in for a long time. A lot of my early Hibs games, back in the late 1990s, were seen from the top tier of the South Stand, where Hibs Kids were allotted seats for games a few times a season. I remember those games, handing over a ticket at the turnstile and getting a set of football stickers or a flyer for a show back. The view from the South was particularly good. This was the time before the West and East Stands were redeveloped so there was a brilliant view up to Leith and over the Forth, always useful if the game was dull.
Easter Road is surrounded by houses, some older than others, with a fair bit of history around too. I walked around by the Norton Park Conference Centre, an old schoolhouse that yesterday housed the Kids Zone, a place where bairns could be entertained before the game, complete with a visit from the Fire Brigade (planned, honest). Norton Park used to be a high school and it appeared in a film called The Singing Street, made in 1950, which recorded playground games and songs of the era. I always remember The Singing Street playing on a constant loop in the Museum of Childhood, a much-loved museum in the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
I’m a big advocate of going a different way occasionally. It helps to keep the familiar from becoming too familiar. I enjoyed this little diversion yesterday and I will probably take it again at some point. The little bit of me that is superstitious may question that since we got beat yesterday though my rational side doubts very much that Hibs being mince had anything to do with me taking a different route to the ground. There are connections between most things, for sure, but some things can be chalked down to Hibs being Hibs.