The ‘talk o’ the toon’? An examination of the Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian football rivalry in Edinburgh, Scotland

John Kelly, Alan Bairner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

It has been customary to think of the rivalry between Heart of Midlothian FC (Hearts) and Hibernian FC (Hibs) in Scotland’s capital city as a less well-known and diluted imitation of the rivalry between Glasgow’s so-called Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers with both rivalries being located within the context of sectarian identity politics. In fact, as argued in this article, the early history of the two Edinburgh clubs reveals a considerably closer association with sectarianism than is to be found in the initial years of the Old Firm. In support of this claim, evidence is drawn here from Hibs’ exclusively Catholic origins and from Hearts’ militaristic connections at the time of the First World War. On the other hand, as we further demonstrate, the contemporary rivalry between Hearts and Hibs owes less to religious and ethnic division than to spatial factors, or at the very least to the imagining of place, and to perceptions centred on the comparable images of the two clubs, both on and off the field of play, not least in relation to social class. With specific reference to place, while Hearts supporters are eager to celebrate their club as ‘the talk o’ the toon (town)’, one is increasingly obliged to consider which Edinburgh imaginary is implied in their famous old song and also what Hibs supporters’ celebration of the city’s district of Leith tell us about the current rivalry. Furthermore, while the Hearts-Hibs rivalry has entered a post-sectarian phase, sectarian elements do remain a feature of both clubs although these tend to manifest themselves when they are in opposition to one or other of Glasgow’s Old Firm clubs for specific political and ethnic reasons.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-672
JournalSoccer and Society
Issue number5-6
Early online date10 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Edinburgh
  • place
  • class
  • secretarianism


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