Originally written for The Red Final 139
The badge. A symbol of pride. It stands for honour and territory. It is the reason some people get out of bed. They are the reason behind a million arguments. Some people like them old school, some prefer them modern. Some people favour them easy to draw so they can carve it into a school desk. Some have people on them, some monuments, some depict shields, some are just cursive lettering, and some show a shitey four leaved clover. Many share similar aspects and many have one off subject matter. One thing is for sure, Scotland is a treasure trove of fantastic insignia, whether it be Highland League, East of Scotland League, League Two, Championship, there are some excellent examples in the two hundred and seventy two teams ply their trade in the senior and junior levels of our game
As I have been clocking up the miles around Scottish fitbas lower reaches I have found myself becoming more aware of the badges on their shirts. To put it better I have become more interested as I have found myself looking into the detail of them whether in the programme or online. Throughout the years I have always been aware of club’s crests and I suppose it comes with the territory of following football. Like anyone I could reel off a who’s who of the Scottish league from an early age, the Highland league too. But that is where I got my football fixes at the time. Nowadays, I am dipping into the more “obscure” and “lesser” teams. By “obscure and lesser” I am not trying to be derogatory as I find the lower reaches of Scottish fitba a more interesting and entertaining level of our game than the upper echelons and I should really be an ambassador for the lower leagues with the devotion I am showing to attend and write about it. I might even get a badge of my own.
As I have been travelling around, I came to realise that there are common themes at many Scottish clubs. What drew me to this was when the number of badges with boats of some description on the go. It was a trip to Largs Thistle which really got my interest on as they have a Viking long boat on their chests. From then I have become a badge geek. Working down the leagues, Hibs represent the seamen in the Premier, Championship has Morton, Clyde and Stranraer in League 1. There is only one Senior league without a boat and that is League 2. With Stranraer going down pretty much a given there will be a boat in all senior leagues as of next season. This because in the Highland League there is Wick Academy. The fact there is only one in that division surprises me as half the league is found on the coast, but it is what it is and there is only one. Vale of Leithan are the boatiest in the Lowland league but may ruin the run if they get relegated to the EOS set up. Unlike the Highland League, the South of Scotland League the coastal teams embrace their boats and proximity to water a bit more with St Cuthbert Wanderers, Wigton and Bladnoch and Stranraer II (ok that’s a bit of a swick there) depicting a vessel on their emblem. If it is not a boat, it is a fish with the other clubs. People forget the North Caledonian League is a senior league or even exists. I suppose I am slightly guilty of this as it is also the only league that I have never seen a game in from Juniors up to the Premier, but that’s another story. Bunillidh Thistle provide the watercraft up there in that division. Then the last of the senior leagues the newly formed East of Scotland Football League set up where a few more appear. There are Bo’ness United, Camelon, Eyemouth United, Dunbar United and Leith Athletic. Burntisland Shipyard deserve a special mention as they identify themselves with a fantastically rubbish effort that looks like they employed a pissed-up chimp to sketch a crumpled piece of paper. It is up there with the worst. My favourite level of fitba in the country the Juniors takes tally to thirty-one as there are seventeen SJFAs sides floating a boat on their shirts between the North, East and West regions. With Aberdeen being a port city, I would have thought there would be more cases in the city, but only Hall Russel United have a vessel of some sort on the go. But, let’s be honest they couldn’t not have one really given their history. The nautical/boaty/sea theme doesn’t stop there as anchors, lighthouses, fish, dolphins among other symbols are used and Invergordon even have an Oil Rig as their identity but boats outnumber them all.
This got me thinking what the most common component of a badge in the land and got me looking at the topic in depth. First things first though. I will make it clear I realise a fitba (unsurprisingly) is the clear winner, but we are speaking about fitba teams here so stating the obvious is not really what this is about. That’s like saying the most common thing on a carton of cranberry juice is a picture of a cranberry. It is about the histories and the geographies of the clubs. Not the purpose as we all know that. For the record there are ninety-seven balls. I checked. Surely the Thistle must out do the boat I hear you cry? I think that is more than obvious and is in fact the correct answer. Ninety-nine people out of one hundred would most likely get that right. From Livingston to Partick Thistle. Gretna 2008 to Strathspey Thistle in senior fitba. Or Buchanhaven Hearts to Lugar Bowell Thistle in the Juniors. They are well spread across the leagues with only the North Caley missing from the list. There are thirty-four badges from juniors up with the national weed on it in total. Which is surprisingly a lot lower than I imagined the number to be. Some are just small like Cowdenbeaths, others make up a pattern as Maybole in the West Region Juniors show (which also includes some sort of insane dolphin/elephant/scorpion hybrid) Others make up a large portion like Inverness Caleys mutant thistle which is so big an eagle can land on it. Then again it may just be wee eagle.
Fitbas, boats and thistles well in front as the most common, but what about other clubs? What did they choose? Animals are very prevalent. Thirteen teams in the SPFL alone have animals. (On their badges you understand and not in their midfield) There will be more animals on badges in Scotland (possibly the world) than anything but it’s a vague term and covers a wide range. Boats and thistles are specific. One of my favourites is Alloa who have muscle bound angry looking wasp ready to sting. But there are eagles with St Johnstone, Kinoull and Lanark United as examples. Cockerels-
Airdrie Uni, I mean Airdrieonians. Water beasts such as Dolphins – Nairn County and fish Newton Stewart and Halkirk are quite common. Dumbarton have an Elephant, West Region Junior side Thorniewood have boars and East Kilbride have an oystercatcher. An energetic looking horse is found down Broadwood at Cumbernauld Colts. The clear most prominent animal is the lion which makes an appearance throughout the leagues for the same emblematic reasons as Thistles. Not quite as common as lions but Stags are kicking about a lot, more than just on the Ross County badge. A few other examples include Huntly, Stonehaven, Forfar Athletic, Glentanar and Spey Valley United. My next game once I return from offshore will be down at Broxburn Athletic who have the one and only badger badge which I really like. Another great example of animals is Peterhead who have the awfully Viz like fish and the fitba. The net has the double meaning of a goal net and a fishing net. Clever stuff.
Historical Landmarks make up a good number. Examples include Stirling Albion’s Wallace Monument, the friendliest club in Ayrshire that is Cumnock Juniors display the towns Mercat Cross on their black and white stripes, Hearts have the Heart of Midlothian, Falkirks jabby looking emblem is in fact the Falkirk steeple, Kilwinning Abbey features on Kilwinning Rangers blue and white hoops. Edinburgh City rock the castle, Hill of Beath Hawthorn have, you guessed it, the Hill of Beath and Islavale have the river Isla. There are many more throughout the nation, but the two finest examples are the Arbroath, it sports the portcullis which is to represent the Abbey in the town. But I really like the font of the “Arbroath”. A simple badge but definitely a favourite of mine. The local junior side Arbroath Victoria also sport the portcullis but a more basic version. Saving the best for last in this topic Dunfermline Athletics badge is the top dog in Scotland in my humble opinion. The colourful adaptation of the long-gone Malcolm’s Tower is a stunning example of football badges. It still looks modern to this day and it was designed in 1957. It gets your attention when you see it. I hope they never change it. It would be a scandalous decision.
Industry also plays a big part which goes without saying as a lot of teams in Scotland were mining town teams with Shotts Bon Accord, Whitehill Welfare, Forth Wanderers, Lochore Welfare, Lochgelly Albert and Dundonald Bluebell good examples of keeping their pit origins alive in their crest but there are a lot more. Mining may be the most popular, but many other industries are represented, Motherwell depict the Steelworks that give the club their nickname. Neilston sport an old school horse drawn plow, Hall Russel United can fit in here also as they were a shipyard team as can Burntisland and their child drawing a boat on an etch-a-sketch with a cracked screen badge. Kilbirnie Ladeside have weaving, ironmongery and farming on theirs. Rothes and their whisky barrels fit nicely in here too. This list could go on and on.
Other badges include Saints, St Cuthbert Wanderers (where St Cuthbert is on a boat), St Duthus, St Rochs and Nairn St Ninian. Other random items that appear include a quill on the capitals Civil Service Strollers emblem and a torch burns on Annan Athletics. One-time Scottish Junior Cup winners Whitburn have a posh looking horse drawn carriage. Plants and flowers find themselves at various teams such as Easthouses Lily, Bonnyrigg Rose, Dundee Violet, Crossgates Primrose, Linlithgow Rose, Pollok and Dundee North End must be the only team on earth with a docking leaf. It really is a fascinating subject when you get into it. It is a book that somebody needs to write. But this is just a wee insight as I could be here for days. I have not even mentioned coats of arms, religion, mythical creatures, books, people, club colours or bridges which are more common than you would think.
Out of everything I picked up on a very fascinating observation I have made since my interest in the subject grew. Step forward Aberdeen FC. Our very own badge. After seeing the frequency of boats and thistles it got me thinking again. We could have had a boat, a fish, a river, an oil rig, a seagull, a big lump of granite or even a rowie. Instead we have something that not one of the other two hundred and seventy-one teams in the junior and senior ranks in Scotland have. A set of goals. Considering how important a role in a match goals are it is coming as a bit of a shock that we are the only team to adopt the idea as our identity. We are well and truly on our own in that respect in Scotland. Did Donald Addison take this into consideration when devising the original idea back in 1972, or did he just think the ball in the goal making an A was crafty I wonder? But one thing for sure he nailed it. It is easy to draw, its aged well. Its unmistakeable in the sense everyone knows it, and nobody Is going to assume its Armadale, Albion Rovers or Arthurlie. Most importantly, as already stated the main part is exclusive to Aberdeen Football Club. Although it has changed a bit in the forty-eight years since it was born (forty-two since it appeared on a shirt) it has been an integral part of the city and will be for many years to come. So next time you add it to a steamy bus window, tattoo it on your back, draw it in on a dusty pipe offshore or sticker ibrox to fuck. Remember we are AFC and we are unique.