Branch History - Chapter 1

In The Beginning

The first bus to run from Edinburgh was a double decker organised by Nigel Clinkscale for the 1984/5 League cup final against Rangers which we lost 1-0. This was followed by Nigel and Tony Martin running 4 (yes 4) SMT buses to the 1984/5 UEFA cup match at Old Trafford against the great Manchester United when United deserved to win but came away with a very honourable 2-2 draw. The buses left Edinburgh at 2pm and arrived at the ground five minutes before kick off (a bit too close for comfort but history was to repeat itself in this regard when we travelled to Germany for the UEFA cup semi final in 1985/6, but more of that later).

For the return leg against Manchester United at Tannadice they ran 2 luxury coaches supplied by Prentice of West Calder and although we lost 3-2 the Edinburgh and Lothians' Branch of Dundee United Supporters was well and truly born. On the following Saturday 12 hardy souls travelled to Dumbarton in a hired mini bus and the rest, as they say, is history.

At this time Tony and Nigel worked closely with the Dundee United Supporters’ Association who were the only significant United supporters club in Dundee. They received a lot of good advice on how to get organised and run buses etc. and it was for this reason that the branch was named Dundee United Supporters’ Association – Edinburgh and Lothians’ Branch. From then on buses were run on a regular basis to all matches an as can be seen from the bus adverts in the photo gallery (Early years) by some strange routes.

From the adverts it can be seen that they were running a bus from Stenhousemuir and for buses gong west they were even running buses from Dundee via Glenrothes as there were no branches in the Fife area at that time.

For his efforts in setting up the club Nigel Clinkscale was made our first honorary member.

Oak Trees From Small Acorns Grow

Nigel and Tony had done a great job in getting the club up and running and membership continued to increase. However, due to work commitments they had to take more of a back seat. As the branch grew in size the committee was strengthened with Ken Smith as chairman, Jim Gardiner as vice chairman, Maggie Dolan as secretary and Richard Robertson as treasurer with another half a dozen committee members.

Ken and Richard were good organisers and great PR men and under their leadership the branch grew very quickly both in terms of size and stature. The membership was well over 150 and , at the peak in the mid to late 1980's , the branch was running 2 buses to all home matches and running a bus to all away matches. In addition we ran buses to many overseas European matches but more of that later.

To get a feel for the level of activity within the branch at that time see a copy of a newsletter from the 1986/7 season which is in the “Early Years“ section of the photo gallery.

Richard in particular was an expert at getting publicity for the branch and hardly a week went past without some newspaper article about the branch in The Courier , The Evening Telegraph and even the Edinburgh Evening News and Sunday Post.. Copies of a number of these can be seen in the photo gallery (Early years).

In fact, he was so good that he even had the committee appearing as the Quiz team in the Sunday Post Quiz under the heading “are they the brainiest football fans in the country”. They scored 85%. See photo gallery (Early Years).

To give younger readers some idea of the relevant costs compared to the present day, at that time it cost £3 for the bus and £3 to get into Tannadice (yes £3). Changed days now with the cheapest entry price for Tannadice being £21. Copies of early bus invoices are in the picture gallery (Early Years).

We were very much a family club (see letter in “early years” section of gallery ) and it has been said that the Smith, Beattie, Martin and Laing families could fill a bus on their own. There were a lot of young lads as members in the 12 to 16 age group who had no connection with Dundee and it was not unusual to see lads running about in Edinburgh wearing United tops. This was, of course, a time when United had up to 6 players in the Scotland squad so that to support United was very much the "in thing".

At that time the branch had a club tie, a shield for the back window on the bus, a lapel badge and a 20 feet long tangerine and black banner which was displayed on the terracing at all matches. The tie and banner can be seen in the “POY” section of the photo gallery where Jim Gardiner is presenting Miodrag with his player of the season award . A picture of the lapel badge can be seen in the photo gallery (Early Years).

Over the years we have had around 850 different members and while many of them have moved on there is still a hardcore of around 20 of the original members. In addition every now and then we get a visit from an ex member and it is always a pleasure to meet up with them and talk about the old days.

Many students have passed through the branch as they attended College and University in Edinburgh. We have had, and still do have, in many cases, solicitors, doctors, accountants teachers, broadcasters, IT specialists, journalists, bankers, broadcasters, authors, joiners, plumbers, car mechanics and even a current Member of Parliament and many other trades and professions among our members. Our members have always come from all walks of life the key thing is that they are all United supporters. To name drop just a little Billy Kay, the well known writer and broadcaster, was a regular on our buses when he stayed in Edinburgh (see the “Early Years“ photo gallery).

We also had Gwen McIlroy, who wrote a number of books about Dundee United as a regular traveller with her husband Paul for many years . In fact, in her book about the 1994 cup final “Kissing Strangers” a number of our members made contributions to the book.

Another regular traveller in the 80’s was Stuart Hosie who is now the SNP Westminster Member of Parliament for Dundee East. Stuart also played in our branch football team and there is a photograph of the team in the ”Special Relationship“ photo gallery. Stuart was a mean full back feared by opposition wingers…In fact, the records show that he was elected to the branch committee in 1986. From humble beginnings a career is born.

Inside Info: The Night We Almost Caned The Bookies

During this time Davie Bowman’s Darren Jackson’s and Brian Welsh’s fathers were regulars on the bus and every one was at them to get up to date information. One night at Firhill in the season we got relegated our inside info just about paid off big time. Brian had phoned his dad to say that Billy Kirkwood had told him he would be playing at centre forward.

It was no pints before the game that night everybody went straight to the bookies and bet Welshie for the first goal at 33-1. Unfortunately Grant Johnson scored the first goal but the offer was still on at half time so quite a few got their money back with a bit extra when Welshie scored twice to give us a 3-1 win.

Our Own Football Team

The branch also had its own football team which played in the Scottish Football Supporters' League. The team was managed by Ian Cameron and performed with some success from the mid 80's to the early 90's. A number of the regular players at that time including Dougie Dolan, Dave Arthur and Iain Gardiner are still around. For a while we even had a youth team with Richard Robertson as manager which played in the Edinburgh league. Unfortunately due to injuries and age both teams found it increasingly difficult to field a team and finally folded. See the photo gallery (Special Relationship).

Around 1990 due to pressure of business Ken Smith had to take a back seat and give up the chairmanship. For his contribution in building up the size and status of the branch he was made our second honorary member.