I wonder if Bill Bryson still gets a bit of a thrill when he walks into WH Smith and sees his latest book on the shelves. I have to say it’s still something of a novelty for me to see mine on display, especially when it’s at Number 5 in the charts alongside big-hitters like Maw Broon, Ian Rankin and Lorraine Kelly. I was so excited I had to take a picture. Tragic really.
This post is about the 1902 Ibrox Disaster. If you want to read about the Ibrox Disaster of January 2nd, 1971, please follow this link.
Lots has been written over the years about the 1971 Ibrox Disaster, but far less about the tragedy of 1902 and I tried to remedy that in my book. Briefly, for those who don’t know, 25 fans died and more than 500 were injured when part of the wooden terrace at Ibrox collapsed during a Scotland v England game in April 1902.
As part of my research into the disaster, I visited the National Archives in Edinburgh where there is a large, dusty file containing all the legal documents relating to the failed prosecution of the contractor accused of killing supporters due to his negligence. It was fascinating and at times quite moving to read through these old papers, which date back more than 100 years.
Anyway, today some interesting postcards featuring an eye-witness account of the disaster went up for sale at an auction in London. It struck me as the sort of thing Rangers or the SFA should have acquired, but unfortunately they didn’t make the reserve price, so were withdrawn from sale. Hopefully they’ll appear again soon and will find their way into Scotland.
The postcards, written in ancient German script, were sent by a young man in Glasgow to his relatives in Hamburg on April 7, two days after the disaster.
“On Saturday I went to the big football match with my landlord and doctor. I had never seen such a crowd of people. There was an accident – it was a bit horrific. First of all the people at the back pushed forwards, so that the people at the front were crushed against some railings and many fainted.
“The spectator area rises very high up and is built like a staircase. It looks a bit like a spectator area in Spain for bull-fighting. You can imagine just how terrible it seemed. It was a bit like a hangar.
“Shortly before the start of the football match the upper part of the terraces collapsed and a crowd of spectators fell through the construction about 50 feet high, 99 steps, each step was three inches high. So you can imagine just how high it was.”
“Of course then there was terrible confusion and the crowd surged forward on to the pitch, where play should have gone on, so that the game was almost totally disrupted and mounted police had to keep order. A great many were injured. To date two are dead and about 300 injured.
“We were not standing far from it all. However, the people here take sport too seriously and first of all little notice was taken. One man, who had fallen 50 feet, even got up again and watched the match through to the end. But this man, although he picked himself up straightaway, seemed afterwards to be very ill. That is the last time I shall go to a football match.”