A history of Penicuik Athletic by Club President, John Fraser
The origins of organised football in Penicuik can be traced back to 1882, when several clubs operated in the area.Penicuik Athletic were formed in 1888 at a meeting in the Royal Hotel in Penicuik and established a pitch at Hays Park at the back of the Royal Hotel adjacent to Hays Garage. Somerfields Supermarket and car park, the main road and Penicuik Health Centre now stand on the site.In the late 19th century football was increasing in popularity throughout Scotland and in 1893 the East of Scotland League was formed and Penicuik Athletic were a senior club. Numerous newspaper reports of the early matches still survive. In 1904, the club adopted junior status as at that time junior football was still amateur unlike today when it is semi-professional. The club name was changed to Penicuik Juniors. A high point came in 1910 when the Juniors reached the semi-final of the Scottish Junior Cup only to lose narrowly to Kilwinning Rangers. Three of Penicuik's players were "capped" for the Scottish Junior International team that year. The 1930s saw the club revert to the East of Scotland League and Scottish Cup ties were played in Penicuik against Heart of Midlothian and St. Mirren.Penicuik Athletic were members of the East of Scotland league from season 1930/31. They were League Champions for season 1931/32 and King Cup winners (see photograph) in season 1935/36.In the early 1950s the Athletic established a new pitch at Eastfield Park on ground previously owned by the Shotts Iron Company, operators of the tragic Mauricewood Pit. The new ground was opened with a match against a strong Hibernian side which the Athletic lost 5 – 0. Penicuik Athletic rejoined the Juniors and for the next 25 years one man, Dick Walker, became largely responsible for keeping the club going through some great times and some very lean times. He put heart and soul together with countless hours of effort and energy into the club as committee member and honorary secretary and ranks among the great unsung heroes in Junior Football history. He was quite simply, Mr. Penicuik Athletic. In 1966 the Athletic reached the semi-final of the Scottish Junior Cup only to lose by the narrowest of margins to local rivals Bonnyrigg Rose. Inspired by their progress the Athletic went one better in 1969 reaching the final of the Scottish Junior Cup which was played at Hampden Park (CLICK HERE)for more info and photos of the Final. Yet again the Athletic were to lose by the narrowest of margins, this time in a replay against Blantyre Victoria. In another coincidence, three Penicuik players were selected for the Scottish Junior team.The 1970s saw probably the most successful period in the clubs history when a social club was built at the ground. Many local trophies were won and the team was considered as one of the leading teams in the East of Scotland. However the biggest prize of all, the Scottish Junior Cup still eluded the Athletic despite the club’s best efforts.The club’s fortunes fell into decline both on and off the park in the 1980s and the Social Club was forced to close in 1986 with mounting debts. The park had been used as security for various loans and the creditors put the park up for sale to clear the debts. The team continued to play despite the off-field problems and were showing signs of revival when a near fatal blow was delivered as the ground was sold on to be developed into a supermarket which stands on Eastfield Park today.Throughout the 1990s several initiatives were embarked on to secure a new pitch but for a variety of reasons were unsuccessful. The last and ultimately successful project to establish a pitch which met the criteria laid down by the Scottish Junior Football Association grew out of an initiative by three local Midlothian Councillors, Russell Imrie, David Fletcher and Adam Montgomery to improve recreational facilities in Penicuik.Season 2002/03 Penicuik Athletic were accepted back into the re-organised East Region (with the introduction of the Super League) and took their place in the second division in season 2002-3. The long awaited first game was played at Armadale in the 1st Round of the League Cup on Thursday 6th August 2002, resulting in a 5 – 1 defeat. Over 500 spectators turned up at the new pitch in Penicuik Park on Saturday 8th August to witness a no scoring draw in a league match against Harthill Royal. Re-entry into the Scottish Junior Cup saw a win against Blackburn before defeat in the next round against an experienced Renfrew Juniors. Penicuik just missed out by a point on promotion to the first division after a 1 – 0 defeat in their final league match against West Calder which was controversially switched to be played on a Thursday night.Season 2003/04 saw promotion again narrowly missed with another third placed finish. However, the club won its first trophy, the Supplementary Cup when a late Brian Hancock goal secured victory over Whitburn Juniors in the final played at Eastfield Park in Blackburn.Promotion to the 1st Division was secured in season 2004 - 5 when Penicuik won the second division title, their second success since re-starting. As a result, Penicuik Athletic were awarded Midlothian Council’s Senior Team Award in their annual Greatest Achievement in Sport awards.Season 2005/06 Penicuik finished as runners up to Camelon Juniors in the 1st Division, narrowly missing out on promotion to the East Super League. Second place gave Penicuik entry into the new Premier League of the East Region. Eight of the teams in the new league were based on the other side of the Forth with the longest trip requiring a visit to Montrose Roselea. Penicuik were beaten finalists in the pre-season League Cup going down by the odd goal to Musselburgh Athletic.Season 2006/07 The Athletic found the going tough in the new Premier League and narrowly escaped one of the three relegation slots back to the District League. Relegation was avoided by beating Scottish Junior Cup finalists Kelty Hearts in the last league match of the season in front of over 500 fans. Penicuik lost in the final of the Brown Cup to Bonnyrigg Rose after defeating Scottish Junior Cup finalists Linlithgow Rose in an earlier round. Season 2007/08 saw Penicuik improve their position in the Premier League by finishing in sixth place in the twelve team league. Irvine Meadow came to Penicuik in the first round of the Scottish Junior Cup and won by four goals to three while the club did not progress beyond the third round stage in any of the local cup competitions. At the end of the season, Willie McGinlay who had been team manager since the team started playing again in 2002, stood down for business and personal reasons. Stuart “Snowie” McKean, who had a distinguished junior playing career with Armadale Thistle and Bonnyrigg Rose and had been Willie.s assistant took over as the new manager.Season 2008/09 saw a further improvement in the league position with Penicuik finishing in fourth place. Penicuik’s best performance in the local cup competitions was reaching the semi final of the St. Michael’s Cup only to lose out at home to Linlithgow Rose in a penalty shoot out. Season 2009/10Penicuik had a poor start to the new season. Failure to qualify from the sectional league cup was followed by a first round knock out in the Scottish Junior cup. A run of only one win in seven league matches before an enforced break for bad weather saw Penicuik drop into second bottom spot in the Premier League. Team manager, Stuart (Snowy) McKean stepped down and was replaced by former player Brian Ryrie and current player Craig Meikle, chosen from a strong list of applicants. Despite losing their first match in charge, sufficient points were gained from the remaining league fixtures to claim seventh spot in the league, finishing clear of the three relegation spots. There were second round exits in both the East of Scotland and Fife & Lothians Cup. The St. Michael's and Brown Cups went uncontested because of the length of the break for the bad weather. Season 2010 - 11Season 2010/11 Several changes were made to the playing squad for the new season and the league position showed an improvement with fifth place being achieved. A missed penalty in the last minute, when the scores were level, proved costly in the first round Scottish Junior cup tie at Kilwinning as the home replay was lost. Penicuik did not progress from their league cup section but enjoyed good runs to the semi finals of both the East of Scotland and Fife and Lothians Cup, losing to Newtongrange Star and Bo'ness United respectively.Season 2011/12 Promotion to the Super League was the target for the season and it went right down to the wire. Penicuik went in to their last league game of the season at Broxburn needing a win to gain the second promotion spot but lost out to the home side who were promoted in their place. Penicuik finished fourth in a very tight finish. Broxburn were also Penicuik's downfall in the League Cup where Penicuik topped the section but were pipped by Broxburn who successfully appealed against Livingston fielding an ineligible player in their tie, and as a result progressed to the knock out stages. Early exits were suffered in both the East of Scotland and Fife and Lothians Cup. After first and second round Scottish Junior Cup wins against Glenrothes and Glasgow Perthshire, junior giants, Auchinleck Talbot proved too strong in the third round, handing out a six goal defeat at Auchinleck.Season 2012/13 - Promotion to the Super League was once again the aim for the season. Due to a re-organisation of the league set up, the number of teams in the Super League was increased from twelve to sixteen which meant that the top four teams in the twelve team Premier League would be promoted. However, Penicuik lost out again in the last fixture of the season. Despite beating Broughty Athletic on the last day, Armadale Thistle recorded an away win at Dundee Violet to edge Penicuik out by a point. In the Scottish Junior Cup Penicuik were drawn away to opposite sides of the country in Dunbar and then Girvan. The reward for reaching round three was a trip to meet Kelty Hearts and because of the winter weather the match was postponed eight times before being moved to the neutral venue of Oakley. A goal in the seventh minute of added time finally brought the tie down in Kelty’s favour. Some revenge was exacted on Broxburn in the opening league cup match but defeats to Livingston and Bonnyrigg meant that Penicuik did not qualify from their section. Second round exits were made in both the East of Scotland Cup and Fife And Lothians Cup to Ballingry Rovers and Newburgh respectively as Penicuik had managed to be drawn away from home in every cup draw in the season. The long postponement of the Scottish Junior Cup tie against Kelty meant that Penicuik were faced with a heavy end of season midweek schedule to complete their league games which ended in disappointment.
Season 2013/14 - Proved to be an eventful season. The club was celebrating 125 years since Penicuik Athletic was originally founded in 1888. Matches against both Hibs and Hearts legends took place together with a celebration dinner. A commemorative booklet was also produced. New floodlights were installed at the park further enhancing the facilities. Several new players were added to the squad with Daryll Young, Jocky Lister, Craig Dickson, Dean Knight and Gordon Harris joining from the under – 21’s and the experienced Greig Ross and Ryan McCallum joining. Last season’s joint manager, Bryan Ryrie stood down to leave Craig Meikle as team manager.This was the first year of the new sixteen team East Region league set up. Two promotion spots and a playoff spot with the third bottom team in the Super League were on offer in the Premier League. There was no League Cup at the start of the season, with clubs moving straight into club action. Penicuik got off to a bad start losing our first game at home against Kirriemuir Thistle. However, after winning comfortably away to Kirkcaldy YM we never looked back. After a long campaign involving trips to Kirriemuir, Montrose, Dundee, Perth and Fife, promotion was secured with a single goal win at Livingston with four games still to play. The East Premier League title was won with a two goals to one home victory against long time league leaders Fauldhouse with two games still to go. The excitement of winning the title was tempered by the tragic death of popular club physio Jeff Gray who collapsed in the dug out during a home league match against Bathgate Thistle. A match against Bonnyrigg Rose had been arranged to switch on the new floodlights and also became a commemorative match in memory of Jeff. Penicuik Athletic also turned in their best performance in the Scottish Junior Cup since the 1980/81 season by reaching the fifth round. After beating Glasgow giants Pollok in the fourth round, Penicuik went out in a replay at Irvine Meadow by the odd goal in seven. The club went out of both the East of Scotland and Fife and Lothian’s Cups to super league sides Bo’ness United and Ballingry Rovers respectively in penalty kick shoot outs. Season 2014/15 Penicuik Athletic kicked off the new season in the East Region Super League after spending eight seasons in the East Premier League. A tougher start would have been harder to imagine with the first four matches scheduled against Newtongrange, Linlithgow, Kelty and Bo’ness. However, Penicuik quickly found their feet and during the course of the season notched up notable victories away at Linlithgow Rose and at home to Bonnyrigg Rose. Kelty Hearts eventually won the league title with Penicuik finishing in sixth place with forty points from twenty eight games. Ballingry Rovers unfortunately folded and withdrew from the sixteen team league.The Scottish Junior Cup brought the club’s best performance since 1970 when they were losing finalists to Blantyre Vics. A bye in the first round was followed by wins against Lanark, Maybole, Arbroath Vics, Spey Valley and Arthurlie before going down in the quarter final to Super League rivals Musselburgh Athletic. Edinburgh United sent Penicuik crashing out at the first round stage of the East of Scotland Cup. Penicuik suffered a fourth round exit at Linlithgow in the Fife and Lothians Cup. Season 2015/16Season 2016/17Season 2017/18