It is recorded that by the middle of the nineteenth century, nearly 20% of Dundee’s population were Irish-born immigrants. As Hibernian had been established in 1875 in order to provide opportunity for young Roman Catholic Irish immigrants in Edinburgh, the Irish Catholic community in Dundee formed their own club in 1879 – Dundee Harp.
One match of note took place on 12 September 1885, when Dundee Harp Football Club racked up a remarkable 35-0 victory over Aberdeen Rovers FC (who competed from 1884 until 1889). What makes this feat even more peculiar is that it happened on the very same day that Arbroath achieved their record 36-0 victory over Bon Accord FC, the largest margin of victory in world football until 2002. Needless to say, 12 September 1885 was a bad day to be an Aberdonian club.
By 1894, Dundee Harp was facing serious financial difficulties, resulting in suspension by the SFA and eventual dissolution.
In 1909, Dundee Hibernian Football Club was formed with a mission similar to that of Edinburgh’s Hibernian and Dundee Harp. After only one season, Dundee Hibernian were admitted into the Scottish Football League. In order to appeal to a base beyond the Irish Catholic community in Dundee, the club changed their name to Dundee United in 1923. The name ‘Dundee City FC’ had been floated, but this was protested by the club’s rivals, Dundee FC.
In the 1924/25 season, Dundee United secured promotion to the top tier for the first time. They remained for two seasons, being relegated in 1927 and then returning in 1929. This 1928/29 second tier championship would be United’s last major honour for more than 50 years, when they won two consecutive Scottish League Cups (1979/80 and 1980/81). These League Cup victories signalled the beginning of the ‘New Firm’, when both United and Aberdeen would prove themselves as worthy competitors against Celtic and Rangers. Dundee United was a also relatively formidable football club on the European scene in the mid-1980s.
More recently, Dundee United won the 2009/10 Scottish Cup (their second victory in ten Scottish Cup final appearances). But having experienced a period of bad form in the 2015/16 season, United were relegated from the top tier. Still, they have always struck me as a competitive side. Their current badge, on the other hand, strikes me as uninspiring. I consider the design somewhat sloppy and the insignia has very little historical relevance. Below is my first attempt at a redesign, published on 20 May 2013:With this first redesign, I decided to stick with the somewhat jarring black and orange colour scheme because it’s been a ‘DUFC’ trademark since the late 1960s. But I found the black text on an orange field very unpleasing to the eye. I replaced the clunky, emboldened (and overused) Roman typeface with one that I perceived to be more sporty, yet classic. I also added the year of their establishment, 1909. The lion rampant has been replaced by two dragons for historical reasons, as the former Dundee Hibernian’s original crest was inspired by the Dundee coat of arms, featuring two dragons supporting an entwined ‘DH’. This was done away with when the club was renamed Dundee United. The lion rampant, which had featured on match programmes from 1956, was incorporated into a badge in 1967.
My updated design for 2019 retains most of my 2013 redesign, though I have retooled the typeface and border for the sake of clarity and cleanliness and have improved the colour:
Because of Dundee United’s place as part of the ‘New Firm’ that dominated Scottish football in the 1980s, the home strip is inspired by the classic Adidas kits worn during that period. The away strip is inspired by United shirts from the late 1920s.
As ever, I am indebted to Dave at Historical Football Kits for some of the historical information used above.