Vale of Leithen Football Club began its life as Leithen Vale Football Club in 1891, making them one of the oldest clubs in the Scottish Borders, a region traditionally dominated by rugby. The ‘Leithen Vale’ name was used only for the club’s first two matches (a victory against Gala Harp and a loss to Peebles Hibernian) before the change to Vale of Leithen. It has been suggested that the name change was made in order to bring to mind the successful Dunbartonshire club Vale of Leven FC (the original Vale of Leven was established in 1872 and folded in 1929, winning the Scottish Cup on three consecutive occasions between 1877 and 1879).
Vale of Leithen became full members of the Scottish Football Association in 1897 and competed in the Borders League at that time. By the 1910s, the Vale participated in the Eastern Football League and in 1923, joined the new East of Scotland Football League. The Vale would be crowned EoSFL champions the following season, but would not win the league again until 1978 (and then again the following season). The club’s final EoSFL championship came in 1987.
In 2013, the Vale became founding members of the Lowland League alongside Dalbeattie Star, East Kilbride, Edinburgh City, Gala Fairydean Rovers, Gretna 2008, Preston Athletic, Selkirk, Spartans, Stirling University, Threave Rovers and Whitehill Welfare. The Vale’s best performance came in 2014, when the club finished in the sixth position.
The club’s current badge is one of my favourites in the Lowland League. According to legend, the town of Innerleithen was established in 737 CE by the Irish monk St Ronan (often referred to as St Ronan the Silent or St Ronan of Locronan), who travelled up the River Tweed (of which the Leithen Water is a tributary) in a coracle. St Ronan is the figure depicted in the current badge, with a crosier in his right hand and a lantern in his left, bringing the ‘light’ of the Christian faith to Innerleithen. This resembles the official blazon of Innerleithen.
While I appreciate each of the design features of the current badge, for my redesign, I decided to make several changes. For a start, I found that the club’s name feels a bit cramped within the circular badge – the crosier is nearly touching the ‘E’ of ‘VALE’. Inspired by the handsome ‘KEEP FAITH’ banner, I incorporated the same banner above the circular badge. I am also resistant to the depiction of a person within a badge, especially given the fact that this depiction of St Ronan does not resemble many other depictions of the saint and that the boat in which he travels is not suggestive of an Irish coracle (the aesthetic of which does not lend itself to minimalistic illustration).
Instead of a depiction of St Ronan in a boat, I decided to go with a depiction of a lantern to represent the saint. The lantern in my redesign is inspired by one found in a JaJa postcard illustration of the Innerleithen coat of arms from the early 1900s. Being that the Vale is one of the oldest clubs in the Borders, I also decided to include the date of the club’s founding.
The University of Stirling was founded in 1967. Two years later, the University of Stirling Football Club was established. Among the six teams operated by USFC, the most senior of which has been competing in the Lowland League since its inaugural season in 2013.
Prior to competing in the Lowland League, in 2008, USFC was admitted to the East of Scotland Football League. In only their second season in the league, USFC won the First Division (at the time, the sole second tier in the East of Scotland League) title. This saw USFC compete in the Premier Division, the top tier of the EoSFL, in the 2010/11 season. That season saw the club secure a second-place finish to Spartans. By the following season, 2011/12, USFC clinched the top spot in the Premier Division.
The 2012/13 season finished with Whitehill Welfare in the top spot, with USFC finishing as runners-up, ahead of Spartans. The following season saw the transfer of these three, alongside Edinburgh City, Gretna 2008, Preston Athletic and Vale of Leithen admitted into the new Lowland League. In that inaugural season, USFC finished in second place, only four points behind the league champion Spartans.
As far as the club’s aesthetics go, the current badge is excellent. The features of the badge come directly from the coat of arms of the university. The university website states:
The coat of arms may be described as an arched bridge topped by a tower and surrounded by open books. The bridge may represent a governor or magistrate, the tower safety and guardianship, while the open books have clear associations with learning and knowledge. The imagery portrays the University as an official guardian entrusted with the safekeeping of the process of imparting knowledge, whilst willingly serving the public.
On a more visual level, the three elements of the coat of arms may be interpreted as a reflection of the University’s striking location in a historic Scotland, suggesting as they do Stirling Bridge, the National Wallace Monument and the University itself.
With the simplicity and cleanliness of the current badge, certain elements might not come across as clearly. For instance, without colour, the wavy lines, which represent water running under the bridge (perhaps the River Forth running under the Old Stirling Bridge) are not as obvious. I decided to stick with the simple design features of the current badge, adjusting various bits and pieces for aesthetic purposes (the normalisation of the ascending and descending arches of the bridge, the increased simplification, even a suggested digitisation of the open books) and including colours which are akin to those in the official university coat of arms.
The home and away kits derive their colour schemes from the badge redesign. The predominantly green kit is the colour scheme of the traditional USFC home kit.
The Midlothian town of Bonnyrigg was first home to a club called Bonnyrigg Swifts, who were established in 1874. The Swifts gained the nickname ‘the Rose’ and in 1881, a new club, Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic Football Club, was borne from the Swifts. For the vast majority of their history, the Rose competed as a junior side, having won the Scottish Junior Cup on two occasions: 1966 and 1978.
In the twentieth century, the Rose joined the Scottish Junior Football East Region Super League and were crowned league champions on four occasions (2008/09, 2011/12, 2015/16 and 2017/18), making them the most successful side in the league’s history. With each Super League championship, the Rose qualified for the first preliminary round of the Scottish Cup. Their most successful outing took place in the 2016/17 competition. Having defeated Glasgow University and Burntisland Shipyard (the latter result of 14-0 being the competitions largest margin of victory since 1984, when Stirling Albion dealt Selkirk a 20-0 dismantling), the Rose proceded to the first round proper of the Scottish Cup. There, they defeated Highland League side Turriff United 4-1 in a replay. In the second round, the Rose faced and defeated another Highland League outfit, Cove Rangers (it is important to note Cove Rangers’ recent promotion to the SPFL).
By the third round, the Rose and Beith were the only junior sides remaining in the competition. There, they issued a shock defeat against SPFL side Dumbarton in a replay at Dumbarton’s home ground. The rose proceeded to the fourth round as the only remaining junior side, though their draw would prove too great a challenge. Playing at Hearts‘ home ground of Tynecastle, the Rose lost 1-8 against cup-holders Hibernian in January 2017 and exited the tournament.
After their 2017/18 season, the Rose joined the East of Scotland Football League and in their inaugural season, won their conference (B) and qualified for the league’s championship playoff. They competed against other conference winners, Penicuik Athletic (Conference A winners) and Broxburn Athletic (Conference C winners) in order to gain the prize of promotion to the Lowland League. Ultimately, the Rose defeated both of their opponents and on 14 June 2019, Bonnyrigg Rose gained admittance into the Scottish Football Association.
I’m going to come out and say it – I don’t like the current Bonnyrigg Rose badge. I find the club’s name to crammed together (it doesn’t even reflect the club’s actual name: Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic Football Club). Additionally, the typeface differs from that used in the club’s year of foundation. I also find the other features (the rose and the footballs) jarring. But this is the badge of a junior side and I’ve seen worse. Still, the Rose have climbed the ladder in phenomenal fashion and are now part of the Lowland League. Therefore, a redesign is in order. My design is simple and clean, incorporating a stylised (and more symmetrical) rose and opting to remove the footballs.
Bonnyrigg Rose’s home kits have long featured red and white hoops. For these kits, I have decided to borrow from the schemes for both the home and away kits of the 2018/19 season.
In 1951, the Spartans Football Club was established by Elliot Wardlaw and Jimmy Beaumont, two former Edinburgh University players. It was their intention that the club would field graduates of the university, though the constitution soon allowed for the admission of ‘other interested parties’.
Upon their founding, the Spartans were admitted into the East of Scotland League, where they would compete for more than six decades and amass nine league championships, including a spell of three consecutive championships between 2009 and 2011. It was also during this time that the Spartans pulled off some impressive Scottish Cup runs – advancing to the fourth round in the 2003/04 season after defeating Buckie Thistle, Alloa Athletic and Arbroath. Eventually, this run would end at the hands of top-tier side Livingston. The club would reach the fourth round on two more occasions — in 2006 and in 2009 — defeating many league sides in the process.
In 2013, the Spartan’s long stay in the East of Scotland League ended when they became founding members of the Lowland League. During that first season, the club topped the table for the first time, which they would repeat in the 2017/18 season. Their greatest Scottish Cup performance came in the 2014/15 competition. By the fifth round (the round of 16), the Spartans were the only non-league side remaining. On 7 February 2015, the Spartans drew 1-1 with Berwick Rangers, forcing a replay. Ten days later, the Spartan’s run would end in England, with a 1-0 loss away at Berwick.
For the badge redesign, I sought to capture and build upon the boldness and strength of the current badge. I decided to use a depiction of the Spartan helmet alone with the club’s initials and the year of the club’s founding.
The home kit incorporates the traditional Spartans strip of a white shirt with red shorts and white socks. The top features red details in a scheme resembling the England National Team Admiral strip from the early 1980s. The home kit also incorporates a bold 1980s athletic feel, making use of the badge’s blue and red colour scheme while presenting the badge redesign in white.
Kelty Hearts Football Club was established as an amateur side in 1975. After the 1978/79 season, five of the club’s players were signed by Halbeath Juniors, prompting the amateurs to become a junior side in order to remain competitive. In June 1980, the club was accepted into the Scottish Junior Football Association, where they competed for the better part of the next three decades.
During their time as a junior side, the Hearts reached the Scottish Junior Cup final on two occasions, in 1999 and in 2007, though finished as runners up both times. By the 2010s, the club was looking more dominant in the East Region Super League, winning the league in 2015 and 2017. After their second league victory, Kelty Hearts applied for admission into the Scottish Football Association, which was granted in December 2017.
The club entered the East of Scotland League in 2018 and finished at the top of the table the same season. As East of Scotland League champions, the Hearts played Threave Rovers for a chance at gaining another promotion. Over two legs, the Hearts dominated the Rovers, amassing a comprehensive 10-0 aggregate score to seal their entry into the Lowland League. During their first season in the Lowland League, 2018/19, Kelty Hearts finished in the very respectable third-top position.
The current Kelty Hearts badge is quite a sight to behold. I imagine, judging from the design, that this badge has been used since the 1970s. While I admire its uniqueness, with the text set on straight lines within a circle, there is very little design coherence. It seems as if all four linear elements — the heart, the club name, the date and football and the ‘F.C.’ banner — utilise completely different styles. In order to bring them into some sort of unity, I decided to incorporate each element within another circular badge.
Both the home and away kits have been designed in a 1970s style.
The original Gretna Football Club was established in 1946, competing in the Dumfries and District Junior League. Due to the town’s proximity to England, in 1947, the club began to compete in the Carlisle and District League. Gretna continued to play in English leagues until gaining admittance into the Scottish Football League in 2002 (replacing the original Airdrieonians, who had ceased operations).
Between 2005 and 2007, Gretna achieved phenomenal success in Scottish football. Over these three consecutive seasons, the club gained promotion from the bottom to the top tier.
In the 2005/06 season, Gretna’s 3-0 victory over Dundee in the semi-final sealed their place in history as the first team from the third tier to have reached the final of the Scottish Cup. Gretna would draw 1-1 with Hearts in the final, only to lose on penalties.
As a result of their admirable Scottish Cup performance, and by virtue of Hearts having already qualified for the Champions League for having finished second in the Scottish Premier League, Gretna became the first club from the Scottish third tier to have qualified for the UEFA Cup (the predecessor of the Europa League competition).
Eventually, Gretna became the victims of their own rapid ascension. Due to the unsuitability of the club’s home ground for top tier matches, Gretna was forced to play their home games at Motherwell‘s Fir Park, some 76 miles from Gretna itself. Additionally, the financial strain of the club’s rise began to show. This only exacerbated Gretna’s lacklustre debut season in the Scottish Premier League. By March 2008, the club had gone into administration and was deducted ten points under SPL regulations. Gretna was relegated on 29 March after a loss to St Mirren and ended the season with only 13 points.
The original Gretna Football Club resigned from the Scottish Football League on 3 June 2008 and was liquidated formally on 8 August. But before this liquidation had been made final, the Gretna Supporters’ Society formed ‘a new Gretna Football Club’, Gretna FC 2008, and were accepted into the East of Scotland Football League. By 2013, the new Gretna club was elected as a founding member of the Lowland Football League.
The current Gretna 2008 badge is derived from the original Gretna badge. Though the colour scheme and the shape of the shield itself has been altered, the essential elements remain – a representation of Sark Bridge above a horseshoe above an anvil that is flanked by thistles. As with the old Gretna badge, this badge also features the club’s name within the shield, which, as I have observed elsewhere, is a problem when it comes to a certain ancient Scottish heraldic law (see my redesigns for Airdrieonians and Ayr United for more information). I also find this collection of items to be a wee bit too busy. Ultimately, I found the Sark Bridge to represent too much of the ‘naff’ characterisation of Gretna being a place where English lovers could flee for a quick and easy wedding under Scots Law. Truth be told, the same can probably be said for both the horseshoe and anvil, but I consider those two images to represent a bit more of the resilience and durability of the footballing spirit in Gretna.
For my redesign, I employed a shield more akin to the shape of the original Gretna badge. Inside, it only includes an anvil and a horseshoe. The shield is encircled by the club’s name.
Both kit redesigns employ traditional Gretna colour schemes, with the home kit utilising the original club’s black and white hoops.