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.