A new exhibition charting Scotland’s role in the development and growth of football has recently opened at the Kelvingrove Museum and Special Collections is delighted to contribute by loaning an important item. The 1691 edition of Scottish school-teacher David Wedderburn’s Vocabula – a Latin school book – includes a passage describing Aberdeen Grammar School pupils playing a game of football, passing the ball and scoring goals. According to Richard McBrearty, curator of the Scottish Football Museum, evidence of such an organised approach involving one player passing to another to score suggests that while England was pursuing a “dribbling game” in the 19th century, Scotland was already playing an expansive game based on passing!
The passage, entitled pila-pedalis, was first written in the 1630s and forms a series of short descriptive sentences intended as an exercise for students to translate from Latin, with the most difficult parts already rendered into English. The text describes students starting a game, picking sides, kicking off, selecting goalkeepers, passing the ball and scoring goals. A 1954 translation by Morris Marples sets it out as follows (in square brackets, I’ve added the ‘pre-translated’ text from our 1685 Edinburgh edition, shown above, which differs slightly from Marples’ translation):
Let’s pick sides. You have the first choice.
Those who are on our side, come over here.
How many are there in the other team?
Kick off, so that we can begin the match.
Pass it here.
You keep goal.
Get hold of the ball before he does, you can manage it.
Go on, intercept him.
Pass the ball back.
Well done! [very well]
You’re slacking. [ye do nothing]
To score a goal. [to give the hail]
This is the first goal. [this is the first hail]
This is the second, this is the third goal.
Keep him out, otherwise the other side wins.
If you’re not careful, he’ll score in a minute.
If we don’t play better we’re done for.
Hi! You’re the winners.
He’s a very good player. [he is a brave ball-man]
If it hadn’t been for him we should have won. [had he not been, we had won]
Come on, help me. [take heed and serve me]
We still have the better side. [we have yet the likeliest of it]
The exhibition, which also includes the world’s oldest surviving football, will run until the 18th August, so plenty of time to pop along to visit! And if you are interested in Scotland’s football heritage you might also want to check out our online article about another Special Collections item which gives an insight into football culture in late 19th-century Glasgow.
Categories: Special Collections