The MacKinnon Collection | Scottish sport between 1840 and 1940

The MacKinnon Collection comprises 15,000 photographs showcasing a century of life across Scotland. From street scenes to rural dwelling, sporting pursuits to family portraits, these fascinating snapshots tell the story of how Scotland was changed between the 1840s and 1940s.

In this blog, we take a look at some of the photographs illustrating sport being played by men and women in local and national arenas across Scotland within the collection.

Unknown, Moffat Tennis Tournament 1892

Modern sport has its origins in the nineteenth century when migration from countryside to cities, together with increased leisure time and the advent of the railways, encouraged mass participation. 

From the middle of the 1800s, sport became more organised and regulated as newly-formed national sports bodies introduced sporting codes with standardised rules.

In the MacKinnon Collection we find a large number of sporting photographs illustrating sport being played by men and women in local and national arenas across Scotland.

Sports represented include football, rugby, shinty, curling, golf, bowls, the Highland Games, ba’ games, lawn tennis, cricket, quoiting, cycling, croquet, archery, ice skating, field sports and motorsports.

The photographs illustrate the significant part that sport – participating in or watching - played in the story of the nation for 100 years between 1840 and 1940.

F. Wynne Fife Quoiting Champion About 1930s
Unknown Riders with bicycles 1880s-1890s
Scottish Pictorial Press Charity Football Match, Edinburgh 1930s

A number of photographs from the MacKinnon Collection depict women playing sports, especially in the latter half of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century.

One of the most exciting finds in the collection is a photograph of a Women's Charity Football Match in Edinburgh in the 1930s: Edinburgh Girls' F.C. and Rutherglen Ladies' F.C  – it’s an action shot and shows the Rutherglen goalkeeper dashing out to clear the ball as Edinburgh Girls are on the attack.

This photograph illustrates how the medium of sports photography developed from the static shot, for example seated team photographs, to action shots, achieved by using faster speed films and shorter exposure times.

With these tangible objects of sporting heritage, occasions, stories and memories can be revealed – particularly because the MacKinnon Collection is made up images which depict the day-to-day lives of Scottish people rather than the achievements of the greatest sports stars.

Unknown Croquet match About 1880s
Scottish Pictorial Press Protested Shinty Replay 1937
Unknown Highland Games About 1890
Unknown Tournament at Gullane Golf Club, "The First Tee" About 1910
Unknown North Berwick, The Rowers 1898
Unknown A.J. Stuart, Glenlivet, Making His Winning Hammer Throw 1934

The MacKinnon Collection was acquired jointly with the National Library of Scotland with assistance from National Lottery Heritage Fund, Scottish Government and the Art Fund.