LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Bonnyrigg Rose

The name of The Rose now among The 42 of the SPFL

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

While fellow promotees from the Lowland and Highland Leagues, Edinburgh City, Cove Rangers and Kelty Hearts, climbed out of League Two in quick succession, 2022 arrivals Bonnyrigg Rose have gradually been getting the measure of the game in the SPFL, holding their own despite the limitations of a modest squad.

With a history dating back to 1881 – some sources suggest 1874, meaning the club is as old as nearby Edinburgh giants Heart of Midlothian – The Rose were a major player in what is known in Scotland as junior football, ie non-league.

Here, the distinction with senior football is significant. While the amateur game was at its height south of the border in the immediate post-war period, with large crowds gathered at Wembley to watch the Oxbridge students of Pegasus triumph in the FA Amateur Cup final, its equivalent in Scotland was more grassroots and working-class.

New Dundas Park/Rob Proud

Most of all, the junior game north of the border thrived in the mining communities of Midlothian, Fife and East Lothian, involving clubs such as Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic, as they were then known.

Here the junior game was the only game in town, meaning The Rose could attract the likes of later Scotland stars John White and Pat Stanton at the start of their careers, even a very useful Sean Connery before he opted for James Bond over Old Trafford.

Twice winning the Edinburgh & District League, overcoming near neighbours (and regular winners) Dalkieth Thistle and Newtongrange Star, The Rose twice lifted the Scottish Junior Cup when it was still played at Hampden.

As the mining industry died out, so did the community that played and supported junior football as the social dynamic of towns such as Bonnyrigg changed. In 2002, the SJFA East Region Super League was formed, the winners soon eligible to enter the Scottish Cup run by the SFA, bringing the junior game one step closer to the senior one.

New Dundas Park/Rob Proud

In 2007, Bonnyrigg finished runners-up to Linlithgow Rose. In 2009, they won the title outright, although subsequent participation in the Scottish Cup was limited to a draw, then a home defeat to Fraserburgh.

The title win of 2012 was different for several reasons. First, in charge was former Alloa and Scotland U-21 midfielder Max Christie, in his first managerial role, having arrived at the start of the season. Secondly, overseeing operations at Bonnyrigg was chairman and lifelong fan Charlie Kirkwood, determined to turn things around at New Dundas Park as the junior game offered ever fewer rewards.

Despite financial constraints, Kirkwood and Christie were able to persuade the likes of Paul Shields, formerly of Forfar and Gillingham, and Kris Renton, once on the books of Norwich City, to try their luck at Bonnyrigg. The strike pair combined to trouble defences in the Scottish Cup, most notably at Brechin in the Third Round, where the storied hosts had to come back from 0-2 to earn a replay at New Dundas Park.

While the rematch went according to form, a crowd of 1,000-plus signalled a new era at Bonnyrigg.

New Dundas Park/Rob Proud

By 2015-16, Shields’ former Forfar teammate Robbie Horn had started the first of two spells as manager at New Dundas Park. His high-scoring side hit 85 goals that campaign and soon began making waves in the Scottish Cup. A shock late win at Dumbarton, after a 0-0 draw at New Dundas Park, set up a dream Fourth Round clash with Hibernian, played as a home game for Bonnyrigg at Tynecastle.

In the club’s biggest game to date, The Rose brought over 5,000 followers from Bonnyrigg, but failed to stem the tide of goals from the Scottish Cup holders. A 1-3 deficit just after the half-hour was almost offset by another consolation goal before half-time, but a penalty wasn’t given, and the junior side succumbed to the inevitable in the second half.

Later that spring, Kelty Hearts wrested the East Region Premiership title back from Bonnyrigg, but they would not stay around to defend it, preferring to join the senior game and the fifth-tier Lowland League. The writing was on the wall.

New Dundas Park/Rob Proud

The following March, Kirkwood called time on the old era. Bonnyrigg would join the East of Scotland Football League, affiliated to the SPFL, and the sixth tier of the new pyramid system.

Despite dissenting voices, the chairman, who had followed The Rose through decades of junior football, looking after the team’s kit as a boy when they won the Scottish Junior Cup in 1966, knew the future lay elsewhere. Bonnyrigg won a fourth and last SJFA East Region title in 2018, then jumped ship.

Others joined them, many of the classic names from the heyday of junior football in the 1950s, including Dalkeith Thistle and Broxburn Athletic. In front of nearly 1,000 at Albyn Park, the Brox surprised The Rose in the Championship Play-off, taking a 2-0 lead going into the dressing rooms, only for Bonnyrigg to come roaring back and hit a winner in stoppage time.

The Rose were now in the Lowland League, Robbie Horn’s men up against Barry Ferguson’s Kelty Hearts, with Bonnyrigg top of the league in September. By March, the positions were reversed, but it wasn’t enough for the league authorities to promote the Maroon Machine to League Two. That would come the following year, even though the season was even more severely curtailed.

New Dundas Park/Rob Proud

Bonnyrigg could console themselves with a ten-man win over Montrose in the Scottish Cup in November 2019, and a narrow loss to Clyde in the Fourth Round, both games bringing crowds of 2,000-plus to New Dundas Park.

Sadly, a year later, there were only echoing voices around Dens Park when Bonnyrigg, particularly goalkeeper Mark Weir, performed heroics at Dundee only for the Championship side to equalise in stoppage time of the Scottish Cup Second Round tie. The Rose then went 2-1 up, only for the Dundonians to strike back, 3-2.

The experience gave Bonnyrigg the lift they needed to dominate the Lowland League, despite the introduction of Celtic and Rangers’ reserve sides, who finished way behind The Rose in second and third. Goals from long-term Bonnyrigg favourite, Keiran McGachie, pushed his overall total for his home-town club over three figures. 

The chunky striker then opened the scoring in the play-off against Fraserburgh, though blotted his copybook by antagonising Broch fans at Bellslea Park in the second leg, pulling up his shirt and slapping his belly as Bonnyrigg neared the Pyramid play-off final.

New Dundas Park/Rob Proud

Even without their suspended goalgetter, The Rose still hit three at home to a woeful Cowdenbeath before a crowd of 2,202 at New Dundas Park.

It was down to another Bonnyrigg stalwart, left-sided defender Neil Martyniuk, to repeat his successful penalty technique at Central Park and put the tie beyond the League Two side just after the hour. The celebrations started early at Central Park as the enormity of Bonnyrigg’s achievement, from junior football to League Two in four years, sank in.

Dropping ‘Athletic’ to streamline their name, The Rose flew out of the blocks, tonking East Fife 3-0 away, but then struggled to scrape together the odd victory. Digging out a 1-0 win over Stranraer on April Fool’s Day, McGachie the inevitable hero, Bonnyrigg floated just above the drop zone. Another penalty conversion from Martyniuk later that month sealed three more vital points at Forfar. A brace from McGachie on the last day of the season against Elgin confirmed the club’s SPFL status for 2023-24.

An unbeaten run early in the new campaign, with Martyniuk again deadly from the spot, pushed Bonnyrigg to a safer place in the League Two table.

ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

Just off the High Street, New Dundas Park holds 2,640, on covered and open terracing, embankments and a modest seated stand, around a grass pitch. LED floodlights were added in 2019.

Average home gates are around 600, cup games against opposition from higher up the food chain usually draw up to 2,000, and these games can be all-ticketed.

Entrance is through the car park (for players and officials only!), via two turnstiles, C for home fans/general admission, D for visiting supporters, allocated the verge behind the north goal, the so-called Auld Orchard End, as well as either side of the dug-outs along the East Side.

For bigger games, the turnstiles at entrance A, in the south-west corner of the ground, are also open, leading directly to the few rows of open standing terracing behind the south goal, where younger followers like to make a noise.

New Dundas Park/Rob Proud

You enter into the West Side of the ground, along which run two sets of covered terracing and the Billy Durie Stand, named after the legendary manager who led The Rose to the Scottish Junior Cup in 1966, then served and followed the club until his untimely death in 2016.

While admission prices are the same across the board, these six dozen seats are usually reserved for directors and older home supporters.

On this side, you’ll also find the press area and snack bar. Behind it, members gather in the Andy Kelly lounge.

getting here

Going to the ground – tips and timings

From Haymarket station in Edinburgh, Lothian bus 31 runs every 15-20mins to Bonnyrigg Park Road (£2, journey time 50mins), by High Street. Every other service then goes on one stop to Bonnyrigg Toll, closest to New Dundas Park.

The sat nav code for New Dundas Park is EH19 3AS. Parking at the ground is for players and officials only. About 15mins’ walk away, there are plenty of parking spaces at Lasswade High School (9A Eskdale Drive, Bonnyrigg, EH19 2LA). Closer to the High Street, you should find a few slots at King George V Park, Park Road, Bonnyrigg, EH19 2AD.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

For league fixtures, admission is by card or cash at the turnstiles, £12/£7 for 12-16s and over-65s. Gates should open 1hr before kick-off. Away fans should use turnstile D.

For major cup games, home fans/neutrals should buy tickets in advance from the Andy Kelly lounge at the ground – the club should announce opening hours on its Facebook page. Prices rise to £15/£10 discounted, £5 under-16s,

Visiting supporters should purchase their tickets online through their own club. For the tie with Falkirk in January 2024, the allocation of 600 tickets sold out long in advance and there was no pay-on-the-day.

For all enquiries, contact the club at 0131 663 7702, email bonnyriggrose@slfl.co.uk.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

A match-day club shop by the snack bar, just inside turnstile C, operates in the run-up to kick-off and at half-time. Merchandise includes home shirts of red-and-white hoops, away of canary yellow and, if in stock, third-choice of all red.

You’ll also find badges, coffee mugs and match-day programmes at £2 a pop.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

While none of Bonnyrigg’s modest selection of pubs and bars is far from the ground, the nearest option is the Calderwood Inn, at the corner of High Street and Dundas Street. Football is shown in the main bar and the pool room, where there’s also a dartboard.

Look out for East Coast IPA amid the taps of Tennent’s and McEwan’s, as well as pies on certain match days. At weekends, the Calderwood stays open till 2am, firing up the karaoke machine and turning on the disco lights.

At the ground, the Andy Kelly lounge is usually members’ only but ask nicely before a quiet league game and you might be lucky. A snack bar operates near the covered terracing through turnstile C.