Skip to Content

The Origin Story of Hibernian Anthem ‘Sunshine on Leith’

The Origin Story of Hibernian Anthem ‘Sunshine on Leith’

They say football is not supposed to be seen simply on the television, to understand what truly a club feels to an individual, one must be visiting grounds watching their team play live.

Villa Park over the years has hosted some of the biggest teams and names in Europe.

Yet somehow there is a feeling their already seemingly won qualifying tie’s second leg in the Conference League will linger in their memory for a good time to come.

Hibernian started the day with a requirement to score six goals at Villa Park within the stipulated ninety.

There was a huge golfing class between the two teams, but one would hardly have guessed the scoreline if their attention was simply fixed on the activities of the Hibernian fans.

They rocked the stadium, making their presence felt, dancing to their club’s song “Sunshine on Leith” by The Proclaimers. The Proclaimers might have earned their name over the world, with their song, “I am gonna be, (500 miles)” but to the Hibs faithful, “Sunshine on Leith” remains their greatest melody.

It is a custom for fans of the Scottish club, since their 1990’s “hands of Hibs” campaign, to sing together the rendition of the song, and the match against Villa is perhaps one of their finest showcases of love for their club.

Sunshine on Leith is an anthem of the frequenters of the Easter Road Stadium, in Edinburgh.

The song itself at the time of release, before finding a home at the heart of the Hibs fans, received meager love, reaching forty-first in the UK music charts being the title track of the second album of The Proclaimers.

This was all soon to change, the summer of 1990, saw Hearts owner at the time, Willie Mercer, express and take action on his desire, to take over Hibernian.

Fans of the club, and general secretaries of different administrative sections of Hibernian, at the time, started various campaigns, posters, and similar undertakings, to call for attention and alarm of what was going on, to save their club from the takeover, and thus extinction.

They were joined by former footballers, as a showcase of support in their bid, and Cherlie Reid and Craig Reed.

The Proclaimers, duo, are Hibs fans, and they prepared to use their songs in their calls for resistance against the takeover.

The call for awareness suddenly had a focal point of attraction, drawing every neutral to why the resistance for the Hibs fans was a battle for existence against Mercer’s takeover.

Kenny Mclean, whose father, Kenny Mclean senior was a campaign leader at the time of crisis, recalled the efforts of The Proclaimers duo to save their club from the very beginning, “Charlie Reid came over to me and my dad and said, ‘Listen, this rally at Easter Road, we’ll provide all the amplification, we’ll provide a marquee for the guests and we’ll also help you with anything you need at the Usher Hall.’”

The nature of the song, Sunshine on Leith struck a chord with the Hibs fans and became as Mclean, tells, the club’s personalized answer, to You Will Never Walk Alone, “It was a love song that became a terrace anthem.

It was at this time [1990] that the song started to resonate with the Hibs fans. It was always looked upon to me as the song that helped defeat Mercer.

It was then the song took on extra meaning.”

Margaret Alcron, wife, of Bill Alcron, Hibernian’s club general secretary during Mercer’s proposed takeover, talked about similar to what Mclean had mentioned, “When there was the meeting at Easter Road, the fans, almost without guidance, started singing Sunshine on Leith.

It was a hugely emotional moment, because, at that stage, it seemed very unlikely that Hibs could fight off this challenge.”

Hibernian have completed both legs with a combined eight-goal deficit and without registering a goal themselves, but their fan support on the night brought praises even from the rival Villa fans.

Match-going fans of the villains took to social media to express the enormous support they witnessed from the Hibs traveling supporters.

It was one of the most incredible nights at Villa Park, with many Villa fans, having seemingly no connection with either Hibernian or Scotland, singing to the tunes of Hibs, Sunshine on Leith.

Former chairman, Ron Gordon, to whom, Sunshine on Leith is dedicated by the Hibs supporters would have been proud of the display shown by the club’s fans in their short-lasting European journey this time.

You see, football is not just about the trophies, mostly much of the time, it is this sense of community that football thrives at the most.

Hibs fans had rocked the pubs of the Midlands club days before the game, and Villa fans present in the ground will remember the night as them being part of something incredible.