Their little handbooks and histories are invaluable records of many of Scotland's smaller teams, not just for the text but also the rare photos of matches and players. A considerable effort must have gone into compiling the booklets, but almost all of them have no credited author.
Simmath Press should be celebrated for its efforts, yet the company remains an enigma, long since disappeared, and their publications are now hard to come by. I decided to look into their own story, as the company deserves considerable credit.
The earliest mention I could find in the press was in 1923, when the Simmath Press was acquired by Valentines of Dundee to specialise in the production of guidebooks, illustrated with Valentines views. Clearly it had been operating before then, and it reverted to a separate company four years later when the firm was sold on an amicable basis. Described as fine art printers, Simmath Press was based at 17 Roseangle, Dundee, where it remained until 1949.
The managing director was JPP Simpson, and the other directors were Duncan G Brown (assistant manager) and William B Dickie junior, a solicitor.
I have not been able to establish how the company got its name, but presumably the first half came from the Sim of Simpson. He was an interesting character in himself: James Palermo Parkes Simpson (1890-1963) was a WW1 navy veteran from Broughty Ferry, known as Captain Simpson, who had a number of outside interests. He tried (and failed) to build an upmarket hotel near his home in Errol, founded the Dundee Cat and Dog Home in 1937 and was a prize-winning pig breeder. But it appears most of his time was occupied in publishing.
However, they also ventured into sport, and the 1920s saw Simmath produce booklets for Scottish cricket clubs including Aberdeenshire, Clackmannan and Perthshire, then in the 1930s they moved into fox-hunting, with the renowned writer John Fairfax-Blakeborough compiling guides to Dumfriesshire, Lincolnshire and Northumbria. There was also a Simmath guide to the 1931 Open Golf Championship, held nearby at Carnoustie, and regional golf guides for counties as far apart as Fife and Somerset. The only football booklet that I know of at this stage was Tales from Tynecastle, which I have already digitised on this site.
The post-war years brought a huge boom in football attendances, and around 1948 someone at Simmath had the bright idea to approach football clubs. It was an immediate success: clubs the length of Scotland soon had a history booklet, produced in a standardised yet well-written format, illustrated with team groups and action photos. The 'Through the Years' series must have sold well, as the following season came the follow-up, with club handbooks.
The clubs were largely east coast, reflecting the company's home base in Dundee, but although Glasgow was not touched the range extended as far west as Kilmarnock and up to Inverness. They include unexpected teams such as Peterhead and Brechin City, the latter being one of the few to credit an author, George Cumming.
Simmath Press, by this time, had moved into expanded premises in Hawkhill, and the original building in Roseangle was sold in 1949 to Dundee Art Society, who are still there today. According to press reports, the company had 30 employees at the time and aimed to bring this up to 100, but I have not been able to establish what happened after the mid-1950s. The last mention I can find of them was in 1955, agreeing a contract to publishing housing tenancy agreement booklets.
The legacy of Simmath Press remains, however. Sold locally, few copies of their Scottish football handbooks now exist and most of them are not even in the National Library of Scotland, yet the company's prolific output represents a hugely important contribution to the history of our game. Some of their photos, in particular the action shots, are almost the only pictorial record of that era. Written and compiled anonymously, the Simmath football guides are lively and informative, a long-forgotten snapshot of the post-war boom years.
A Simmath Press football bibliography
'Through the Years' series of club histories (1948): Aberdeen, Alloa, Brechin City, Cowdenbeath, Dundee, Dundee Utd, East Fife, Falkirk, Forfar Athletic, Hibernian, Hearts, Kilmarnock, Montrose, St Johnstone, Stirling Albion; Highland League (reprinted 1952)
Handbooks 1949-50: Aberdeen, Dundee, Forfar Athletic, Hearts, Hibernian, Stirling Albion; Fifeshire Football Clubs
Handbooks 1950-51: Airdrieonians, Alloa, Forfar Athletic, Hearts, Hibernian, Kilmarnock, Peterhead, St Johnstone, Stirling Albion; Angus Football Clubs, Inverness and District clubs, North of Scotland clubs; Dundee Junior Football; Scottish League.
Handbooks 1951-52: Hearts/Hibernian (joint), Stirling Albion, Fifeshire Football Clubs, Raith Rovers Supporters' Club Silver Jubilee, Scottish League.
Handbooks 1952-53: Raith Rovers, Scottish League.
Handbooks 1953-54: Raith Rovers, Scottish League (hardback).
Tales from Tynecastle (1928).
This may not be a complete list, please let me know of any other editions.