The History of the St. Mirren Programme
In April 2009, an item was sold on Ebay which may prove to be St. Mirren's oldest programme. The eight page issue, minus its cover, was issued for the Scottish League match on 19th August 1939 against Queen of the South. This was Saints' first home match of the season and resulted in a 3-3 draw. They played two more Home League fixtures that season; a midweek 0-0 draw with Rangers on 22nd August, and a 4-0 victory over Cowdenbeath on 2nd September. The next day saw the outbreak of the Second World War and the subsequent suspension of all official football competitions for the next six years
St. Mirren v QOS 1939
Prior to this discovery, the first official St. Mirren match programme was believed to have been for the Southern League match against Queen of the South on 29th December 1945. All subsequent home matches in the Southern League, League Cup and Victory Cup competitions in 1946 saw a programme issued.
The cover of the 1945/46 programme contained the match details, team line-ups and an advert for the Kelburne Cinema. The majority of the 8 pages consisted of adverts, the only notable reading matter being two half pages entitled "Notes of Interest". The 8.75" by 5.75" programme cost 2d. Each issue was numbered and the same series continued throughout seasons 1946/47 and 1947/48.
1945 - 1948
Season 1948/49 saw a slightly smaller page size and the introduction of a new numbering series. The cover showed a figure in a St. Mirren strip, together with the match details and an advert. Curiously, the year was omitted from the cover, but this could be found on Page 3 together with the names of the principal Club officials, the issue number and the price. Three half pages were devoted to "Club News" and the team line-ups occupied the centre pages, surrounded by adverts. Similar programme designs were used by different Clubs of that period, and the same figure, in the hooped shirt of St. Mirren's Renfrewshire rivals Greenock Morton, was used on their programme cover.
This format continued with relatively few changes in the following years. There was a price increase to 3d in 1951 and a new cover, featuring a photograph of St. Mirren Park and complete match details, was introduced in season 1953/54. This design remained for the next 12 years.
1953 - 1965
Four pages were added in season 1959/60, when the "Club Notes" were joined by a more comprehensive "From the Manager's Desk". Other innovations were adopted such as a Personality Page, a Lucky Programme Number and a regular fixture list; an item which had only occasionally appeared in previous programmes. Some of these items were dropped in season 1964/65 when the programme reverted to eight pages.
Season 1965/66 saw a major overhaul to the familiar format. The page size was reduced to 7.5" by 5", but the number of pages increased to twelve. Glossy paper was used for the first time and more statistical information and photographs were included, On the down side, the price increased to 6d. The annoying habit of omitting the match date also returned, which would pose identification problems for future collectors. The only way to determine any part of the date was to examine the fixture list on page 5. This problem was not rectified until 1970.
In 1974, after three price increases and several other minor changes, the programme strangely adopted the use of orange spot colour throughout, and the "missing date" problem resurfaced. On the up side, a number of new articles appeared including coverage of the opponents, reserve team news, a supporters page and pieces by guest writers. The size increased to sixteen 8.5" by 5.75" pages with a 10p price tag.
St. Mirren's promotion to the Premier Division in 1977 saw the programme return to the traditional Club colours of black, white and red. The full match details were reinstated on the cover, along with the now mandatory price increase to 12p. General articles were replaced by more relevant Club news and increased photographic content. Six of the 16 pages were adverts.
After brief flirtations with a landscape style programme in 1979/80 and the inclusion of a 24 page insert with a strong English bias in 1980/81, the style settled down in the early 1980s, with more extensive use of colour and a good balance of improved Club news and historical articles. The programme's best spell thus far was recognised when it won the "Most Improved" and "Best Cover" categories in "Programme Monthly" magazine's Scottish Programme of the Year awards of 1983/84.
A change in Editor in 1984/85 saw a shift of emphasis in favour of good quality, timeous photography at the expense of full colour. The format and good standard of content was maintained through the next three seasons with only minor changes. Notable amongst the articles of this period was an excellent series by John Byrne which had a modest beginning as "Through The Years - a brief history of St. Mirren". This began in the programme of 23rd August 1986 and finished 106 parts later on 2nd December 1989!
In 1987/88, a 24 page, 7.5" by 8.25" landscape format was introduced, causing minor storage inconvenience for collectors. Good coverage of the Club and opponents was augmented by regular articles on the Scottish and English scene, a fairly taxing quiz, and directions to the next away game, courtesy of the AA.
Entering the 1990s, the fortunes of the programme matched those of the Club. In 1990/91 the programme increased to thirty-two large, portrait oriented pages and in 1991/92 the price increased to £1. Although the articles were still of a good quality, photographic content suffered and was reduced in favour of adverts and garish spot colour. As a result, the programme was ranked bottom of the Premier League in the Scottish Programme of the Year awards. To add insult to injury, the Club was also relegated to Division One at the end of season 1991/92.
1992/93 saw a change in printers and an improved look and feel to the programme, now entitled "The Saints". More colour was added, initially only to the cover and adverts, and a steady stream of contributors kept up the freshness and interest of the articles. The format was gradually refined and improved over the following seasons, and introduced series such as "An A to Z of St. Mirren", "Fan-File" and good coverage of the First Division.
In the latter half of the decade, a more convenient A5 page size was adopted. The cover price increased to £1.20 in August 1996, the first rise for 5 years, but increased again to £1.50 by mid-October. The good balance of historical and contemporary articles continued and in 1997/98 the programme rightly won the First Division Programme of the Year award. Full colour was introduced in 1998/99. In 1999/2000, the print run was kept relatively low to counteract surpluses from previous seasons. St. Mirren's charge towards the First Division Title brought larger attendances and a greater demand for programmes, and so issues from this season are relatively hard to come by.
Last match at Love St. - 2009
The programme format was radically changed for the Club's entry to the SPL. Full colour was used throughout the 40 B5 sized pages, although a large proportion of the issue was devoted to adverts. The reading material included interviews with past and present staff, "Love Street Speak" and topical coverage of the SPL in general and the opponents in particular. Sadly, the Club were relegated after only one season in the top flight.
Despite dropping down a division, the programme maintained the same format and standards of the SPL issue from the previous season. The number of pages was reduced to 32 in 2003/04 and remained so until Saints won the Title again in 2006.
SPL membership in 2006/07 produced another radical change in the programme. The price was increased to £2.50, but this bought a 48 page issue, jam packed with features on the fans, the players, the opponents, the SPL, memorable matches, statistics and quality photography.
St. Mirren played their last match at Love Street on 3rd January 2009 and marked the occasion with a special A4-sized programme entitled "Love Street - End of an Era", featuring a number of articles about the old ground. For the remainder of the season, the programme was retitled "The Official Programme of St. Mirren FC" and was priced at £3 for 56 B5 sized pages.
For season 2009/10, the programme, now simply titled "St. Mirren F.C.", returned to £2.50 for 48 pages and remained largely unaltered for the next four seasons. In season 2013/14, a 44 page issue called "The Saint" came with a price increase to £3 and remained until the end of the following season.
The Club's drop to the Championship in season 2015/16 saw another change to the programme. Although it was still called "The Saint" and carried the same number of pages and price tag, the page size was reduced to a more compact and collector-friendly A5 size.
In season 2016/17, after many years with Garthland Print, programme production transferred to the West Midlands based firm Curtis Sport. Many of the usual features were retained, but in a larger, 48 page B5 issue, priced £3.