Auld Boab is a long-time Dunfermline fan who has agreed to share some of his Pars memories each week. Over the past 4 weeks, he had looked back on the 1950s and 60s era with a different theme each week (Local Boys, Defenders, Goalkeepers and Wingers). Over the next 2 weeks, he will write about his top 3 Pars players from the club's golden period. This week: numbers 2 & 3........
Auld Boab indicated with an airy wave of his hand that he was nearly ready for the dram I had promised him, (though I don’t know how) but he obviously wished to finish his piece first, telling me he was down to his favourite three players from his era, the 50s into the early 60s:-
“The word ‘intelligent’ is usually applied to midfielders or inside men, but intelligent full-backs are not unknown. Through the eighties, we watched Dr Bobby Robertson entertaining us, and he was following in the footsteps of Gentleman George Duthie, who arrived with us from Hibs in 1953 at the age of 27, and played until 1959. His build was similar to Bobby Robertson’s, around six feet, slim, and like Bobby, he was equally at home in the full-backs or at centre-half, though to be fair, Bobby played centrally only once, in an inspirational cameo V Falkirk. George had a distinctive running style, tippy-tappy on the outsides of his feet, and he never seemed rushed, being possessed of great anticipation and positioning ability.
George was a teacher who finished his career in education as a much loved tutor in Moray House Teachers’ Training College. He was amateur in style, by which I mean he played the game in true spirit, never committing any shabby foul or vindictive act, and his bearing was consistently erect, elegant, balanced, assured, ice-cool. He was two-footed, and always selected watching and biding his time rather than lunging in. Intelligence in action!
But George had one particular asset which elevated him in Pars’ memories. He was, and surely remains, Dunfermline’s most successful penalty-taker, rivalling Aberdeen’s star right-back of the time, the legendary Don Emery; but Emery fired full-blast low cannon-balls in, and any keeper attempting to stop one would waken up in a hospital ward, while George was a placer, stroking the ball low to the stanchion, in the days when keepers were not allowed to move until the foot made contact with ball. His penalty style was reminiscent of my own in the mid 50s, when I won the Golden Boot twice in a row in the Dunfermline and West Fife Scout League. George maybe missed one in his career though I do not know for sure, but he certainly scored 21 goals in his six seasons with us, and I believe all were penalties.
I have mentioned previously our win in 1955 in the Cup V Partick Thistle at East End, and anyone who was there will recall the match as one of the top five domestic games we have ever seen at East End. Partick were a flying A Division team at the time, and went two up by half-time; but in the second half, winger Colin McKinlay scored a great goal after some superb ball control, and then inside-left Felix Reilly crashed a beauty high into the net from the edge of the box. Two all, and Pars pressure continued.
With a few minutes to go, left-winger Anderson was hauled down in the box - penalty! Up the field trotted centre-half George Duthie in his characteristic tippy-tappy style. I have to say that in recent years, penalties have been a bit of a trauma for us, and we have watched a variety of players, pre-Higgy, hoping they would score. With George on duty, we did not hope - we knew! Sure as fate, he ambled up to the ball and despatched it efficiently low into the goalie’s left-hand stanchion. Game won, but could we hold out for five minutes?
Two minutes later, Charlie Dickson released McKinlay who was felled by goalie Ledgerwood. Penalty again! Up the field once again trotted George Duthie in his characteristic tippy-tappy style. Sure as fate, he ambled up to the ball and despatched it efficiently low into the goalie’s right-hand stanchion, ie the opposite corner. What excitement in the terracings!
That’s why I remember Gentleman George Duthie with such affection and respect - the cool penalty king! He sadly died early from cancer in Edinburgh in 1982 aged 56.
In a word - poise!
Among the panoply of Pars’ stalwarts, the Pars’ stalwart of all Pars’ stalwarts is my number two favourite, Ronnie Mailer, who achieved everlasting fame as the Captain of our 1961 Cup-winning team. Ronnie signed in 1951 as an inside-right, but moved to right-half where he played for us until 1964, with a one-year stay at Darlington in season 1954/5, possibly as a consequence of National Service.
Ron was the archetypal bustling wing-half, of small/average height, but a continual thorn in the flesh for any attacker trying to pass him. He was brave, industrious, indefatigable, and it was these qualities which led to him being appointed Captain. I read recently some criticism of Morris for failing to shout at his team-mates; well, I never heard Ron Mailer shouting at his team-mates. He always led rather by example, getting stuck in, tackling again and again, being everywhere, making passes, driving forward. He was never going to be capped, but as a Club man of orthodox playing style, he was supreme.
180 minutes V Celtic in 1961, Ron his customary high profile terrier in defence, Celtic goal-less, and it was no coincidence that as soon as the game finished, Jock Stein’s first run, en route to Eddie Connachan, was to Ronnie Mailer, his brave inspirational Captain, for an embrace which transferred some Hampden mud from Ron’s strip on to Jock’s flapping white raincoat!
Ron’s game of games had to be against a rampant Kilmarnock in that end-of-season run of six winning matches to avoid relegation after the arrival of Jock Stein. So far two wins had helped, but Killie were challenging Hearts for the title, had already reached the Cup Final, and had played 21 games without defeat when they arrived at East End for this Monday night fixture in April, 1960. The match was keenly contested with chances at both ends, but goal-less at half-time, when Pars turned round to play to the town end. Five minutes in, and Ron picked up the ball in his midfield position, with just enough space to strike perfectly a shot from 35 yards. The ball whistled through the air at the speed of light and dipped in to the Martin Hardie postage-stamp corner of the goal past an apparently unsighted Jimmy Brown. A third win in a row for the Pars and two more points towards safety, thanks to goal of the season, if not century!
Killie’s keeper, Jimmy Brown, was a larger than life character, and a great favourite with all Scottish football fans for his humour and engagement with the terracings. He had some rare shoulder-charge jousts with Charlie Dickson but, even though Jimmy was solid, with thighs like tree trunks, and probably twice Charlie’s weight, at any contact he would drop to the ground like a dying hippo, but with enough presence of mind to keep a hold of the ball. Ref would back the keeper and blow for a foul, whereupon Jimmy would rise to his feet, still clutching the ball, and have a good laugh with the crowd at the success of his subterfuge. The crowd would join him in laughing, probably unlike today when they would be more likely to boo, gesticulate or throw coins!!
I had the pleasure of playing golf with the late Jimmy at Crail some twenty years ago, and on the way round, I reminded him of his jousts with Charlie Dickson, which made him smile, and I also mentioned Ron Mailer’s strike, commenting that Jimmy did not seem to have made an effort to save it. ‘Save it?’ said Jimmy, ‘It was going that hard, I never even saw it!’ So Jimmy too remembered Ronnie’s wonderful goal.
I also spoke with Ronnie at the Alhambra night celebrating the 60s some ten years ago, and found him to be the most pleasant, modest unassuming man, a man whose on-field enthusiasm demonstrated that he loved football, and a man whose playing record showed that he loved the Pars. To the best of my knowledge, Ronnie, now in his mid-eighties, still lives in his native Auchterarder.
In a word - lion-heart!"
Auld Boab subsided wearily back in his chair after this memory, but promised that he would summon the energy to reveal his number one favourite before accepting the dram he had somehow managed to wheedle out of me. Final episode from Auld Boab next week
(Some of you may recognise the writer's identity but for the purpose of the articles he has agreed to write for Pars Review, he has asked me to refer to him as "Auld Boab").
His final article, on his favourite ever Pars player, will be posted next Thursday.