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Forever an Accie

The one thing that still resonates with our Dad, known as Sandy, is his love for Hamilton Accies and it runs deep and long. He’s in a Care home with vascular dementia but the sight of the red and white hoops still gets a reaction.

The family reckon his passion for the club must go back to pre Second World War as he used to talk about Davie Wilson – perhaps Accies greatest ever player who was actually English (born in Hebburn) but played for us from 1928-1945 scoring 245 goals in 329 appearances. So our Dad would only have been 6 or 7. He was a great golfer and a good football player but we think that going to the games actually started because his father worked close to the ground.  His Dad’s employer Waggon Repairs, was located behind the main stand at the old Douglas Park, so he may have dropped Dad off at the football on a Saturday as in those days most folk worked six days a week.  Dad got into Glasgow University to study medicine but he lived at home so he was able to attend games.

Dad has four children, James, me Alison, Alastair and Bruce.  James has lived abroad for thirty years so was largely able to avoid the Accies obsession in the Walker household. Alastair and Bruce bore the brunt of it. Alastair went to the games first with Dad. Bruce a little bit later.  As a GP, our Dad used to be ‘on call’ a lot at weekends so he would drop off Alastair and Bruce on Clydesdale Street and they would walk down Douglas Park Lane. They would hang about asking various adults to lift them over the turnstiles so they could get in FOC. Clearly, Dad was never concerned about them being in any danger they stood some distance from Fergie!  

Dad saw Jim McLean play for Accies in the 50s and whenever Jims name was in the news with his Utd exploits, Dad always reminded us what a great striker he was for us, 57 goals in 129 games. He was an excellent manager for Dundee United but folk sometimes forget what an amazing player he was.

Bruce’s favourite memory of Dad at the football was his view that we would always play better in the second half as we would be playing downhill! This was despite the pitch at the new stadium being level! His comment arose as a result of Old Douglas Park sloping quite significantly towards the Fullwood Foundry end i.e. where the new stadium is located now. 

We would never go into the main stand and I think we watched most games from the enclosure although sometimes we swapped ends at half time. Dad took Mum just the once (into the main stand) but she never returned after finding out there was no female toilet! Dads favourite players in those days i.e.1968-1974 were Jim Frew, Arthur McMillan and Neil Hood.

The family moved to Newcastle in the mid 1970’s and we lost contact a bit but Dad took out a subscription for the programmes and there was always huge excitement when they arrived. We didn’t get to many games then but Dad, Bruce and Alastair, always tried to get to Palmerston Park as it was the closest ground to the North East of England where we lived. Dad missed most of the shenanigans with the new stadium because he lived so far away but I always remember the despairing sigh when he watched the results programme at quarter to five on a Saturday and found out we had lost.  I knew Mum wouldn’t get much out of him on those evenings.

During the homeless years 1994-2001 Bruce continued to go to Firhill and then Cliftonhill from 1998. Dad, still based down south, came along when he was visiting the grand-children.

Our parents were still living in the North East of England until about 16 years ago. Bruce had started to go to a lot more games and in 2001, he and Alastair persuaded Dad to go to the Buckie Thistle Cup game at Victoria Park in the January of that year. He travelled up from the NE of England on the Friday night and the three of us watched a 2-0 defeat on the Saturday – at that time probably the worst defeat in our history. It was a three hour journey home and he didn’t speak until we reached the outskirts of Livingston – he was that gutted.  It went that deep.

He didn’t make the opening of the new stadium so he must have still been living in NE England. He became a season ticket holder immediately after moving back to Scotland with Mum on his retirement from General Practice. He had started sponsoring players jerseys way before then and Bruce still has Steven Thomson’s jersey from the 2000-01 season. Alastair has Pacquito’s jersey from the 2005 season. We started going to more away games, particularly as we were playing well and were on an upward curve. Dad never wanted to go to either Ibrox or Celtic Park (albeit that was when we were in the Premiership) as he didn’t like the atmosphere or the walk to the ground. He absolutely loved Richard Offiong but other favourites were Brian Carrigan and Brian McPhee.

We were all at Station Park, Forfar when we won 4-0 and won promotion back to the First Division with a brace each from Carrots and the Bee. The pitch surround collapsed (no-one was hurt) but as he was wearing a tie, (which he strangely did for most games – he was always smart for the football) he wouldn’t run onto the pitch with Bruce at the end of the game! That was an amazing season – it was the year Morton imploded. 

He always had it in for referees and he didn’t like either John Rowbotham or Willie Young. When Bruce told him Willie was a lawyer, his view softened as he saw him as a fellow professional!! I never heard my Dad raise his voice at home but at the football it was another matter. Dad would still be going now if he could and with the help of the Club, we did manage a trip to NDP to see Accies play St Mirren the season before last and we won 3-0.  While he wasn’t sure what the score was, or who anyone was for that matter, he could feel the atmosphere and got huge enjoyment from seeing the players on the pitch.

Dad was always amazed at the way we have punched above our weight for the last 10 -12 years. I guess most of his time supporting the team was when we were doing the opposite, from the nearly going bust episode in the early 1970’s and the fact we never got promoted nor relegated between 1966 and 1986.  

He loved Arthur MacMillan and Kevin McKee in the 70s and 80s but also McCarthy and McArthur in the 2000s, probably the best Accies players he had seen since Davie Wilson’s team in the late 30s. I think he would be amazed that Accies have now stayed in the top league for more seasons consecutively than ever before, especially considering the medioccrity of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

So many anecdotes about Dad and the Accies over the years. Alastair reminded me of his outrage when our ‘keeper Graham MacLean threw the ball in his own net in the early 70s. When we finished bottom of division 2 in 1970, a newspaper branded us “the worst team in Britain”, which really upset him. However, he was never discouraged, and it proved to be temporary with generally steady progress ever since (except for the drop to 4th tier in 2000!).

There was the B & Q cup final against Ayr in 1991. I’d just joined BBC Sport and was usually elsewhere working on a weekend but I did make that game. Dad and Bruce travelled up from England and met me and Alastair. What a day that was when Bomber (Colin) Harris scored an incredible daisy cutter to win us the cup. Dad was a big fan of Colin Harris and enjoyed the whole-hearted way in which he played.

His Accies legacy? Undaunting support and loyalty to his hometown club and because of him, a club supported by his children and several of his grandchildren, including my son Lee and his girlfriend, Isla, Bruce’s daughter Holly and Alastair’s son Alex – albeit from New Zealand. Gretna beat us 6-0 in the 2nd tier in 2006. Dad, Bruce and Alastair were there. It was Alex’s first game and he was hooked. I’m sure his Dad and Grandad has a lot to do with that! Dad said Gretna shouldn’t be in the league as they wouldn’t be able to sustain a team in THIS league, never mind the top one. He was proved correct. 

Dad loved goals and was frustrated at what he saw as being the ‘tippy tappy‘ stuff. His favourite comment was ‘nae goals nae fitba’! His favourite player now would be Scott Martin – no doubt about it. 

I know he’ll be looking at his Hamilton Accies themed birthday cake on the 22nd of January and remembering his club with real affection.

Alison Walker – 16th January 2021 – 10:30am

 

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