Wednesday 21 October 2009
Following Ivan Ponting's excellent obituary of Alex McCrae (17 October),
writes Tam Dalyell, could I add that during National Service basic training at Catterick camp, the first time we were allowed out after our six weeks' call-up was to go to Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough, where we saw Middlesbrough 3 Burnley 3 in December 1950? That afternoon McCrae was on the same level as Wilf Mannion and Burnley's Jimmy McIlroy.
After his return to Scotland, working at Leyland Bathgate, then the biggest concentration of machine tools under one roof in Europe, McCrae, without financial reward, devoted endless hours to coaching youngsters from Stoneyburn, Blackburn (West Lothian) and Bathgate. In 1965, Arthur Bottomley, MP for Middlesbrough East and the Commonwealth Secretary, who was then immersed in the Rhodesia crisis, introduced me to his lunch guest George Hardwick, the former Middlesbrough stalwart and England captain. I mentioned my friend and constituent Alex McCrae. Hardwick turned to Bottomley and said, "You know, Arthur, it was Alex McCrae who more than any of us made the lad Delapenha" – Lindy Delapenha, the first Jamaican to play top-flight football in England – "feel at home among the boys." George Hardwick was in a position to know.
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