Dr Adam Little: Rangers footballer turned GP

As a 12-year-old, I was the only Scots boy at Harecroft Hall, a small preparatory school near Drake, which became Calderhall, now Sellafield, a school convenient for the children of the "atomics", as they were known locally. One lad, later to become a distinguished professor of physics, bestowed on me the nickname that stuck for a few months, "nought-eight".

The circumstances were that one torrid October Saturday afternoon in 1944, we boys had been huddled round the wireless, to listen to the excited, never-to-be-forgotten, tones of Raymond Glendinning, describing the wartime international match in which England trounced Scotland 8-0 at Maine Road, Manchester. The hapless Scottish left-half was Capt Adam Little, Royal Army Medical Corps, of Glasgow Rangers. He was detailed to mark Squadron Quarter Master Sergeant PTI Horatio ("Raich") Carter, of Sunderland, Derby County and England.

That Carter, one of the greatest ever inside-rights, was flanked on the right wing by Stanley Matthews, the wizard of dribble, and Tommy Lawton, Everton and England, with assistance from the inside-left Jimmy Hagan, Sheffield United and England, and Denis Compton, then of Arsenal and England, later a Test cricketer, added to Little's woes. Years later, when I met Dr Little, then a general practitioner in Port Glasgow, in the company of his MP and friend Dr Dickson Mabon, he reflected ruefully:

That afternoon at Maine Road, on paper, we had a great Scots team. Tommy Walker [Hearts] and Tory Gillick [Rangers], were great international inside-forwards for Scotland. Willie Waddell [later manager of Rangers and Scotland] was a powerful right-winger. George Young [Rangers] and Jimmy Carabine [Third Lanark] were great players. It was simply that Stan Cullis's England team were among the all-time greats.

Adam Little was born in the mining community of Blantyre, famous as the birthplace of David Livingstone, as he would often point out, and educated at Rutherglen Academy where the long-serving rector, Walter Paterson, encouraged Little's obvious football talent, but made sure that the boy put his nose to the academic grindstone. Later, Little was to say that had it not been for Paterson and teaching colleagues at Rutherglen Academy who really cared about their pupils, that he might have frittered his life away after his football days were over. He came to the attention of Bill Struth, the great, long-serving, fastidious manager of Rangers (his players had to be immaculately groomed at all times, in collar and tie) who placed the young Little with Blantyre Victoria in the days when the senior clubs believed their future players should do a hard apprenticeship with junior sides. Little thought that today's prima donnas could have benefited from such an upbringing.

He played in the Scottish Emergency War Cup when Rangers beat Dundee United at Hampden Park in May 1940 before a crowd of 90,000. For a period, Little guested with Arsenal and linked up well with Bernard Joy and other famous players in wartime football. Before leaving for the Middle East for service with the RAMC, he was a member of the Rangers team which, on New Year's Day 1943, beat Celtic by eight goals to one, the biggest margin ever in an Old Firm game.

When peace came, Little, then a full-time doctor, found it difficult to hold his place in the Rangers side and left Ibrox in 1951, to play for Greenock Morton, where he remained until retiring from football in 1955. He was something of a local hero at Cappielow Park and settled down to practice in neighbouring Port Glasgow. He was among the early advocates in Scotland of preventive medicine, with special attention to the problems arising from working with asbestos, the scourge of the shipyards.

Tam Dalyell

Adam Little, footballer and medical practitioner: born Blantyre, Lanarkshire 1 September 1919; played for Glasgow Rangers 1937-50, for Greenock Morton 1950-55; married (one son); died Erskine, Dunbartonshire 12 June 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific