Johnny Hamilton: Goalscoring winger
for Hearts in their 1950s golden age

 

Open the gate, here comes Pigalle Wonder!’ It was a familiar cry on the terraces of Tynecastle football ground in the late 1950s when Heart of Midlothian were piling up the trophies and their ecstatic fans gloried in comparing the scorching pace of winger Johnny Hamilton with a champion greyhound of the time.

In fact, Pigalle’s top-level career – illustrious though it was, encompassing victory in the English Derby of 1958 – had nothing like the longevity of Hamilton’s, which was reflected in his collection of one Scottish League title medal and three League Cup gongs.

The Edinburgh crowd adored the former coalminer, too, for his character and his style, both of which were effervescent. In an era when goal-scorers tended to celebrate with a brisk handshake and maybe receive a pat on the back before trotting to the centre circle for kick-off, the Jambos’ diminutive winger was renowned for his extravagant celebrations, all flailing limbs and athletic gyrations.

“Wee Hammy”, as he was described, was recruited by Hearts as a 20-year- old in 1955 from Lesmahagow Juniors for a transfer fee of £100 and pitched straight into the first team, his speed and crossing ability displayed to telling effect as Tommy Walker’s team finished third in the table in 1956, then second a year later. However, with stern competition for places from the likes of Ian Crawford and Alex Young, he was barely used in 1957-58 as the Tynecastle club became champions for the first time in the 20th century.

Even so Hamilton averaged a goal a game in his four outings that season, and soon he stormed back into favour, taking a prominent role as the League title was regained in 1959-60 and in three League Cup triumphs. He scored in finals against Partick Thistle in 1958-59 and Third Lanark in 1959-60, then put in a characteristically energetic shift as Kilmarnock were overcome in 1962-63.

While speed was his most obvious attribute, Hamilton also offered flair with the ball at his feet, the ability to cross accurately while sprinting at full pelt, and a fulminating shot, which brought him 110 goals in his 391 senior appearances for the club. He was adaptable, too, capable of producing his finest form on either wing, and a marvellous all-round clubman, his bubbly dressing-room presence and irrepressible enthusiasm for training marking him out as a magnificent example to younger team-mates.

That Hamilton was never awarded a full cap was a source of outrage to his regular admirers, many of whom still recall with reverence his dazzling display for Hearts against a Scotland XI in a World Cup trial match in the spring of 1958, in which he gave a masterclass in dribbling, topped by a spectacular long-distance goal.

After a dozen seasons of high-quality contribution to the Tynecastle cause, the 32-year-old Hamilton was released in May 1967 to join Watford, who had just narrowly missed promotion from the English third tier. He made little impact at Vicarage Road, though, being granted only eight senior outings and being sent off in one of them, and in 1968 he returned to the Scottish League with Second Division Berwick Rangers. At Shielfield Park he belied his veteran status with his characteristic enthusiasm and ebullience, making nearly a century of appearances before his retirement as a player in 1973.

“Wee Hammy” returned to Tynecastle as a youth coach in the second half of the 1970s, and was a newsagent in Edinburgh for many more years after that.

John Hamilton, footballer; born Larkhall, Lanarkshire 22 January 1935; played for Heart of Midlothian 1955-67, Watford 1967-68, Berwick Rangers 1968-73; died Edinburgh 13 August 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee