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Obituary: Bobby Parker

Great footballers fall into two categories: those with dazzling talent, and those who week in, week out have been great club stalwarts, perhaps never reaching international heights, but serving the game with distinction and justifiably winning the lasting affection of their home crowds and communities. Such a one was Bobby Parker, for 46 years associated with Tynecastle Park, and the Heart of Midlothian Football Club - as a young player, club captain, trainer, coach, scout, manager, chairman, and director until 1993.

Parker was never to gain full Scottish international honours. This was because it was his misfortune to be the exact contemporary of another right-back, the legendary George Young of Rangers, and Scottish captain. As a teenager on the terraces at Tynecastle in the late 1940s, my first recollection of Parker is as an acquisition from Partick Thistle. He would be covered in mud earlier in the game than anyone else, partly because he was a formidable tackler, partly because he was a terrific grafter and partly because he was fearless. He was also one of the most ferocious taker of free-kicks from outside the penalty box. The only man I have ever seen hit a dead ball harder was the Brazilian maestro Roberto Rivelino.

He never himself took part in a cup-winning side, but he contributed greatly to Hearts' triumph in the League Cup in 1954-55 and in the Championship in 1955-56. The present Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Eric Milligan, the most loyal of Hearts fans, described Parker as the living link between the successful teams of the glory days of Alf Conn, Willie Bauld, and Jimmy Wardhaugh and the present lively club. In particular, Parker did much to further the great career of the young right-half in front of him, Dave Mackay, later to be transferred to Tottenham Hotspur and to become the Scottish captain.

Parker was born in the village of Ratho in West Lothian, outside Edinburgh, and went to school at Broxburn Academy. Involved in junior football, he was picked up by Bathgate Juniors from where he went to Firhill to play for Partick Thistle. Returning to the east of Scotland in 1947 he came to Hearts.

Throughout the years, often for little pay or none at all, he devoted himself to any job that had to be done in the club. He was also a businessman in the Gorgie area of Edinburgh. In the 1980s he took over the news agency at the St Andrew's Square bus station when big companies reckoned that the price was too high. Both in the news agency and in the travel business his philosophy was to give good service to the public.

At a difficult time in 1975 Hearts turned to him to succeed Bill Lindsay as chairman. In 1980 when he resigned he made way for a company director, Archie Martin, and made possible the share reconstruction which brought the energetic Wallace Mercer and much needed money to Tynecastle. He remained welcome as ex- chairman in the boardroom, and was a useful director.

Bobby Parker, footballer and businessman: born Ratho, West Lothian 16 February 1924; married (one son, one daughter); died Edinburgh 1 March 1997.