Football: Lament for Glenbuck - Shankly's 'lost' village

Don Gillespie on the mining hamlet where football not coal was king

The hullabaloo at Anfield on Saturday was silenced by a lone piper playing a lament for the lost village that gave Liverpool their greatest manager, Bill Shankly.

At half time, the 17-year-old Bill Graham stirred the hearts of all who claim to love football. For Graham comes from a hill farm overlooking the now deserted Ayrshire mining outpost of Glenbuck. He played for its lost community and the men, like Shankly, who contributed more to the game than any other place on earth.

Before the year is out, Glenbuck will be no more. The last remaining house and every trace of its existence will go, the land on which it stood will be peeled back and the coal beneath quarried out. Even its name on the map will erased, for opencast mining is a heartless business.

Yet if ever a place deserves to be remembered and respected, then this place surely does. From a population of never more than 1,200, Glenbuck produced over 50 professional footballers. Six played for Scotland and one became a footballing legend. Its famous team, the Cherrypickers, formed in 1872 and named after a regiment inwhich some of the villagers fought in the Boer War, became the most successful in Ayrshire. A visit to their home ground, Burnside Park, was a testing experience.

In a 30-year span, Glenbuck men graced the pitches of Celtic, Rangers, Motherwell, Partick Thistle, Dundee, Kilmarnock, Hamilton Academical, Heart of Midlothian, Ayr and Stranraer. Others went south to Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Arsenal, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End, Liverpool, Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Manchester City.

The first to turn professional was Alex Tait. He won an English FA Cup winner's medal with Spurs against Sheffield United in the 1901 final at Burnden Park, watched by a crowd of almost 115,000. In gratitude, Spurs allowed the Cup to cross the border and be displayed in a Glenbuck shop window.

From then on player after player swapped miners boots for football boots at the first opportunity. For some, it almost became the family business. Names like Knox, Bone, Wallace, Tait and Shankly crop up again and again as son followed father, and brother followed brother.

To appreciate the scale of their achievement, imagine if it was a couple of streets in your town that could boast a record like that. And they did it with no outside help, no benefactor or lottery money.

To understand more requires an awareness of industrial and social history. But basically, mining, and mining communities produced special people. This hard and dangerous profession forced many to better themselves in other spheres. In South Wales it was choirs and rugby, in the North of England it was brass bands and fast bowlers, but, in Scotland, the passion was football. Nowhere was that passion stronger than Glenbuck and no village son ever more passionate than Shankly, the youngest of the five famous footballing brothers.

Shankly was forged in the Glenbuck football furnace. His father had been a renowned middle-distance runner whose training techniques were adopted by the Cherrypickers. His uncle, Bob Blythe, played for Rangers and his four brothers all pursued successful careers.

Perhaps it was fate that chose him to be Glenbuck's most famous son for it turned out that he was to be one of their last. In 1931, the one remaining pit in the village closed and, with the pumps shut down, the rising watertable turned Burnside Park into a bog. With no work and no pitch, the Cherrypickers were finished and so too was Glenbuck.

Shankly carried the Glenbuck tradition with him and his management of Liverpool bears all of its hallmarks. His rapport with the fans was unmatched, because he was one of them, as straight and determined as you could find.

When the news broke on the Kop that Glenbuck was to vanish, they decided something had to be done. A delegation, including a Liverpool video-maker, Maurice Alexander, whose cameraman survived a 150ft fall while filming at the site, were sent to talk with Scottish Coal.

They secured permission to erect a memorial on an island of undisturbed ground in the centre of what was Burnside Park. A plaque, paying tribute to Glenbuck and bearing a dedication to Shankly "the legend, the genius, the man", will leave Merseyside tomorrow wrapped in a Liverpool flag. It will be unveiled on Sunday.

At least now, Glenbuck and its footballing sons will be remembered and, just like Shankly, they too will never walk alone.

News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Property

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: KENT MARKET TOWN - An exciting new role has ar...

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices