Clark – Player 1957-60
Here we chat with Donald Clark from Lochgelly who was our left back in the late 1950’s.
‘I come from Lochgelly and some of my earliest football was played for
Lochgelly East School.
After that I played on the right wing for Lochgelly Juveniles who were a team organised by Churchmount church. Next I joined Kelty Hearts at the age of 18.
I still have a medal I won with the Hearts when we lifted the Coronation Shield.
Kelty one day went down to Kirkcaldy to play in a works tournament organised
by Rosslyn Juniors and I promptly ended up signing junior with the Kirkcaldy outfit Nairn Thistle. They were a team for the Nairn’s linoleum works and were run by a man named Harley who had once played
for Lochgelly Albert.
Willie Benvie’s brother Bob played
alongside me for Nairn Thistle where I turned out at left back. My next move
was to my local team Lochgelly Albert where I switched flanks to wear the Number 2 jersey.
However, in those days you had to do your National Service. I was dreading being called up. I’d never been away
from home in my life. When I was called up, I hoped though to be posted somewhere
overseas. Instead I was sent to RAF Kinloss up in the north of Scotland.
I didn’t want to go there at all
and certainly didn’t enjoy the first six months which we spent squarebashing.
However, the next 18 months was to turn out to be the time of my life. I
was initially in Maintenance Command as an aircrew mechanic – it was more like being a full time footballer though once
the RAF found out I was a player.
Indeed, when Maintenance Command was
closed down I was supposed to be transferred to Wales. An Officer though stepped in to tell me
‘you’re not going south’ and he arranged for my transfer to Coastal Command at Kinloss so I could still
play football for the Station while the chap I replaced was sent down to Wales.
Coastal Command was run out of Pitreavie Castle and we had trips away to play football
most weeks. Sometimes you would travel in an old Bedford bus which was
hard going but often we could hop on an RAF flight such as when we played down at Kirkham near Blackpool. I was
playing for the station team RAF Kinloss when Kinloss won the Command Cup. Thereafter
I was selected to represent Coastal Command.
Next up I was in the RAF side representing
Scotland alongside players like Charlie Dickson. I
represented the RAF v the Army and remember coming up against Ally McLeod when playing for the RAF in a match at East End Park, Dunfermline. In my time at Kinloss, having won the inter command cup, we picked up the prize of a trip to play in a
tournament in Gibraltar.
Never having been abroad before this was a wonderful experience. Our team included Jim Furnell who later was Arsenal’s goalie, Dougie Baird of Partick Thistle, Terry
Tighe of Dunfermline, and a Sergeant Spackman who was the spitting image of Rangers’ Nigel Spackman – I have often
wondered if he was Nigel’s father.
In Gibraltar, we played at the Victoria Stadium just on the border
with Spain. There was no grass on the pitch at all
just sand. It was really hard on your feet.
I tried to get baseball boots to wear for the matches out there. They
were the latest thing. Gordon Smith had famously started wearing them on frosty
pitches. We played four games in five days on the Rock. Opposition was supplied by Gibraltar United, the Army, Gibraltar Force, and the Swedish club Malmo. I still have a pin and a small trophy which
I received after our games in Gibraltar.
Back at Kinloss, I started playing for Morayshire Juniors and we won the Robertson
Cup. Sometimes at Morayshire if we were behind I would be pushed up to centre
forward and managed to pull the game out of the fire quite a few times.
I was playing for Morayshire Juniors when the local Highland League side Forres Mechanics were drawn to play Celtic
at home in the Scottish Cup. Forres officials came to visit me and asked me to
sign on to play versus Celtic. I wasn’t that keen. I had already refused to play senior for Nairn and Inverness Caley as I didn’t want to travel to play home games.
Forres though were the local club and
they spent an hour persuading me. Eventually I agreed to sign so we could all
get away! I duly made my debut for Forres Mechanics in a Scottish Cup tie v Celtic
at Mosset Park – I turned out at right-half although I’m still not sure I was properly signed on though! There was a big crowd and we played well. Celtic were flattered
by a 5-0 win.
Playing in the Highland League for Forres was an experience as well. I
earned the nickname ‘the Bobby Evans of the north’ while I was up there!
The club chairman was John Falconer who had a garage in Forres with the directors all being local businessmen. An old guy who lived at the RAF camp who was a Forres fan used to bring in a piece
for Alastair MacRae and me at our work each day. Then we would also go along
to his house for our tea and some home baking.
Goalkeeper Henry Wisniewski was one of the characters in that Forres side. He had joined Forres after the war where he had served in the Polish forces and kept
goal for the Mechanics for years. I remember one incident with Henry when we
were playing Fraserburgh who had the famous Don Emery (ex-East Fife and Aberdeen) playing for them. Don had thighs like tree
trunks. He couldn’t run but the tactic was to get the ball to him and he
would crash thunderbolt shots into the net from all ranges.
Henry was terrified of him but captain
Willie Roy said to Henry ‘at the next corner come out with your knee up and clatter Emery’. Henry duly charged out but missed Emery and hit Roy instead.
Next thing Willie was being stretchered off.
I used to see Henry when I visited Elgin and Forres for
holidays in my brother-in-law’s caravan. I still go up there regularly. Henry eventually lost both his legs to diabetes and he died some years ago.
Another Highland League character was Bobby Kinloch who was at RAF
Kinloss with me. He had a fine career with Hibs and I learned the hard way never
to play him at cards.
Eventually my National Service was completed and I was demobbed. I came home to Lochgelly and played a few matches as an amateur for Queen’s Park. I was in at Dunfermline training under Andy Dickson. The Pars though were mucking me about and
I wanted to play regularly. It was then that I agreed to join Cowden as an amateur
early in season 1957/58.
While I had been playing for Forres Mechanics at wing half, at Central Park I started out in the right-back berth. Eventually though it was at left-back
that I played most of my games for Cowden. There was one game at Boghead v Dumbarton
though where for some unknown reason I was fielded as outside-right. I scored
that day but that was to be my only goal for Cowdenbeath. I did almost score
another when I took a penalty v Berwick. However, I missed it as the ball stuck
in the mud before it crossed the goal line!
I guess a highlight of my first season with Cowden was when we played Rangers
in the Scottish Cup at Central Park before a big crowd of about 16,000. Cowden persuaded me to sign on as
a professional before that game. There was no signing-on fee though.
We got £8 a week basic and a win bonus
would take this up to £10. I was getting more for expenses up at Forres. Cowdenbeath also paid £2 a week into a Bank account for each player for every point
we gained. You only got the money though if you won promotion so I never saw
any of that particular fund.
In my first year we did have a good run
but the team fell way in the second half of the season. Some of the older lads
I think eased off a bit as being promoted might have seen them not being kept on if we had reached the First Division.
Turning back to the Rangers game though, their team had players in it like Ralph
Brand and Jimmy Millar. I was up against their right-wing star Alex Scott who
was blisteringly fast. I was a good tackler but speed was my real strength. I also had just got myself the latest thing – a pair of Adidas football boots.
I was one of the first players in Scotland to
wear them and got them at Hutton’s Sport Shop in Dunfermline where Cowdenbeath had an account. They were
the very thing – more like shoes than the old style of boot and they had rubber moulded soles. Soon everybody wanted a pair.
Scott and I had a good duel that day
and I held my own against him. Cowden took an early lead in that game and were
1 up at half time. Rangers though hit back to win 3-1. I always remember Basher Murphy in that game chasing a Rangers player.
He never even bothered looking at the ball at all but just sent his opponent flying with his tackle.
I also came up against ex-Cowden star Alex Menzies that year. Big Ming trained with us at Central Park. He was a bit slow by then but he was real
tough guy. He was playing for Stirling Albion who were up and down between the Leagues almost every year back then.
I remember I was at right-back when Ming
came across towards me. I slipped the ball round him but I’m afraid that’s
as far as I got. Ming then travelled home to Cowdenbeath with us after the game
on the Cowdenbeath team bus. I recollect him putting his arm round me and saying
‘Donald I wish I had your speed. Mind you, you’ll wish you had my
Looking back at that Cowdenbeath team, there were quite a few
characters. Old John Dougary was the manager but like all my managers at Cowdenbeath
he never said much. Mick Paton was trainer and he was a good guy.
I remember once we went down to Stark’s Park at short
notice to play Raith Rovers in a friendly match. This was when floodlit friendlies
were the latest thing and Raith were supposed to be playing a foreign team which didn’t turn up. Cowden filled in on the night.
The famous Jack Mowat was the referee that evening. Once we got there and were getting ready Mick went to see Mowat to ask him what time we would kick off. Mowat replied ‘Oh good, you do speak English’. Nobody had told him the foreigners had called off.
The Directors I can recall at Central Park were Willie Terris, Bob Taylor and the butcher
Jimmy Noble. I remember Noble saying to me after one game ‘Look instead
of trying to pass the ball, boot it up the park’. There was no point in
that I said as it just comes flying back.
I also remember playing against Alloa
who had John White playing for them at the time. They had a player sent off but
we lost against 10 men. Bob Taylor was furious.
I remember him picking on John Murphy and telling him he never wanted to see him again.
Reminds me of John Robertson who used to run Cowdenbeath Royals back in
the 1950’s. It was John that threw Jim Baxter out of the Royals telling
him to go home as he’d never make a player.
As for players. I remember Bob
Barrie in goals - he was some boy. We’d be travelling to Forfar for example
and he’d say ‘Listen a’ the sheep here ken me. Hear them shouting
Les Murray was in the side too and I
travelled back and forth to training with him. He’s dead now but at one
time he was a steward at Rosemount Golf Club. There also was Jocky Miller and
Basher Murphy – they couldn’t stand each other! Watty McWilliams
was in the team as well along with Albert Craig. I had played with Albert in
the RAF. He was a strong player. Bobby
Campbell was our centre half and I used to see him up in Elgin.
At centre forward of course we had Bobby
Gilfillan. He was a real goalscorer. Slim
and fast although not as quick as me! I recall Bobby, Basher Murphy, and I used
to go into the ice cream shop opposite Central Park after training. We would get ice cream drinks
which we would keep on topping up with lemonade. The three of us also went to
tailor next door to the Goth. We had blazers made with the club badge which featured
a pithead on it. Jackie Derrick who had the pet shop in the High Street helped
design that badge.
Gilfillan went south of course to play for Newcastle and was in English football for a good
number of years. Bobby lives back in Cowdenbeath now I think but sad to say his
memory isn’t what it was.
I heard that Basher Murphy was in the shop in Stenhouse Street
a while back and someone said to him – ‘come outside I’ve got someone in the car who you’ll know’. When John went out there was Bobby in the car.
He didn’t recognise Basher at all though and Murphy said to him ‘You should do I played with you for years.
John Dougary gave up as manager due to old age and he was replaced by the ex-Aberdeen
captain Jimmy Mitchell. All I really remember of Jimmy was his insistence that
a player should drink a big glass of sherry before the game ‘to break the wind’!
That year we played Celtic in the League Cup. We lost 2-0 at Celtic Park.
Wee Bobby Collins was awarded a goal
by the Ref that day despite being offside and fouling me. Bobby was really difficult
to knock off the ball and had a good hard shoulder on him. I also remember Charlie
Tully came up to me with the ball and pointed one way then went to go the other. I
tackled him and he just walked away trying to take the mickey.
The Cowden side then included Bobby Ross.
He was about finished but had been with Dundee United for years. His father used to have
a garage at the bottom of Auchterderran Road and later Bobby had Ross’s Taxis in Cowdenbeath.
Bobby Gilfillan I’ve mentioned
already and then there was that real character John ‘Basher’ Murphy. He
was a really good player – strong and muscular as well and he could hit a football.
He was some boy though - you’d be playing ‘headers’ in the dressing room and next thing he would
boot the ball to send it rocketing round the room. We clashed a few time in training
matches as well.
The older pros like Bobby Ross and Jimmy
Lindsay would sometimes have to quieten him down. There was a game once in the
Cup at Dunfermline
and Watson of Dunfermline said to Basher, ‘See you I widnae let you carry ma bits’. John
told him, ‘I’ll carry yer bits and you’ll still be in them’.
I also recollect twice getting my name taken mainly due to Basher’s antics! There was one match v East Fife when he and Felix Reilly were at each other throats.
I then tackled Reilly, he fell on top of me and I ended up in the book. Then
in a match v Ayr,
John was going hammer and tongs with the McIntyre brothers. Tempers again frayed
and big Peter Price kicked at me. I then kicked him. We got the foul but I was booked.
Another refereeing incident I recall
was at Alloa. I tackled an Alloa player and the ball flew behind into one of
the metal stanchions in the fence around the pitch. The ball rebounded back onto
the pitch and was spinning on the ground when an Alloa forward kicked it into the net.
Tiny Wharton gave a goal – I was about greetin’.
Of course I also remember Jock Gilliard – he used to go
around with his pal who was an ex-policeman and they were great drinkers. We
used to go to Stranraer and stay at Girvan overnight on the Friday. On the way
back from Stranraer Jock would stand up on the bus all the way back to Cowdenbeath.
Sometimes we had to drop him off somewhere on the way to the game and pick him up on the way back.
By my last season at Central
Park there were some younger players brought in from Cowdenbeath Royals
like Bobby Anderson and Johnny Greenlees brother of the referee. We qualified
from our League Cup section although I was injured by a kick in the ribs at St Johnstone which forced me to go onto the left wing –
I could hardly move.
We reached the semi finals and played Hearts at Easter Road. We were hammered. Ian Crawford and Alex
Young could have shut their eyes and still have scored for Hearts that night. I
was up against Gordon Smith in that match. He was a deceptive runner with a long
stride. At one point I caught him with my foot and I ended up running up his
I was Cowden’s captain that year and we were drawn to play away at Eyemouth
in the last 16 of the Cup. The game was to be a disaster for us – it was
the worst match ever played on grass. Archie Buchanan by now was our manager
but he was just like Jimmy Mitchell. You rarely saw him and he never said anything
In fact trainer Mick Paton was the only guy who showed some real leadership
and he always made us run out briskly onto the park. Archie was player-manager
though and at Eyemouth I won the toss. I thought we should play against the wind
and up the slope in the first half but Archie had the final say and we did the opposite.
We were never in the game and I got the
biggest run around I ever had in a game of football. We were a poor side. George Forrester who I knew from my RAF days was Eyemouth’s captain. In the past, I had acquitted myself well against players like Alex Scott, Willie Fernie, Charlie Tully
and Gordon Smith but I never got near the Eyemouth winger. He passed the ball
every time before I could tackle him. Even worse, folk seemed to think I wasn’t
trying. Nobody spoke to me on the bus coming home.
I then played in a League match v Queen’s
Park at Central Park
which we lost 9-1 and that was more or less my last game for Cowden. Jim Dorman
was in goals that day and I remember flying at him after he let three of them past him at his near post.
I left Cowden in 1960 and had a few games with East Fife when Charlie
McCaig was manager. I then briefly went to Brechin but the travelling
was too much and I decided to pack it in. I got married around then too and started
playing golf. You’ll find me out on Lochgelly Golf Course much of the time
Rab Dow who was at Cowdenbeath back in
the late 1950’s is a Lochgelly regular as well. I’m a grandfather
now and my grandson for a time was playing for the Crossgates Primrose ‘wee team’.
I’ve been retired for about 10 years after leaving the Dockyard aged 62 due to angina. My working days started at Donald Harper Coachbuilders in Kirkcaldy.
Then I was 18 years gaffer at Dicksons in Lochgelly followed by 10 years as gaffer at Tasker Trailers. I also had a spell at Lathalmond with the MoD before going to Rosyth.
Looking back at my football days I think the best team I played against was
Hearts in that League Cup semi final. My favourite ground was Borough Briggs
at Elgin which had an excellent pitch. I liked Tannadice as well – it was
very level pitch. I remember once we played Dundee United there and the match was shown on Scotsport. I recall St Johnstone’s old ground Muirton as a having a great big pitch –
it was heavy going there. Parkhead had a terribly bumpy pitch while I wasn’t
keen on Stranraer as it seemed there like you were playing on a play park.
Anyway it was good to talk to you and
you never know possibly there’s one or two might still remember me as a player at Central Park.