Donald Clark
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Donald 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 fitba!’  


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 Baarie, Baarie!’ 


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 Addisons the 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 back. 


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 much. 


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 now. 


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. 



Cowden Conversations with David A Allan