In the time of Turnbull’s Tornadoes

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It is October 1987, Hibernian make a big name signing. Andy Goram, replacing the evergreen Alan Rough, makes his home debut on the 10th of that month and it’s a life changing experience, not for Mr Goram but for me; my first visit to Easter Road.

I had for a couple of years been following Hibs from afar but on this day Hibs truly entered my life and heart with a 4-0 win over Dunfermline. It was also the start of a long- term friendship with Ray who took me to the game and with whom I would spend the next 33 years watching the Hibs side by side on the East terrace and then seated in the West Stand lower.

His Mother was a Celtic fan, his Dad and brother ardent Jambos, yet the Ray I knew was the most fervent Hibs supporter you could find. How could that happen? This is his story.

“I was brought up in Boghall housing estate on the edge of Bathgate in West Lothian. Nowadays council housing is synonymous with the working class but back in the 1960s nearly everyone lived in a council house, certainly in Scotland.

“I went to St Columba’s primary school and it was no surprise that I was a Celtic fan, it was practically a part of the curriculum. I swear to god, and this is true, the headmaster played an LP of Irish rebel songs at school assembly.

“When I was eight and just becoming aware of football Celtic won the European Cup. I remember that night vividly the family gathered round our black and white telly, going bananas when Celtic won, even my Jambo Dad.

“A wee boy couldn’t help but want to be part of all that. I remember school trips on the bus, us all singing to the tune of : “We’ve got Ronnie Simpson, Number One....” all the way through to “Bobby Lennox Number Eleven.

“This would be sung alongside We’re off to Dublin in the Green, Up went Nelson in old Dublin and Sean South of Garryowen – songs that would probably get you arrested if you sang them in public today.

“My Dad didn’t push me toward any one team, indeed he took my brother and I to lots of different matches, the League Cup final was a family favourite.

“We were at the 1969 final between Celtic and Hibs (6-2). As a Celtic fan I was glad we’d won but there was something about Hibs; the colour of the strips, the dash of Marinello, that made an impression.

“I was at the famous final between Partick Thistle and Celtic, which the Jags won 4-1. The first time I saw how much winning a trophy meant to fans of a club where this was a rare event, compared to Celtic where it was routine.

“By the early 70s I was a jaded Celtic fan. Winning was no big deal; even celebrating felt a bit much. I’d also become uncomfortable with the sectarianism and the herd mentality that went with being catholic and a Celtic supporter.

“Although still quite young, I wanted something different. So I know the exact date I became a Hibs fan, on my 13th birthday when Hibs played Celtic in the Scottish Cup final. The Evening News had loads of adverts from local businesses wishing Hibs good luck, and mention of an open top bus if they won.

“You never got that with Celtic, there and then I decided to become a Hibs fan. It’s possible if Celtic met Kilmarnock in the final I’d have ended up supporting them. Unlikely. It was specifically the support from local Leith businesses that drew me in. Kilmarnock wouldn’t have advertised in the Evening News.

“Interestingly, despite my Dad being a Jambo, it never occurred to me to support them. Not out of spite, I just remember thinking Hearts in their dull maroon strips were old fashioned and boring.

“From that moment on, I was officially a Hibs fan and the following day we lost 6-1. I took some slagging, but there was no going back, and what a time to become a Hibs fan! At the start of Turnbull’s Tornadoes – who’d go on to win their next three finals against Celtic.

“My Dad was quietly pleased I’d settled on Hibs. He was an old school Jambo, describing himself as 90% Jambo and 10% Hibee rising to 20% every time we beat Rangers.”

Ray was a passionate Hibs fan, I remember him pacing up and down behind the old East Terrace when we had a penalty against the Hearts. He couldn’t bear to watch!

We wondered if he’d join the ranks of Hibs fans that never saw us win the Cup, happily we were at Hampden on 21st May 2016 to see us do just that, we hugged each other and the world was a better place to be.

Sadly in 2020 during the Covid lockdown Ray lost his long battle with cancer, the seat next to me at Easter Road will always be a reminder of a passionate and loyal Hibs fan, a truly wonderful friend who changed my life.

Ged Tellwright


Info: Do you have an interesting or unusual story about changing football allegiances? Would you like your tale to be published in The Leither and, potentially, a book? Email billy@leithermagazine.com

A Turnbull Tornado…apparently

He was an old school Jambo describing himself as 90% Jambo and 10% Hibee, rising to 20% every time we beat Rangers

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