One day a very long time ago before the Neanderthal man, (wait a mo) It’s not that far back, 1958 to be precise which is many years after that old fellow. Back then three young lads who called themselves the Three Stooges, but their first names were Edwin, John and Tommy, they were photographed one day in their newish council house. It is quite a poignant photograph as we were all to became professional footballers. Living in Delta Crescent was great, we were lucky as we were able to accept and take everything in our stride. The boss of the house was none other than our brave Mum Anne, she was from Hawick near the Scottish borders, sadly some five years earlier she was made a widow as Dad passed away aged thirty five. Janette our little sister made up our family.
The three lads were all apprentice Joiners, chippies for want of a better description, one man who should be mentioned is Bill Gibson he was Dads best friend and when our Dad passed away, Bill was at his bedside where he was asked if he could make us all Joiners. Bill graciously agreed to this request a truly exceptional feat and one which we are eternally grateful.
I personally have told the story many times to let people know that I was a qualified Joiner having spent one year at the building school in Edinburgh and a further five years as an apprentice Joiner at Gibson & Milne Building Contractors. Edwin who was our eldest brother and a real character to boot chose another firm to become a Joiner with, John and I accepted Bills offer and when we were old enough we duly joined Bills company, John was the middle brother and I the youngest of the boys.
Now that I’ve laid out the residents of Delta Crescent then comes the day of the HP sauce picture, a day that the Three Stooges should be proud of, this was to be our very first celebrity picture shoot! We did everything that the photographer asked of us, our Mum had produced this casual table setting which was what we were used to We sat comfortably, curtains closed having our tea or dinner with this famous brand and necessary bottle of HP sauce at the centre of the dining table, we knew that HP sauce was the one and only ingredient that would propel us to future Stardom. This remarkable photograph presents a varying life time of achievements in the professional sport of football, for three brothers to achieve this status is in itself rare….. but what was achieved as individuals was inspiring.
Edwin the eldest played at Falkirk before John arrived from Alloa Falkirk were in the Scottish 1st division, Edwin a centre forward, very good in the air, could use either foot and was very pacey. The enigmatic Edwin started at Preston Pans YMCA, then Musselburgh Union. This league was basically formed in Scotland to accommodate and safeguard young players up to the age of 21, he played with our John and Alec Young.
Alec was another player who turned professional with Hearts then Moved to Everton where he gained legendary status with both clubs. Edwin then played for Musselburgh Juniors, the Junior league in Scotland is a very tough league it consists of players who are open age who have maybe not made the professional ranks and are mostly over 21 year old. I had a trial for Dunbar United who were a Junior team I was 16 at that time and I found them a bit too much for me.
Edwin was a tried and tested player before he joined Falkirk, even though his time at Falkirk was short he did play with our John, he was transferred from Falkirk to Bradford City where he joined up with an old team mate of his John MCole ex Falkirk, Peter Jackson was the manager. He then joined Arbroath where John Prentice another ex Falkirk player was the new manager, Edwin then moved on once more to Alloa where he was to play with Niel Martin. Niel went on to play for Scotland and Hibernian, after hanging up his boots in Professional Football big brother tried his hand with the East of Scotland semi pro League with teams such as Gala Fairydean etc.
He played with several more of the East Of Scotland League sides before he threw his boots away. As a synopses it is obvious that Edwin was considered to be a good player by all of the ex players that he played with, hence comes our confusion why John and I were bemused that our older brother hadn’t done better in his footballing career. The simple truth was that we both would’ve had him in our team that’s for sure…. he would’ve been first on the team sheet.
Then there was John, what a player, greatness was always going to be his destiny and yet he would need his own doggedness and work ethic to prove his talents. John was very slight as a boy so much so that when he travelled to play in professional football club trial matches, he would acquit himself admirably only to be told by the seasoned scouts or managers, ‘you’ve played well son but you need to put a little bit of weight on before we will take a chance on you, come back when you’ve put the weight on then we’ll consider taking you on’. What these people didn’t know was that he was a great cross country runner, he used to hammer me every morning as we ran to work.
John was finally taken on by Alloa thank goodness, they were a small team in the Scottish 2nd Division, everything changed for John when they signed him. Firstly he was playing every week where he was able to showcase his ability, and it wasn’t long till the scouts came to see him play mostly they were from the clubs that he’d already played trial matches for. They must’ve thought that they’d seen him before but Falkirk had seen enough and signed him very soon after where he played with his older brother Edwin.
John proved himself with Falkirk and soon he was to be honoured by playing International football for Scotland, this elevated him so much that both Danny Blanchflower and Dave McKay begged their manager to sign him straight away. They both played for Spurs and their manager was none other than the Legendary Bill Nicholson, the rest is folklore. John became one of the best inside forwards in the land, domestically he went on to win the double and European trophies with Tottenham and Internationally he began to flourish he played some 27 Full Scottish Caps before tragically being struck down by Lightning and killed at Crewes Hill Golf Course Hendon London.
This article was supposed to be about HP sauce and The Three Stooges instead we are spending most of the time telling tales about our John but we all know that the accolades will keep on rolling as he was simply the best. I’m not capable of remembering all of the stats from his playing days but I can tell you about the growing up ones. John for a start was very good at keeping a football up, so good that he would annoy us. We had to find ways of annoying him, one day our Edwin threw a bucket of water over him from an upstairs bedroom window.
It happened while John was keeping this football up he was in our front garden at Delta Crescent, there I was waiting patiently for my chance, believe it or not, John had been keeping this ball up in the air for 20 minutes or more. It’s no wonder I got fed up, I signalled to Edwin to throw this bucket of water over John soaking him beautifully. Sometime John would carry a tennis ball in his pocket when he played with Tottenham or Scotland, he would do his party piece on request. When John started to get bored at keepy up, he would kick the ball as high as he could then continue keeping the ball up with his other foot when it had came back down to earth. He was special, nobody knows what he would’ve achieved had he not been killed, one thing is sure he was one of the greatest footballers in the world and he certainly was the best out of us three!
And now to myself Tommy, I had a stutter as a youngster so it could be construed that I was a nervous sort. I must add that growing up with the my family would’ve made anyone nervous, but truthfully it was the making of me.
I played Rugby at secondary school when following in my mums brother Uncle Jack’s career he played for Hawick and Scotland, a winger who’s Rugby exploits are firmly noted and I was only to turn to football because of the superior reporting of my two brothers careers in the local newspapers.
I started playing football with Musselburgh Windsor, then Musselburgh Union playing in the same team with our John, I scored all 5 goals from crosses that John swung over in one match. My next move was to turn professional with Raith Rovers, that signing meant that all three of us were getting paid to play for what we considered to be our hobby, my first match for Raith was against Celtic I got booked but who cared…. I didn’t!
When I came back from two years National Service I decided that I’d wanted to play as a centre forward and not in the midfield, consequently I moved to St Mirren where I scored twenty goals in my first season. This feat catapulted me into signing for Hearts they were a terrific side with some truly great players, they were so good that in my first season I was to score 34 goals in 37 matches.
Unfortunately I had quite a serious car crash which reduced my scoring exploits to just 13 goals in 18 game whilst recovering from my accident. Our John was killed at Crewes Hill Golf Course, life changed dramatically and it was something that if it had happened today maybe, just maybe I would’ve been looked after a little bit better than I was.
I soon fell out of favour at Tynecastle and was transferred to Aberdeen, I wasn’t to stay long at the Dons but I enjoyed my short spell at Aberdeen especially with my new team mates and Eddie Turnbull our manager. I moved to Crystal Palace along with a team mate from Aberdeen called John McCormack, John was a centre half and a good player he really jelled at Selhurst Park where he played for several seasons.
I moved from Palace to Blackpool signed by Stan Mortenson, it was a great move to a promotion hunting Club, we were so close to being promoted that season that in our last match away to Huddersfield when we were 3 – 1 up with 20 minutes to play.Our bench were celebrating our promotion but something unsavoury happened at Villa Park that day, I’m not 100 % sure but it was mooted that something had happened. I then moved to Bury where I had a good time and then something that comes to us all I hung up my boots, it was sad but at the end of the day I was proud to tell people that I was a Joiner by trade. But there was more, I was also very proud to have been a professional footballer along with my beloved brothers. Oh! and by the way…. I think that the famous HP sauce has a lot to answer for and the picture brings back memories that will never be forgotten.