Memories of an ex-committee man

I received the following text in an email from Alexander Sibbald who was a committee man in the early sixties. Mr Sibbald also supplied some interesting information on some of the players in the team photos which I have appened to them. Many thank to Mr Sibbald for sharing this information which is historically invaluable.

I joined the Whitburn Committee in April 1959, the same day as Jimmy Ferguson. I was just short of 20 years of age. I left in October 1964. It was a wonderful experience. Three of us were elected, that day. Morriss Everitt being the third.. This brought the committee up to the full complement at the time of 21 members, which was a first.

Ronnie McGlinchey, Bobby Welsh, Jimmy Kerr, Wullie Johnstone and Tam Baillie of the 1966 committee, were also members during my tenure. I became Minute Secretary for a year or so. In those days the minutes were written by hand in a Minute Book, and were read out at the next weekly committee for adoption. The meetings were held on Sundays in the old tea rooms just at the main gate. So if you can get a hold of these old minute books they will contain as mine of information.

We spent ages at the weekly committee meeting debating the merits of the team and players for the previous game. Then believe it or not the whole committee of 21 picked the team for the next game. (The Trainer only trained the players in those days). It was quite farcical and was more so, because often we would have a meeting just before a game, whether home or away, to reselect the team due to last minute injuries of players etc. So there we were in public arguing the merits of last minute selections.

Some of us tried to get the system changed to selection by the trainer, but it never happened in my time, because Jimmy Brown the ex player, who was appointed in 1959 as trainer didn`t want to take on the responsibility of team selection. I would imagine the system didn`t change until Wullie Johnstone gave up the Secretary`s job.

We used to run monthly late night dances in the Welfare Hall on the first Friday evening of the month until 3.00 am on the Saturday morning to raise funds. Calling into Wood`s bakery on the way home to buy freshly baked stuff was marvelous. The bakery and shop was diagonally opposite Morrisons` pub. One of the two brothers s who owned the bakery, Jim was Treasurer of the Burnie for many years until about 1957, when he moved down to Blackpool to run a guest house. In those days many people went on their annual two week holidays to Blackpool, either for the Edinburgh fortnight, or the Glasgow Fair fortnight, or the Bathgate Trades fortnight. There were many factories and pits in those days in the Whitburn\Armadale Bathgate triangle taking their holidays on one of these fortnights, dependent upon tradition and location.

Weekly bingo sessions were also run by committee members for fund raising in the Baillie Hall (now the District Council Offices.) Bobby Welsh, Jimmy Ferguson, Tam Baillie and Johnny Sneddon, another committee member at the time, ran these sessions for years. Johnny was quite a character. He worked in the grocery department of the old West Benhar Co-op just along from Woods bakery on the same side, and next door to the second pub in Whitburn, called the Old Market Inn. A Mr Roberts was the pub owner. Johnny was a mild man until match day when he stood at the pavilion and hurled abuse at the referee when he thought Whitburn were being hard done by.

We also got income from selling match raffle tickets, and of course transferring players to the seniors. A white form signing paid 200 pounds and a green form paid eighty pounds.

And occasionally Morrison`s pub would buy a match ball for the club for the Scottish cup ties,.without any public fanfare. The start of sponsorship.

We got 200 pounds in 1959 when the Rangers signed John Greig, one of their great players, in spite of the fact , he never kicked a ball for us, or entered Central Park . He had played for the juvenile team Edinburgh Athletic. Sid Bryson who ran this team had Whitburn connections, and asked us, if we would sign John on a white form, even although he was going straight to Ibrox. from Edinburgh Athletic. Signing this form made John Greig a junior registered player and ensured he could play junior football if he hadn't made it at Ibrox. At this time players couldn't be reinstated from seniors to juniors if they hadn't previously played, or signed white or green forms at junior level.

Rangers played fair by us by getting John to sign a white form rather than a green one, as they could have done. Of course John Greig went on to play very successfully at senior level for Rangers and Scotland . But he`s in the Record book as a Whitburn signing

We played our players ten shillings (50 pence) for a win, and nothing for a draw or loss.. big matches like the Scottish Cup was big money. A pound was the fee for winning and ten shillings for a draw – nothing for losing. Players also got a annual signing on fee. From memory it was about twenty pounds.

I also remember that it was in the early 1960s when the club first discussed the possibility of setting up a social club. Committee member Gilbert French agreed to gather information on how to get it off the ground. Successful social clubs at the time were the Miners Welfare, the Bowling Club, and the Labour Club. There were two very large pits at either end of the town, Polkemmet Colliery at the west end, and the Lady at Redmill. And of course Whitburn was very much a Labour party town then.

Other memories I have of the club are

The erection of the enclosure in 1946. It came from the old Polish army camp at Polkemmet Estate . One of the best things the club did.

The leveling of part of Central Park in about 1957. At that time there was quite a hill running up to the enclosure at the Longridge Road end of the ground. It extended down the park to about the eighteen yards line at the same end.

As you report, in 1948 20 people or so flew to Aberdeen to a replayed Scottish cup tie against Aberdeen Balgownie. One of the organisers was Geordie Franchitti, who was an Italian immigrant to the town in in about the 1920s. He owned the West End cafe next to the Miners Welfare Hall. Geordie is related to Dario Franchitti the current very successful Indy 300 car driver in the USA. Geordie used to walk down every morning to Bert Topping the barber for a shave. The barber`s shop was next to Woods bakery.