Rev Jim Martin
REV DR JIM MARTIN has been a familiar face around Fir Park for more than 60 years.
Since first building up a close friendship at Manse Road Church with legendary Motherwell manager John Hunter he has been a virtual ever-present at Motherwell FC, becoming unofficial chaplain at the club in 1945.
Even today he is in the changing room at Fir Park after every game congratulating or consoling the Motherwell players, depending on the result.
And once a week he takes a walk round the ground, reminiscing on past glories.
This year he celebrated a remarkable 65 years with the Church of Scotland and now aged 90, he has written two articles detailing the agony and ecstasy of the years 1931 and 1932 from his own perspective.
THE month of April 1932 brought to me an experience of sheer ecstasy as a fanatical supporter of Motherwell Football Club, despite being a very young boy.
That season we won the League Championship, ending an Old Firm monopoly of some 40 years.
In contrast, April the previous year brought me the experience of sheer agony, made all the more painful because it came so close to being one of great joy.
For the first time in their history Motherwell had won their way into the final of the Scottish Cup where they were to face Celtic, already multiple winners of the trophy.
Although a small boy and still at primary school, I had inherited my father’s passion for football and was at Fir Park every Saturday afternoon whether it was the first team or the reserves who were in action.
Despite Celtic being such fearsome cup opponents, I, like every other ’Well fan, was full of confidence and believed our heroes would prove good enough to master them and win the Scottish Cup.
To my great disappointment dad decided I was too young to join the large crowd of 104,863 (the biggest crowd ever to attend a Motherwell match) at Hampden Park.
As a result I was left at home while he and most of the town’s able-bodied men made their way to the match on what was a fine but cold afternoon.
Of course 1931 was long before the broadcasting coverage we have nowadays but a friendly newsagent just round the corner from our house let it be known that he would keep in touch by telephone with the game’s progress and have the score posted up at regular intervals on his shop window.
As a consequence I became one of a sizeable crowd of people – children, women and old men – who were gathered in front of the window before kick-off.
When the first notice of Motherwell 0 Celtic 0 was replaced shortly afterwards by Motherwell 1 Celtic 0, all of a sudden the sun seemed brighter and the day warmer.
When that notice gave way to one that read Motherwell 2 Celtic 0, my heart was positively singing.
I was convinced that our heroes could not fail to bring the Scottish Cup back to Motherwell.
And for me there was going to be an extra bonus if that were the case.
We had a neighbour, a special friend, who worked in a shoe shop and she had promised that if Motherwell won she would buy me a pair of football boots, my very first.
It seemed beyond all lingering doubt that Motherwell would win the match and the boots would be mine when the window notice still read 2-0 with 15 minutes to go.
Even when we were informed that Celtic had scored a goal a few minutes before the end, we scarcely had time to feel any anxiety before another notice was posted up which read: Final score Motherwell 2 Celtic 1.
We were all ecstatic but our dancing and celebrating in front of the window was suddenly brought to a heartbreaking end.
We watched in unbelieving horror as the newsagent’s assistant removed the victory notice and replaced it with one that read: Corrected result Motherwell 2 Celtic 2.
What had happened was that in the closing seconds of the match with hundreds of Motherwell supporters already on their way home to prepare for victory celebrations, disaster struck.
Allan Craig, the Motherwell centre-half, although totally unchallenged, attempted to head a perfectly harmless cross for a corner in order to see out the match. But somehow he headed the ball into his own net!
I can still feel the anguish that was engulfing me as I crawled miserably homewards.
On the way I met my kind friend of the football boots promise.
“Cheer up,” she said, when I told her what happened. “I will give you the boots anyway.”
It was very kind of her indeed but just then I wasn’t caring about the boots.
I could only think that the Scottish Cup had been in our hands but was now thrown away.
And so it was for Celtic won the replay by four goals to two.
I thought I would never get over it but the following season’s glorious triumph in the League Championship was again an experience I will never forget.
NEXT WEEK: After the agony of 1931, a glory year is recollected by Rev Jim Martin.