The Ibrox disaster 40 years aniversary
When tragedy struck
January the second next year will be the 40th anniversary of the darkest day in the history of Glasgow Rangers football club.
The disaster of 1971 saw a death toll of 66 and 145 recorded injuries. I have no doubt there was probably hundreds more small injuries on fans who managed to walk away with no need for medical attention.
The youngest victim was 9 year old Nigel Pickup from Liverpool, and the only female victim was 18 year old Margaret Ferguson from Falkirk.Of the 66 victms 33 were teenagers and to lose their lifes so young is heartbreaking.
The worst hit community was the small town of Markinch in Fife .Five young boys from the same street lost their life's that day.
Peter Easton (13)
Brian Todd (14)
Martin Paton (14)
As the crowd was leaving the ground it is thought than someone stumbled on the stairs, and the momentum of the fans behind caused a massive chain-reaction pile-up of spectators.Barriers on the stairway collapsed under the pressure as more and more fans were trying to leave, unaware of what was happening on the stairway
Initially there was speculation that some fans left the ground early when Celtic scored, but then turned back when they heard the crowd cheering when Rangers equalised, colliding with fans leaving the ground when the match ended.The official inquiry into the disaster proved this to false, as my own account shows this was not the case.
This is my own personal memories of that tragic day.
I always stood on the terracing that is now the broomloan road stand, but on old firm days this area is given to the Celtic support and we moved to the terracing, which is now the Govan stand.
The day had started full of excitement and anticipation,I was looking forward to the old firm new year game which was one of the main games of the football season. We were all in high spirits when the bus left to take us to Ibrox, aided of course by some new year celebration drinks, and the atmosphere and excitement was building as we sang our football songs and dreamt of victory.
The four of us who went to the game together stood at the front of the terracing waiting on the teams coming out, little did we know the tragedy that was to unfold in just two hours time.The match looked like ending in a goalless draw, and we started making our way up to the back of the terracing to avoid the crowd and get out quick, and then disaster for Rangers.In the 89th minute Jimmy Johnstone scored for Celtic, but in the dying seconds Colin Stein equalised for Rangers.
We left the game by the now infamous stairway 13.(Anyone who attended football matches in those days will remember the crushing when leaving games. You could almost lift your feet of the ground and be carried along by the force of the crowd) We made our way back to the bus happy in the fact that we had scored and stopped Celtic winning,(it was now fifty years since Celtic had won the new year fixture at Ibrox)and waited for the bus to leave for home. We heard the sirens of police and ambulance vehicles, but as there is a history of trouble at these fixtures we thought it was just a fight somewhere.
It wasn,t until I got home and saw the look of relief on my mother and father,s faces that I found out about the terrible tragedy that had taken place. I personal knew two boys who died that day. I still wonder if I had not moved to the back of the terracing for a quick exit could I have been one of the victims?
After this tragedy, the then rangers manager Willie Waddell knew that changes to the stadium had to happen .He toured Europe visiting the most modern stadiums and the magnificent stadium we have today is the result of his quest.I would like to think it stands as a lasting memorial to our fellow rangers fans who sadly lost their life's that day.
For some years after the 1971 disaster there was only a small plaque at the corner of the ground where it took place. However,in 1995 Rangers announced plans to commemorate the fatalities of the 66 fans killed in the 1971 disaster.
On 2 January 2001, the thirtieth anniversary of the tragedy, a larger monument was unveiled at the corner of the Main Stand and the Copland Road Stand. The monument contains a blue plaques displaying the names of each person killed in the tragedy,and the previous tragedies that have happened at Ibrox.A statue of John Greig the Rangers captain at the time of the 1971 disaster, stands on top the monument.
For my fellow gers fans who died that day you are gone but not forgotten.