The name Hamish McSporran has probably been lost in the mists of time. It’s no surprise, really. It’s been 60 years since Hamish made his mark, shameful though it was, in the football world for Dunfermline Athletic against Arsenal. But, sadly, as quickly as he rose to stardom backed by the almost irrational fervour of the fans of Dunfermline, his star waned. In fact, make that, rocket far from the nearest galaxy never to be seen again.
Hamish, for those of you without prior knowledge of his 15 minutes of fame, was a florist from Fife (not easy to say after a couple of jars but let’s press on, eh?). But he wasn’t JUST a man of flowers. In between flogging petunias, roses and the odd orchid, Hamish was a passionate follower of the Pars. Ever since his time as a schoolboy, Dunfermline had been his life.
There was hardly a day went by that Hamish didn’t visit East End Park in between matches to try to get a glimpse of his heroes, or instead to chat to the omni-present and affable Simon Cook, the long-serving club secretary with such a decent memory that he could recall the glory days of the club (yes, that good a memory!).
Over the years Hamish enjoyed the highs and lows that came with supporting his boyhood team. A highlight included an 83-1 massacre of Elgin City in the Kay’s Catalogue Lingerie Section Cup (remarkably striker Pearce Jack hit 44 that day, and only played the first 14 minutes because of a toe injury). But one of the darkest days in the club’s history came when the team, managed then by former adult film star Maurice Warner, suffered a soul-destroying 3-0 defeat in a pre-season friendly against St. Columba’s R.C. High School. Warner was axed following the humiliating capitulation. He was soon back on celluloid in what were known in that era as blue movies (his thoughtful thrusting earned him the nickname “Go-slow Mo”).
Despite the ups and downs, Hamish’s support for the Pars was unwavering. He’d travel everywhere the team did. His reputation grew and before long he was voted No.1 fan by the Dunfermline Press. After leaving school, the club were quick to seize on his enthusiasm and he was hired as assistant kit man. He successfully combined his florist duties with his football work and within no time at all the then manager Jock Stein (yes, he cut his teeth with the Pars before a reasonably successful stint at Glasgow Celtic — more of that later) had spotted his potential. He was a dab hand at coaching and tactics and Stein promoted him to be his No.2 when Len Killpartrick unexpectedly quit to run a snooker club in Methil.
Before long Stein left for Parkhead and with the budget as tight as a florist’s ring, the Pars took the somewhat risky decision to appoint Hamish to be first team manager. The supporters, though nervy of the move, were ecstatic; they saw in Hamish a true fan who was about to fulfil the lifelong dream of managing his idols. However, there was a catch; just the one, but a catch nonetheless. Dunfermline had one game remaining of a rather mediocre season — a one-off showpiece occasion against Arsenal, billed as an Anglo-Scottish Challenge Match, a kind of unofficial battle of Britain.
The game was to take place at Hampden Park, and the expectation running through Scotland was huge. In Hamish, fans of every club in the land rested their hopes; could the minnows from East End Park triumph against the well-healed aristocrats from London in the shape of the Gunners? The part-time job as Pars supremo meant Hamish had kept up his career as a florist and on the day of the big game he had managed to arrange a couple of early deliveries for a nearby wedding before he planned to head to Glasgow with the team in time for a light lunch and a nap ahead of the evening kick-off.
All went to plan, dear reader, except that it didn’t. Because Hamish had with him, by chance, half a dozen English Ivy houseplants that he had failed to deliver and so it transpired that he took his nap with them in the room. What he had forgotten, of course, is that the plant is very well known to help sleep — a perfect bedroom companion because it’s been proven that the plant can help clean indoor air. And so, when frantic club officials tried to wake the snoring, slumbering and dribbling Hamish they had no luck whatsoever.
It meant that he slept through the entire game against the Arsenal. His players, more than a little discombobulated by the upset, fell apart and lost 11-1, the only consolation goal coming from Peter Helsby on as an 87th minute substitute.
Hamish’s shame, and that of a nation, was complete. Once he eventually awoke he was told of the dire news and he fled. Hamish has never been seen to this day, although there was one supposed sighting when a passing lorry driver said he thought he saw his dishevelled figure loitering somewhere near Cowdenbeath. The florist never again opened its doors for business.
To this day the English Ivy is seen as a poisonous plant north of the border.