By ALAN MUIR Published on 19/06/2013 kirkintilloch-herald.co.uk
The word legend is bandied around a lot – particularly in sport – so it’s rare to find a man who not only lives up to that status, but exceeds it.
Rarer still is finding a legend who began his life playing football in the streets of Hillhead and enjoying hazy summer days larking about in the canal and Campsie Hills.
Fast forward to 1967 and he was lifting the most famous cup in club football – part of a legendary team who became known as the Lisbon Lions. That same year he also
helped Scotland to put World Cup winners England to the sword at a stunned Wembley.
Willie Wallace is too modest to describe himself as a legend, he’d probably hurdle the
question – much like he did in his prime, when confronted by the size-10 boot of a tormented defender. If you’re lucky you might be treated to a youthful smile belying the Hoops legend’s 72 years and a flash of his trademark humour.
Willie was born in Kirkintilloch on June 23, 1940. Home was a farm cottage in Hillhead,
where he lived with his parents – Andrew and Sarah – and siblings, James and Margaret.
Willie recalls a childhood full of warmth, friendship, adventure and – of course – his first
He told the Herald: “As long as it was daylight in the summer we were outside kicking
the ball. We all played together, there was no discrimination – we couldn’t afford it!”
“It was a fabulous place, a great town. Nobody had anything, but if you got something
it was shared with all the other lads. It was a good type of life.
“It sounds like a fairy story, but it actually happened.”
Willie attended Lairdsland Primary (he recalls two teachers nicknamed Laurel and Hardie ) and then Townhead School. He was around six-years-old when he saw his first match – Rob Roy. By the time he was eight or nine, he and friends were going to Adamslie Park as often as they could to see the Rabs. He played his first competitive game for Lairdsland Primary School in 1951 aged 11.
“These were wonderful, happy times,” he said.
His dad worked at the Star Foundry and when he left school at 16, Willie went to work at the Forth and Clyde Steel Foundry. Willie played football for 4th Kirkintilloch Boys’ Brigade,
and later Kelvinside Thistle. Despite a trial at Rob Roy, alongside Steve Chalmers, Willie signed for Kilsyth Rangers in 1957, where he met his wife-to-be Olive.
His career soon took him to Stenhousemuir, Raith Rovers, Hearts, Crystal Palace, Dumbarton, Ross County and his beloved Celtic. He and wife Olive – who
became a teacher in 1962 and taught at St Ninian’s and Twechar – had two daughters. Now happily retired on the Gold Coast of Australia, they have four grandchildren and very
Willie’s brother, James, and sister, Margaret Stewart, remained in Kirkintilloch. Both passed away last year. Willie was recently back in his home town, where he has many relatives , and it still has a place in his heart – where it’s always summer and he’s out
with his mates and a football.
Willie’s autobiography, ‘Heart of a Lion’, is out now on CQN Books.