Jackie Stewart inducted into Raith Rovers’ Hall of Fame

Raith Rovers Hall of Fame 2017: Family of the late inductee, Jackie Stewart, on stage with Peter Hetherston and John McStay   (Pic: George McLuskie)
Raith Rovers Hall of Fame 2017: Family of the late inductee, Jackie Stewart, on stage with Peter Hetherston and John McStay (Pic: George McLuskie)

Jackie Stewart was born John Gebbie Stewart in Lochgelly on September 4, 1921. He played for Donibristle Youth Club, Lochgelly Albert and Dundonald Bluebell before signing for Raith Rovers.

Stewart was an outside right with great pace and a direct style.

Jackie Stewart, inducted into Raith Rovers Hall of Fame, 2017

Jackie Stewart, inducted into Raith Rovers Hall of Fame, 2017

He made his first team debut on January 3 1942, scoring against Dunfermline, two days before he was signed.

His son Ian explained, “My dad was a miner and worked on a Saturday morning down the pit before turning out for the Rovers on a Saturday afternoon. He was happy to have initially signed as a part timer and that was fine until he started to get a regular game. He then got caught taking a Saturday off from the pit to concentrate on his football, so he left the pit to sign full time with Raith Rovers.’’

Jackie quickly established himself in Rovers’ first team.

In season 1944-45, he had a great scoring run, he netted 17 times in 38 games, and took over the goalscoring mantle while the top scorer, Willie Penman, was on the sidelines after colliding with a goalpost and breaking his leg.

In season 1947-48, Jackie scored 22 goals in the first 28 games, and it came as no surprise when Birmingham City made their move to sign him. He signed for them on January10, 1948.

The biggest surprise to the Raith Rovers’ supporters was the size of the transfer fee.

Rovers’ fans were used to seeing their favourites leave the club for r fees way below their expectations but this time, Stewart departed as one of the most expensive players in British football - £8,000 was paid. It was a Raith Rovers’ club record then.

It cannot be exaggerated how the money changed the club.

It paid off the debt it had to fund the building of the main stand, and Rovers were debt free for the first time since 1923.

It was no great surprise that he made an immediate impact down in the English Second Division.

Jackie scored his first two goals for the Blues against Leeds United in a 5-1 win at St. Andrews. He scored seven as they went on to win the league and promotion back to the top flight. Back in the English Division One the following season, Jackie would finish the season as top scorer with eleven goals; he scored the only goal of the game against Chelsea at home in front of a crowd of 48,264.

On Wednesday September 15, 1948, he scored all four goals in a 4-1 win over Manchester City at St. Andrews.

In all, Jackie made 203 appearances scoring 52 goals for Birmingham before in January 1955 returning to Kirkcaldy. He was appointed reserve team coach in October 1955, having played a further six times for the first team.

Ian said: ‘’My sister, Jacqueline was born in Birmingham and I was born in Auchtermuchty.

‘’After he started coaching at the Rovers we moved into a house opposite Stark’s Park in Pratt Street. Andy Leigh lived below us.

‘’I grew up coming to the Rovers from early on. His coached the team under Bert Herdman and I remember he told me a great story of the team.

‘’He had been taking the training down on the beach and to give himself time to get back up to Stark’s Park to run the baths he sent them on a run out towards Seafield. But every time he did that they were back at the ground too quick, so the next time he watched them and they were all jumping on the back of Andy Matthews’ coal lorry and getting a lift!”.

After finishing as a coach Jackie worked as the groundsman at club for a period, his daughter Jackie worked in the players’ tearoom and cooked the players’ lunches during Jimmy Nicholl’s time at the club.

Ian was also a member of the supporters’ club and helped with the ball boys.

John “Jackie” Stewart passed away on the May 17, 1990.