He was arguably the greatest footballer that Scotland has ever produced, going down in history when he terrorised the Auld Enemy at Wembley in 1967, but Jim Baxter never forgot his roots in the small mining town of Hill of Beath.
Nor did the locals forget Slim Jim. Even at the height of his fame he would regularly be found in the Ex-Serviceman’s Club, so there was much celebration when a statue to their most famous son was erected.
Baxter was working as a miner whilst playing for Crossgates Primrose when he was spotted by Raith Rovers’ scout Jim McDermid, father of bestselling crime writer Val, which would set him on the road to a glittering career playing for Raith Rovers, Rangers, Sunderland and Nottingham Forest as well as well as making 34 appearances for Scotland.
He retired early from the game at the age of just 30 and died on April 14, 2011.
Gordon Brown MP, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Murray, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Manchester United manager and Rangers chairman respectively were joint presidents of the committee that co-ordinated the fundraising for the statue. Murray made the first contribution towards the cost.
Other fundraising events included a special dinner attended by a galaxy of stars from the world of football where Mr Brown donated a replica of his Chancellor’s budget briefcase for the auction that raised over £10,000 alone.
All went towards raising funds for the bronze statue, created by Scottish sculptor, Andy Scott, which eventually cost £80,000.
Hundreds of football fans gathered in Baxter’s home village for the unveiling ceremony in 2003, which was also attended by Rangers legends John Greig, the late Sandy Jardine and Ralph Brand, as well as Celtic European Cup winner Tommy Gemmell.
Mr Brown, said he had in his youth idolised Baxter when he played for Raith Rovers.
Standing on the steps of Slim’s beloved Ex-Servicemen’s’ Club, he said: “With this statue which is being unveiled today, two years after Jim died, we’re saying to each other that even as the times roll by, Jim Baxter will never be forgotten.”
He called Baxter a “local hero and a footballing genius” and added: “This is a man who was an inspiration to us all.”
Members of Baxter’s family were also at the ceremony including his sons, Alan and Steven, with their grandmother Agnes, 88.
Alan said: “We’re very proud. My gran has lived here all her life and it’s particularly special for her.”
Paying tribute that day was local councillor Alex Sawyers, who was also chairman of the Hill of Beath Ex-Servicemen’s Club.
He said: “He was a national hero and the village’s most famous son who never forgot his roots.
“Young Slim Jim spent many a night in the club and even when he was in his heyday, playing for Rangers and Scotland, he never forgot his friends from his childhood and he would drop into the club.
“And, of course, he’d have a drink with them.”
In the 12 years since the statue’s unveiling it has proved to be a source of inspiration for another Hill of Beath boy who has risen to the top.
Celtic and Scotland captain Scott Brown was just 18 when the statue was erected and could see it from his bedroom window.
He said it acted as a spur as he started out on his career as a youngster at Hibs.