Ibrox Disaster: I’ve gone back just once since losing five Fife friends 50 years ago

Shane Fenton at the memorial plaque for the five Markinch boys who died in the Ibrox disasterShane Fenton at the memorial plaque for the five Markinch boys who died in the Ibrox disaster
Shane Fenton at the memorial plaque for the five Markinch boys who died in the Ibrox disaster
January 2, 1971 started out just as most Saturday mornings did back then by preparing to go and watch a football match.

Little did I know when we set out that morning that that date would become etched in my mind for the rest of my life. Five decades on the memories are still raw of that tragic day

The morning was like was like any other match morning for us Old Firm fans from the south end of Markinch, with the usual banter and side bets.

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Peter Lee, Joe Mitchell and myself, all Celtic supporters walked from Markinch along with Douglas Morrison, Peter Easton, Ron Paton, Mason Philip and Bryan Todd, all Rangers followers.

The morning after the Ibrox Disaster - Stairway 13 is boarded up at Ibrox stadiumThe morning after the Ibrox Disaster - Stairway 13 is boarded up at Ibrox stadium
The morning after the Ibrox Disaster - Stairway 13 is boarded up at Ibrox stadium

We were all headed for the CISWO Club in Glenrothes where we would board our respective supporters clubs buses.

Despite supporting different teams we were all the best of pals and most of us played for the then Markinch United football team.

Little did we know that, when we boarded the buses that would be the last time we would see our friends. The match itself was nothing out of the ordinary and looked to be heading for a no scoring draw when Celtic scored in the last minute.

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Being younger we decided to leave at this stage to ironically to avoid the crush.

We were actually back on the bus some 15 minutes when some of the older supporters told us Rangers had equalised.

At that time we knew nothing of the tragic events that were happening on Stairway 13. In fact it wasn't until our bus made a stop in Kincardine on the way home that way heard that something had happened at the Rangers end of Ibrox.

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The older fans who had been at the pub had heard the news on the television. We never thought for a minute that the Markinch boys were involved.

When I got back home, many locals had already started to panic. My relatives like those of the other boys who knew we were at the match starting enquiring and phoning around to make sure we were alright.

There was no mobile phones or social media back then.

When the news came through that Ron, Dougie, Bryan, Mason and Peter hadn't returned with the Rangers bus, all kinds of thoughts went through our heads. We hoped they had just missed the bus and would arrive home later.

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We stayed out until late in the evening hoping they would appear off the last trains and buses into Markinch.

It was over the next couple of days when the devastating news that we feared had become a reality. The whole town was in total shock that our five friends had been victims of the terrible disaster.

The next few days, Markinch – particularly Park View, the street where four of the boys lived – was awash with reporters, photographers and television news crews.

When it was time for the funerals, almost the whole town, then a population of 2,344 turned out to mourn the five local schoolboys.

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Three of the boys were buried side by side at Markinch Cemetery.

The services for the other two were held at Kirkcaldy Crematorium. I can remember the cortege stretching back from the cemetery gates back down the High Street which was lined with mourners.

The boys maybe gone, but, 50 years on, they are still remembered by the people of Markinch.

I am concerned however that the younger generation know little or nothing about the tragedy.

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Markinch is a bigger town now and a lot of the younger people who live here don't know about the past. It would be good to see it taught as part of their history lessons at the school.

I still live in Park Terrace very close to the Memorial Stone and garden at the end of Park View. I tend to it regularly keeping it and the area clean and tidy. The Memorial is well respected by people, and over the years has never been damaged and that is important.

The tragedy affected many people in different ways, for me, a year or so after I stopped attending the matches as I felt unsafe among the big crowds. The only time I have been back at Ibrox since that day was when I attended the memorial service for the 40th anniversary.

I will always strive however to maintain the memory of the boys in the town.

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