Gentleman Jim proud to join roll call of Raith Rovers legends

Jim Dempsey appeared as a guest on stage at the 2015 Raith Hall of Fame.
Jim Dempsey appeared as a guest on stage at the 2015 Raith Hall of Fame.

Jim Dempsey, a stalwart of the Raith Rovers team of the early 1970s, is the last of the inductees for this year’s Hall of Fame.

Jim made 135 appearances for the club, scoring seven goals in a four year spell at Stark’s Park between 1971-75.

Jim Dempsey - Raith Rovers - 1970s

Jim Dempsey - Raith Rovers - 1970s

He signed for Rovers aged 24 in March 1971 after impressing for Hamilton whilst playing against the Kirkcaldy side.

“I’d played against Rovers two weeks prior to signing for them,” he remembers. “We beat them and I had one of my good games – or maybe my only good game!

“Then we played Dumbarton a week later, and after the game I got taken into the office and the Dumbarton manager wanted me to sign.

“But then the Accies chairman came in and said Raith Rovers had been on the phone about me. So I went through and spoke to the manager Bill Baxter and it was a no-brainer.”

Jim says upon his arrival at the club he knew instantly he had made the correct decision.

“I’d been through before to play against Raith Rovers and I’d always looked at them as one of the bigger boys, and that was the case when I went.

“It was different altogether. The training was different – it was three nights a week instead of the two.

“But one thing was, I said to my wife on the day that I signed, how am I going to get through to Kirkcaldy, I don’t have a car?!

“My brother-in-law was good to me though. He ran me through until about two months later when I got my own car.”

Once he got behind the wheel, Jim’s trips through from the west weren’t on his own as he was joined by other players making the journey east to Fife.

“There was Billy McLaren, Joe Baker, myself and Billy Gray – that was the mafia coming through from the west of Scotland!

“When I first joined there was players like Benny McGuire, Gordon Wallace, Roddy Georgeson, they were names that you knew, as well as big Murray McDermott who I was really friendly with, God rest him.

“Then once I was there, Joe Baker came and he was just different class. ‘Bakes’ could tell you stories and your mouth would drop open. He was telling me about playing in Italy and things like that.

“He was coming to the end of his career but he was still better than the majority of boys in that league.”

One of Jim’s stand out memories was his initial trip back to his former club.

“The first time we went back to play Hamilton I scored a goal – unusual! – so that was good, and there was the time we played Celtic in a friendly match and beat them 6-2. It wasn’t an official game but it was still really good.

“But every game I played for Raith I looked forward to it. I loved every minute of playing for Raith Rovers. It was great.”

Jim’s time at Rovers ended when he moved to Stirling Albion in 1975, but it wasn’t the end for his family, with grandson Jamie Watson signing for the club in 2017

“I was glad to see him getting fixed up with Rovers. He played a lot for the youth side but didn’t quite make it into the first team so he moved on to Albion Rovers and he was in the first team there under John Brogan.

“He moved on and he’s now at Kirkintilloch Rob Roy in the Juniors.”

Jim says he’s now looking forward to proudly taking his place at the sold out Hall of Fame evening on Monday, November 11.

“I’ve been to a couple of them before and they were great nights,” he said.

“I’m really chuffed with this. There’s hundred and hundreds of former players who won’t get near the Hall of Fame so to be recognised, I’m really proud.

“It’s really good for my whole family, they’ve all been talking about it so I’m going to try and get as many people through as possible.

“Bellshill might be empty that night!”

Jim will join fellow inductees Mark Campbell, Mario Caira, Davie Sinclair, Dave Morris and Jason Dair on stage for the sold-out show at the Adam Smith Theatre on Monday, November 11.