Raith Hall of Fame: Remembering Ally Gourlay, the man who shaped our Hall of Fame

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Raith Rovers’ Hall of Fame night simply wouldn’t exist had it not been for Ally Gourlay. He took our original idea - a night based around the life and Rovers’ times of Jim Baxter, Scotland’s greatest ever player - and moulded it into a true celebration of the club’s greatest servants across the generations.

His in-depth knowledge of the club’s history, his strong links with legends and their families across several generations, and his absolute love of Raith Rovers gave the night its heartbeat.

Now, we honour Ally via the Gourlay Inductee which ensures he remains at the heart of the night. The recipient is only announced on the night.

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Stark’s Park was Ally’s home. I’m sure if he could have got planning permission to build a flat with a view of the pitch somewhere within the four walls of the ground, he’d have done it - and then spent endless hours happily writing articles for the club programme, chatting with ex-players to get them along to the next game, and prepping his radio show which championed the bands whose music he wanted to see reach the widest possible audience.

Ally Gourlay was  chairman of Former Players association at Raith Rovers, and member of the Hall of Fame organising team  (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)Ally Gourlay was  chairman of Former Players association at Raith Rovers, and member of the Hall of Fame organising team  (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Ally Gourlay was chairman of Former Players association at Raith Rovers, and member of the Hall of Fame organising team (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

Ally had many roles at Stark’s Park, almost all of them voluntary, his time given freely and willingly.

He was Rovers’ historian - the custodian of the club’s landmarks, stats and anniversaries which he ensured were all properly acknowledged - the founder of the Former Players Association, and, latterly, the club’s media officer. He organised testimonials, and worked closely with the coaching staff to analyse the data from a match, often pouring over video footage and paperwork into the wee sma’ hours.

The players were his heroes - and his friends. He was closer to the dressing-room than any fan could dream of getting, a trusted confidant, a valued mate, and one who went out of his way to help however, and whenever, he could.

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Ally was just 53 when he passed away in February 2016, two years after being given a diagnosis of terminal cancer and a life expectancy around six months. The night he told us of his condition he insisted we carry on planning - he wanted things to be normal, and for the humour to continue to flow, much of it blacker than mine shafts at the foot of Seafield Colliery. Barely 48 hours after getting the most devastating news imaginable, Ally was organising Rovers’ media day for their 2014 Ramsdens Cup final.

The club’s victory that day was extra special for those who knew what he was facing. When the team were guests of honour at a civic reception, Ally was presented with his own cup winner’s medal

The story of Ally’s determination to stay positive and enjoy life are now legendary. He refused all treatment and had two years packed with incredible memories and special moments; family outings, days with his great Rovers’ mates, and landmark occasions. He even hung around long enough to present his own memorial trophy at the annual golf day down in Gullane, organised by John Greer and the Former Players Association.

In 2014 Ally became the only fan to be inducted into our Hall of Fame. He treasured the citation: Goals - zero. Appearances - zero. It was a night he was unsure he’d even see, and knew nothing of the special award which brought this theatre to its feet for one of the most moving ovations ever heard.

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Twelve months on and he bounced back on stage as co-host and was at the heart of a night he loved every second of.

He summed up his approach to living with a terminal diagnosis with a lyric from a song; ‘‘talk of the times, the love and the laughing’’ from ‘Little Lapwing’ by Barclay James Harvest - the song which was played at the end of his funeral.

As his illness progressed, he spent time in Victoria Hospital - where his bedside rocked to the sound of laughter as friends, players and family poured in

Given just 48 hours to live, he did a bunk in the company of his son, Jonny, and brother, Ian, and took off on a trip round Kirkcaldy to say his own farewell to the places and people in his heart. Where did he want to go most? Stark’s Park.

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One more link to this year’s show is its theme tune. On the afternoon of our first ever show in 2012, I found myself sitting in Ally’s rust bucket of a car in the theatre’s car park to listen to a piece of music he;’d just found - ELO’s Eldorado. He cranked up the volume and we knew there and then we had a theme tune.

We rushed inside, handed the CD to the tech guys, and just about got blown off our feet as it boomed out of the PA across an empty theatre.

It still sends a tingle down our spines, and lets us know the laid-back fella will be with us again when the curtain rises for the first time since lockdown.

> Raith Rovers’ Hall of Fame show takes place at the Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy, on November 20. It will feature a number of inductions plus special VIP guests, Liverpool legend John Barnes, former Scotland captain Gary McAllister, and Raith star Paquito who is flying in specially for the evening. The last remaining tickets, priced £30, can be bought from Home of Hopcroft, High Streety, Kirkcaldy or online at https://bit.ly/rrfchof

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