Jim GillespieTuesday, 29th Nov 2016
In a year in which there have been far too many obituaries to write, we are deeply saddened that Dunfermline Athletic has lost another of its former players.
Jim Gillespie was born in the village of Chapelhall in Airdrie on 13th July 1947, and very quickly found football to his liking, playing for his Primary School team at Chapelhall and then for Airdrie High School.
Jim was signed on part-time terms by Carlisle United as a teenager but the travelling proved too much and he left after only one season. Reinstated to the junior ranks with Whitburn, he was so successful that he gained Scottish junior international caps and by January 1967 he was back in the senior game with East Stirlingshire.
At six feet he was tall for a winger though his strong running and powerful shot attracted interest and little more than a year later he stepped up to the First Division with Raith Rovers. He was signed by Tommy Walker, a Hearts legend as both player and manager who left an administrative post at Dunfermline to take over at Stark`s Park when George Farm went in the opposite direction during the summer of 1967.
The Rovers had just won promotion but found life in the top flight a real struggle. Walker stepped down in January 1969 and was replaced by former Pars striker Jimmy Millar, who surprisingly handed Jim a free transfer towards the end of the year. This was too good an opportunity for Dunfermline and Jim signed on Christmas Eve, turning down an offer from his home-town club in order to stay full-time.
A quiet man, his new team-mates gave him the nickname “Soames” after a character in the BBC Television series “The Forsyte Saga” who didn`t say very much. Although quiet off the park, Jim did plenty on it to get people talking about him. After making his debut in a 1-0 defeat at St Johnstone on 27th December 1969, Jim got his own back on Raith Rovers by scoring twice in a 3-0 victory for the Pars on New Year`s Day.
This was only one of several personal highlights during his first month at East End. He made his European debut in the 3-2 win against Anderlecht in the Fairs Cup (Dunfermline had earlier lost 1-0 in Belgium and went out on the away goals rule) and scored at Celtic Park in the Scottish Cup. It was a goal that looked like giving Dunfermline another memorable win there but Celtic netted twice in the dying stages, the winner coming right at the end.
The Pars finished the season strongly with five wins in their last eight matches, including a 2-1 win over Rangers. Jim had played regularly and had scored five goals in his 16 first team appearances. Unfortunately he was unable to capitalise on his good start at the club as a thigh injury kept him out for most of 1970/71. The following season he made 34 appearances, scoring against Celtic in a 2-1 defeat and notching the winner in a 1-0 win over Aberdeen, after which he became the cover shot for the next home programme (pictured). Despite all of that Jim couldn’t help the Pars avoid relegation. Dunfermline appointed a new manager George Miller and he decided to place his faith in the emerging crop of talented youngsters at East End Park. Despite not always being in the starting line-up Jim made 20 league appearances, providing the crosses for Graham Shaw and Ken Mackie in particular in a season’s goal feast that restored the Athletic to the First Division.
The return of Jackie Sinclair in 1973 didn`t augur well for Jim but he was given a run of games during the autumn after the former Scottish international suffered an injury. After that he was restricted to the bench, making his final appearance for the club as a substitute in a 1-1 draw against Morton at East End on 3rd March 1974.
Jim was released at the end of the season after playing 96 times for the Pars and scoring nine goals. He spent 1974/75 with Alloa Athletic before taking up a coaching position with Raith Rovers, where he worked alongside his former Athletic team-mate Alex Kinninmonth.
In the early 1980s Jim worked under Andy Rolland at Cowdenbeath, his last post in senior football.
Outside of football Jim took on a job in electrical wholesale with Ross Electrical before moving on in the same business, becoming Regional Director for Scotland with Rexel Senate, a position he retired from seven years ago.
Jim was very much a family man and devoted most of his time, apart from a few games of golf, to being with his family. Jim had met his wife Margaret when they were at Chapelhall Primary School together, and got married in October 1968. By this time Jim was with Raith Rovers and he and Margaret set up home in Glenrothes where they lived happily together for 48 years bringing up two daughters Karen and Lynne.
More recently Jim’s pride and joy have been his three granddaughters Abbie (15), Emma (13) and Rachael (13). Like their grandfather they all play football, in their case for Glenrothes Strollers. Jim watched them regularly and when Abbie moved on to play for Raith Rovers girls, she wore the number eleven shirt – the same as her granddad –with pride. Emma has just moved up to the Under 16s and she too wears the number eleven shirt.
Jim was a quiet man but one who was always willing to help others. His daughter Karen tells of the time when Jim used to give a young Jim Leishman a regular lift to training. Karen, who was herself just a child in a baby seat at the time, says that her dad used to say that in those days Jim Leishman was a shy young man who felt a bit embarrassed sitting in the back of the car with a baby! Hard to believe indeed.
Sadly around three years ago Jim was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of dementia. He deteriorated quite quickly in recent months and on Friday 25th November he passed away at home with his family beside him.
The thoughts and condolences of everyone at Dunfermline Athletic Football Club are with Jim’s wife Margaret and all the family and friends at this sad time.
Jim’s funeral will take place on Thursday 8th December at 12.45 at Kirkcaldy Crematorium.