Dunfermline Athletic

Sixty years on from first Scottish Cup win

Saturday, 2nd Jan 2021

In season 1960-1961 Dunfermline Athletic won the Scottish Cup for the first time in their history. Here is the story of how it all came about.

This season Dunfermline Athletic Football Club celebrates the 60th anniversary of lifting the Scottish Cup for the very first time in their then 76 year history. The success heralded what has been termed the Golden Years of Dunfermline Athletic.

The victorious Pars players became legends after a cup run that culminated in the 2-0 win in the replay of the 1961 Scottish Cup Final. The success was masterminded by manager Jock Stein and came just over a year after he took over a struggling team.

January 1961 brought the league clubs into the Scottish Cup, pitching the smaller clubs in with the big guns in the hope of money-spinning ties and the dream of reaching a Hampden final and carrying off the coveted the trophy.

Unaware of how much a reality it would turn out to be, Dunfermline’s dream began on Saturday 28 January with a fine away win at Berwick.  Not always an easy to win a cup tie as was discovered six seasons later by Glasgow Rangers!!

DUNFERMLINE (v Berwick Rangers): Jim Herriot, Willie Cunningham, John Sweeney, Ron Mailer (c), Jackie Williamson, George Miller, Tommy McDonald, Alex Smith, Charlie Dickson, George Peebles, Dan McLindon.

The wee Rangers opened the scoring in 12th minute through Kennedy, but goals by DICKSON and McLINDON saw the Pars go in with a lead at half time.  Playing with skill and confidence, the Pars tried hard to increase this lead in the second half but it was the 82nd minute before SMITH put them further ahead with a powerful long drive.  McLINDON finished the scoring when he flicked in a deflection from a Miller shot two minutes from the end.

Match Report: Berwick Rangers 1 Dunfermline 4

Athletic director at the time, Bob Torrie later had this to say of the match:-

"This was the sort of away game that could have proven troublesome to us.  We had to play well to overcome a plucky Berwick team.  In the end, however, we got right on top and won quite well."

The second round draw was yet another away tie against Second Division, Stranraer.  Jock Stein concerned about having to send out travel weary players to play in what was sure to be a tough tie, decided the best way to overcome this would be to take the trip the day before.  After training on the Friday, the Dunfermline party travelled to Girvan where they spent the night before moving on to Stranraer on the morning of the match. 

DUNFERMLINE (v Stranraer): Jim Herriot, Willie Cunningham, John Sweeney, Ron Mailer (c), Jackie Williamson, George Miller, Tommy McDonald, Alex Smith, Charlie Dickson, George Peebles, Harry Melrose

It turned out to be a fairly tough battle for the Pars at Stair Park on 11th February.  Stranraer’s strong arm tactics on a bumpy pitch did nothing to enhance the smooth style of play that Stein’s side had been trying to build on.

Harry MELROSE opened the scoring in 36 minutes nodding in a McDonald corner, although this was actually the fourth time he had the ball in the net, the referee chalking off the others for one reason or another.  Although other chances were made, only one goal separated the teams at the break.

13 minutes after the interval, DICKSON shot the Pars further in front and five minutes later, Mailer had the chance from the penalty spot to finish the game after McDonald had been brought down but Stranraer keeper Anton brought off a fine save.

Beaton pulled one back for the home side with a dipping shot in 66 minutes which hit the inside of the post and ran in.  Minutes later Quinn hit the same post but luckily for the Pars the ball bounced out.  McDONALD got the all important safety goal when he shot home a Dickson pass.

Match Report: Stranraer 1 Dunfermline 3

Luck did not smile on Dunfermline in the third round draw when the third round draw dispatched them to the other end of the country to face Aberdeen .

The tie was played on Saturday 25th February and Dunfermline lined up with the same starting eleven as had won at Stranraer.

DUNFERMLINE (v Aberdeen):  Jim Herriot, Willie Cunningham, John Sweeney, Ron Mailer (c), Jackie Williamson, George Miller, Tommy McDonald, Alex Smith, Charlie Dickson, George Peebles, Harry Melrose

There was a bad start as Aberdeen scored in their first attack through a Brownlie header.  Dunfermline took time to find their feet on the greasy underfoot conditions but gradually began to move the ball around more concisely and equalised 21 minutes later with a fine SMITH header on a Dickson cross.  DICKSON put them ahead when keeper Tubby Ogston dropped a Smith cross in 22 minutes.  McDONALD ran clear to put Dunfermline further ahead.

In 59 minutes Aberdeen pulled one back to make it 3-2 but two minutes later Harry MELROSE reinstated the two goal lead.  The Pars were well on top and 8 minutes from time a fine run by McDonald gave PEEBLES his chance which he took well with a shot which hit the inside of the far post.  Two minutes from time Herriot dropped a Ewen cross and Coutts touched it in.  Back came the Pars though and George MILLER finished the scoring right on time.

Never favourites before the match, Dunfermline won through 6-3 with a great display of attacking football in which every Pars forward found the net.

Match Report: Aberdeen 3 Dunfermline 6

Almost a year to the day since Jock Stein took control, what better present could his players give him but the 4-0 victory they served up against Alloa at East End Park to put them into the draw for the semi-final of the Scottish Cup for the first time in their 75 year history.

DUNFERMLINE (v Alloa Athletic): Eddie Connachan, Cammy Fraser, John Sweeney, Ron Mailer (c), Jackie Williamson, George Miller, Tommy McDonald, Alex Smith, Charlie Dickson, George Peebles, Harry Melrose

All the goals came in the first half with George PEEBLES notching two, and McDONALD and MELROSE the other two.

Match Report: Dunfermline 4 Alloa Athletic 0

The semi-final draw options were Airdrie, Celtic or Hibs, and St Mirren.  Rangers had gone out to Motherwell in the third round and Motherwell had lost to Airdrie in the Quarter finals.  When the draw was made Dunfermline drew St Mirren - the cup winners two years before.

The semi-final was to be played at Tynecastle on 1st April. 10,000 fans travelled from Fife to see if the Pars could take the biggest step in their history by reaching the Final of the Scottish Cup.

DUNFERMLINE (v St Mirren): Eddie Connachan, Cammy Fraser, Willie Cunningham, Ron Mailer, Jackie Williamson, George Miller, George Peebles, Alex Smith, Charlie Dickson, Dan McLindon, Harry Melrose

The semi-final produced no goals but Dunfermline came out of it against the fancied and experienced St Mirren with the major share of the glory.  Nobody present could grudge them the chance to fight again.  Few would have complained had they managed to win.  The Pars produced most of the good football and they did it all with only 10 men for the last 35 minutes. 

Their moment of tragedy came just 10 minutes after the interval.  Peebles crossed a high one into the goalmouth, Charlie Dickson rose for it with Jim Clunie and although Charlie got his header in - then he and Clunie clashed together.  Both slumped to the ground and the trainers fought to bring them round.  Clunie made it but Dickson was carried off, he did not come back on and was not fit for the replay.

Match Report: Dunfermline 0 St Mirren 0

The replay was played at Tynecastle on the Wednesday evening and the only goal of the game was scored against his own side by Stewart, the Paisley club`s right half, in no way detracts from Dunfermline’s success for they were the superior team and in the end won deservedly.

DUNFERMLINE (v St Mirren): Eddie Connachan, Cammy Fraser, Willie Cunningham, Ron Mailer (c), Jackie Williamson, George Miller, Tommy McDonald, Alex Smith, Dave Thomson, George Peebles, Harry Melrose

Match Report: Dunfermline 1 St Mirren 0

In the other semi-final Celtic who had beaten Hibs 1-0 in the quarter final replay, ran out 4-0 winners over Airdrie at Hampden.  So on Saturday, 22nd April, Dunfermline would play Celtic at Hampden Park in their first ever Scottish Cup Final.

Celtic`s route to the Final had included some impressive performances along the way - a 6 -0 home win over Montrose, 4-1 win over the Rovers at Starks Park and the aforementioned wins over Hibs and Airdrie in the quarter final and semi final.

On the eve of the Final all the preparations were hit a body blow when Tommy McDonald reported sick and was taken to hospital with appendicitis.  McDonald, who would have been a certainty in the Dunfermline starting eleven, was out of the Final and Stein had to make changes in his planned attack.  George Peebles was switched to outside right and Dan McLindon made an unexpected appearance at inside left. 

DUNFERMLINE (v Celtic): Eddie Connachan, Cammy Fraser, Willie Cunningham, Ron Mailer (c), Jackie Williamson, George Miller, George Peebles, Alex Smith, Charlie Dickson, Dan McLindon, Harry Melrose.

In front of 113,228, included some 30,000 Dunfermline supporters, Stein’s team put up a never- say- die performance.  They finished the game with just 10 men after Jackie Williamson collapsed to the ground in 78 minutes.  An injury he had picked up in the first half had returned to haunt him and Jackie was stretchered off. 

Down to 10 men Dunfermline reorganised, and Celtic just could not break down the resolute defence.  Amazingly with just four minutes remaining, Jackie Williamson reappeared to play out the final minutes of the game, hirpling on the wing. 

In the final minute, Dunfermline had the opportunity to win the game when George Peebles let fly from 30 yards.  Frank Haffey, the Celtic keeper, appeared to have the ball covered but it squirmed out of his grasp, only for Celtic full back Jim Kennedy to hook the ball away.  Although the final ended goalless, the Dunfermline Press was to report:-

"This was a football feast that left the Hampden crowd - two and half times greater than the population of Dunfermline - very satisfied.  We had witnessed a great Cup Final, which had left the destiny of the Cup undecided and we all seemed content that it should be so".

Match Report: Celtic 0 Dunfermline 0

Jock Stein maintained that Dunfermline should have won on the Saturday since they knew the Celtic team well and were not afraid of them.  Luck eluded the underdogs and a replay was necessary the following Wednesday.

Just as the Pars were hit before the first game, losing winger Tommy McDonald through appendicitis, Celtic were similarly hit on the eve of the replay, when full back Jim Kennedy was rushed to hospital, suffering from the same complaint.

Manager Stein was forced to make two changes to the team that played on the Saturday. George Miller was moved to centre-half in place of the injured Jackie Williamson, with John Sweeney coming into the left back position. Charlie Dickson moved to inside-left, with David Thomson playing at centre-forward.

Due to the lack of floodlighting at Hampden Park , the replay kicked off at 6:15pm

DUNFERMLINE: Eddie Connachan, Cammy Fraser, Willie Cunningham, Ron Mailer (c), George Miller, John Sweeney, George Peebles, Alex Smith, Charlie Dickson, Dave Thomson, Harry Melrose .
CELTIC: Frank Haffey; Duncan McKay, Willie O’Neil, Pat Crerand, Billy McNeill, John Clark, Charlie Gallacher, Willie Fernie, John Hughes, Stevie Chalmers, Alex Byrne.

The first goal of the 1961 Scottish Cup final came midway through the second half of the replay and it was Dunfermline who opened the scoring. George Peebles, who until then had been operating on the right, switched to the left, and after charging past Celtic full-back Duncan MacKay, delivered a cross into the centre. The ball took a touch off a Celtic head, and there unmarked in the middle of the penalty box, was Davie THOMSON, whose powerful header gave Haffey no chance.

With Celtic pushing forward in numbers, Connachan produced another top drawer save in 75 minutes. With time running out, Connachan produced the save of the match. From a Celtic corner kick, the ball found its way out to the edge of the penalty box, and after several blocked attempts, Crerand met the ball cleanly and drove towards goal. His shot looked netbound all the way, but Eddie sprang to his side to somehow pull the ball out of the air. A tremendous save.

With just two minutes remaining, Dunfermline increased their lead. Alex Smith played a ball through to Dickson, which Haffey looked as if he had covered. However the Celtic keeper misjudged, and Charlie DICKSON took his chance, rounded the goalie and poked the ball into the empty net. The Scottish Cup was on its way to Dunfermline.

Match Report: Celtic 0 Dunfermline 2

Watch the highlights 1961 Scottish Cup Final Replay on YouTube

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