It was a night when many families in central Scotland waited anxiously for loved ones to return from a soccer game

And it became a desperately unhappy New Year for dozens of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and friends and colleagues who held on to the hope that the people they loved and cherished would walk through the door and acknowledge that they had escaped the Ibrox disaster

This was before the Heysel and Hillsborough atrocities and today’s advent of rolling news channels and endless information available to the public

Half a century ago, the phone was a device in your living room that was plugged into an electrical outlet If the bell didn’t ring, there was nothing to do but tap with your fingers, check the clock, and wait

Finally, that evening on the 2nd January 1971, the majority of the Old Firm derby spectators went home, and those closest to them sighed in relief

But for 66 other families there was a grim realization that the disaster that had devastated part of the stadium at the end of the competition had torn away their men, young boys and, in the case of Margaret Ferguson, their daughter

Decades later, the photographs from the archives reflect the collective mystification and confusion, accompanied by a vain anger that so many lives should have been lost in the midst of a festive visit at a sporting occasion

Talk to some of the famous people who were at Ibrox on this terrible occasion, men like Alex Ferguson, Walter Smith or John Greig, and you will not hear light feelings, but rather muffled voices and instinctive compassion for victims who, in other circumstances she could have been herself

Then gently nudge them at their memories and they will tell their accounts of a tragedy that all too fleetingly tore through Glasgow’s sectarian curtain and caused orangemen to shed tears throughout the central belt, accompanied by priests

You will know how badly the small Fife community of Markinch has been hit, like the village where Peter Easton, 13, Douglas Morrison, 15, Ronald Paton, 14, Mason Philip, 14, and Bryan was Todd (14) Five students who lived only a few hundred meters apart were killed together on the accursed staircase 13, which had previously suffered an accident in 1961 and almost tragedy in 1967 and 1969

The late Sandy Jardine was among the most eloquent witnesses to scenes straight out of a Dore painting

And he once told me in detail how the catastrophic events unfolded while the vast majority of supporters did not notice them

He said, “This was probably the biggest game of the season these days as the Old Firm clubs only met twice a year in the league, but it was terribly ironic that this was a pretty uneventful occasion A walking nightmare should develop for so many without any problems on the decks or on the pitch

”Everyone knows the details of how Jimmy Johnstone put Celtic in the lead in just a minute. But then we immediately equalized through Colin Stein and the referee immediately blew for full time

“So you had Rangers fans who thought this was game over when Jimmy turned to go down the great stairs and then turned when they heard the huge roar that greeted Colin’s blow, and that fell with a large number of fans make their way to the exit and the subway

“I was on the ground, I had actually swept those stairs and they were huge solid objects so I could never understand how they could be mutilated so badly by any number of people. But they were and there are none Words to describe it

”As players, we didn’t even know there was something wrong after the game. We were in the locker room and laughed a few times together before going to the bathroom. I was one of the last to get out, but when I showed up again came the order that there had been an accident and that we all had to leave the room as soon as possible

“It could have been a fire alarm or something, but while we were getting dressed as quickly as possible, the authorities brought some of the bodies to the place and they all turned gray at the sight. But even then we had no real idea of ​​the extent.” / p>

“As I drove back to my house in Edinburgh, I heard there were two dead but the numbers soon went up. It was 12, then 22, then 30, then 44 and finally up to over 60

“The thing was that thousands of supporters went to pubs, restaurants, or picture houses afterwards. They didn’t know about the disaster, so they didn’t know how many of their wives and friends and mothers and fathers were sick

“Huge crowds gathered at all the drop-off points for the buses. The telephone lines were blocked. Glasgow was in an uproar, the hospitals were overcrowded

”Fear, terror, pain, sadness, horror all these emotions were spread across the country on that terrible night ”

The initial speculation was that some fans had left the floor a little earlier when Celtic hit, but then turned when they heard the crowd cheering

However, the official investigation into the disaster eventually concluded that this hypothesis is not true and stated that all viewers were walking in the same direction at the time of the collapse

Still, it was a hell of a prospect in all respects Willie Waddell, the Rangers manager and his Celtic counterpart, had both seen casualties in other areas, be it in combat or on the coal front, and the couple stressed the need to keep that firm holding rooted communities together and religious tribalism should be cast aside

Unfortunately, but perhaps inevitable, given the nature of the Old Firm rift, their coincidence turned out to be nothing more substantial than a temporary truce

But Waddell vowed that the horrific scenes he witnessed would never repeat themselves at Ibrox, and before his death in 1992, that goal had been the catalyst for creating a great new stadium – even though Waddell was a tough guy The teak fighter in World War II was plagued by the effects of 1971

As he said to John Rafferty, the respected Scottish football correspondent, “It’s strange what comes to your mind, but the first time I went up the stairs and looked down at the piles of bodies, the first thing I thought of was Belsen because the corpses were entangled as in the pictures that came from the concentration camps

“But my god, it was awful. There were bodies in the locker rooms, in the gym and even in the laundry room. My own training staff and the Celtic boys were working flat out on the resuscitation and we did everything to get those crushed bodies back breath to lend

“To be honest, I will never forget the sight of Bob Rooney, the tear-filled Celtic physiotherapist who kissed life to countless victims. He never stopped, nor the doctors, nurses and ambulance workers who were joined them

“We will never know how many lives were saved there in that frenzy of activity”

Just a few miles away, the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow was besieged The switchboard consisted of just 35 lines and a single police shortwave radio that was inundated and overwhelmed by a multitude of panicked calls

In many cases, there was nothing to be done except for the police to visit homes the next morning and deliver terrible news.But, as is so often the case with these charitable rare occurrences, the death toll could have been much worse

Even as unambiguous football figures as Ferguson and Walter Smith were on the verge of being drawn into the disaster

And when they spoke later to avoid their experiences, they didn’t gloss over their memories of the darkest day in Scottish football history

Smith, a registered professional with Dundee United who was later a key figure in Rangers’ rise to nine consecutive league titles, was given permission by Tannadice officials to go to the Old Firm derby

And the then 22-year-old smiled as he made his way to the floor of his favorite club

As he said, “I can remember leaving the stadium with my brother at the end of the game. I was on the Dundee United books at the time, but because of my lack of skill they had neglected me for that New Years game, so I took the fans’ club bus to Ibrox and remember there was a wall on the side of the stairs that, if it hadn’t been there, would have allowed people to overflow

“We both got out and I thought it was because the fence had collapsed, but on the 25th On the 50th anniversary [of the 1996 disaster] I looked at a photo and the fence was intact. We must have got over other people even though no one around us was in danger; The deaths occurred at the foot of the stairs, but we didn’t know

“We got on the bus that didn’t have a radio or anything, and it wasn’t until I got home that I remember my mom crying and saying that people had died

So many others at the stand had similar stories to tell, including former Aberdeen and Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, who played for Falkirk at this stage of his life, kicking off his illustrious managerial career

“As we drove home past the hospital, we saw a large number of ambulances on the floor and thought,” Jesus, there must be some problems “

“It wasn’t until I got home to my mom and dad that we realized what had happened. My brother Martin had been on this end of the floor and still not at home

“It wasn’t until a few hours later when he showed up that we knew he was fine”

In the months and years to come, the disaster prompted the UK government to address the whole issue of safety on sports grounds

In February 1971, Scottish Judge Lord Wheatley was asked to conduct an investigation, and his findings, published in May 1972, formed the basis of the Sports Field Safety Guide published the following year

That didn’t mean football pitches became safe places, as repeated tragedies in England and Belgium in the 1980s showed, but what happened at Ibrox showed the danger of ignoring clear warning signs

There were funerals to be organized, the bereaved to look after and Waddell, who was appalled by the terrible events, made sure that players from his club were present at all funeral services

But nothing could dispel the sadness and tears that enveloped Scotland in those early weeks of 1971

And nowhere was this more evident than in Markinch, where five teenagers who had laughed and joked on their journey from the Kingdom to Glasgow were laid to rest despite thousands of mourners mourning their deaths

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Ibrox disaster

World news – GB – Ibrox disaster: The football tragedy will never be forgotten on the occasion of the 50th anniversary – The Courier