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  • The Famous Five - Part One

    Attachment 6108Whenever the name of Hibernian Football Club is mentioned there's a chance that someone will make reference to the Famous Five but who were these men that wrote their names into Hibernian folklore? This is the first of a two part article in which John Campbell looks back at those halcyon days

    If you look up the word LEGEND in a dictionary you are very likely to find the following definition: Someone or something very famous and admired, usually because of their ability in a particular area. Those words pretty well sum up the Hibernian forward line Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull and Ormond that played together in the 1940’s and 50’s and which would collectively become known to Hibs fans and indeed football fans the world over as The Famous Five.

    It’s not clear who first coined the phrase ’Famous Five’ in relation to those Hibs men but whoever that individual was they could scarcely have known that more than fifty years later the phrase, like the legend of the players themselves, would still be instantly recognisable by the Easter Road faithful and many football fans beyond.
    Good teams, however, don’t just happen they need to be assembled and cultivated and the Hibernian team which boasted the Famous Five was no different. Gordon Smith was first to join in 1941 with the others breaking into the team at various stages up to 1946.

    This was in the days when 442 or 433 or 451 formations and words like wingback, holding midfielder or striker had not yet been invented. Instead we had full backs, half backs, inside forwards, centre forwards and wingers, setting themselves up in a 235 formation with wide men on either side of the pitch.

    Of the five only Ormond was brought in from another Club, Stenhousemuir, whilst the other four were signed as youngsters and fought their way through the reserves and into the starting eleven. All made their first team debuts at different times and they first came together as a forward line in April 1949 in a friendly against Nithsdale Wanderers whilst their competitive match debut came later that same year on October 15th when Hibs entertained Queen of the South, winning the game 2-0 through goals from Smith and Turnbull in front of some 25,000 fans.

    So, just who were these men who helped win three League Titles and attained legendary status with the Easter Road faithful? Let’s look at them in the order in which they joined the club.

    Gordon Smith

    Gordon Smith joined the Club from Dundee North End in April 1941 when he was just 16 years old. Scoring a hat trick for a Junior Select against a Hibs/Hearts Select certainly drew the attention of both clubs with the Tynecastle side making noises about inviting Smith to Tynecastle for a trial period but Hibs boss Willie McCartney had other ideas and arranged to meet the youngster in an Arbroath hotel where he announced that no trial was required to secure a contract at Easter Road and so the deal was agreed.

    The following day, Monday April 28th 1941, Smith met McCartney at the North British hotel in Edinburgh where he signed a contract with Hibs, receiving a signing on fee of £10 prompting him to say later “I wasn’t even 17 yet and that £10 made me feel like a millionaire!”

    Later that day Gordon made his first team debut for Hibs and found himself facing Hearts at Tynecastle whilst wearing a borrowed pair of boots! A colleague from junior side Dundee North End had been asked to bring Gordon’s boots to the ground but had failed to turn up though it mattered little to the 16 year old who turned in a sparkling display matching Hearts legend Tommy Walker in scoring a hat trick in a brilliant 5-3 Hibs victory.
    The country was of course at war with Germany and although football continued to be played the Leagues were divided geographically so as to cut down on travel with Hibs finding themselves in the Southern League. It was in that League, in September 1941 that Gordon bagged two goals for Hibs in a stunning 8-1 win over Rangers at Easter Road. When news of that result reached the rest of Scotland it was met with utter amazement, especially when it became clear that both sides had been at their strongest.

    During those war years and until he left the Club in 1959 after a wonderful 17 years of service Gordon scored well over 100 goals for Hibs including no fewer than 17 hat tricks or better. In those early years he played alongside some well known Hibs men including Bobby Combe, Jimmy Caskie, Sammy Kean, Arthur Milne, John (Cubby) Cuthbertson, Willie Finnegan, Bobby Nutley and a host of others. Between 1943 and 1950 he finished top scorer at the Club on no fewer than seven occasions and his efforts were duly recognised by the SFA when Gordon won the first of his nineteen caps when he faced England at Wembley in October 1944. When his Hibs career came to an end Gordon went on to achieve a record which it seems may never be broken and we shall return to that later.
    Amongst Smith’s other team mates in those latter years of the war were Matt Busby and Bobby Baxter, both greats in the game and both in Hibs colours because their war time posting brought them to the Edinburgh area where they guested for Hibs but once the hostilities were over Hibs had to look to their own and it was here that the magic of Manager Willie McCartney paid dividends.

    After the war had ended in 1945 it took a while to get the Scottish Leagues back in place but once they were it was Hibs that triumphed as the 1947/48 League title came to Easter Road where in fifteen home games Hibs had won thirteen and drawn two, scoring 52 and losing only 5 goals in the process. In one game that season Third Lanark took an 8-0 drubbing with Smith on target no fewer than five times only for him to express the view after the game that he didn’t think he had played very well. This statement was typical of Smith and was uttered without an ounce of arrogance, rather in honest humility as Gordon, who finished top scorer that season, never liked to let the Hibs fans down with a poor show!

    Some weeks later, Hibs were at Ibrox and as ever Gordon was coming in for some particular attention from their defenders when he decided that maybe he should teach them a wee lesson. He scored twice, once from an impossible angle near the byline and the other from 40 yards when he spotted Scottish International goalkeeper Bobby Brown off his line. His favourite goal however was not one he scored himself and he recalls with great affection how he “beat Tiger Shaw and the rest of the Rangers defence by playing keepie uppie with the ball before I lobbed it into the box for Cubby (Johnny Cuthbertson) to score. We won 4-2 that day and I tried the keepie uppie thing in a couple of other games with my only disappointment being that I didn’t score when I got into the box”

    Such was the footballing ability of Gordon Smith that following his appearance on Hibs’ tours abroad both Vasco da Gama of Brazil and Cannes of France tried to secure his signature and whilst the player himself conceded it might have been an experience to play abroad he “did not think there were better teams than Hibs around at that time

    Prior to the 1950/51 league campaign commencing, Hibs won their League Cup section with one particular game, against Falkirk at Brockville, standing out in Gordon’s memory. Hibs were trailing 3-0 in the first half when Gordon decided enough was enough and he pulled a goal back just before the interval. Driven on by Smith, Hibs got themselves level only to concede a penalty and go behind 4-3 with the clock ticking down but the Prince of Wingers would not be beaten and his hat trick that day helped Hibs to a 5-4 win.

    The semi final paired Hibs with Aberdeen, a strong going side captained by former Hibs stalwart Davie Shaw. The first leg at Pittodrie, which Gordon missed due to a hamstring injury, saw the Dons sweep to a 4-1 win and on the train home Gordon asked that he be allowed to play in the second leg in which he inspired Hibs to a 4-0 lead only for a last gasp strike by Yorston for the Dons to force a replay. Ibrox was the venue and the game finished at 1-1 so the teams met again just 24 hours later at Hampden and this time Smith had the pleasure of playing in a team which won 5-1. Sadly Hibs lost in the Final to Motherwell whilst in the Scottish Cup it would be Motherwell again that halted Hibs when they won a thrilling game 3-2 at Tynecastle.

    Season 1951/52 saw another League Title and it was in September 1952 that many fans who witnessed the exploits of the Five suggested they saw them play their best game ever when, in Gordon’s Testimonial against English Champions Manchester United, the Hibs triumphed 7-3 with Turnbull (3), Reilly (2), Ormond and Gordon himself hitting the target.

    A few seasons on and in 1955 Gordon earned another six international caps as his career blossomed still further and he paid his way with three goals in those games whilst having the honour of captaining Scotland twice, including a tough tie in Budapest against a Hungarian side which many thought of as the best in the world at that time.

    That same year Smith was destined to become part of British footballing history when Hibs accepted an invitation to play in a tournament then named the European Cup and subsequently reborn as the Champions League. Hibs were the first British Club to compete and reached the semi finals before losing to a Stad Rhiems side which included the brilliant Raymond Kopa who despite being on the losing side in the Final impressed Real Madrid so much that they signed him and he went on to earn legendary status at The Bernabeu.

    Despite reaching that semi final, Gordon was disappointed and was convinced that “if the tournament had started four years earlier Hibs would have won it.” Further disappointment would follow when Scotland qualified for the Finals of the 1958 World Cup and Hibs reached the Final of the Scottish Cup. Smith was in plaster and missed them both with Scotland failing to qualify from their group and Hibs losing 1-0 to Clyde at Hampden.

    Still further disappointment was to come when Hibs decided that a continuing problem with an ankle injury meant that his career was ending and he suffered the indignity of being given a free transfer, saying later “I was sick, absolutely shattered that Hibs didn’t want me. I tried to put on a brave face but it was hurtful to be released after what I had gone through.”

    Many decisions are made in football when it comes to players moving on and Managers would be the first to admit they don’t always get it right. Certainly the decision on Smith proved in time to have been made in haste when the player subsequently joined Hearts where he won a League Cup and League Championship medal before moving on to Dundee where he won another League Championship medal, giving him the unique and surely never to be repeated record of winning League Championships with three different clubs. Not only that but he had appeared in the European Cup with three different sides too, reaching round one with Hearts when Benfica knocked them out and then the semi final again with Dundee this time where they lost to eventual winners Inter Milan.

    After starring for the dark blues he had a brief spell with Greenock Morton and Dublin side Drumcondra before hanging up his boots and retiring to North Berwick and taking up golf with a real passion and often meeting up with his old team mate Lawrie Reilly at Longniddry where Lawrie is a member. For a time Gordon didn’t have much to do with football and rarely attended Easter Road but that situation eventually changed and he became quite a regular again in his later years but sadly, in early August 2004 and after a quite lengthy illness Gordon passed away in his eightieth year. Never has the phrase ’gone but not forgotten’ been so apt because although the Prince of Wingers is no longer with us in person he shall forever remain in our memory.

    Lawrie Reilly

    When Lawrie Reilly took to the field to face Rangers in a 1958 match he was just 29 years old and yet that would prove to be his last game for Hibs as injury and illness forced his premature retirement. Typically he scored that day, number 234 in a glittering Hibernian career spanning eleven years.

    As a boy there was only ever one team for Lawrie and that was the Hibs. In time he would realise his dream of playing for them but when he was very young he used to travel all over Scotland to watch them, thanks to the fact that his Dad, who was also Hibs daft, worked for the railways and father and son made liberal use of the guards van to follow their heroes!

    If you ask Lawrie who his Hibs hero was back then he’d tell you all eleven players and it was only in the early 1940’s that one man earned the right to Reilly’s ’hero worship’ and that man was Gordon Smith a player he would go on to star alongside in that fantastic Hibs forward line.

    Growing up in the shadow of Tynecastle was a burden Reilly had no choice but to endure but even from an early age he was destined to come back and haunt his old neighbours on numerous occasions. A pupil at the now defunct North Merchiston Primary School, Reilly spent his early years living at the top of Ardmillan Terrace and could easily see Tynecastle from his house. Despite that fact he grew up a happy boy who was rarely seen outside without a football close by and was an automatic choice for his school football teams before going on to play as a Lothian Amateur with a side called Murrayfield Athletic, a newly formed team which enjoyed great success in its first years.

    From there Reilly moved to Edinburgh Thistle where he was switched from his normal inside left role to that of centre forward, scoring goals galore and attracting the attention of Hibs. When the Club asked him to sign the pen was out and used almost before the question had finished being asked! At first he played outside right in the reserves and although always remembered as a centre forward he was also an exceptional winger, winning caps for Scotland on both the right and left wing.

    It’s an interesting fact that as a 16 year old on Hibs’ books he was actually asked by Notts County to sign for them and had he done so he may well have starred alongside the legendary Tommy Lawton. County tried to persuade the youngster that as an outside right at Hibs he’d struggle to break into the first team and dislodge a certain Gordon Smith but Lawrie knew the move was not for him and so he politely declined their offer.
    Around that time arch rivals Hearts boasted a forward line later dubbed ‘The Terrible Trio’ though its important to understand that ‘terrible’ in this context meant they caused opposing defences terrible trouble. Conn, Bauld and Wardhaugh wore 8, 9 and 10 for Hearts but Reilly recalls hearing a story at that time which suggested the Tynecastle powers that be felt they needed better wingers to provide the crosses and an approach was to be made to take Reilly and Johnny Aitkenhead from the Hibs reserves on loan. Just what the Hearts wingers Johnny Hamilton and ex Hibs man Jimmy Souness would have made of that story we will never know but thankfully it remained a just a story and never came to pass.

    In 1947, just days short of his seventeenth birthday Reilly made his first team debut at Rugby Park where he played in the number 8 jersey and helped Hibs to a 4-3 win whilst the first of his 234 goals came against Queen of the South. That same year he scored his first hat trick, Queens again providing the opposition. Astonishingly, Reilly went on to score no fewer that eighteen hat tricks for Hibs and asked which sticks out most in his mind he recalls the day Hibs beat Hearts 3-1, Lawrie getting all three for Hibs whilst Bobby Parker got a consolation for the Tynecastle men from the spot.

    The next day the Edinburgh Evening News headlined its match report with ‘Parker penalty fails to save Hearts’ and Lawrie was, understandably, miffed that his goal scoring exploits didn’t produce a more accurate headline along the lines of ‘Reilly hat trick destroys Hearts.’ Recalling the day in question Lawrie said “It was the News and Dispatch in those days and the News was pink and favoured Hearts whilst the Dispatch was green and favoured the Hibs.” Obviously the offending headline must have been printed on pink paper!

    Prolific in front of goal throughout both Club and International career Lawrie earned the nickname ‘Last Minute Reilly’ when some enterprising journalist checked back the records at the time and discovered the Hibs man had scored a number of winning goals late in games but Lawrie himself never took to the nickname, rightly pointing out that he scored loads of goals that were nowhere near the end of games!

    At International level Lawrie earned 38 full caps and scored 23 goals in the process, a better average scoring rate than Scots legends and top goal scorers Dennis Law and Kenny Dalglish. His record against the Auld Enemy England was particularly impressive with five goals in five appearances at Wembley but his whole Scotland record is to be admired with wins in his first twelve games and never having gone more than four games without scoring for his country.

    In those days there were also Inter League games and Lawrie turned out at Parkhead against the League of Ireland where all but Turnbull of the Famous Five wore the blue of Scotland. Lawrie got four that day in a quite outstanding performance.

    His Club goals secured him a record which stands to this day as he is the top scorer of League goals of all time at Easter Road and so it would surely be a difficult task for him to highlight his all time favourite? Not a bit of it! “We were beating Motherwell 4-1 but they pulled a couple of goals back and were pushing for an equaliser. I went for a long clearance from our keeper Tommy Younger and back headed the ball around their centre half Andy Paton. As I moved on towards goal defenders kept lunging at me but as a forward there was nothing I liked better than opponents who rushed in to commit themselves and so I just kept going before smashing the ball into the net for our fifth.” Little wonder the cry ’Gie the baw tae Reilly’ could be heard every week from the terracing.

    As the 1955/56 season got underway Lawrie asked Hibs for a transfer. He did not want to leave the Club but felt that his service to Hibernian warranted the granting of a testimonial game - the Club disagreed. Lawrie stubbornly held his ground, pointing out numerous occasions where such awards had been willingly made in the past and such was his determination he actually took a job outside of football selling paint. It took intervention from the SFA to resolve the matter, their argument being they did not want their star centre forward to be out of the game. A testimonial against an International Select was duly arranged and played, allowing Lawrie to return to the Easter Road fold integrity intact.

    Sadly, Lawrie was then struck down with pleurisy and played very little football that season anyway but he did manage to return for a while and even earned his last Scottish cap, suffering for the first time in his experience a defeat to England at Wembley. After a cartilage operation in May 1957 Lawrie returned to Easter Road where he went on to play that final, goal scoring, game against Rangers, his last in a long and illustrious career.
    For a time after that Lawrie contented himself with running his thriving business in the shape of a public house in Leith known as ’The Bowler’s Rest’ whilst in his recreation time he worked hard on his golf game, often playing with former team mates but he rarely returned to Easter Road or watched any football for that matter.

    In recent years Lawrie has returned to his first love and now rarely misses a home match as he hosts a table within the Clubs’ hospitality suite where excited fans get to hear first hand his recollections of the Famous Five.
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