Ibrox Disaster, Stairway 13 Documentary

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Ibrox Disaster, Stairway 13 Documentary

Now, this has been very serious indeed from where I’m sitting high up here in the press box, through the darkness and the fog. The ambulances are still there at that certain spot beneath the East terracing, where I think a cross barrier gave way. I haven’t been able to get that confirmed, but the ambulances are still going round the track, they’re still taking away the spectators who have been injured.

And from where I’m sitting here, I can see what looks to me rather like the bodies, I’m afraid, alongside the goalpost here at the East end of the park. The whole thing is very serious indeed and even now they’re still bringing them across the field on stretchers. I believe beneath me here in the stand everything is turmoil. The kiss of life has been given. All available ambulances and police have been hurried here to Ibrox Stadium. It is indeed, and has been, a very, very serious accident indeed.

Narrator:
Rangers Football Club is a name that resonates around the globe. But from their humble beginnings, the club’s founding fathers could never have imagined how the club would grow to become an icon in world football.

Narrator:
Over the years, the club has shaped the British game, not only in the way they played, but the way it’s watched as well. Rangers’ influence knows no bounds, and their incredible record-breaking achievements are celebrated the world over.

Narrator:
But with unbridled joy comes tragedy. And in its history, Rangers have had to face more adversity than most. It has seen the darkest days and come through them. Stronger not only as a football club, but as a family. The Rangers Family. Prior to 1971, the club had already faced tragedy on a large scale. It came on the 5th of April, 1902, during the British Home Championship Match between Scotland and England. The back of the newly built West Tribune Stand collapsed, due to heavy rainfall the previous night, causing hundreds of supporters to fall to the ground below. 25 people died, and over 500 were injured.

Narrator:
The stand at the time consisted of wooden terracing supported by a steel girder frame. Following the accident, such frameworks were discredited, and replaced throughout the United Kingdom by terracing supported by earthworks, or reinforced concrete. Remedial improvements to Ibrox continued from 1902 until 1917. But it was not until 1929 that the next major redevelopment occurred, with the completion of the new main stand to the south of the ground on the 1st of January.

Narrator:
Its designer was Archibald Leitch. The imposing red brick façade provides a classic example of Leitch’s work, and the architectural significance of the Ibrox main stand is reflected in its status as a Category B listed building. With the main stand completed, the bowl-shaped ground was one of Britain’s largest football stadia, its appearance changing little for several decades, with the roof covers to the upper sections of the terracing being added in the 1960s.

Narrator:
On the playing front, the club had enjoyed great success in the early part of that decade. But as that triumphant sight began to break up, the club was overtaken by a resurgent Celtic, under the guidance of Jock Stein. With few reasons to cheer, one would expect support to dwindle, but not the loyal Rangers fans. The team was always backed by a huge light blue support, and every Old Firm game meant Ibrox was packed to capacity.

Narrator:
In season 1970 ’71, Rangers were struggling in the League. But the League Cup victory against Celtic at Hampden in October, 1970, their first trophy in four years, meant the Rangers would enter the New Year clash with their heads held high.

1971 Announcer:
Stein and Derek Johnstone in front, it’s there, second forward Johnstone scores a beautiful header from Willie Johnston’s cross.

David Mason:
Well there had been a resurgence in interest in the club when Willie Waddell took over, now that’s one of the important things. Although the team never really managed to get things moving in the League. And in 1970, in October, they won the League Cup, the first trophy in four years. So that was very important, it gave everybody a lot of stimulus, especially when the win was against Celtic.

David Mason:
So there was that element to it, which was important for us, but as far sustaining a League challenge are concerned, the 1970 ’71 season was not great. Prior to the Old Firm match on January 2nd, we’d lost four games in the six weeks prior to that. We’d lost the NC on the 18th, and Hibernian, Falkirk. No games that you’d be expecting to win, and these really left our chance of doing anything in the Championship in a tatters, really. It wouldn’t matter if the Rangers were at the bottom of the League and the Celtic were at top, or vice versa, the Old Firm game is always critical to the parties, even if it’s a Glasgow time, even if it’s a friendly, if you have a go at these between the Old Firm, it was always going to be important. Always critical to beat Celtic, especially in New Year, because the New Year was a time when people tended to get together. You looked forward to that. That was the iconic game of the season was the New Year match. And it’s one that everyone would have been really looking forward to.

David Mason:
It was a New Year, and looking for a new start. Looking for a new start especially from a football point of view as well, the Rangers were looking for one over on their rivals. I think the whole atmosphere at the time was eerie. It’s probably easier to say that in hindsight, but it was eerie because the weather was misty, foggy, is probably what you would call it. It was quite typical of Glasgow then, not so much now, but we used to get a lot of fog and the rain, especially in the wintertime. So it was one of these kind of calm days, a bit of fog, not particularly nice day. But of course the fans that were making their way to the game weren’t really thinking about that. They were looking forward to the match.

David Mason:
As it transpired, the match was not one of the greatest Old Firm games. There was no real tension in it, other than what you would have normally. No issues really cutting the pitch, everyone seemed to be getting on pretty well. No harsh tackles, it seemed to be one of the kind of more neutral matches of an Old Firm type you would see.

Narrator:
Like many who made their pilgrimage to Ibrox Park that day, lifelong supporter Ian Loch’s experience has touched him forever.

Ian Loch:
Yeah, we traveled in a party, we traveled over, my friends, on the subway to Copland Road, and we headed onto the grounds. We normally go to the shed, the old shed, because we used to stand there between the half-field line and the 18 yard line, but by the time we got in it was absolutely mobbed and jam-packed so we took a position on the grounds that we very, very seldom stood at, which was halfway down the terrace and behind the goals. And obviously the game started.

Ian Loch:
And it was a game, it was played, it wasn’t an eventful game. If anybody asked me what happened that day, I can’t remember a thing about it apart from the two goals. As you know, both the goals were scored in the last minute of the game, and even without seeing it in the TV sense, the goals, I can remember Johnstone scoring for Celtic, and I knew there was only minutes left. And the whole grounds getting quiet, I’m obviously delighted that we’re trying again.

Ian Loch:
And we then headed up the terrace. And when you get there, up the terrace behind the goal, there was quite a large concourse because they had built a cover about three year prior. At Copland Road then, you could either go right, go down Emerson Drive, or go left. Of course we were going to the Shelby Station we went left. And we started to shuffle our way towards Passageway 13, and I always remember thinking to myself, “It’s quite tight. It seems quite tight.” You felt that a lot of games in the big games I ever saw at Hampden.

David Mason:
It was always a problem in that staircase, and other steep staircases in fact. Because there was just so much crushing at the top of the stair before you even got there. What I remember about it was, you just had no control of what was happening. So you would tend to work your way up to the back of the stadium after the game. It may take a few minutes after the final whistle to get to the top of the staircase, but when you actually got to the top of it there was so much crushing.

David Mason:
And what tended to happen was, you were kind of carried forward towards the staircase, and that’s essentially how it was, is you were carried forward. You had no concept of where the stair was, because you couldn’t see in front of you. All you saw was just mid-air. And then suddenly you came to the staircase and the ground just seemed to disappear from below you. And you were always conscious that was going to happen, but you never knew if you were a yard away from it or whether you were five yards away from it. You were just kind of carried. And then suddenly you were just propelled down.

David Mason:
Now this was not a one-off. This happened in every match. So whenever you got to that, there was a degree of trepidation that once you got there, if you went down you had no chance. It really was… that’s how you felt. And so there was always a kind of sense of relief when you actually got down the staircase and it started to open up, and things started to… you got a lot more space around you.

David Mason:
I think certainly around standing areas for that team, the football grounds, there was a culture of disorganization. Especially for the big matches. And to be honest, the big matches were great, because you had lots of people around about you, and there was a swaying in the crowd, whatever. And if there was a goal scored you could end up in a place ten yards away from where you started off, prior to the goal. That was the beauty of it. In reality it was not a safe environment for anybody.

David Mason:
So I think when you got to the top of the staircase, that was what you expected in a big, big crowd. And I’d been a lot of places like that too. The Celtic Park was like that, Hampden was like that too. It just did happen at a lot of grounds, but particularly at Ibrox in Stairway 13. It was very, very steep.

1971 Witness:
Well halfway down, it must have been a young boy, threw his coat up in the air. As that came down, of course the little boy was tripped and he fell down. And of course one after the other, they all came down. Piled up and piled up. They didn’t know where to go to first, there were so many of them. They looked out onto this gray here, it was littered with people moaning, and people shouting for help.

1971 Witness:
And the other police around here, you got this thing organized in a matter of minutes. No one could have done more than what the police did.

Ian Loch:
My father’s advice in years gone by, at least about games, always keep your elbows up. Don’t get your arms penned by your sides. And before you knew it, at the end of the concourse and facing down 13, and knowing that that wasn’t the norm, and because of the crowd coming up off the terrace and the crowd coming from behind, nobody sees what’s happening in front of them. So there’s thousands of people pushing up, and all I can describe is a pack of cards. Somebody has fallen, somebody down the stalks, and the pressure was unbearable. And people were shouting, “Get back, get back.” But people didn’t see, and didn’t realize what was unfolding in front of them.

Ian Loch:
And before you knew it, your life was getting pushed out of you. You couldn’t even shout, “Get back, get back,” because you were gasping for air. There was a pressure in your body, in your lungs, it was unbelievable. And there was a bit of give at the bottom of the pack, and because my arms were still up, my legs were wrapped around somebody behind me. And I managed to squeeze my way out of the people in front, and the people in back, and crawl over… there’s a wooden fence kept up as a pen, and I managed to crawl over the wooden fence onto the grass embankment, and down. Actually I was outside the ground, but I was in a daze.

David Mason:
It became clear very soon after the final whistle to many people, the press guys by all accounts saw almost as soon as… well not as soon as the final whistle but they started to see things happening at the top of the staircase. Some of the police ran across the stadium, across the pitch to see what was unfolding. Police obviously trying to attend to things at the top of the staircase and the bottom. But I think one of the strange things about it is that there were people who came down that staircase that day, probably at the same time, who were completely unaware of what unfolded.

Ian Loch:
When I got down the slope, I’d lost my shoes, my breathing was away, and I felt my ribs back in, and an ambulanceman grabbed ahold of me, and took me in the Ibrox itself, I think we went into the boot room, and they checked me over, and gave me a pair of tennis shoes, and that was me heading home.

1971 Announcer:
What a pity that such a fine game between such two sporting teams should end this way, but it all happened so suddenly, just when the crowd were all going away. In fact I had my hat down, my attention was suddenly drawn to the crowd up at the top of the North terrace. And it was obvious something serious had happened. And the police went over, and then in no time at all there were ambulances, and you could hear the sirens outside, and then they came right onto the field here. Around the track, and this long procession started out of the East terrace. Stretcher bearers running with the spectators on the stretchers into the tunnel. It has been pandemonium beneath us here, and I’ve no doubt everything possible is being done, but the latest report I have heard is that it is and it has been a very, very serious accident indeed, and there’s just no saying how many fatalities there may have been.

David Mason:
The thing that struck me about the whole disaster is the impact it’s had on the people here. Their whole demeanor changes when they talk about it. I would say that the two guys in particular that seem to be most badly affected were John Grieg and Sandy Jardine, because they were right at the heart of it.

Sandy Jardine:
I remember the game. It wasn’t a great game. It was 1-1, Celtic scored in the 89th minute, we went up the park and scored, and centered the ball and the referee blew the whistle. So we were coming off the park. A draw keeps everybody happy.

John Grieg:
We were quite pleased with ourselves that we had rescued the game, rescued the result by scoring so late in the game, after people had thought that was game over at one nothing. So we went back in the dressing room after the match, feeling quite pleased with ourselves. And it wasn’t til, I don’t know, maybe five or 10 minutes after that, that we could see some of the staff whispering to each other. The manager, Willie Waddell, looked to be quite agitated about something. That we realized there had been something happened.

Sandy Jardine:
We were in the dressing room and probably about 10 minutes in the bath, when somebody came in and said, “You need to get out of the dressing room.” But never gave us a reason why. And about five minutes later says, “Come on, there’s been an accident, you need to get out.” And so as soon as that happened we started to get ready quickly, and I was one of the last ones out, and I remember being in the dressing room when they started to bring injured people into the dressing room. Lay them along the floor.

John Grieg:
I personally, I don’t know, I think I was injured or something and got some treatment. When I came back in the dressing room from the showers, they were starting to bring one or two bodies into the dressing room. And they were saying, “Come on, hurry up, you better get out of here. It’s not going to be a pleasant sight.” And it was then I realized there must have been something really bad happened. I didn’t know if they were dead or alive. My first reaction may probably have been that they’d been hurt, and they were going to try to give them some treatment or something in the dressing room.

John Grieg:
And on my way out the ground, I went back down the tunnel and had a look, and ambulances were flying about, first aid people, police, and there were some bodies laying along the touchline, and I knew then it was really, really bad.

Sandy Jardine:
It was really strange, because a mist had came down. Very, very misty, but you could see all the bodies laid out behind the goals, all the ambulances and a lot of activity. And that’s when you knew. At that time there was eight people that died, lost their life. And I was traveling back to Edinburgh. By the time I had gotten back to Edinburgh, it had went up to 66.

John Grieg:
It wasn’t til later on that night, because there was no mobile phones in those days. It wasn’t until later on that night, I think it was either the radio or the television broadcasted the news, and we realized how bad it was.

Ian Loch:
The strange thing, you got in a bubble. That’s the only way I can describe it. You get in a bubble as if nobody else is here. And I always remember heading home [inaudible 00:19:59], and back in the subway again. And I can always remember sitting in the subway and not a word was spoken. Nobody ever said… nobody could talk about it. There was nothing spoken. And I went with two mates, Bill and George [Torrent 00:20:17], and they stayed [inaudible 00:20:19] went off, and I walked right by their of course. I went to the game with them and I walked by their close, not thinking had they gotten, because I think it was really a state of shock you were in.

John Grieg:
I was probably one of the lucky ones. We were by… I was in the dressing room and I went out to my friend’s car and got taken back to Edinburgh where I lived at that particular time. I didn’t have to exit the ground and try to get home, and all the rest of it.

Ian Loch:
And I was on the bottom road to head up to home, and an old boy came up and said to me, “Look son, I can get you back up the road.” There was no way to get to the house, it must have been hours after, and you see them all looking to the TV, it was 13, and up to 23, and so much, and such and such, and you realize, my goodness, what happened here?

John Grieg:
And some of the people I spoke to have been some horrific stories they’ve told me, and a number of people haven’t been back to those grounds since. And I can understand that as well.

Ian Loch:
You know I can always remember seeing all the players were involved and going to the funerals, and representing the club, and that was a great thing for the club and the president.

Sandy Jardine:
I was 22, just turned 22, and it had a huge effect, a very traumatic effect. And it wasn’t so much, it was when you went to the funerals. What the players happened, is we got called in on the Monday morning, and Wallie Waddell was fantastic for the club. He organized everything. He basically told us what would happen. He told us that we would get into small groups and the players would be representing the club at every funeral, but also we would go and see all the people in the hospitals. But it really hit home when you went to some of the young funerals. Some young people, a lot of young people died. Usually somebody’s 70 or 80, and they die, it’s a celebration of their life. But to go away so young, that’s when it really hit home, and it was very difficult.

Narrator:
Every loss was heartbreaking. Every passing mourned. But the grief of not only the Rangers family, but the nation, was never felt so strongly than in the small village of Markinch, in Fife.

Narrator:
Five teenagers had all left for the New Year’s game, and never returned. Five young men, who went to school together, cut down so early in life. The impact of this disaster was spread far and wide around the world.

Wallie Waddell:
The directors of Rangers Football Club express their deep sorrow and heartfelt sympathy for the bereaved relatives of those who lost their lives, and for those who were injured at Ibrox Stadium on Saturday.

Sandy Jardine:
I think the club was very, very fortunate to have a man like Willie Waddell in charge. He made sure everything was done right, and very proper in the way he went about it.

John Grieg:
Willie Waddell did a magnificent job at that time, because he must have had so much else on his plate as well. But he was magnificent and organized the players to go to as many funerals as possible. The big problem being that some of the funerals overlapped each other, they were at the same time at different places. But we went to as many funerals as possible to try and pay our respects to the families.

David Mason:
And I think when you get to a situation where you’re seeing a ground transformed from a sport stadium into something else, that’s… I was going to say unique. It’s happened on other grounds as well, of course, but I think particularly for the people who were involved, you know they weren’t used to that kind of thing. So to actually have a situation where players were in the dressing room has happened, and to have some casualties brought through there, including some dead people, and taken to some other parts of the ground as well. It was a case of anywhere where they could lay bodies effectively, and that’s how it was on the day. But even apart from the day, as well the aftermath was just horrendous for them. I think it took months. I think if you speak to John Grieg and Ally MacDonald and Sandy Jardine, and whoever, they’ll tell you it’s still not gone away for them.

Martin Bain:
For me personally I was not involved there on that day, I was still a youngster. My father was in Stairway 13 and went home and only really heard about the disaster by the sounds of the ambulances and the police cars. And when I talk to the likes of my father and Walter Smith who was on the stairway that day too, I think by reflection it really hits home. And Sandy Jardine and John Grieg, on the occasion that we do lay the wreath each year with myself, I can see it etched in their faces, the pain from that day, and bringing back times that were terrible, a sense of loss for the Rangers as a Football Club.

Narrator:
The heroes of that day were the men and women of the emergency services. However little recognition has been given to the first aiders who were at the ground as the tragic events unfolded. The staff of the St. Andrews Ambulance Service were the first to attend to the injured in the stadium, and to this day are still on hand at Ibrox, ensuring Rangers fans’ safety.

Narrator:
Andrew Dixon spoke to three of the men on duty that fateful day.

Tom Donaldson:
Well certainly the memories, I’ve always felt that, because we’re here most matches, and as you walk across that area of the ground, or even anywhere on the ground, you’re always… memory takes you back to those sad days.

Andrew Dixon:
Robert, you must recall what happened and how things unfolded. When were you first aware that something was wrong?

Robert Burns:
Well I was the area officer at the opposite end, at the [inaudible 00:26:24] end, because we had set areas, the three of us here. Tom and Ian were at that end, I was at the other end, looking after the first aiders at that end. So those days we didn’t have radios or anything like that. And it was very misty, so you couldn’t see down there, but you knew something was happening. SO like anything like that, you send to the squad to see if you can assist. And then the word came back that it was major, and everybody was down there to help out and see what they could do. It was just a case of all hands at the pumps.

Tom Donaldson:
I was actually stationed at the bottom corner, the corner of the field at the bottom of the stairwell. And we were directed up by the police officers and by the time you fight your way up through the crowd, the game’s finished and everybody’s wanting to get home, unaware of what’s happening around them. And something I will always remember, just standing at the top of that stair, because we had no means of communication, and you just looked down and it’s a seething mass of people. And your first thought is just one of complete hopelessness.

Andrew Dixon:
And Tom, what were your feelings? Obviously it was becoming very serious and you could see what was happening, but afterwards, was there anybody who could have imagined just how many people would pass away in the disaster? Was there a point when you thought, actually there’s quite a lot of people losing their lives here?

Tom Donaldson:
Probably not until after the event, because you hate to use that word [inaudible 00:27:51], but there’s something automatically says, you need to get in here and do something. Considering it after everything, at that time compared to now, the first aiders were totally unprepared for anything like that. We were probably inadequately trained, and didn’t have the proper equipment. Thankfully, things have changed now. But in a sense you’re not awestruck by what was happening in front of you, you were saying, “I don’t know what to do, but I’ll have to do something.” For most of the people involved, assistance was no longer required. The very few, very few minor injuries sustained, these were things that the first aiders could cope with. It was the major issues at the seat and the stairwell, somewhat a [inaudible 00:28:47], people just died standing up.

Ian Holmes:
As Tom said, in the initial stage you don’t think about it. It was after you start thinking like, what could I have done? Could I have done something better? When I got home that night, it was 9:00 at night, I can remember saying to my father, threw my uniform off, and said to him, “Take me down to the pub.” Didn’t see my mates, and I ended up drunk that night. But it does effect you. The topic was thrown out of stress, at that time it wasn’t initially thought about, but yes, thinking back now, it does affect me, that time.

Andrew Dixon:
There will be some things that you all touched on that you have distinct memories, is there anything for the three of you, anything else that really stands out in terms of what happened during the incident, or maybe what happened in the half hour to an hour after?

Ian Holmes:
Well, walking along the goalie line, where all the bodies had been laid out, and just seeing the people laying there, at that time you knew nothing could do for these people, they’d already been pronounced dead by the doctor, so that was a memory that always comes back to you.

Tom Donaldson:
Somewhat to Ian, standing, once all the people were away, and it was a kind of tidy up, wash up of the operation, standing at the top of the terrace, at the top of the passageway, you look down one way, and it was just a mass of metal. All was quiet, there was a mist and cold clinging in the air. There was piles of clothing, scarves, jackets, shoes, caps, tammies, the whole lot lying in a heap, and then if you turned the other way 380 degrees, as Ian said, you look down the perimeter of the field, and there was neat rows of stretchers lying near the people who had sacrificed themselves.

Tom Donaldson:
And another thing about that, thankfully there was a gate coming together between the two clubs over that period, when the call went out for extra assistance, when it became knowing this was something big, the response from both club doctors and the club staffs, the two managers, they were out there and they were working hand in hand together.

Ian Holmes:
I can always remember a double decker bus appearing, and everybody getting out to assist. It was a lot of Celtic supporters at that time, so everybody just got down and helped as best they can at that time.

Andrew Dixon:
That’s a time when footballers stop being footballers and they become human beings. You must have seen that yourself, Robert. I know the players, it very quickly became apparent to them something had happened. They were getting changed, obviously, after the final whistle, and then bodies started being brought into the dressing room, and they realized what happened. I suppose you must have seen a real human side to the players that perhaps people back then, and even nowadays, just don’t expect to see.

Robert Burns:
Yeah, that’s quite correct. And also from the other aspect of it, what you were saying, the thing that sticks in my mind with that was the helplessness. You couldn’t do any more but you were doing your best. And I always remember one incidence of one, I think it was a youngster, where there was no hope for him. We didn’t have the skills to decide that, the doctors were to decide that. And the father was saying, “Keep trying, keep trying.” And you knew yourself, there was nothing could be done. And you’re just waiting on the doctor to tell them, “Sorry.”

Andrew Dixon:
And Robert, how often do you think about what happened? There must be something that flashes through your mind so often.

Robert Burns:
Occasionally, you have flashbacks, especially when you come here on duty, as the three of us do here regularly, because we’re three of the six duty officers that cover this ground. And as Tom has said previously, you pass that area and you think about what happened all those years ago.

Ian Holmes:
There’s always something bringing back a memory of that. Quite often I’m outside, I’ll walk by that corner and you look up at the plaque that’s on that corner.

Narrator:
Two of the greatest Scottish managers of our era attended Ibrox that fateful day, and both have been touched by what they experienced. Sir Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith faced Rangers on the park that season, but were both there at Ibrox to support the light blues.

Walter Smith:
I wasn’t playing for Dundee United over the holiday period, and therefore I was at my home in Glasgow. My brother and I, as we would do when we got the opportunity, went on the local supporters’ bus to the game. Being from the East end, that Stairway 13 was always the stairway that was used by the majority of us by the bus [inaudible 00:33:27], and by the subway station there. And it was the obvious walk-in. So when we were leaving the game, at the end we got caught on the staircase, obviously from one point of view we were fortunate that we were not in the area where most of the people were killed.

Walter Smith:
At the time, in those days you were used to that kind of squashing, and that kind of hustle and bustle of getting away from games, so it wasn’t that unusual an occurrence for you to stop at a stairway. And after it stopped, it was an unusual aspect of falling down to the side, and it was a scramble out over the top of the fence. If you had asked me, I would have said to you that the fence had collapsed, and we managed to go out there. But after having studied photographs, in later years realized that the fencing was still intact. So we must have got out over the top of people that were there. I can just remember people just jumping over the fence and getting out.

Walter Smith:
Got back to the supporters’ bus and when you think the entire bus would probably have used the staircase and congregated in that area. Everyone of them were back on it, and it was only when we got back to [inaudible 00:34:48], there was a lot of people waiting at the corner. Communication wasn’t as it is these days. And it wasn’t until we actually got back we realized the magnitude of the problem that had occurred. So for us, it’s a vivid memory each year when it comes to the New Year’s Day games. That happens, it comes, and the 40th anniversary, the club are going to mark it and deservedly so for the people involved.

Alex Ferguson:
We played Rangers the day before. And Big Jock rested seven players because he knew the Celtic game was going to be off that day. The Celtic game was off against Clyde, and we played Rangers at Brockville. We beat them 3-1, but Rangers had played a lot of young players. We were to play Airdrie the next day and our game was postponed. So I went back and dashed over to Ibrox to see the game with Andy Roxborough. He was center forward at Falkirk. I saw Bob at the front door and they got me a couple of tickets. Watched the game, we had five minutes to go.

Alex Ferguson:
We were ready to leave with five minutes to go when Johnstone scored, Jimmy Johnstone scored. The Colin equalized, and we dashed off over opposite to the car park there. Made our way, and Andy lived in Ralston, so we went our way up towards Belson Park, cut around the back away from the crowds, and I dropped Andy off at Ralston. Came back down by the Clyde side, by the general hospital, when I saw the ambulances going in. I said, “Christ, there must have been someone fighting.” And then when I got home, my mother and father were … because Martin hadn’t turned up. My brother was in the terrace.

Interviewer:
Oh, God. In that area?

Alex Ferguson:
Yeah, he was was there. But he left early, he didn’t know anything. He had to run to the Rolls Royce Club. But eventually, hours later, he turned up. It was about fraught.

Interviewer:
It was a hell of a day, wasn’t it?

Alex Ferguson:
Oh, it was terrible. What I thought was, I don’t remember. He got the ex players to go sit at the funerals. Which was very sad. A young girl from Falkirk I went to the funeral with some of the Falkirk players, and a lot of the ex players did great dues, because there were so many funerals. It was a terrible time for Rangers, and I think it had an impact on Willie Waddell.

Narrator:
Some strength for the Rangers family was the impact the disaster had beyond the footballing world. This was not a city’s or a country’s tragedy, but one that was felt around the globe.

Sandy Jardine:
I remember that time. The ripple effect right through all of Europe. The amount of telegrams the club got from all over the world, it was astonishing. And as I say, it brought everybody together. Particularly in Glasgow. You’d have to say Celtic as a club were very, very supportive. It was a trying time for everybody in this club, but Celtic, any request, they made sure they sorted it. As I say, they were very supportive of the club, in what was in many ways our hour of need.

Walter Smith:
I played at, I came by, as I said I hadn’t been involved in the games over the New Year, but a few weeks later Dundee United had the foresight to come and play back at Ibrox again. That was a… I can’t remember very much about the game but I can remember it was a very quiet and subdued atmosphere in the ground, as you would expect.

John Grieg:
Again, it was an unreal atmosphere. By trying to put that to one side when you go on with your job was very, very difficult. The place was very quiet. It was a very unusual atmosphere. There was just to get over that, I’m quite sure that the people that passed away that day would want us to go back and be as successful as we possibly could for their sake and all their friends.

Narrator:
As time went on, the questions began. Initially the how and why of the tragedy was born out of speculation. Importantly, the official inquiry into the disaster brought an accurate account of the events that had unfolded on that dark day.

David Mason:
It’s an important point of view that, from the historical point of view and also from Colin Stein’s point of view. For a long time he believed that he was responsible in some way for it. At the end of the day, I think you’ve got to say, it happened, and when it happened is almost a bit irrelevant. I think it was important to know the sequence of events, but an inquiry itself and the various interviews showed that it did happen four or five minutes after the final whistle. It probably could have happened any time. It could have happened five minutes before the final whistle. Because at the end of the day it’s all about a large number of people going down that staircase.

Narrator:
From that fateful day, what occurred in Stairway 13 changed the club forever. From the depths of despair came a new vision for Ibrox. A memorial that every Rangers fan could be proud of. A stadium that would change the face of British football.

Narrator:
This vision was driven by one man. Willie Waddell, who vowed this type of disaster would never happen again at Ibrox, and spearheaded the rising of a glorious football stadium.

John Grieg:
He wanted to rebuild the ground in such a way that a repeat of that terrible tragedy wouldn’t happen again.

Sandy Jardine:
And he was the instigator to, really is what is a memorial to the people that died because a new Ibrox was built, he made sure we had the money, he went round and looked at various stadium and came back with a plan, and although it was three or four years later, the foundation started to get built. Until 1982 we had probably the first all seater stadium in Britain.

Narrator:
A beautiful example of a football stadium, Ibrox was once described as undoubtedly the best ground of its size in Britain. It truly is a great memorial to those who lost their lives that dreadful day.

Ian Loch:
The stadium was a great testament to Willie Waddell and Rangers for what happened there, and it was only right they should something like that. I sit in the Copland G now, and I take my grandsons, and you’re so relaxed about going to the games now, and that’s far from a reminder of what happened then, but obviously it’s a testament to the success of that.

John Grieg:
Such a good job he did of plotting and making the stadium as you see most of it today. The government brought what they called a Taylor Report. Quite a number of major clubs in Great Britain came to look at Ibrox to base their new grounds on the way that Willie Waddell had organized it here. And hopefully I don’t see it in my lifetime. I hope we don’t see it in the history of this football club again, something as bad as that.

Tom Donaldson:
The changes in the stadium fabric and the structure, approaches to the ground have made lots of [inaudible 00:42:35] a lot more [inaudible 00:42:35] because there’s an end for people leaving and entering. There’s no stairs to climb around. You don’t want to ever step back and just be complacent and say well, we have a new stadium, we have good systems in place. Complacency is something we must push away, ever a way out to things that are happening. Because anywhere where you have a mass of people, 50,000 at a match, that’s a tremendous thing.

Walter Smith:
We used to pick rows, and pushing and shoving and that, but you never imagined anything like that would happen. And it’s just a tragedy and remains a tragedy. Rangers made a decision after that that if it was up to them it wouldn’t happen again, and that’s… the stadium’s changed into the modern stadium as of the present moment, and that can only be a good thing.

Sandy Jardine:
That is a memorial. I know we’ve got a memorial there with the names on the plaques, but the stadium is a memorial.

Narrator:
Over the decades, the club have paid tribute to those that lost their lives. As the New Year comes around, the Rangers family pauses for contemplation. In remembrance and respect for those who went to support Rangers on January the 2nd, 1971, and never returned home.

Narrator:
On the 30th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster, the club unveiled a memorial to the victims of both tragedies, and with them, thousands of fans paid their respects too.

Priest:
Almighty God, our loving Father, as we’ve met here today to express our love for those at rest and at peace with you, and look back at a time of trial. We also want to express our gratitude for all the individual acts of heroism that become true examples of faith, of character, and of service in times of tragedy. We think of the people who cared for others, and the people who go on caring for those. For the managers of Rangers and directors of Rangers and Celtic, who did what they could at that time to bring comfort. For the Rangers players, whose visits to hospitals and attendance at funerals was a great encouragement. For those who simply cared, and those who expressed their grief. Now we dedicate this memorial to be for all people a reminder, a symbol, a place of pilgrimage where they can come and express their love for others and feel close to those who they love. Amen.

Narrator:
The John Grieg statue is now a poignant symbol of the stadium for fans to always remember the 66 who lost their lives. But the fans, too, have made great strides to make sure that the memory of those who died on that dark day will never be forgotten.

Jim Archer:
Started off, refurbished the memorial stone, and it just grew arms and legs. We decided to get a bench. We got some trees. We’re honoring Nigel Pickup as well, and Margaret Ferguson, along with the five boys. And we’ve got the bench and we’ve got it dedicated. It’s our tribute. For the five boys, the most important thing for us is we got the parents involved and we spoke to them. And that wasn’t easy, to actually speak to somebody who lost their son in the disaster. But it was good, that it taught us that they were happy about what we’re doing, so that made us happy as well.

Narrator:
Two great clubs touched by tragedy. That bond strengthened with the gesture by Graeme Souness in 1989.

1989 announcer:
Graeme Souness introduced a party of 50 youngsters from Liverpool to the capacity crowd. There was no mistaking the warmth of their welcome. The Ibrox manager then handed over a check for 30,000 pounds on behalf of Rangers Football Club to go towards the Hillsborough Disaster appeal.

Narrator:
And now both sets of fans have come together in memory of those that have fallen in the name of supporting the clubs they love.

Margaret A.:
I know it was a terrible disaster that happened at Ibrox nearly 40 years ago. Terrible disaster happened at Hillsborough, and that’s what unites people. To lose our fans the way we did. And I think it’s a lovely idea. I’m really, really pleased with this idea and this lovely flag that John McGivern with the help of the other friends, to do this on behalf of the Ranger fans and the Hillsborough families, I think it’s wonderful.

John McGivern:
There was a story covered this year about Nigel Pickup, who was the youngest person to die in the Ibrox disaster. He was eight year old, and it was the first football match he had ever attended. And he was from Liverpool. So that’s when we decided to get the banner made. It’s very important that our two clubs are brought together, because throughout the years, Liverpool and Rangers have always had a strong friendship. We’ve both suffered in the stadium disasters, with both Hillsborough and at Ibrox. And it’s very important that this is recognized. And hopefully by the production of this flag, we can do that.

Andy Kerr:
What struck me immediately was the bond between the people here and my fellow Rangers fans, albeit in very sad circumstances. But the two disasters seem to create that bond, and it’s very, very important, I think, for us as fans of the clubs, but also all football fans to remember these instances, because a lot of the modernization, a lot of the good things that we have now, were born out of these tragedies. It tells me an awful lot about the nature and the spirit. We all too quickly hear all the negative aspects of what football fans are about. And certainly the Rangers, we felt the sharp focus of that at times in the not too distant past. So I think it’s great to come together, show that there is a common bond, and the caring attitude that people have got, and the fact that they are prepared to spend time paying tribute to fans who sadly lost their lives.

Narrator:
As we approach the 40th anniversary of the 1971 Ibrox disaster, each and every Rangers fan all over the world will pause, and perhaps shed a tear, in memory of the fans who passed away on Stairway 13. The club will mark this occasion collectively, with its supporters, a family in the truest sense of the word. Coming together, remembering together.

Martin Bain:
I think events, given the magnitude of the occasion, 40 years away from what was the most horrific period in the history of Rangers Football Club, 66 people to lose their lives in Stairway 13 is something that this club and its supporters will never, ever forget. And I think that obviously the 2nd and 3rd of January will be very poignant occasions.

Martin Bain:
On the 2nd we obviously play Celtic, as we did on that fateful day 40 years ago. And I think it’s very fitting that John Grieg and Billy McNeill will lead out members of the teams that were there in ’71, and in front of our two current teams as they are today. And then obviously a minute’s silence, which will be something that will in the minds of every football fan in Scotland and beyond, will be a moment of reflection, because the disaster was something that united fans throughout Glasgow and beyond.

Martin Bain:
And obviously the rivalry that we have is the Old Firm one that won the pitch. And a great deal of coming together in those times and honor the saints we have lost throughout the whole footballing community, not just specific to any one team. So yes, very poignant on the 2nd.

Martin Bain:
And then the 3rd of January for everybody really to attend and be with friends and families of those who lost their lives on that fateful day. It’s an occasion that most will attend and reflect upon things in football at times that can be lost in the everyday importance that football’s given to society. But nothing could be more important than remembering people who lost their lives going to a football game. It’s very, very, very sensitive to many, many Rangers supporters, what happened in ’71. But as I said, it’s they way the footballing community too, and the support that we’ve had from Celtic Football Club and its supporters in marking this occasion, is befitting the Celtic Football Club and indeed the Old Firm and the relationship that we have. So it’s extended to anybody who likes the game of football, because nobody should go to a football match and not expect to come home from it. And therefore it’s only fitting, I think, that the service is broadcast far and wide, because it’s of interest to many, many people who will no doubt watch and reflect and remember.

Sandy Jardine:
Every time at this time of year you always think back, and you think of the families. And that’s why we want to make sure that it’s done properly. And I think we’re doing it. The supporters are wanting it to happen and I think it’s a nice thing to do.

David Mason:
I think it’s… you know we had a disaster in 1902, and 25 people killed then. Well we know the names of these people, but not many relatives around, we’re probably not aware that they’re relatives. So as time passes and memories do diminish, but there are a lot of their relatives around here that still feel very upset about the whole thing, from natural reasons. And I think at the very least the recognize that is important.

Ian Loch:
This time of year you always think about it. It always comes out your mind, and because me being a big Rangers fan, it’s always a topic, or it will come up in conversation. And people say, “You were in the disaster?” And for the first few years, any time I spoke about it, I got hairs stand up in the back of your neck. Only recently, I think because 40 years, and I’m coming on for 60 now, sometimes you get quite emotional about it. Because I’ll look at that, and that’s 40 years that I’ve experienced the ups and downs of life, and it could quite easily be myself.

Walter Smith:
I guess it’s one of those things. You see football disaster like Hillsborough and like Ibrox, people are going to enjoy a football match and end up being killed. It’s not what anybody would want. Rangers as you say mark that every year, but the 40th one is one that we’ll be remembered by everyone, obviously, and there’s a lot of sadness there, but when everybody gets together to commemorate the loss, that’s something that each of us can feel. In my sense I feel lucky that having been at another end of the accident I would have lost myself and my brother. Very fortunate to come away without any injury at all. We are the lucky ones, obviously.

John Grieg:
As I said earlier, this time of the year, it’s never far away from my thoughts. But when I go to the games and look around and about, and see the amount of supporters that support this club, and most important what this club means to them. I think back, and I think well, they spend a fortune coming up with more ways to view matches. They buy merchandise, they buy season tickets, they go to Europe to watch European games. And you can see how much it means to them. And you realize that how lucky I’ve been to be part of what’s been an institution. And it’s something that I’m very, very honored to be part of, to be part of them. And I think as long as we’ve got people like them supporting us, the 66 people will never be forgotten.

John Grieg:
(singing)

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