Obituary: George Peebles, footballer who played in Dunfermline Athletic’s 1961 Scottish Cup win

Dunfermline Atheltic legend George Peebles.
Dunfermline Atheltic legend George Peebles.
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George Peebles, footballer, coach and manager. Born: Stirling, 22 January 1936. Died: Stirling, 16 October 2016, aged 80

George Peebles, who has died after a lengthy battle against Parkinson’s Disease and dementia, was one of the heroes of Dunfermline Atheltic’s remarkable Scottish Cup win in 1961.

In many ways, Peebles was a “journeyman professional”, that Cup-winner’s medal was the only major bauble he won during his career, while the closest he got to international recognition was listing as a reserve for a Scotland Unddr-23 team. However, he had the medal, which he played a full part in winning. He was an ever-present throughout the eight ties the Pars played on their way to lifting the old trophy, whilst he provided the “assist” – the cross from which David Thomson scored Dunfermline’s opening goal in their Cup Final Replay win over Celtic at Hampden.

That victory catapulted Dunfermline into regular European competition throughout the 1960s, and Peebles played a full part in such games.

But it might all have been so-different. Falkirk was the first club to spot his talents, playing for local Stirling Secondary Juvenile team Gowanhill. The Brockville club put him on a provisional signing form, and arranged for him to move up to the junior ranks with Dunipace. However, he sustained a knee injury and his provisional signing was cancelled.

The Pars, however, had been watching him, and new manager Andy Dickson quickly pounced – learning Rangers and Stirling Albion were also showing interest. On 23 August, 1955 Dickson paid Dunipace £100, and Peebles was a Par. Twenty-four hours later he made a scoring debut, bagging a brace in a Second XI Cup-tie against Hearts at Tynecastle and on 27August, he made his first team debut against Clyde in a League Cup clash at Shawfield.He immediately established himself in the number seven shirt, getting that Under-23 reserve call-up, but no game for the match against Wales in 1958.

In all, in just over a decade at East End Park he played 431 games, the fourth-highest total for a Pars’ player, including one run of 130 in succession, with 185 of the games coming in Jock Stein’s legendary term as Dunfermline boss. His crosses provided many goals for strikers such as Charlie Dickson, but,he knew the way to goal himself, with 85 goals – 7th in the Dunfermline top-scoring list, including a feat guaranteeing cult status, and never having to put your hand in your pocket in a Dunfermline pub – a hat-trick against Raith Rovers, in a 6-0 Fife Derby win in September, 1962.

Peebles was a great admirer of Stein: “He gave us belief and motivation, turning around the club and we players”, he said.

Throughout his playing career, George had travelled to Dunfermline from his Stirling home, and it was back to Stirling he went in April, 1966, joining Stirling Albion after manager Sammy Baird paid £4,000 for his signature – 14 years after they had rejected him after a trial. He played over 100 games for his home-town team before, in 1971, he hung-up his boots to become Reserve Team Coach, under Bob Shankly, at the club.

He moved-up to become Chief Scout, then Assistant Manager to Alex Smith, and, when Smith moved on to St Mirren, in December 1986, Peebles took over as manager, holding the reins until March 1988, when he resigned and Jim Fleeting took over.

Smith, still “on the grass” working with the Falkirk youth academy, said: “George was totally wrapped-up in football. He golfed occasionally, but he was very much a football man, and a better player than given credit for.

“He was a non-smoking, non-drinking great example to young players, while he was versatile, two-footed and one of the best crossers of a ball I have seen.”

George had served time as a painter and decorator prior to going full-time with Dunfermline and with Stirling Albion. On reverting to part-time football he concentrated on running the painting business he had established in Stirling, and after parting company with Albion, he kept his football connection with part-time coaching with Alex Totten.

He never forgot Dunfermline, as they never forgot him – inducting him into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2007. He was a frequent visitor to the club to enjoy games.

His final years were painful as Parkinson’s took its toll. Then Mary, his wife of over 50-years pre-deceased him in 2014. Son George Junior also passed away before his father. When dementia came George had to move to a Stirling nursing home for his final years.

George Peebles is survived by daughters Yvonne and Karen and their husbands Fred and Charlie, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

MATT VALLANCE