Archie Baird

Footballer, teacher and journalist

Born: 8 May, 1919, in Rutherglen.

Died: 3 November, 2009, in Cove, Aberdeen, aged 90.

ARCHIE Baird, who has died aged 90 after a long illness, was the oldest surviving Aberdeen player and the last survivor of their Scottish Cup-winning side of 1947, the first Dons side to lift a national trophy.

Born in Rutherglen, the strapping 6ft 2in Baird played inside-right for Strathclyde Juniors, with future Rangers legend Willie Waddell as his right-winger. His ambition was to be an architect, but after he spent a mere six months in the junior ranks, in the face of competition from a handful of clubs, including St Mirren, Partick Thistle, Motherwell and Blackpool, legendary Aberdeen manager David Halliday so impressed Baird's mother that she advised her son to join the Dons. He started, as a 19-year-old, in 1938, on a two-year deal, for a signing-on fee of 20 and 4 a week.

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In an interview with Aberdeen's Red Web website earlier this year, Baird recalled that travelling north by bus, accompanied by another Willie Waddell, signed from Renfrew Juniors, was a huge adventure.

Waddell quickly broke into the first team, but Baird struggled and was still a reserve when war broke out in September 1939. Within weeks he was conscripted, a move which put paid to his football and the architectural training he was undergoing in the afternoons.

An army medic, Baird escaped on the last ship out of St Nazaire as France fell in 1940 and six months later, after fitting in a couple of games as a guest for Leeds United while stationed at Yorkshire CCC's Headingley ground awaiting embarkation for Egypt, he found himself in the north African desert, facing Rommell's Afrika Corps. He was one of the Jocks captured at the fall of Tobruk and was sent to an Italian prisoner of war camp near Rimini.

After 18 months, Baird and a friend, Harold Smith, escaped and, aware that the Allies, including the Highland Division, had landed in Italy, they headed south, hoping to link up with the advancing British and American forces.

During the trek south the pair were helped by Italian peasant families and even sheltered for a time by an Italian family, the Pilottis, who pretended their British "guests" were their sons. Baird learned to speak Italian during this "holiday" and a life-long friendship was established before the escapees linked up with the advancing Allied forces and returned to active service.

Back in Blighty, Baird guested for Falmouth and Aldershot before a transfer to Edinburgh Castle enabled him to resume playing for Aberdeen and, much more mature after his wartime experiences, he was soon in the first team, making his debut against Hearts in 1945.

He helped the Dons win the final Southern League Cup of the emergency wartime fixtures and in January 1946, four months after being demobbed, he played for Scotland in a Hampden "Victory" international against Belgium, a match played in thick fog on a snow-covered pitch which ended 2-2.

Baird did well enough to keep his place for the next Victory international, against England, but he sustained an injury and had to drop out.

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The Belgian game was not an official international, so Baird didn't receive a cap for playing. He had, however, recovered from the unfortunate injury to take his place in the Aberdeen team which faced Rangers in the Southern League Cup in May 1946.

Baird gave the underdogs from the North the lead after 90 seconds, beating George Young to a George Hamilton flick-on to score. Aberdeen led 2-0, but Rangers fought back to level before George Taylor grabbed a late winner to give Aberdeen their first piece of silverware.

A year later he was back at Hampden for the real Scottish Cup Final against Hibs – a match which was a personal triumph for his great friend and teammate Hamilton, and which saw the Dons get the better of the star-studded Hibs side of the time, winning 2-1.

Injuries limited Baird to a mere 144 first-team games for Aberdeen, in which he scored 37 goals before he wound down his career with three years at St Johnstone, retiring in 1956.

He had by then qualified as a PE teacher, and spent 23 years at Rosemount School. After retiring from playing football, he had a double life, teaching during the week and covering football in the North-east for the Scottish Sunday Express on Saturdays.

Baird continued teaching until retirement, by which time he was assistant headteacher at Hilton Academy, Aberdeen.