Obituary: Eric Bakie, footballer and civil servant

Eric Johnston Bakie. Picture: Contributed
Eric Johnston Bakie. Picture: Contributed
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PART-time footballer with Aberdeen, Dunfermline Athletic and St Johnstone

Eric Johnston Bakie, footballer and civil servant.

Eric Bakie. Picture: Contributed

Eric Bakie. Picture: Contributed

Born: 8 April, 1928, in Edinburgh.

Died: 13 May, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 87.

Eric Bakie, who has died at the age of 87, was an accomplished Scottish footballer of the 1950s who played more than 160 League and Cup games as a part-time player with Aberdeen, Dunfermline Athletic and St Johnstone. Reluctance to leave the security of a civil service career for the uncertainties of full-time football probably cost him a more high-profile CV. He certainly had the requisite talent as is vouched by Arsenal’s desire to sign him.

When he was considering a move to London for work reasons in 1949, Arsenal’s manager Tom Whittaker MBE, wrote him, saying: “If you are successful in being transferred to London we shall be only too happy to sign you as an Arsenal player and am sure you’d be happy with us. Let me know as soon as possible.”

As it transpired, the London move did not materialise and instead Eric signed for Aberdeen while continuing to work and live in Edinburgh. Despite Aberdeen being keen for him to be full time he preferred to remain part time.

He trained in the evenings at Easter Road while meeting up with teammates only on Saturdays. He had an auspicious debut for the Dons’ first team on 17 December, 1949 featuring at left half in a 5-0 demolition of Motherwell.

Another of his first team appearances was against Hibs at Easter Road in front of 35,000 fans but it was difficult holding down a first-team place being part-time. After two seasons and a handful of games Aberdeen gave him a free transfer in 1951 when he joined Dunfermline Athletic, with whom he would spend his best years.

A regular at left half he was an industrious, elegant player. Within weeks of joining the Pars, he played against Rangers in a League Cup quarter final. This was to be East End Park’s first all-ticket match when 20,000 fans squeezed in to witness a famous victory over the Glasgow giants. Throughout his time with Dunfermline he continued working as a civil servant. Certainly his football earnings would not have stretched to supporting a family. In the mid-50s under manager Bobby Ancell, later the well-known Motherwell manager, Bakie, per his contract, was to receive “a minimum of £4 per week”.

Even allowing for bonuses and inflation, current day players would be scornful of such scant reward. However, Elaine, Eric’s daughter, commented: “Dad used to joke about today’s players and their salaries, saying he was born at the wrong time. But he and others like him did genuinely play for the love of the game and the money was a bit extra cash that came in handy.”

By the time he left the Pars in 1957, having spent the last two seasons in the old First Division, he was their joint longest serving player along with Ron Mailer, later skipper of the famous Cup-winning team. On the occasion of their centenary game against Aberdeen in 1985 he was delighted to be invited back to East End Park for the occasion and be reunited with old teammates such as Mailer, George Peebles, Charlie Dickson and others.

A season or so at the old Muirton Park in Perth with Saints was followed by his dropping down a level to play in the East of Scotland League in the autumn of his career with Duns, whom he helped to a pair of South Qualifying Cup wins.

There in a Scottish Cup tie in January 1963 against Gala Fairydean when he was nearly 35, a press report stated: “Bakie and his half back partners had a tremendous game.”At the end of that season he decided “enough was enough” and hung up his boots. Eric was born in Watson Crescent, Edinburgh, where he initially attended North Merchiston Primary School. He grew up a Hearts fan with Tommy Walker his hero.

One of his teammates in the school team was near neighbour, Lawrie Reilly, of Hibs and Scotland fame, with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship.

A bright youngster, Bakie won a bursary to the Royal High School but continued his football with North Merchiston Boys Club. In 1946 he represented Scotland’s Boys Clubs in matches against Wales and England.

In the latter, one of his teammates was Jimmy Gauld from Aberdeen, who achieved notoriety in 1964 when sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for his role in match fixing corruption in England.

National service followed in Cairo where, as a staff sergeant, he was engaged in the repatriation of German prisoners with whom he frequently played football. On his return, he joined famous Edinburgh juvenile side Hutchison Vale, where a teammate was Tommy Younger, later of Hibs and Scotland fame.

On leaving school Eric joined the Ministry of Labour, which became the Department of Employment. He remained there throughout his working life, latterly as an auditor, which required him to travel throughout the UK.

In retirement, despite five hip operations due to football, he enjoyed golf at Lothianburn where he was also a member of “the New Ten Park” club within the club.

He was also a keen and successful bowler at the Coltbridge Club at Roseburn. Elaine added: “Dad was a sports lover and followed most of them closely. He was a popular, good-humoured and very decent man who never had a bad word to say about anyone. During the war he was evacuated for a while to Tillicoutry where his host family liked him so much they did not want him to leave.”

He and his wife Margaret would have celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary next month.

He is survived by Margaret, his children Kenneth and Elaine, as well as several grandchildren. JACK DAVIDSON