There is, of course, a statue of Robert Burns in Burns Statue Square, Ayr. If the Honest Men who get their kicks on the terraces of Ayr United’s Somerset Park had their way, there would also be one of Peter Price, their team’s legendary centre forward of the 1950s and early 1960s.
In seven memorable years with the club, Price scored 213 goals, at over a goal a game. No other player in the club’s history has been as prolific. Certainly many of these goals were scored in the second tier of Scottish senior football but, given what a happy hunting ground the Scottish League was for English clubs in those days, it is strange that no English club, other than non-league Gloucester City, ever took a punt on his expertise in front of goal.
Price was born in the mining hamlet of Drumley, four miles from the centre of Ayr. Like most of his contemporaries, he seemed destined for life as a miner. He certainly went down the pit but returned to the surface as quickly as he could; life underground was not for him.
He began his football career with Craigmark Burntonians and his goals had much to do with the little Dalmellington club winning the Western League (South Section) crown in 1951. Price’s goals that season won him a contract with St Mirren but he failed to impress at Love Street and, on being released, he went to Gloucester.
Gloucester loaned him to Darlington, while he was posted to Catterick during his National Service with the Army. On demob he returned to Ayr, where he signed for United in the summer of 1955. United were promoted, second behind Queen’s Park at the end of that 1955-6 season. They scored 103 goals during the campaign, with Price netting the 100th at Forfar, his 40th goal of the season.
Their sojourn in the First Division lasted but a single season. However, Price scored 25 goals for a struggling side. Back in Division Two, the goals continued to flow; he scored 105 in the next two seasons, including an incredible four in eight minutes to turn a 1-4 deficit to a 5-4 win over Hamilton Accies.
At the start of the 1959-60 season, the Honest Men were back in the top flight, with Price proving his goal-scoring credentials with a hat-trick as Motherwell’s “Ancell Babes” were thrashed 5-2 at Somerset Park, while the visit of champions-to-be Hearts to Somerset Park in January 1960 attracted both BBC and STV cameras to Ayr to see Price rescue a 1-1 draw with a last-gasp equaliser.
United survived to have a second crack at the top flight in 1960-1. During this campaign, Price was briefly dropped from the team but he returned and scored the only goal of the game when Rangers came to Ayr in January 1961.
But his time at Ayr was coming to an end. At the close of that season, he refused terms, before re-signing. However, in January, 1962, he left United for Raith Rovers.
The move to Kirkcaldy did not work out and he was soon on his way to Albion Rovers. Then in April 1963, he emigrated to Australia.
He signed for Gladesville, scoring with his first touch in Australian football, as he marked his debut against Hakoah with a hat-trick.
Unfortunately for him, he could not settle Down Under, returning to Ayr to play out his career with local junior side Whitletts Victoria.
He then switched sports, playing bowls both indoors and out and lavished love on his growing family while remaining a very public figure in Ayr, firstly as a bus driver, before ending his working life driving taxis.
Peter Price continued to be a welcome visitor to Somerset Park, where only Ally MacLeod comes close to him in the affection of the fans. The likes of Stevie Nicol, Alan McInally, Johnny Doyle, Robert Connor, Alex “Dixie” Ingram and Cutty Young all played with distinction for the club, before going on to higher things and international recognition. However, none of them has the stature in Ayr of Pricey.
He and wife Christina – they were married in 1959 – had four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He is survived by Christina, daughters Jacqueline and Andrea and son Paul.
Another son, Peter Junior, predeceased his father in 2003.