Scotsman Obituaries: Drew Busby, Hearts legend nicknamed ‘Buzz Bomb’

Drew Busby, footballer. Born: 8 December 1947 in Glasgow. Died: 1 July 2022 in Alexandria, aged 74

Drew Busby was a well-known Scottish footballer who was a fan favourite at all the clubs he represented, especially at Hearts, the team with which he is most associated and where he was affectionately known as “Buzz Bomb”. The nickname referred to the playing style with which he led the forward line – wholehearted, tenacious and uncompromising. Add to the equation his goalscoring ability and it was easy to understand his popularity with the fans. He also had the knack of forming celebrated striking partnerships with teammates – initially at Airdrie with Drew Jarvie and then at Hearts with Donald Ford and later Willie Gibson – which enhanced his reputation.

During a long career which began with now defunct Third Lanark before moving to Partick Thistle, Airdrie, Hearts, Toronto Blizzard, Morton and Queen of the South, he played over 550 games, scoring more than 150 goals. While silky soccer was not Drew’s forte his contribution to team performance was first rate and consistent. In contrast to his on-pitch persona, off the pitch he was very different, a gentle, caring, generous spirit always concerned for others rather than himself and bereft of ego.

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Once retired from football he enjoyed a successful career in the licensed trade, operating the Waverley Bar in Dumbarton since 1988 as a very popular and highly appreciated “mine host”.

Drew Busby at a Hearts training session at Tynecastle in April 1976 (Picture: Stan Warburton)Drew Busby at a Hearts training session at Tynecastle in April 1976 (Picture: Stan Warburton)
Drew Busby at a Hearts training session at Tynecastle in April 1976 (Picture: Stan Warburton)

Andrew Douglass Busby was born in Glasgow to John and Mary and brought up with his siblings in Tulliechewan in the Vale of Leven, near Alexandria. Father Andrew was an engineer’s assistant who died when Drew was eight. Drew attended Levenvale Primary before going on to Vale of Leven Academy, where he began making his mark at football. While at school he wrote to Coventry City, then under Jimmy Hill’s managership, asking for a trial and was signed following a good performance. He scored some goals for the youth side before homesickness kicked in and a return home beckoned.

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After being spotted playing amateur football for Dumbarton United he was signed in February 1967 by Third Lanark, once a thriving club but by then experiencing hard times. He played 11 games and scored their last goal in senior football, against Dumbarton in April 1967, shortly before Thirds went out of existence.

Still harbouring hopes of a career in the game, he played once for Partick Thistle before joining Vale of Leven Juniors for three seasons, with the team sweeping all before them in Drew’s final season when he scored a record 57 goals.

His senior career took off properly in June 1970 when he signed for Airdrie, then a top tier team, where his partnership with future international Drew Jarvie paid immediate dividends after each scored 24 goals in their first season together as they reached the Scottish Cup semi-final, Celtic needing two games to overcome them.

The following season Airdrie reached the Texaco Cup Final, a cross border competition, losing narrowly to Derby County over two legs, having previously disposed of Manchester City, Huddersfield Town and Ballymena United, with Drew scoring in each of those ties.

Following relegation the next season, Hearts stepped in to sign Drew in May 1973 for a club record fee of £35,000 in what would be a significant career move. Although he only spent three seasons at Airdrie his contribution was later recognised with induction into the club’s Hall of Fame and at his funeral a message from Drew Jarvie recalled how their “partnership complemented each other and Drew’s power and determination helped me look good”.

During six years at Tynecastle, while he did not win any silverware, Drew arguably played his best football and firmly embedded himself in the fans’ affections, reflected in his subsequent induction into the club’s Hall of Fame. He played 256 competitive matches, scoring 84 goals, featured in three Scottish Cup semi-finals, two League Cup semi-finals and the 1976 Scottish Cup Final, won by Rangers. In addition he scored the only goal of the tie when Hearts defeated Everton in the Texaco Cup in 1974 and also scored in the famous European Cup Winners Cup trouncing of Lokomotive Leipzig in 1977. Relegation that season was followed by immediate promotion but in 1979 the club was relegated again, leading to Drew joining Toronto Blizzard in the North American Soccer League for two seasons, after which he played for Morton for another two seasons before winding up his career as player/manager at Queen of the South, retiring in 1984.

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While working in the Burrough’s accounting machines factory in Dumbarton as an assembler before his football career took off, Drew began going out with fellow employee Annette Hunter. They married in July 1969 at Dumbarton Baptist Church and enjoyed a long, happy marriage during which they had Alan and Gail. Initially they set up home in Dumbarton before moving to Alexandria, where they remained.

After football Drew entered the licensed trade, first at the Red Row Bar, Renton and then acquiring the Waverley Bar in Dumbarton, which he ran hands-on until recently. An excellent publican, he was held in extremely high regard by customers and staff whose numerous warm tributes on social media reflect that. Helpful, generous and welcoming to all, Drew created a friendly and safe community feel to his bar which underpinned its success.

Family were first and foremost for him. He was a devoted grandad to Lauchie, Lewis and Lyle and warmly supported his family in every way. Apart from family and football, interests included keeping fit, playing golf and hillwalking, completing the ascent of various Munros. He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.


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