Defender who helped Hibs win title dies from coronavirus

John Ogilvie played with Famous Five and fought back from double leg-break fracture
John Ogilvie is third from right in the back row of the Hibs team picture from the 1950-51 season. Picture: Colorsport ShutterstockJohn Ogilvie is third from right in the back row of the Hibs team picture from the 1950-51 season. Picture: Colorsport Shutterstock
John Ogilvie is third from right in the back row of the Hibs team picture from the 1950-51 season. Picture: Colorsport Shutterstock

Described as a rugged, quick, powerful, no-nonsense hard-tackling defender by those who saw him play, former Hibernian full-back John Ogilvie has died from coronavirus. He was 91.

A former team-mate and friend of the Famous Five, he made his debut on Christmas Day 1948, in a 1-1 draw with Queen of the South and made a total of 35 league appearances as well as 11 League Cup and six Scottish Cup outings before his Hibs career was curtailed by a broken leg. That double fracture cost Hibs their shot at the 1951 league and cup double and eventually led to his move to Leicester in 1955.

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By far, his most memorable season in Hibs colours was that 1950-51 term when he made 33 starts across all competitions as the capital side, spearheaded by the fabulous Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull, and Willie Ormond, ran out league champions and progressed to the last four of the Scottish Cup.

But less than 15 minutes into that semi-final against Motherwell, which was played in front of 46,000 fans at Tynecastle, Ogilvie sustained his broken leg.

In the days before substitutes, a Lawrie Reilly double helped ten-man Hibs push their opponents but they were pipped when the referee ruled Gordon Smith’s 85th minute equaliser offside and Motherwell held on to win 3-2.

It was to be Ogilvie’s penultimate appearance in the green and white.

It took him two years to fight back from the injury, showing determination in an era when a leg break often signalled the end of a player’s career, but he only made one more first-team start – a 2-2 draw against Rangers at Easter Road, in 1954 – and he was granted a free transfer a year later.

But he retained a special bond with the club and his former team-mates.

“He talked of those days so much,” said his wife Doreen from their home in Leicester. “We have been back a few times and he was very proud to be invited back when the Famous Five Stand was opened. I was very proud of him. He has so many good memories. He was pleased to be part of a special team and to have the Famous Five as his friends. He had a special friendship with Gordon Smith. He told me Gordon looked after him when he joined the team and used to drive him about in his sports car! He really liked Gordon and, many years later, Eddie Turnbull, who became a manager, came down to 
see him as well.”

Born in Motherwell, Ogilvie was an apprentice joiner when he signed for Hibs. Aged 20, he continued with his trade, travelling to Edinburgh for training and match days. But by the time he joined Leicester he was playing full-time.

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Remembered as a dressing-room joker, whom Eddie Turnbull also praised for his ability to hold a tune and entertain friends and fans with a son, his cheery disposition meant he was a popular colleague. His positive personality and strong will saw him through his rehabilitation as a player and, pleased that the injury did not rob him of his pace, the charismatic Scotsman was recognised as one of the fastest defenders around during his time at Leicester.

Playing almost 100 games for the Foxes, he helped them consolidate their top-flight status. In his final game for the club, against Portsmouth, he scored his second and last goal for them, from the penalty spot, to help the club avoid relegation.

Next stop was Mansfield Town, in 1960, and two years later he joined Bedworth Town before hanging up his boots and settling in Leicester, working in the knitwear and printing trades.

He is predeceased by his son Neil but is survived by his wife Doreen, whom he married in 1962, and two grandchildren.

A Hibernian FC spokesperson said: “We were all sorry to learn of John’s passing. He was part of a truly special Hibernian side that featured the Famous Five and captured the imagination of all who saw them play. John was an active member of the Hibernian Former Players’ Association and was always welcome at Easter Road. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”

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