New memories about the life and career of Stirling-born football star Billy Bremner have been uncovered as part of a new online exhibition.
Working with pupils from the sporting hero’s former school, St Modan’s High, and the local Raploch community, researchers from the University of Stirling uncovered a swathe of material connected to Bremner – who was born in the Raploch in 1942 before becoming one of the greatest midfielders of all time.
The material, which includes a unique collection of anecdotes from former school friends, neighbours and team-mates, as well as photos, match-reports and school records, is thought to be the only collection of its kind.
The online archive also includes a new heritage trail, highlighting sites significant to Bremner’s life in Raploch, which was created in partnership with St Modan’s pupils. The project is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to National Lottery players.
Sports heritage expert, Professor Richard Haynes, of the University of Stirling, said: “This online exhibition presents different phases and facets of Billy Bremner’s journey from his home in The Raploch to becoming a professional football player with Leeds United. We were overwhelmed with the amount of material we collected for this project. We met close friends of Billy’s, who had grown up with him and remained life-long friends, who gave us new insight into his personality and character.
“Billy was a star of the 1960s and 70s and so it was really important to capture these local stories now – as his peers enter later life, these memories were in danger of being lost for good.”
Bremner signed for Leeds United as a teenager and later captained the team. He went on to play for the Scotland national squad before a successful career in management. A statue was erected of the star outside the Leeds United stadium, Elland Road, in 1999, but no permanent memorial exists to mark his achievements in Scotland.
As part of the project, local school pupils interviewed lifelong Leeds fans about what Bremner had meant to them, and comedy TV writer Philip Differ, also a former St Modan’s student, who recalls Bremner’s visit to the school when he visited in the 1970s.
Professor Haynes added: “The school still has a photo of that event displayed outside the head teacher’s officer, but many of the pupils had never heard of Bremner nor realised his significance in the world of sport and to the local area.
“Intergenerationality was a main focus of the project. We wanted to explore how heritage can be shared and the benefits that brings to both the older generation – who are keen to share their stories – and the younger population, who were able to gain new knowledge and hone new skills.”
"It is important that figures like Billy are not forgotten"
St Modan’s High School Headteacher, Claire Friel, said: “This study has helped recognise one of St Modan's most successful former pupils. Billy was a truly inspirational figure and speaking with supporters from Leeds who recall watching him in his prime, our pupils have learned how highly regarded he was and still is to Leeds fans.
“The study has also afforded our pupils the opportunity to learn more about how research works and made them aware of potential future study opportunities.
“As time moves on, it is important that figures like Billy are not forgotten.”
S2 pupil Conor Lochrie, who was involved in interviewing Phil Differ, said: “It was fantastic to be part of a real interview experience. Being involved in the study has definitely opened my eyes to a career in media.”
Also included in the exhibition is a film created by University film and media students, which includes interviews with those who knew Bremner growing up, and fellow Leeds United and Scotland star, Eddie Gray.
Dr Karen Fraser, who worked as a researcher on the project, said: “It was an honour to talk to people who knew Billy as a friend before he became the footballing legend, and to record their thoughts. Their pride and affection for him shone through as they spoke about his talent, his humour and sense of fun, his loyalty to his friends, his love of Raploch and the fact that he never really left this behind, even when miles away playing and then managing.
“Their generosity in spending time participating in the project enabled us to bring to life the time that Billy spent in the Raploch.”