Friends of mine are at an interesting but none to pleasant juncture in their lives. Well into their seventies they see their friends of long standing and those of their acquaintance passing away. Once you get into your fifties this does affect all of us. Those who have filled our television sets, acted in films or been football heroes when young begin to die as age and illness take their toll. It has to happen and cannot be avoided. One by one friends leave us, pop/film/TV stars appear old, youngsters ask "Who were the Beatles?"and our Christmas card list shorten in length. Such is life. For us three score years and ten or thereabouts is indeed our lot. Life is short and once you realise that you realise you are no longer young. Your ageing is reflected in the appearance of friends, the gray hair, wide midriff, grumbles about grandchildren!
My friends problem however is that they love too much and in this latest situation the dying man was his 'Best Man' well over forty years ago and has always been part of their life. To see his life ebb away through a horrid illness was not easy for them.
When my mother died at 94 years of age she was the last of her lot as it were. All her family had gone before her, husband, father, brothers, sisters, even many nephews and one of her own daughters. Her friends, some going back to the 1930's, had left before her. As she looked around she could say she was the last remaining member of her family and her 'crowd,' and how lonely must that have been for her? Actually in a sense it was not too bad as she was the type to talk to anyone and would always find a woman with nothing to say to talk about the nothing for hours with! However if you are used to people being there and suddenly there is an empty chair it is a strange experience and difficult for some to deal with.
Amongst those leaving us is one Dave MacKay! This man supported the Heart of Midlothian as a boy and became a player at the age of 16. By the time he was 24 he was captaining the side to the greatest ever League Championship in Scottish or British football. The team that was the 1957/58 competition scored 132 league goals, losing only 29, losing also only one game and finished the season 13 points ahead of their nearest challengers. Well over two hundred goals were scored in all games that season.
MacKay's determination to win as well as his ability to play football made him a legend in the game. Against his will, he remained a Hearts man all his life, he was transferred to Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the great season for a mere £32,000. A bargains for Spurs and rather typical of the Heart of Midlothian board. At Spurs he participated in winning the League and Cup double, winning the Cup Winners Cup and continued as a stalwart of the great Scotland side of the sixties.
When his time at Spurs had come to an end he intended to return to Hearts and become player manager but Brian Clough locked him in a room and would not allow him out until he joined him at Derby County. A shrewd move as this began Clough's managerial career and extended MacKays. A few years later he managed Derby himself and won the League Championship.
He continued in football at lesser clubs for some time before retiring and left behind a legacy few can equal. His hard tackling, his fair play, his gentleman like behaviour was not forgotten. A tough man capable of hard work and tough on those around him to get the best out of them. George Best, a real world class player, one of the greatest, considered MacKay his hardest opponent. Jimmy Greaves the great English forward who played alongside him at Spurs and spent much time with him on the field and in the bar knew that many of his goals came from the talent shown by Dave MacKay. This man was unusual in that he is considered a football leged by three clubs, the Heart of Midlothian, Tottenham Hotspur and Derby County. I doubt any man has equalled that record!
However Dave MacKays real heart was seen when watching a Spurs side play Derby County. A TV commentator asked him what team he would support, came the reply "I'm a Hearts fan son!"