STRUTH

Bill Struth was one of the most successful,
outstanding and charismatic managers in
football history. He won an astonishing
eighteen league championships, ten
Scottish Cups and two League Cups with
Rangers, as well as being the visionary
behind the building of the magnificent
Main Stand at Ibrox, which now bears his
name. His career with Rangers spanned
an incredible forty-two years, beginning as
Rangers trainer in 1914 and only ending
when he died in 1956.

Now in his sixties, DAVID LEGGAT has retired
from a career in newspapers that began when he
joined the Glasgow Evening Times in March 1966.
Among the papers he has worked for on both
sides of the border are the Birmingham Evening
Mail; the Daily Express; the Sunday People, covering
the West Midlands; the Sunday People, Scottish
edition (twice); the Sunday Mail, Scotland on Sunday;
the Scottish Daily Express; and finally as a freelance
with the Scottish Sunday Express.

Now, in Struth, the full story of his
remarkable life is revealed for the first
time, from his beginnings as a champion
runner, to his first days at Rangers and
his incredible time as manager from 1920
to 1954. Included too are interviews
with some of the legendary stars who he
managed, such as Bob McPhail, Tiger
Shaw, Willie Waddell and Willie Thornton.
And there are fascinating insights into his
private life, his wife’s tragic suicide and the
personal battles he fought later on.

As well as having a passion for football in
general and Rangers in particular, David loves
the music of the Great American Songbook,
Porter, the Gershwins, Rogers and Hart, Johnny
Mercer, etc, particularly when performed by
Sinatra, Lady Day, Ella and Tony Bennett, but
has a soft spot for many of the more modern
interpretations, particularly those by the
Canadian singer-pianist, Diana Krall.

Struth: The Story of an Ibrox Legend is a
compelling account of a unique man who
kept his private life strictly off limits while
living in the full glare of the public eye
as one of football’s most successful and
revered figures.

He says he would love to have been Frank
Sinatra, Jim Baxter or Winston Churchill. Or
better still, have had a voice like Francis Albert’s,
a left foot like Slim Jim’s and a vocabulary to
match Churchill’s.

Front cover pictures © EMPICS / PA Images
Author photograph © Willie Vass

£14.99
www.blackandwhitepublishing.com

BLACK & WHITE PUBLISHING
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24mm spine

struth

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Also by David Leggat
GREAT SCOT

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struth
THE STORY OF AN IBROX LEGEND

david leggat

BLACK & WHITE PUBLISHING

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First published 2013
by Black & White Publishing Ltd
29 Ocean Drive, Edinburgh EH6 6JL
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

13 14 15 16

ISBN: 978 1 84502 703 2
Copyright © David Leggat 2013
The right of David Leggat to be identified as the author of this work has
been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored
in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without
permission in writing from the publisher.
The publisher has made every reasonable effort to contact copyright
holders of images in the picture section. Any errors are inadvertent and
anyone who for any reason has not been contacted is invited to write to
the publisher so that a full acknowledgment can be made in subsequent
editions of this work.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Typeset by RefineCatch Ltd, Bungay, Suffolk
Printed and bound by ScandBook AB, Sweden

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For my old Scots Presbyterian Granny,
Jane ‘Jean’ Buchanan (nee Marshall),
1896–1976.
A true Christian lady.

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CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
PREFACE

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IX
XII

1

THE TRIPLE CROWN

1

2

BEGINNINGS AND TRAGEDIES

9

3

BECOMING A RANGER

16

4

THE WEE BLUE DEVIL

23

5

THE ROARING TWENTIES

31

6

THE BIGGEST CENTRE-FORWARD IN
THE WORLD

42

7

GREETIN’ BOAB

49

8

END OF THE HOODOO

56

9

STRUTH’S GRAND DREAM

64

10

HUNGER FOR SUCCESS

73

11

STRUTH’S SECRETS

81

12

THE NEW LOOK

88

13

SAM ENGLISH

95

14

CHANGING FACES

105

15

DAWSON, GRAY AND SHAW

112

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STRUTH

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16

THE DOUBLE AGAIN

119

17

AS OTHERS SAW HIM

126

18

THE SCOTTISH CUP AGAIN

131

19

ON TOUR

139

20

CHAMPIONS AGAIN

147

21

THE WILLIES

153

22

THE WAR YEARS

161

23

MOSCOW DYNAMO

168

24

THE IRON CURTAIN

176

25

THE ENEMY WITHIN

184

26

THE TRIPLE CROWN AGAIN

193

27

DOCTOR ADAM LITTLE

201

28

THE DOUBLE AND MORE

208

29

NEW NAMES

218

30

THE DOUBLE YET AGAIN

223

31

THE FINAL DAYS

233

MANAGERIAL RECORD

239

BIBLIOGRAPHY

240

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

NO BOOK is ever written in splendid isolation. And I required
much help, encouragement and advice to research and write
the story of Bill Struth. There are many whose help should
be acknowledged. If there are faults in this book, they are
my faults.
At the head of the queue to be thanked is my old sports editor
from the Sunday Mail, in the days when that paper sold nearly a
million, Alex Gordon. Big Alex edited the manuscript long before
a publisher saw it and his keen eye, acute sense of style and vast
experience saved me from myself more than once. He also kept a
close eye on my arithmetic when it came to goalscorers and
results tallying. Thanks are also due to his wife, Gerda, an IT
whizz-kid who kept the two old fogies right when it came to
saving the work and ensuring it did not fly off in the direction of
the Mars Mercury. My gratitude is sincere and eternal.
At this point I should like to pause and take a moment to
remember those who had spoken to me about their time spent
playing for Bill Struth and who are no longer with us. Names
such as Bob McPhail, Jimmy Smith, Willie Thornton, Willie
Waddell and many others will leap from the pages which follow,
and their tales about Struth’s sides tell the Great Man’s story with
insight and intelligence.

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STRUTH

Neil Stobbie, a Rangers man with a keen interest in the club’s
traditions and its early managers, deserves a special mention for
his work on my behalf in pinning down Bill Struth’s exact date of
birth and other aspects of the private man and his family. It was
Neil’s efforts which allow us a glimpse at the tragedy which
blighted Bill Struth’s private life.
Robert McEllroy, the publisher of the magazine The Rangers
Historian and a man who has written countless excellent books
about Rangers, was another who helped steer me in the right
direction and who gave up his time selflessly – as he had when
I wrote the Scot Symon biography – to help me.
One former colleague who was also of tremendous help was
Allan Herron, the former chief sports writer at the Sunday Mail
and Sunday People, whose footsteps I followed at both newspapers.
Not only did Allan provide me with one or two excellent insights
into the relationship which existed between Bill Struth and the
media, but he also gave me permission to use extracts from the
book he co-wrote with Bob McPhail, Legend: Sixty Years at Ibrox.
Those extracts, together with the stories McPhail told me when
I interviewed him, were extremely important to the Struth story.
As was the friendship I developed in the late 1960s with another
great Ranger, Jimmy Smith, who I interviewed twenty years later.
Mark Dingwall, of the Rangers Supporters Trust, dug deep into
his files to provide me with what many of the greats who played
for Struth said when the Grand Old Man of Ibrox died in 1956.
He also opened his files to me to reveal long-forgotten Struth
anecdotes about his days as a professional runner.
And I cannot pass without a very special and personal thank
you to the memory of my dad, Andrew Leggat and grandad,
David Buchanan, two great Rangers men. It was the way I heard
them speak about Bill Struth when I was growing up which later
became my inspiration to write this book.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

But, most of all, my sincere thanks must go to the man himself.
To Bill Struth, for having lived and loved Rangers.

xi

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PREFACE

WHEN BILL STRUTH was born in 1875 the British Empire was at
its peak and Queen Victoria reigned over a quarter of the world’s
land mass. And the Rangers of the Gallant Pioneers were a mere
three years old. By the time Struth died in 1956, that Empire had
fought and won two World Wars to save civilisation and was
beginning to disintegrate. Rangers had gone from strength to
strength to outgrow even the wildest of dreams those Gallant
Pioneers had harboured. Rangers had become the most successful
football club in the world, which is what Rangers remain today,
more than half a century after Struth’s death. In fact, there is a
sound argument for claiming that much of what Rangers have
achieved in the years since Struth died has still, to a degree, been
the responsibility of the man whose name remains as synonymous
with the club now as it was during his forty-two-year association
with Rangers, thirty-four of those years as manager.
Though, as we shall learn, Bill Struth was able to build and
mould Rangers even further in the direction he wanted the club
to take, by building on the already solid foundations laid by the
man he took over from, William Wilton. Wilton had been involved
with Rangers since the very early days of those Gallant Pioneers
and his dedicated work behind the scenes meant he was the
natural choice to be appointed the club’s first manager in 1899.

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PREFACE

William Wilton, as Bill Struth proved to be, was also a man of
vision and he began preparing for the future, for the succession,
by naming Struth, who had been with Clyde, as his new trainer in
1914. Though that succession took place much quicker than
anyone had anticipated. It occurred in tragic circumstances when
Wilton was drowned in a boating accident on the Clyde in 1920.
William Wilton’s death at the age of only fifty-five was the
beginning of the Bill Struth legend as the forty-five-year-old
trainer stepped into the manager’s job and ensured that for the
following thirty-four years he ruled Rangers with a rod of iron,
while Rangers, in turn, ruled Scottish football. The amazing total
of honours Struth’s reign harvested for Rangers, mind-boggling
as it most surely is, does not even tell the full story of what he
could have achieved had league football not been reorganised on
a regional basis during the Second World War. That, along with
the fact there was no Scottish Cup competition, meant a total of
twelve more possible trophies were removed from Struth’s grasp.
For who is to say Rangers would not have won them all during
a period when they were just as dominant as they has been in
the 1930s?
Rangers’ wartime record testifies to their dominance and adds
to the belief that men such as Jerry Dawson, Jock Shaw, Willie
Woodburn and Willie Waddell would have added the majority
of those dozen pieces of silverware to the Ibrox Trophy Room,
itself a Bill Struth creation. However, Struth’s official haul of
eighteen League titles, ten Scottish Cups and two League Cups is
impressive enough, particularly remembering that the League
Cup did not come into being until season 1946–47.
But as a manager Bill Struth was more than a collector of
silverware. He was more than a builder of teams of strength,
resilience, pace and flair, plus goals galore. He was more than a
mere manager of a football club. Bill Struth was the man who

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finely honed the standards originally put in place by William
Wilton and embedded them into the very fabric of Rangers.
Everything about a Rangers player had to the very best. From the
way he played, through the way he dressed on and off the park
and right up to which seats he was seen in at the cinema. As far as
the players Bill Struth chose, from his first signing, The Wee Blue
Devil himself, Alan Morton, through iconic captains such as
Davie Meiklejohn, Jock Shaw and George Young and including
such stars as Bob McPhail, Willie Waddell and Willie Thornton,
right up until his very last signing, Ralph Brand, Struth always
got the very best for Rangers. To have the words after your
name ‘of Rangers and Scotland’ became bywords for outstanding
achievement. It meant the player had lived up to the standards
Bill Struth set.
During the late 1980s I was fortunate to conduct a series of
interviews with many of the stars who helped write the Rangers
and Struth story of glory. This litany of legends included Waddell
and Thornton, Tiger Shaw and also Bob McPhail, who was there
in the early years of Struth’s reign in the 1920s. They provided a
window into another world, a world which is even more distant
now but which this story of Bill Struth will bring alive again with
all its heroic vibrancy and great deeds. Their memories and the
recall of other great Rangers names from the past who spoke to
me – including Eric Caldow, Billy Simpson, Johnny Hubbard,
Davie Kinnear, Bobby Brown, Jimmy Smith, Willie Woodburn,
Jimmy Duncanson, Johnny Little, George Niven and Ralph Brand
– help to bring the Struth era back to life with all the colour and
drama which makes it unique.
Bill Struth had many contradictions. He was a martinet. But he
could laugh at himself. He was a strict disciplinarian. But he took
an almost fatherly pride and interest in his players, calling them
‘his boys’. He was a dandy, too, keeping a wardrobe inside Ibrox

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PREFACE

and changing his suit at least once a day. But most of all, Bill
Struth was a man who lived and breathed Rangers every minute
of his life and whose home was only a couple of hundred yards
away from Ibrox Stadium. A man and a manager who dominated
Scottish football as no other had or has to this very day. And a
force for good, too.
Struth, as we will also learn, was a man ahead of his time with
regard to the fitness and training of his players. That was
something he carried into management from his time as a trainer
with Rangers and before that at Clyde, where he filled a similar
role, and even before that, as a professional runner. For the fact is
that Bill Struth was never a professional footballer, yet he knew
a player when he saw one. But even more important, he knew a
Rangers player when he saw one. Someone who could conform
to Struth’s demands on and off the field.
He is often dismissed as a man of his time and it is to Scottish
football’s Hall of Fame’s shame that he had to wait to be inducted
into it for five years after the gates to it were opened for the first
time in the twenty-first century to allow many lesser talents
admission. Yet Bill Struth’s time at Ibrox stretched from the start
of the Great War through the 1930s, through the Second World
War and into the 1950s. He was born when Queen Victoria was
on the throne and was still manager of Rangers when the second
Elizabethan Age dawned. Therefore, to dismiss him as merely
a man of his time is arrant nonsense. For Bill Struth’s time was a
very long time indeed. He was not stuck in any small timeframe.
Not confined to any blink-of-an-eye passing moment. And such
is his everlasting impact on Scottish football that the finest
main stand in Scotland to this very day, built at his insistence and
opened in 1929, remains as imposing as ever and has been
renamed the Bill Struth Main Stand as a monument to a great
man’s vision.

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STRUTH

Bill Struth was more than a manager whose footballing
achievements continue to outstrip all others more than half a
century after his death. He was more than a man who set certain
codes by which he demanded everyone associated with Rangers
should live by as footballers and as men. Bill Struth was a
towering figure in an age of giants. And the fact that his name
when invoked in this the second decade of the twenty-first
century still provokes the same sort of awe among Rangers
supporters, as though he was some sort of mythical Godlike
figure, speaks volumes for his lasting impact.
This, then, is the tale of a man who shaped a Scottish institution
at a time when Scottish institutions were good, honourable and
noble things. It is the story of Bill Struth. It is also, of course, the
story of Rangers. For the names Bill Struth and Rangers will
remain linked for as long as there is history.

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1
THE TRIPLE CROWN

It had only been possible to win what we now call the Treble
but what was then known as the Triple Crown from season
1946–47, which was the first campaign in which the then
new Scottish League Cup was in competition. Rangers under
Bill Struth achieved this remarkable feat in 1949, at only the
third time of asking. But, amazingly to modern minds, it was
only when the Scottish Championship had already been secured
to take its place inside the Ibrox Trophy Room alongside
the League Cup and when Rangers had reached the Scottish
Cup Final that the realisation of what the Ibrox club stood
on the brink of achieving dawned on those inside the dressing
room.
One man who remembered it all with crystal clear recall when
I spoke to him forty years after the event was the man who
became the first captain to hoist all three trophies aloft in the one
campaign, Jock ‘Tiger’ Shaw. Shaw was the embodiment of the
Bill Struth mantra. He was tough and looked tough. In fact, Tiger
Shaw appeared as though he had been hewn from the very
coalface which he worked on as a miner when, as a young and
up-and-coming left-back, he played for Airdrie. Eleven years
before Shaw reached the pinnacle of his career, when Rangers
beat Clyde in the 1949 Scottish Cup Final to clinch the Triple

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STRUTH

Crown, the defender had arrived at Ibrox, the subject of a typical
Struth swoop.
Shaw said, ‘I had been with Airdrie as a regular first-team
player for five years. It was part-time football and I worked down
the pits in Lanarkshire. But when I was told that Rangers wanted
to sign me, it meant an escape from the pits so I didn’t take much
convincing that it was going to be the right move for me. But if
I had needed anything to convince me it came when I arrived at
Ibrox and went to be introduced to Mr Struth in his office at the
top of the Marble Stairs. I had played at Ibrox for Airdrie a few
times, but this was the first time I had ever climbed those stairs
and looked around to see how grand everything was, especially
compared to Broomfield.
‘However, when I met the manager, what he told me made
a big impression on me and made me feel a very special person.
He told me he was going to sign me, not only to be his left-back,
but also to be the new captain of Rangers. He told me that such
a position was a great honour and that he had every faith in me
conducting myself in the right manner off the field and also of
being the leader on the park.
‘I remember he made it clear to me what would be expected
in terms of me setting an example, and he also said that he had
been looking for a new captain to replace Davie Meiklejohn, who
had retired a few years earlier. The very fact of being mentioned
in the same breath as Meek made me grow a few inches. He had
been the giant of Scottish football when I was growing up in
the 1920s and when I started playing in the early ’30s. The very
notion of me, a laddie from Lanarkshire, being chosen by Bill
Struth to replace Davie Meiklejohn was quite something for me to
think about.’
It is a story which perfectly illustrates the way Bill Struth
worked and the way his managerial mind thought. Today the

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THE TRIPLE CROWN

sports psychologists would no doubt talk about mind games and
trying to gain an extra edge. Struth, despite those who claim he
was a man of his time, displayed traits and insights which actually
placed him ahead of his time. His introduction to Ibrox of Tiger
Shaw was just one such trait and Struth’s reading of the measure
of the man’s character he was signing and handing the captaincy
to was such that he knew, far from inhibiting Shaw being told he
was being signed to replace such a legend as Meiklejohn, would
only serve to make the new skipper all the more confident in his
ability to succeed. As the man himself told me forty years on from
his first day as a Ranger, ‘If Bill Struth said it was so then that is
exactly what it was going to be.’ Another example of how astute
Struth was is that although Shaw was then a mature player of
twenty-five he had spent the previous three seasons with Airdrie
in the old Second Division.
But one of the Ibrox greats of the era, Bob McPhail, who had
also started his career with Airdrie and who was then coming
to the end of his playing days, still had plenty of friends
at Broomfield and they spoke highly of the left-back. McPhail
mentioned this to the Rangers manager and Struth, as well as
having the player watched, made his customary enquiries as to
what sort of man he was. Was he the sort Bill Struth wanted as a
Ranger? In the case of Shaw, it was soon apparent that he fulfilled
every one of Struth’s demanding criteria. Of course, at that time
the new left-back and just installed captain of Rangers was simply
Jock Shaw, which is all he had ever been known as during his five
impressive years with Airdrie.
He said, ‘It was a strange thing, but nobody called me anything
other than Jock. I was christened John, but in Lanarkshire in those
days, John soon becomes Jock, but that just as soon changed to
Tiger when that is what the Rangers supporters started calling
me during my debut. After I signed for Rangers I hardly had time

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STRUTH

to think about anything because Rangers were due to take part in
the big glamour clash of the time, the annual match against the
best team in England, which was Arsenal. These games were
billed as the Championship of Britain and got big crowds.
‘I was up against Arsenal’s new right-winger that night, a
Welsh international called Bryn Jones. The Gunners had paid
£14,000 for him and that was a very big fee in 1938. I think Rangers
paid £2,000 for me.’
Regardless of the disparity in transfer fees, there was only one
winner in the head-to-head contest. Shaw tamed Jones. An
eighteen-year-old who was to become one of the greatest Rangers
of all time, Willie Waddell, also making his Rangers debut, scored
the only goal of the game but it was the new captain who created
the biggest buzz. Shaw, more than one spectator remarked, not
only mastered Bryn Jones but he did so by tackling like a tiger.
The game had only just moved into the second half when the
crowd could be heard urging Tiger to tackle Jones. From that day
on John Shaw, who became Jock Shaw, was Tiger Shaw for the
rest of his career and beyond.
And what a career Shaw had, as Bill Struth’s shrewdness was
once again underlined. Tiger Shaw played 238 times for Rangers,
plus 289 wartime appearances, winning four titles, three Scottish
Cups, two League Cups, plus six wartime Southern League titles,
one wartime Regional League, the Scottish Emergency War Cup,
Four Southern League Cups, the Summer Cup, the Victory Cup
and four Scotland caps. He was also a mainstay in the Iron Curtain
team of the late 1940s and early 1950s, the last truly great side
of the many built by Struth. It was a team which was stout
and resolute in defence and which could swing into attack
with pace, breaking on the wings, particularly Waddell on the
right, feeding on long diagonal passes to create the chances
for bustling centre-forward Willie Thornton. And it relied on

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THE TRIPLE CROWN

defenders defending. There was no scope for full-backs to go
rampaging forward in the modern way. While today a full-back is
often chosen for his attacking skills, while defensive deficiencies
are overlooked, when Tiger Shaw played a full-back’s only job
was to put the opposing winger in his back pocket. Which is why,
despite his long career as a Rangers player, he scored a mere
three goals.
It was towards the end of that long career when he was, in fact,
thirty-six years old that Tiger Shaw enjoyed his supreme skipper’s
moment at the end of the Scottish Cup Final win. Rangers
went into the Scottish Cup Final against Clyde at Hampden on
23 April 1949, with the Scottish League Cup already won and the
Championship all but actually clinched. An inevitable win over
already-relegated Albion Rovers the following week would mean
Rangers could not be caught by Dundee. Rangers did get that
win, beating Albion Rovers 4–1, which meant that, technically,
the Triple Crown could not be won by Rangers by beating Clyde
in the Scottish Cup Final. But Bill Struth knew the significance of
the occasion, something Shaw made clear.
He said, ‘During that spell we had been dominating and we
had so many really great players in the team that it was natural
for us to think that we could win everything going. But it was
only in the week before the Scottish Cup Final that we realised we
could now do something which had never been done before.
Struth made that clear to us a few days before the game at
Hampden when he spoke about the opportunity we had to make
history and we had all seen stuff in the newspapers going on
about the Triple Crown.’
The reference to what later became known as The Treble was
clearly a straight lift from Rugby Union and the old Five Nations
Championship, which included the four Home Nations, plus
France. Any of the Home Nations which could overcome the

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STRUTH

other three in any one season was said to have won The Triple
Crown.
Rangers began their defence of the Scottish Cup, which had
been won when they beat Morton 1–0 in the previous season’s
final, by seeing off Elgin City 6–1 at Ibrox in January. They
followed that by going to Motherwell and winning 3–0 and were
then drawn at home to Partick Thistle, who were seen off 4–0,
before a semi-final against East Fife.
Shaw said, ‘There was a special feel to that match, for East Fife
were managed by Scot Symon and he and old Struth had been
close when Scot played at Ibrox, or at least as close as any player
ever got to the old man. But we were good that day and Willie
Thornton got a hat-trick and we won 3–0.’
Bill Struth must have known the significance of his name being
the first into the record books of managers who had won the new
clean sweep of Scottish football’s Honours Three. Four times
before in his career as Rangers manager, Bill Struth had steered
the club to the Scottish League Championship and Scottish Cup
Double, then considered to be a phenomenal feat. However, two
years earlier, a 2–0 replay defeat to Hibernian at Easter Road in
the second round of the Scottish Cup had put paid to any hopes
he had of winning the first- ever Triple Crown which was up for
grabs. That was a real disappointment to Struth, as the League
Cup had been captured and the title was later clinched.
By the time Rangers went into the 1949 Scottish Cup Final with
the League Cup won and the title virtually assured, the old man,
as his players referred to him behind his back, was in his seventyfifth year. In recent times fans have become used to seeing
managers in their seventies, such as Sir Bobby Robson and Sir
Alex Ferguson, but more than half a century ago life expectancy
was not as high as it is in the second decade of the twenty-first
century and Struth was viewed by many as not merely the old

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THE TRIPLE CROWN

man, but as a very old man, indeed. It was also around this time
that his health was starting to fail.
But as was the way of Scottish men of Struth’s generation, he
kept his thoughts to himself and we do not have any record of
how he viewed himself, or of how many other opportunities he
may have thought would come along for him to make history of
being the first manager ever to win the clean sweep of all three
trophies. Certainly he gave no hint to even his closest confidant
within the dressing room, his skipper, Tiger Shaw, for Shaw said,
‘To us, the old man was indestructible and would go on forever.’
What we do know though is that three years earlier Bill Struth
had been offered the chance by chairman Jimmy Bowie to step
down, name his successor and become a director. Struth resisted
with such a passion that eventually it was Bowie who was
unseated from the chairmanship. But whether or not that made
Bill Struth aware of his managerial mortality, we do not know,
but as far as Tiger Shaw – by then a gnarled thirty-six-year-old
veteran – was concerned, inside the Ibrox dressing room there
was no real thought of the old man stepping down.
Shaw said, ‘The Final was against a Clyde side which had
struggled near the bottom of the table and which just managed
to avoid relegation, but they raised their game against us and
we had one of those days when everything we did was just a wee
bit off.’
The thing was that even when things were ‘a wee bit off,’ as
Shaw said, for the Rangers of Bill Struth there was always still
enough in the team’s reserve of spirit to prevail, and so it proved
with two George Young penalties and goals from Eddie
Rutherford and Billy Williamson, giving Rangers a 4–1 triumph.
Of course, there was no cavorting with his players on the pitch by
Bill Struth to celebrate, as is the modern manager’s way, but
the quiet pride the manager must have taken in his team’s

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achievement would have been considerable. Scottish football was
changing and with the arrival of a third tournament, the Scottish
League Cup, the demands on Rangers to continue to dominate
were considerably increased.
However, Bill Struth, a man in his mid-seventies and starting to
suffer the first signs of ill health brought on by advancing years,
had struck another historic blow on behalf of his beloved Rangers.
And the man he had plucked from Second Division Airdrie for
just £2,000 eleven years before and picked to be the captain to
succeed the seemingly irreplaceable Davie Meiklejohn, Tiger
Shaw, had shown by his durability just what great foresight and
knowledge of men Struth possessed.

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2
BEGINNINGS AND TRAGEDIES

THE VERY first thing there is to learn about the life and times of
Bill Struth is that he did not take his first breath as a newborn
baby in the same year in which most folk believe he was born. In
fact, the year of his birth on the tombstone in Glasgow’s Craigton
Cemetery which stands sentinel over the grave he shares with his
wife Catherine is wrong. It gives the year of Bill Struth’s birth as
being 1875. The fact is I have seen a copy of his birth certificate
and it registers the birth of William Struth as having taken place
on 16 June 1876 at 10.30pm at 20, Balfour Street, Leith. The proud
parents were William Struth, described as a journeyman mason,
and Isabella Struth, née Cunnigham. The birth was registered at
South Leith on 27 June 1876. Two myths are thus put to bed by
this information, the first being that Bill Struth was born in 1875,
when his birthday was 16 June 1876. The second is that the boy
who grew up to be Bill Struth, manager of Rangers, was a Fifer.
This is due to the fact that the family moved to Milnathort, which
is actually in Kinross-shire, when he was still a toddler and it was
there he spent his early schoolboy years before his father’s search
for work took the family back to Edinburgh.
It was after the move back to Edinburgh, where his parents had
their roots, that Bill Struth followed in his father’s footsteps by
serving his apprenticeship as a stonemason. But his passion was

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for running. Bill Struth soon discovered that he was fast and had
vast reserves of physical endurance. In that respect, he was
much similar in character to the greatest runner of the early
part of the twentieth century, Olympic gold medal winner Eric
Liddell, a man with whom Struth became friends in the 1920s and
’30s when the Scottish missionary became a frequent visitor
to Ibrox.
However, where Bill Struth differed from Eric Liddell was in
his approach to running. The young Bill Struth believed that as he
clearly had a talent, it was a talent for which he should be paid.
Not for him the Corinthian ideal of doing it just for the glory.
Struth became a professional runner. It was a mantra by which he
lived his life and the belief that sporting excellence should bring
with it financial rewards led him to ensuring that those who
played for him, the players who made Struth’s Rangers the best
in Britain, were also the best-paid footballers in Britain.
In the Victorian era, it was normal for men and women to
marry much younger than they do now. The daughter of one of
his father’s workmates, Catherine, had caught his eye. She was
the same age as him and was pretty and vivacious and both
families came from similar backgrounds. Therefore, when his
apprenticeship was completed and he qualified for a full
journeyman’s wage, Bill Struth and Catherine were married in
Edinburgh in 1898. It had been Bill Struth’s fervent wish that the
couple would have children, and given his aptitude for sport, it
seems likely Struth’s hopes were for a boy so that he could pass
on his passion and coach a son in running. Alas, it was not to be.
They soon discovered they could not have children. This was the
first real tragedy to strike Bill Struth. But he was a working-class
Scottish Presbyterian and his values and bearing were those of
the epoch of the British Empire in the Victorian era. He kept his
painful thoughts to himself.

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BEGINNINGS AND TRAGEDIES

As the years went by, though, Bill and Catherine still yearned
for a family and the records show that after they moved to
Glasgow they fostered a baby boy and christened him William J.
Struth. Bill and Catherine lavished their love on the baby, who
grew up and married, and it is what happened later which led to
a second tragedy, one which was to lead to a fateful consequence.
When Bill Junior married, there was much anticipation inside Bill
and Catherine’s home at 193 Copland Road, just a goal-kick from
Ibrox Stadium, that their foster son would provide them with a
grandchild. Those hopes were dashed when the couple’s firstborn,
Wilma, born on 12 November 1938, died within an hour of her
birth. It says a great deal of the sort of stoicism which was part of
Bill Struth’s character that this did not outwardly affect the way
he went about managing Rangers. But how it affected Catherine
is another matter. She had not borne the news that she could not
give Struth a child well, and although she was a doting mother to
the couple’s foster son, she retreated into herself, despite Bill
Struth’s efforts to lift her spirits.
One of Struth’s great loves as a pastime was singing. He loved
a sing-song and this was a time before televisions, when every
house had a piano and there was always someone who could
play it. Struth took great delight in inviting his trainer, Arthur
Dixon, and his captain, Davie Meiklejohn, and other close
confidants to his home every Sunday night and they gathered
around the piano for a sing-song. After a win by Rangers on
the Saturday – which happened most weeks – the singing was
loud and lusty, with the supporters’ favourite of the era, the old
Scots ballad, ‘The Bonny Wells O’ Wearie’, a particular favourite
of Struth.
However, the fact is Catherine was suffering from what
nowadays would be recognised as depression and treated with
medication and counselling. The 1930s were less enlightened

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STRUTH

times and when they morphed into the 1940s, with Britain
standing alone in the way of Nazi Germany’s bid for world
domination, Catherine must have felt even more alone and
afraid. Perhaps Bill Struth thought that all would be well when
a granddaughter, Ann Elizabeth Struth, was born as a healthy
baby on 15 August 1940. But Catherine continued to retreat into
herself and there is no telling what fears and worries tormented
her mind as, in 1941, the Nazi bombs obliterated Clydebank, on
the bank of the River Clyde across from the Struth home.
And with Christmas 1941 approaching, dark clouds settled over
Bill Struth’s wife and she took her own life. Struth must have
been utterly devastated by the loss of his life’s companion,
someone he had known for almost fifty years, since they were
both starry-eyed teenagers, walking side by side, but never
hand in hand and under the watchful eye of a chaperone.
Struth, of course, hid his emotions well and threw himself even
more into the day-to-day running of Rangers, but according to
the man who knew him the best, someone who had played for
him and then become his trusted right-hand man as Rangers’
trainer, Arthur Dixon, something, some spark, went out of Bill
Struth and never returned.
Dixon said, ‘We both arrived at Ibrox in 1914 and he was my
trainer when I signed for Rangers from Oldham. He was strict,
but he was a man of great humanity and every Sunday, before his
wife died, we would gather at his home in Copland Road and
group round the piano for a sing-song. He fancied himself as a bit
of a singer and he had a decent baritone voice. That stopped when
Catherine died and he was never quite the same man.’
But what about the man Bill Struth was when he courted
Catherine? What sort of young man was this hard-working
stonemason who spent every weekend travelling the length and
breadth of Britain in search of not just glory, but prize money on

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BEGINNINGS AND TRAGEDIES

the professional running circuit in order that he could build a
comfortable home for his bride-to-be? Well, if the stories Struth
later regaled Arthur Dixon with are any guide, then the young
Struth was something of a rapscallion. Not quite a rascal, but
certainly a young man who got up to the same sort of things
many young men get up to before settling down.
One Struth story was of the time he went to run in Wales at a
sports meeting. Struth was a middle-distance runner and this was
what provided cover for him to pull off a money-making trick.
What happened, in Struth’s own words, was, ‘I often chuckle
when I look back and remember one adventure I had when I went
to run at a meeting in Porthcawl in Wales. When I got there it was
still early morning and was still pitch dark. I was due to run in a
race later that day and because I had hardly any money I didn’t
look for any lodgings. My plan was to win the prize money and
use some of it for my train fare home, for without the prize money
I could not afford the train ticket.
‘So, I found where the park was and found the competitors’
tent, which was already pitched, and as I was tired I lay down for
a sleep. When I awoke it had rained and I was drenched, but
I was fit and that meant nothing to me. But when it came to the
race, the mark they gave me, where I was to start from, made
winning an impossible task for me. Those were tough days and
professional racing was not for a weakling. I knew I could not
win off the mark, but I knew I had to do it somehow, so, as we
lined up, I slipped my number from back to my front and eased
my way along an avenue of spectators as though I was chatting,
pretending I was not a competitor. By doing that I gained a vital
twenty yards and when the starting pistol barked I tore away.
‘The finishing post was out of sight of the starter, so when I
breasted the tape and was handed a voucher which I was told
I could cash at the local bank, I dashed back to the tent, gathered

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up my clothes and, still in my running gear, made for the bank at
top speed. I knew there was a protest raging behind me and that
I had to get out of Porthcawl fast. But I was in luck, for even
though the bank clerk looked astonished at the sight of me in my
running clothes, he didn’t waste any time in cashing the voucher.
‘Then I had another race on my hands, as I had to beat the clock
and get to the station and get a train. When I got there the train
had just started to steam out, but I managed to jump on it. Mind
you, I had no idea of where it was going. We did get up to all sorts
in professional racing in those days.’
But Struth also recalled, ‘Years afterwards, I sent the same
sports meeting a donation of ten times the fiver I had won
that day.
‘There was also a meeting in the north of England where I did
not win anything and again had no money for the train. So every
time the ticket collector came around, I opened the train door,
closed it behind me, ducked down below the window and hung
on, crouching on the running board of the carriage.’
Those two tales demolish the idea that Bill Struth was some
sort of po-faced tyrant. In fact, some of his more outlandish
exploits on the professional running circuit made him more than
prepared to see behind any scams any of his players tried to pull
on him, and it is entirely reasonable to assume that the rapscallion
which remained part of Bill Struth’s make-up helped him to
understand that great rapscallion who he signed for Rangers
twice, Torry Gillick. Maybe Bill Struth saw something of his
young self in Gillick and indulged him because of that.
During his time on the tracks of Britain, Bill Struth took an
interest in his own body and watched for signs of any weakness
in opponents. He became a self-taught student, and although he
had no formal physiotherapy training or qualifications, he had a
sharp eye and a keen brain. As well as professional running, Bill

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BEGINNINGS AND TRAGEDIES

Struth started to take an interest in professional football, which
was establishing itself as the spectator sport for the masses in
those early years of the twentieth century.
He took a liking to Heart of Midlothian, attracted by their
romantic Scottish name and the fact that some of his friends
supported Hearts. Bill Struth, though, being Bill Struth, wanted
to be more than a mere spectator. He wanted to put what he had
learned about sporting injuries and their treatment to good use
and also to learn more. So, he was soon helping to train Hearts.
Now in his thirties, Struth knew his running days were behind
him. He could no longer add to his income as a stonemason with
prize money from the track, so when the opportunity to move to
Glasgow and become the trainer of Clyde presented itself in 1908,
he took it. Bill Struth had taken his first major step in becoming
the most famous Ranger ever.

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3
BECOMING A RANGER

BILL STRUTH turned down the first offer made by manager
William Wilton for him to quit Clyde and become Rangers
trainer. However, far from being upset and treating Struth’s
refusal to accept the job offer from Rangers, which was clearly
a career advancement for Struth, as a snub, Wilton was even
more favourably disposed towards Bill Struth. For when Wilton
made the initial approach to Struth a couple of years before
the Clyde trainer finally did leave Shawfield for Ibrox, Rangers
already had a trainer, the long-serving Jimmy Wilson. And when
Wilton asked Struth if he would be interested in moving
to Rangers, it was his reasons for turning down the offer which
made Wilton even more determined to get him and even more
convinced that Bill Struth, though still with Clyde, had shown
all of the characteristics the first Rangers manager looked for in
a Ranger.
Struth told Wilton that much as he would love to become
Rangers trainer, the club already had somebody in that position
and that he could not entertain becoming involved in going
behind Jimmy Wilson’s back and taking his job away from him.
In sticking to such a point of principle, Bill Struth showed that he
was a man of honour, a man of considerable depth and substance.
In short, the sort of man he would later spend the best part of his

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BECOMING A RANGER

life recruiting to make Rangers the most successful football club
in the world, a status they retain to this day.
One of the things which had attracted Wilton to Struth was that
his background in athletics, as a runner and as someone who had
also studied the rudiments of physiotherapy, meant he was a
similar character to the current trainer, Jimmy Wilson, whose
methods had always ensured that Rangers were the fittest and
best-prepared team in the land. But Wilton, with his links
stretching back to the days of the Gallant Pioneers, had a lust for
progress and his observations told him that Wilson’s methods,
like the man, were growing old.
Across the city, with one foot in Glasgow and another in the
Royal Burgh of Rutherglen, was the Shawfield home of Clyde,
and despite modest means and players, the team was doing well.
In season 1911–12, Clyde finished third top of the old First
Division, a mere three points – in the days of two points for a win
– behind runners-up Celtic, with William Wilton’s champions, six
clear of their Old Firm rivals. That was when Wilton first made
his move for Struth and it was that summer when Struth showed
his mettle as a man by refusing the opportunity to take Jimmy
Wilson’s job away from him.
What happened, however, tells us more about the way Rangers
were run at the time, even before Struth’s stern influence was
brought to bear on the Ibrox club. And it gives lie to the belief
which had been fostered that Wilton was some sort of benign,
even avuncular, presence. He was very far from that, as the ten
titles and four Scottish Cup triumphs during his twenty-one years
in charge testify. For to understand the Rangers which Bill Struth
finally moved to just days before the guns of August rumbled to
signal the start of the Great War and to gain a complete
comprehension of the way Struth worked, first as a trainer and
then manager, it is vitally important to know what kind of man

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William Wilton was. What Struth, in fact, did when he took over
from Wilton, was to hone the style set by the club’s first ever
manager. And that style, even when Struth was still at Clyde, was
that Rangers players should always look the part. That they
should always have a certain dash about them. Even off the field.
In the excellent Growing With Glory, written by the late Ian
Pebbles and published to coincide with the Rangers Centenary, a
fan, Alex Irvine, who had been a boy during the years before the
Great War, recalled being outside Ibrox just before an Old Firm
game and seeing some Celtic players, including the top star of the
team, Jimmy Quinn, arriving wearing the badge of the Glasgow
working man, a cloth bunnet, while smoking clay pipes. However,
when the Rangers players arrived, led by Jimmy Bowie, who
would later become Rangers chairman, they were wearing bowler
hats or soft hats and they all carried furled umbrellas. It is a small
point, but what it does is illustrate that the dress code of Rangers
players on and off the field, long believed to have been instigated
by Bill Struth, was actually first put in place by William Wilton
before Struth arrived at Ibrox.
Wilton’s perception in 1912 that Rangers were no longer the
fittest and fastest team in Scotland, showed his insight. Jimmy
Wilson’s health was starting to fail and, although Rangers won
the championship again in 1912–13, they faltered the following
year, finishing second. By which time the trainer, Jimmy Wilson,
succumbed to illness and passed away.
This time, with a clear vacancy available, Bill Struth needed no
further urging, no time to think things over, and when William
Wilton went back to Clyde and offered their trainer the chance to
join him at Ibrox, Struth readily accepted.
Unlike in the Second World War, during which the whole
population was effectively mobilised in the fight against Hitler,
with football regionalised, the Great War and the struggle against

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BECOMING A RANGER

the Kaiser, was almost exclusively confined to the battlefields and
football continued. Struth, though, did his bit when a hospital for
wounded soldiers was set up in nearby Bellahouston Park, and
the new Rangers physio divided his time between his job training
Rangers players and attending to their injuries and his voluntary
war work, helping with soldiers who had suffered such
devastating wounds on the Western Front.
It must have been a proud day for him and for William Wilton,
who had also put in some gruelling shifts helping the war
wounded, when Ibrox was chosen as the venue for King
George V to visit and invest many of Britain’s war heroes with
their richly deserved decorations, their medals for bravery. What
Struth saw of the wreckages of human beings who returned from
the horrors of the Western Front and who Struth did his best to
make whole again must have had a long-lasting effect on him,
and it is reasonable to assume this is what made Bill Struth
believe injured footballers could, as they would today, crash
through the pain barrier.
Back at Ibrox during those six seasons when Struth was the
trainer, the balance of power swung away from Rangers to
Parkhead, with a transition taking place in the Rangers dressing
room. New faces started to arrive and find their feet. Men whose
names would ring down the years such as Tommy Cairns, Andy
Cunningham, Sandy Archibald, Tommy Muirhead and finally,
the man many who saw him believe was Rangers’ greatest ever
player and captain, Davie Meiklejohn.
Celtic had won the Scottish title for the first three years of the
First World War, but gradually the new arrivals at Ibrox gelled
and the Championship was regained in 1917–18, before Celtic
took the championship again the following campaign, only for
Rangers to regain their crown again in season 1919–20. It is
obvious during that period that William Wilton, the manager,

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STRUTH

born in 1865 and the older man by a decade and Bill Struth, the
trainer, made a good team. They worked well together and it is
clear from the way Tommy Muirhead arrived at Ibrox that Struth,
though subordinate to Wilton, was already exercising his skill
in spotting a player and recruiting him for Rangers. This
was illustrated again in the Centenary book Growing With Glory,
when Muirhead was interviewed and described the day he
became a Ranger.
Muirhead said, ‘During season 1916–17 I was in the Army and
on amateur forms with Hibernian and, as I was stationed in
Dunfermline at the time, I was able to play regularly for Hibs.
Towards the end of that season I was chosen to play for the Army
in a representative game and the Rangers player, Scott Duncan,
was also picked to play for the Army.
‘At the time I was just a teenager and got a bit of a shock when,
after the game, Scott left quickly and then came back into the
dressing room with a distinguished-looking older man and
introduced him as Mr Struth, the Rangers trainer. We talked for
a few minutes or so and I thought no more about it. A couple of
weeks later another man visited me at the Army camp in
Dunfermline. It was the Rangers manager, William Wilton, and
he asked me to sign for Rangers. As an amateur I was free to do
so and didn’t need much persuading.’
The way Muirhead was recruited gives us the earliest insight
into the way Bill Struth went about his business of ensuring the
very best talent in Scotland found its way to Ibrox. Scott Duncan,
a long-serving Ranger from the early years of the twentieth
century, weighed up the young Muirhead as a player and told
Bill Struth about him. Struth then watched the youngster play,
looking not so much at his technical skills as the way he conducted
himself. Struth then made himself known to the teenager, again
weighing his character up, before making other enquiries about

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STRUTH
Bill Struth was one of the most successful,
outstanding and charismatic managers in
football history. He won an astonishing
eighteen league championships, ten
Scottish Cups and two League Cups with
Rangers, as well as being the visionary
behind the building of the magnificent
Main Stand at Ibrox, which now bears his
name. His career with Rangers spanned
an incredible forty-two years, beginning as
Rangers trainer in 1914 and only ending
when he died in 1956.

Now in his sixties, DAVID LEGGAT has retired
from a career in newspapers that began when he
joined the Glasgow Evening Times in March 1966.
Among the papers he has worked for on both
sides of the border are the Birmingham Evening
Mail; the Daily Express; the Sunday People, covering
the West Midlands; the Sunday People, Scottish
edition (twice); the Sunday Mail, Scotland on Sunday;
the Scottish Daily Express; and finally as a freelance
with the Scottish Sunday Express.

Now, in Struth, the full story of his
remarkable life is revealed for the first
time, from his beginnings as a champion
runner, to his first days at Rangers and
his incredible time as manager from 1920
to 1954. Included too are interviews
with some of the legendary stars who he
managed, such as Bob McPhail, Tiger
Shaw, Willie Waddell and Willie Thornton.
And there are fascinating insights into his
private life, his wife’s tragic suicide and the
personal battles he fought later on.

As well as having a passion for football in
general and Rangers in particular, David loves
the music of the Great American Songbook,
Porter, the Gershwins, Rogers and Hart, Johnny
Mercer, etc, particularly when performed by
Sinatra, Lady Day, Ella and Tony Bennett, but
has a soft spot for many of the more modern
interpretations, particularly those by the
Canadian singer-pianist, Diana Krall.

Struth: The Story of an Ibrox Legend is a
compelling account of a unique man who
kept his private life strictly off limits while
living in the full glare of the public eye
as one of football’s most successful and
revered figures.

He says he would love to have been Frank
Sinatra, Jim Baxter or Winston Churchill. Or
better still, have had a voice like Francis Albert’s,
a left foot like Slim Jim’s and a vocabulary to
match Churchill’s.

Front cover pictures © EMPICS / PA Images
Author photograph © Willie Vass

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