FOR tens of thousands, the blink-and-you’d-miss-it deserted former mining village of Glenbuck is their Graceland.

Pilgrims make the journey every year to what now could hardly be called a hamlet a few miles south of Muirkirk to pay tribute with sodden eyes to its favourite son, their all-time hero, a man who, even when alive, took on mythical status.

The mine is long gone. So, too,  most of the buildings. Only a handful remain and they are probably not long for this world. If you didn’t know any better, this East Ayrshire dwelling would mean little to anyone except to serve as a reminder of an age which can feel as if it belongs to another world.  FOR tens of thousands, the blink-and-you’d-miss-it deserted former mining village of Glenbuck is their Graceland.

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HeraldScotland: Two giants of the Scottish game: Jock Stein and Bill Shankly agreed on most things when it came to football and life

Pilgrims make the journey every year to what now could hardly be called a hamlet a few miles south of Muirkirk to pay tribute with sodden eyes to its favourite son, their all-time hero, a man who, even when alive, took on mythical status.

The mine is long gone. So, too,  most of the buildings. Only a handful remain and they are probably not long for this world. If you didn’t know any better, this East Ayrshire dwelling would mean little to anyone except to serve as a reminder of an age which can feel as if it belongs to another world.  And yet for football lovers, and  in particular those who support Liverpool, this is the Holy Land; for it is where Bill Shankly, legend, socialist, wit and footballing genius, was born and bred.

Few figures in the game did and still inspire such worship, and this man’s story, from the hell of the pits to the top of his sport, has been recognised in a film which is sure to go down as easily one of the better ones of its genre.

One of Scotland’s most iconic figures, Shankly is one of the few to transcend football. He died in 1981 and yet to many, especially Liverpudlians of a certain age, the mere mention of his name can bring out the rawest emotion from the hardest of hearts.

Indeed, at a screening this week of the new documentary, rather fittingly it’s 90 minutes long, there were tears and snotters in Glasgow’s GFT.

“My sister and I went to the ladies after it ended and there were five or six of us in there crying our eyes out. We didn’t know one another but there was a lot of consoling going on.”

This is Karen Gill, Shankly’s granddaughter, who was in Scotland on Wednesday to see a screening of Shankly: Nature’s Fire which is on BBC Two Scotland tomorrow night.

There won’t be any big spoilers in this piece but, suffice to say, this is an outstanding piece of film making.  It is clever, respectful, revealing  and pulls at the heart strings while avoiding becoming mawkish.  You won’t need to be into football to enjoy it.

The man himself is not always on the screen. Indeed, it’s almost as if he was camera shy, which of course was far from the case. What director  Mike Todd has done is ensure that unmistakable voice dominates the film as it did Liverpool Football Club from 1959 to 1974 during which time he transformed their fortunes beyond the wildest of expectations of those who would come to see him as a God.

“If anything, I underestimated how much respect and love there was for the man,” revealed Todd. “He was unique. People to this day speak of his values in life and, of course, football.  I thought I knew what he meant to the public, but I didn’t.

“There has been plenty written about Shankly before so we wanted to show a complete picture of him and we spent hours trawling through stuff to find footage that hadn’t been seen for years.

“And what was interesting was that people such as Kevin Keegan and Rodger Hunt, who don’t do a lot of media, but as soon as they heard it was a film about Shankly, they wanted to get involved.”

Todd’s film rarely, if ever, takes a critical tone, although Shankly’s ruthless manner when it came to his players at times is not ignored.

This is a tribute and works all the better for it.

Shankly was a man of the people, a role he revelled in, and this comes over in his speech to the Liverpool fans after the first league win.

“I’ve drummed it into our players time and again that they’re privileged to play for you,” he tells a huge crowd of fans. Or perhaps disciples is a more apt word.

There is genuine love from former players and family members towards this former miner who, as the film attests, was as quotable as Oscar Wilde.

“It was a really moving watch,  really quite strange, because to hear grandad’s voice all the way through was almost overwhelming, “Karen tells me. “The last 35 minutes were so emotional that I was crying all the way through. I’ll need to go back and watch it again.

“There was so much footage, and clips of interviews I had never seen or heard before, I’ve no idea where Mike found them.”

Karen and her family lived with  Bill and his wife Nessie for a time and while grandpa was absent a lot of the time, the memories are only fond even if there were moments when being the grandchild of a living legend could be difficult.

“When I look back now, I think we could be resentful of his fame and by the way other people wanted him,” she said. “We would be sitting in their house having Sunday dinner and there would be a queue of people banging the door wanting an autograph or even for him to go and play football with them.

“He would never be left alone.  We would all go out as a family into Liverpool for a nice meal at one of the hotels and we would never be left alone. That could be difficult.”

Karen laughs as she recalls Bill the man, who was a mixture of warmth and gruffness, who couldn’t leave football at the office.

“Whenever my sister or I hurt ourselves, we would be scared to tell him because he didn’t like that.  He treated us like his players.  He wouldn’t have been happy if we were injured. We wouldn’t have got any sympathy.

“Grandad came from a seriously tough upbringing. He was a man of his time. He was good to us, there are plenty of memories of days out eating ice cream, but he was tough. He wasn’t affectionate particularly, but that’s how it was.”

The documentary takes us from those humble beginnings to his days as a footballer and then on to management. There are contributions from, among others, Keegan, Denis Law and the journalist Hugh McIlvanney, a fellow Ayrshire man, who knew him well.

Shankly left school early and the pit welcomed him and all his friends. However, despite this lack of education, his use of the English language would shame an Oxford Don.

“I use simple words,” he once said. “Some people like to use long words to try and confuse and stop you from understanding. I want everyone to understand what I say. Instead of saying ‘He’s avaricious’, I’ll say ‘He’s bloody greedy’.”

Perhaps the pivotal moment is not any of his trophies collected but when he stunned Merseyside and beyond by resigning after winning the 1974  FA Cup.

It is suggested in the film that Nessie was behind the decision, although Karen believes there was more to it.

“Gran was not a football fan at all. Can you imagine that? I do think she had something to do with him leaving but I am sure there was a lot more going on in the background.

“I was about nine when he left Liverpool and nobody really spoke about it. And even then he was still away more often than not. I later tried to piece together what really was behind his decision but, to this day,  it’s a mystery.”

One of Shankly’s great quotes, and there were a fair few, was on his own mortality.

“Lads, when I die, I want to be the fittest man ever to die,” he would tell his players. A heart attack took him at the age of 68.

“That was a very difficult time,” Karen recalls. “We had grown up with this hugely charismatic man who could silence a room with his stare. Grandpa was a one-off and this film shows that. We are very proud.”

Shankly: Nature’s Fire, will be shown tomorrow, BBC Two Scotland, 9pm.