Peter Aird, Hibernian footballer; born August 29, 1921, died December 6, 2000

BORN in the Fife mining community of Glencraig into a traditional family of colliers in the early 1920s, Peter Aird toughened up his small but wiry frame in the nearby Bowhill Colliery, where he had gone to work on leaving school at the age of 14.

However, like many other great Scottish footballers, the young Aird found in his ability

to play football a ready-made escape route from the harsh realities of working in the pits.

Inspired by his older brother Willie, who played for Greenock Morton and Queen of the South at centre-forward, Peter Aird won his spurs at junior level playing for Bowhill Rovers in his adopted home of Cardenden.

Indeed, it was there in 1943 that the flame-haired Aird caught the eye of legendary Hibernian manager Willie McCartney, who took him to Easter Road.

However, Aird never tired of telling his friends and family of his acute initial disappointment when he found out that his wartime pay with Hibs was exactly #1 a week, of which 10 shillings were deducted at enhanced wartime income tax rates. Nevertheless, a hasty negotiation with manager McCartney soon put matters right.

One of the unforeseen bonuses that the young Aird received by joining Hibs was that he played in teams that included yet another player destined for greater things in postwar Britain - Matt Busby, then a wartime guest halfback at Easter Road.

With the onset of peace in 1946, Peter Aird not only toured with Hibs in Czechoslovakia, soon to disappear behind the Iron Curtain, but was a stalwart of the Hibs side that lost 3-1 to Rangers at Hampden in a postwar Victory Cup final.

However, playing as the pivot in a great Easter Road halfback line of Willie Finnegan, himself, and Sammy Kean, revenge over the Ibrox side was gained in season 1947-48, when Hibs won the Scottish League title and pushed Rangers into the runner-up position.

In the meantime, Peter Aird's earlier concerns about the rate for the job were addressed, too, as he himself often recounted how Hibs were on an excellent (for 1947) weekly wage of #10.

This was money that meant that Aird could afford in 1947 to marry the girl, Marion Gray, with whom he would spend 53 happy years.

However, 1947 was also the year that Aird, who was feared by opposing centre-forwards for his exceptionally hard but fair tackling abilities and his phenomenal speed and strength, suffered his greatest disappointment as a player.

That was when he was a member of the Hibs side that lost the 1947 Scottish Cup final (despite scoring in the first minute) to Aberdeen by 2-1.

One of his famous colleagues who recalls Peter Aird at his peak is former Hibs and Scotland centre-forward Lawrie Reilly who recalled: ''Peter Aird ironically considers himself an inferior player to his big brother, the Morton and Queen of the South centre-forward Willie Aird, but I disagree.

''After Peter Aird joined East Fife from Hibs in 1950 I used to loath playing against him because he was so difficult to get past, with an amazing recovery speed and tackle - but he was also an immensely likeable person off the pitch too.''

After a two-year spell at East Fife, Peter Aird closed out his footballing career with Welsh side Caerphilly. On returning to Scotland, the former Hibs star, whose family had grown to five children, worked as a manager for Tay Spinners and also in Rosyth dockyard.

A devoted family man, he was delighted when his five children gave him a trip on Concorde to mark his retirement at the age

of 65 - something that he had long cherished.

Peter Aird will be sadly missed by his children Marion, Anne, Peter, Mark, and Christina, but above all by wife Marion, with whom he celebrated their golden wedding at Easter Road stadium on a pitch especially floodlit for the occasion just three years ago.

Despite supporting in later years the former arch-rivals of his playing days, Glasgow Rangers FC, Peter Aird requested that his ashes be scattered on the playing pitch at Easter Road, where, 50-odd years ago, he was a much feared but fair centre-half playing for the capital team.