IF only memories could be made physical and placed in a museum. If this sort of divine alchemy were possible, then the significance of Jim Baxter would be deep-fried, drizzled with Irn-Bru and placed on top of the racing section on a sodden bar.

Baxter was more than a footballer. There are myriad candidates who now line up to put the con in icon but Slim Jim was not only a great player, he was one whose temperament and personality was instantly recognisable.

We were all Jim Baxter. At least, we all wanted to be him. There were moments the other day when I watched the brilliant BBC Alba documentary on Baxter when I realised just how important he was to any sense of what Scotland was in the 1960s and what we considered important, even necessary.

Baxter has been characterised, almost caricatured, as the keepy uppy, hard drinking and self-destructive maverick. These are all traits that are impossible to ignore in him but there was much more to the man and much more to his embodiment of a Scottish culture than the craic about pints, pies and piss-ups.

The documentary recognised this in both obvious and subtle ways. This is a portrait of a great football player that uses both the broad brush but has distinctive, slight but important touches.

It is a convincing depiction of Baxter but it is also true to his times. Baxter was like many Scots who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. He played football not just because he loved it, but because it was just about the only past-time that was available. Hill of Beath was not big on yachting or equestrian dressage.

Baxter’s tales of playing 20-a-side in the park when the ranks of youth were reinforced by a veritable wave of older reinforcements when the pubs shut were recognisable to men of a certain age. Proust has his madeleine cake as an aide memoire, I have the stale smell of Export exhaled by belligerent pursuers on Busby park. This where I learned to jump like a gazelle when men of a certain age became tired of chasing youngsters and decided en masse to find out how quickly we could limp.

This was the sort of tough school where Baxter learned his first football lesson. It included a masterclass on adding bravery to his undoubted technical ability. There is loose talk about players being “brave on the ball” nowadays. It refers to a psychological hardness. Once upon a time a physical courage was necessary to dwell on the ball in midfield. Baxter not only had to learn how to play football but how to survive.

His maw also reminisced about how he was given a pair of football boots and a mouth organ for his Christmas. The boots were used on the park. The moothie was left on the ground and 'lifted' in Mrs Baxter’s memorable phrase. Baxter thus lived in a world where a game of football could make an Indiana Jones escape from an exploding mountain look like a walk in Kew Gardens. He also learned cruel realities extended further than a stolen mouth organ.

Baxter’s toughness was undoubted. But he was vulnerable, too. The merciless banter of a playground revealed to him that he had been “given away” at birth and his natural mother was a long-time stranger to him. This sort of revelation can produce wounds that time does not heal. There was, therefore, a sense of loss at the heart of Baxter that one could only guess at and perhaps even he could not fully quantify. He loved his adoptive parents but there must have been an ache at being abandoned at birth.

Slim Jim could swagger on and off the field but it is not difficult to discern a sadness in his relentless partying and his constant joking. But this softness is also part of a distinctive Scottish psyche. There was an extraordinary sentiment in Baxter’s nature, mostly exemplified by his kindness to team-mates. He would nurse their nerves with the balm of his considerable humour.

The marvellous documentary was premiered at the GFT and was followed by a brilliant, moving speech by Alan, one of Baxter’s sons. He made it clear that his father was a man of depth, a personality with different layers. Of course, like everyone, he had a Baxter anecdote. Being a son, his story was the best. He told of his father attending the 1966 World Cup final between West Germany and England with the sportswriter Ken Gallacher, once of this parish. When Ken asked him about the match as they left the stadium, Baxter, hands in pockets, turned to him and said: “ Imagine, eh, England world champions. I’m puffed oot beating them.” There is Fife in this. There is also quintessential Scottishness.

It reeks of truth, it glitters with humour and it is tinged with just a hint of regret. It is why Jim Baxter is a documentary that was played out to a soundtrack of laughter in the audience. It is why it was also viewed through the occasional mist of tears.