The two brothers had a routine after school. They would meet with friends and head to Hampden where they would kick a ball against the walls of the national stadium.

The thump of the ball and the cries of excitement were amplified years later. ‘They talk of it as being the stuff of dreams,’ says Ian Hilley. ‘But it came true for me and my brother Dave.’

Both those schoolboys grew to become part of the Third Lanark team that contested the 1959 League Cup final against Hearts. Both will be at a celebration of the event this week. Ian, at 82, and Dave, just 18 months younger, are both strong supporters of the team that died and has been resurrected.

Third Lanark was wrecked by financial mismanagement in 1967 and went out of business. The famous name has been revived and the team now plays in the Central amateur league.


READ MORE: THOSE WERE THE DAYS - 1962: Third Lanark take a stand - but time will eventually run out for them

But 60 years ago more than 58,000 watched the Hi Hi as they lost the League Cup final to a Hearts team containing such as John Cumming, Gordon Smith and Alex Young. ‘It was the greatest moment of my career even though we lost,’ says Ian. ‘My father and mother were in the stands. He was a Third Lanark supporter and he was quietly proud of his sons.’

The road to Cathkin Park and, indeed, Hampden was not long for the Hilley brothers. ‘We lived on Clincart Road in Mount Florida,’ says Ian. ‘After school, we would head down to Hampden for a kickabout. It was so handy for us. There was a wee group of us and we played outside. It is extraordinary that years later Dave and I played inside.’

Ian was signed for Third Lanark from Pollok Juniors in 1957 by Bob Shankly, brother of Bill. Dave arrived at the club a year later. By 1959, Ian was the team’s left-winger while Dave was at centre forward. The older brother’s memories of the game are vivid.

‘It all started so well because we scored early but Hearts came back strongly to win 2-1. In a sense, it all went over my head a wee bit because of the size of the occasion. But Hearts had most of the ball. They were the better side. They were full-timers while we were all part-timers and I think that was the difference.’


50 years on, Third Lanark dare to dream as club rises from ashes

He laughs at the difference between the wages then and those paid nowadays. ‘We were on £5 basic, £12 if you played. The cup final earned us a nice bonus, though. One of the directors told us that we would have something extra in our wage packets and to take care with the envelopes. There was £50 inside. A tradesman was earning about £10-£12 a week then so that was very welcome. It seemed an awful lot of money at the time.’

After the final, the players went for a meal. ‘We then just dispersed and drifted home,’ he says. The aftermath did include the Hilley brothers buying a car. Just the one. They shared it. He chuckles at how two players who played in a cup final could only afford half a car each.

Ian went on to play for Berwick Rangers before ending his career back at Pollok. Dave had a more illustrious aftermath, playing for Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest.  

Both had stopped playing when Third Lanark were liquidated. ‘It was a terrible blow,’ says Ian. ‘I felt for the supporters. We could get 15,000 to 20,000 for a home game, more against Rangers and Celtic. My father was saddened but he simply went to Queen’s Park and watched their games but the club was a great loss to the community.’


Matt Balunas Former Third Lanark full-back in the post-Second World War era

He is a strong supporter of the efforts to revitalise the club but the former civil servant is clear-eyed about the difficulty of restoring former glories. ‘The idea is wonderful. But it is a lot of work. It is great that they are trying to resurrect the club but it isn’t easy,’ he says.

His relationship with his brother remains close and he looks forward to meeting up on Saturday as Dave travels up from his home in Newcastle. ‘We don’t really talk about the final a lot,’ he says. ‘But we shared great times and we know that. Third Lanark was a great club to play for and we created friendships that have lasted all our lives.’

The boys who kicked a ball against the wall of the famous stadium became the young men who contested a final inside it. They are now veterans who have lost some of their fellow warriors. The memories, gloriously, live on.

Tickets for the Class of 59 at Wellcroft Bowing Club cost £30 (buffet and two speakers) and can be obtained from Pat McGeady on 041-427-9317.