The village of Glenbuck was once more alive with the Spirit of Shankly today, when members of his family and the Liverpool football community gathered at the restored heritage site of the former village, on what would have been Bill Shankly’s 106th birthday.
Over 150 invited guests from the local community, Scottish Government, East Ayrshire Council, Scottish Mines Restoration Trust and partners who contributed to opencast restoration, were treated to a preview of the works that have taken place in Glenbuck, with an opportunity to reflect on the village’s unique past.
Like many mining villages, Glenbuck experienced times of mixed fortune. Its population peaked at the start of the twentieth century, when coal mining flourished, but most of its residents had moved away by the end of the century, following the demise of mining in the area around that time.
The village was demolished when opencast mining was introduced to the area, but public interest in the village has endured, thanks to the legacy of its most famous son, Bill Shankly. Bill Shankly was one of a family of 10 children and he and his five brothers all went on to play professional football, but in total, some 50 members of the famous Glenbuck team, the Cherrypickers, also progressed to professional teams, establishing an incredible legacy for the tiny mining village.
The redevelopment of the site of the village formed part of the overall restoration of opencast sites across East Ayrshire and the works have included the relocation of a number of memorials from the nearby village of Muirkirk to Glenbuck. The famous Shankly memorial has been relocated to the plot where the Shankly family home once stood, and nearby, a new memorial has been erected to commemorate the famous Cherrypickers, overlooking Burnside Park, the pitch where they used to play. A number of interpretation boards have also been installed to give visitors an insight into the history of the village over the centuries.
The site has been restored thanks to the combined efforts of East Ayrshire Council and Scottish Mines Restoration Trust. Ownership of the Glenbuck heritage site will shortly transfer to East Ayrshire Council.
As part of the celebrations, two local members of the Shankly family, Barbara Alexander and Cheryl Hynd, were invited to cut a ribbon to mark the official opening of Glenbuck Heritage Village. Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council, accompanied by pupils from Muirkirk Primary School, laid a bouquet of red roses at the Bill Shankly memorial.
Councillor Reid said: “We know that this is a site of great sentimental significance to the Shankly family, the local community and the football community both home and away, and I’m delighted that the Council will shortly assume ownership of this site.
“This restoration is a triumph and many people and partners have worked tirelessly to make this a reality. There is so much rich industrial and sporting heritage in this single location that it’s only right that we preserve it for future generations to come. Visitors have always been welcome here, but until now there was very little to see.
“Shankly’s egalitarian and community values shaped by Glenbuck, the mining industry and others, such as Robert Burns, were values embraced by the city of Liverpool, which ultimately led to Liverpool Football Club being one of the most prominent and respected football clubs in the world.
“Glenbuck has enormous potential as a visitor destination and we look forward to exploring some exciting proposals over the coming months.”
Barbara Alexander, niece of Bill Shankly said: “I was born in Glenbuck but left in the 70s and didn’t return until the last celebration in 1997. At that time, there was nothing left of the village and I thought something should be done to commemorate what was once here. I wanted Glenbuck to be remembered, and not to become one of the many forgotten villages in Ayrshire.
“I’ve always dreamt that Glenbuck would flourish again, and today my dream has been answered. Bill Shankly would have been so proud to see so many people here today to remember him, especially on his birthday.
“This is a very special day, not just for the Shankly family, but for all the people who were born and lived in the village; for the men who died during the war; for the 86 men who played with the Cherries and for Liverpool fans the world over.”
Cheryl Hynd, great niece of Bill Shankly, was the last resident to leave Glenbuck village in 1993. Speaking at the event Cheryl said: “I was brought up in Glenbuck and left when I was 15 years old. I have so many fond memories of my childhood here and to have something tangible like this that reminds me of that time is amazing.
“I never thought I'd see anything on this scale - the home I lived in, the houses I visited and the vast playground of history is on display for the world to appreciate. I'm so thankful to everyone who has worked to help keep this heritage alive.
“It's an absolute privilege to see the names in print of the people that my dad, James Blyth Knox Hynd, my uncle John Roger Shankly Hynd, my cousins Barbara Alexander and Blyth Mitchell and myself Cheryl (Cherry) are named after.
“This will be a welcome boost to the area and I believe it will have a positive effect on nearby villages and surrounding areas.”
Stephen Monaghan, a committee member of Liverpool FC supporters’ union Spirit of Shankly, was among a delegation of members who made the trip from Liverpool to Glenbuck to be part of the event. He said: “We are delighted and privileged to be here. Bill Shankly built and made our club what it is today. His spirit runs through it, and when we formed the union we knew immediately we had to take his name. And, of course, Glenbuck holds a special place in our hearts.
“One Liverpool fan Jimmy Flowers, who unfortunately couldn't make it today, organised a trip here back in 1997 and it's brilliant to be back now and see what has been done. Spirit of Shankly is both humbled and proud to be part of these celebrations.”