FOR OVER 60 years the name Jim Peterson is one that was, and still is, intrinsically and endearingly linked with Shetland football, writes Davie Gardner as he listens to the many heartfelt and often hilarious memories friends and family shared during A Tribute to Jim Peterson event at Islesburgh community centre on Saturday night.
With the foyer and several rooms of the building festooned with photos and memorabilia from down the years, over 200 people – many of them Spurs players representing every era in the club’s history – congregated to remember and toast the man himself, as they listened to a range of guest speakers including ex-Kilmarnock player and long-term SFA official Ross Mathie – a great friend of Jim’s, and who visited Shetland several times in the early 1970s to undertake local coaching sessions.
As the drink and memories flowed, speaker after speaker spoke of Peterson’s incredible and unstinting dedication to and love for the game – and of Lerwick Spurs of course – plus how he valued each and every player and person involved with it. The word ‘legacy’ was being used to describe this on more than one occasion.
“He connected so well with everyone and made us all feel important,” said James Johnston, a long-serving Spurs player, club captain and now secretary of the club, who acted as MC for the event, correctly predicting at the outset that the evening should be “fun, poignant, thoughtful and emotional.”
He then invited ex-Anderson High School head teacher George Jamieson, an early days footballing colleague and ultimately lifelong friend of Peterson to kick off the speeches.
Jamieson referred to Jim as “a great player; extremely competitive who did not like to lose,” amusingly recalling their early playing days together, initially as part of the Janet Courtney hostel team, through to both being part of the now long defunct Lerwick Hibs side during the 50s.
This was a side that included a local priest – Father Cairns – “a terrific player,” playing alongside them. “That kept the bad language to a minimum in the dressing room if nothing else,” he laughed.
He also recalled that when that club was no more at the start of the 60s Peterson signed for Spurs and he for Scalloway.
“The right decision for me,” Jamieson quipped, heralding some good-natured booing from the Spurs orientated audience. “Well we won 68 cups and you only won five,” he laughed to loud applause.
Kenny Malcolmson – an ex-club captain during one of Spurs most successful periods in the 1980s – then recalled a man who was not only dedicated to the game and the club, but also loyal and caring towards its players and everyone connected with it.
“Jim had good core principals in life,” Malcolmson told the audience. “He wanted Spurs to be ‘different’ and set high standards both on the off the pitch. He wanted to make us a club to be proud of.”
Laurence Smith – another ex-player who, together with his brother Raymond, was – we were reliably informed – “headhunted” by Peterson on their arrival in Shetland from Oxford in the early 1970’s.
Smith – who’d previously organised a This is Your Life event for Peterson in 1997 – reflected on the team’s regular trips outwith Shetland, especially the cementing of their long and still ongoing association with Norwegian side Måløy – a sporting relationship endorsed by ex- Måløy player and guest speaker Oyvind Reed, who was visiting Shetland especially for the event.
“The term ‘legend’ is perhaps used all too lightly nowadays,” he said. “But to us Jim Peterson certainly deserves that title.”
Ex-Kilmarnock player and SFA official Ross Mathie also spoke of Peterson’s “incredible commitment”, highlighting the regard with which he was held in national circles by reading out a hugely complimentary message from ex-Scotland, Aberdeen and Motherwell coach Craig Brown.
Mathie then recalled several coaching visits he himself made to Shetland in the early 1970s at the request of Peterson; visits which included memories such as them having to abandon a junior coaching session due to the incoming tide; clearing sheep off a pitch prior to another coaching session; having to deliver a session in the living room of a house in Bressay due to poor weather; returning to his lodgings in Lerwick at 4am one morning in broad daylight accompanied by a coaching colleague who was singing Fly Me to the Moon, plus a “never to be forgotten ‘hot run'” through Unst in a car which had orange boxes for seats.
He also drew huge laughs from the audience with a comment that Jim’s CD collection was “one of the worst I have ever seen”.
But his abiding memory of such visits remains the local hospitality – particularly that of the Peterson family – with one visit to their home in Sandness rendering he and a colleague “unable to eat anything for three days,” primarily due to the table laden abundance of home bakes provided for the occasion by Peterson’s mother.
The evening was suitably rounded off with a message from Peterson’s sister Alice in Canada being read out, and a closing speech from younger brother John, who thanked everyone for their attendance on the night and for all the support Jim had received over the years, particularly in his last few months.
John’s own personal recollections included his brother being an “inspiration” to him in all manner of ways – football related and otherwise; the friendly family rivalry between the siblings with Jim supporting Rangers, Alice Celtic and he Aberdeen, plus a recollection of a hilarious multiple toy gun related incident connected to his school team Mintlaw Academy ahead of them making a flight back to Aberdeen after a footballing trip to Shetland – an incident which thankfully had a happy ending when being removed from their luggage, but returned to their owners after the flight. “Changed days now,” he laughed!
Alluding to his brother’s funeral and how that was conducted he said: “Jim would have enjoyed it himself.” Safe to say the same could be said of his tribute night too.