Following on from the Q and A with Patrick Gordon Stanton we were privileged to have his long term friend, playing partner and Hibs great Jimmy O’Rourke along at our last meeting.
Jimmy uses a few ‘industrial’ words during the session but what can you expect from a bloke from Clermiston!
The 46 members who attended the Branch meeting thoroughly enjoyed it, we hope you do too.
The phrase ‘one of our own’ is often heard around Easter Road, but it could have been written about Jimmy O’Rourke, who is undeniably one of the most popular players ever to wear the famous green and white jersey.
Jimmy was brought up in a ‘Hibs Daft’ family, alongside his brothers, Michael, Billy and John in Clermiston. He quickly came to the attention of senior teams due to some sparkling performances for Holy Cross School, where he appeared in the same side at Pat Stanton, Jimmy McManus, Davie Hogg and Malcolm McPherson who all subsequently played for Hibs, even though he was two years younger than that quartet.
Celtic and Manchester United tried to tempt the youngster, but when legendry manager Hugh Shaw offered him a schoolboy contract at Easter Road, he jumped at the chance to sign for his boyhood heroes, whom he followed home and away with the St Giles Branch of the Hibs Supporters Club.
Shaw had been replaced by Walter Galbraith by the time Jimmy arrived on the ground-staff, and on Wednesday 12 December 1962, Hibs played Dutch side Utrecht in the second leg of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup at Easter Road, he sprang a surprise by handing the number 10 jersey to sixteen year old Jimmy, who, only a few months before had been playing schoolboy football.
In fact, the previous season, Jimmy had approached Tommy Preston in the train back from Kirkcaldy to ask for his autograph.
At that time, Hibs had built a reputation as being one of the top sides in Europe, having appeared in two major European semi-finals, and they had already beaten Utrecht 1-0 in Holland but if they thought the tie was as good as over they were mistaken.
Early in the first half, Jimmy hit the bar with a header, before the Dutch side, using roughhouse tactics levelled the tie on aggregate in the 23rd minute when a cross from Van Der Linden was met by Geurtsen, and the strikers powerful header beat keeper Ronnie Simpson.
Two minutes later, Hibs regained their advantage when Gerry Baker slammed a superb shot past Van Zoghel from the narrowest of angles. Just after half time, Eric Stevenson scored Hibs’ second of the night when he struck a fierce shot through a wall of defenders into the net
Sports reporter Tom Nicholson of the Daily Record praised Jimmy’s contribution, stating: “Sixteen year old O’Rourke, in his first big game of his life was another frequent victim of Utrecht’s untidy tackling, but nothing they could do could hide the promise of this sturdy youngster. He looks to have the lot, sturdy build, speed and brains, PLUS abounding confidence.”
Jimmy’s first goal arrived three days after his debut, when he scored in a 3-2 defeat at Dunfermline, and the Hibs fans expected great things from their new hero. They would not be disappointed, although a broken leg against Dundee United in his first full season hindered the teenager’s progress.
In 1965, Jimmy took part in a match which is still fondly remembered by Hibs supporters of that generation.
The fixture coincided with his 19th birthday and after learning that he had not been picked for the reserves, he decided to spend the weekend in Blackpool, unaware that he would be replacing Neil Martin against Hearts at Tynecastle.
In an amazing game Jimmy and Eric Stevenson both scored twice inside the opening 10 minutes as Hibs ran their neighbours ragged.
Recalling the game later, Jimmy joked: “We scored four in 10 minutes and I thought I could then pretend to be injured so I could get down to Blackpool, but seriously it was a memorable birthday. Those two goals – one with my right foot and one with my left from 20 yards – were pretty special.”
Jimmy concedes that it took four years to fully recover from his injury, and the standard of players in the team during the sixties, including Colin Stein, Willie Hamilton, Neil Martin and Peter Cormack meant that he found himself playing in virtually every outfield position, without being able to make one jersey his own. Others would have considered moving to achieve first team football, but Jimmy’s love for Hibs persuaded him to remain in the capital.
Jimmy served under Jock Stein, Bob Shankly, Willie MacFarlane and Dave Ewing, before the arrival of Eddie Turnbull whom Jimmy used to cheer from the terracing.
Under Turnbull, Jimmy teamed up with Alan Gordon to form the most potent strike force in the country, scoring a career best 15 goals in his first season.
Unfortunately, that season ended in disappointment at Hampden when Hibs were beaten 6-1 by Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final. The manager and every member of that team vowed to make amends, and they had the chance in August when they returned to Hampden to face Celtic in the Drybrough Cup Final. Hibs played some stunning football and led three-nil before Celtic fans invaded the pitch, causing the game to be held up. The delay affected Hibs and Celtic managed to score three goals and take the game into injury time.
Most fans thought that Hibs had blown their chance, but a wonder goal from Jimmy gave the Edinburgh side the lead. He received a short pass from Pat Stanton before smashing a 35 yard screamer into the top corner. An Arthur Duncan goal in the last minute killed off Celtic and the trophy headed east along the M8.
That goal opened the floodgates, and by November, Jimmy had scored an incredible 25 goals, including five hat-tricks against Dundee United, Sporting Lisbon, Airdrie, FC Besa and Morton.
Hibs returned to Hampden on 9 December 1972 for the Scottish League Cup Final, and Jimmy scored the decisive goal which brought the trophy to Easter Road.
With Hibs leading one-nil, Alex Edwards sent Pat Stanton clear on the right wing. Jimmy sprinted into the penalty box, pointing to where he wanted the cross to go. Pat obliged and Jimmy sent a sensational diving header into the net.
He then took off in a famous walk behind the goals, looking into the celebrating masses, which he later explained was because he was looking for his brothers in the crowd
Jimmy was in prolific form, and added another hat-trick in an 8-1 win over Ayr United before scoring in a 3-2 victory over Aberdeen.
At the time, Hibs were two points behind Celtic in the League, with a slightly inferior goal difference, so when the Old Firm game was postponed due to illness in the Celtic camp, Eddie Turnbull knew that a six goal victory over Hearts at Tynecastle would see Hibs start the year in top spot. Few thought this possible, but what happened next will never be forgotten by anyone who had the privilege of being there.
Jimmy opened the scoring at the Gorgie Road end with a left foot volley after Alan Gordon flicked on an Erich Schaedler long throw. Hibs run riot and scored another four before the half time whistle went.
Midway through the second half, Pat Stanton collected the ball in midfield and drove forward, beating several defenders before sliding the ball past Kenny Garland. Jimmy was on hand to prod the ball home for the sixth, before Alan Gordon added a seventh.
The following week, ‘Turnbull’s Tornadoes’ title hopes ended when right back John Brownlie suffered a broken leg and Alex Edwards was booked and subsequently received a 56 day suspension in the 1-0 victory over East Fife. Hibs eventually clinched third place with Jimmy finishing with a grand total of 34 goals.
In the European Cup Winners Cup, Hibs were 4-1 up against Hajduk Split in the quarter final, before the Croatians pulled back a late goal and eventually won 3-0 in the second leg to progress.
After that game, Eddie Turnbull decided to bring in new faces, one of whom was Joe Harper who cost an amazing £120,000 from Everton, the highest fee ever paid by a Scottish team, and at the end of the 1973/1974 season Jimmy was transferred to St Johnstone. Typically he scored the winner for the Saints on his return to Easter Road.
Jimmy maintained his scoring form at Muirton Park, scoring a credible 23 goals in 68 games, before moving to Motherwell where he scored 14 goals in 46 games before hanging up his boots.
Jimmy did return to Easter Road as an assistant to Pat Stanton, and played a major role in bringing through a number of youngsters into the first team, including John Collins, Micky Weir, Paul Kane and Gordon Hunter.
A lack of finances however meant that the team struggled and lingered around the bottom of the league. Eventually Pat, Jimmy and George Stewart all resigned, and although Pat did return briefly with John Blackley, things did not improve on the field.
After leaving football, Jimmy became a publican, running the busy Corstorphine Inn and later the Jock’s Lodge where his friendly manner and ready wit made him a popular figure amongst his customers.
In 2002, Paul Kane tempted Jimmy out of retirement to coach the Hibs’ Masters Team in the Sky Masters Tournament, after the Old Hibees had been drafted in to replace Aberdeen.
Typically Jimmy took the task seriously and Hibs came out on top against the Old Firm and Hearts to win the Scottish leg of the tournament.
In 2012, Jimmy was inducted into the Hibernian Hall of Fame.