Memories of Neil Dewar, Scotland internationalist

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Life under lockdown has sparked many a root through dusty shoeboxes, drawers and attics.

Plenty sporting nostalgia has been unearthed on these searches and posted on social media.

One former Mid Argyll man got memories flooding back when he published a photograph of one of Argyll’s most famous footballing sons on a Facebook page.

Ken MacArthur, formerly of Lochgilphead and Crinan, has lived in Glasgow since 1986, but kept in touch with the area through his mum, who lived her whole life in the area up until her death in 2019.

Ken’s photograph, discovered while going through old memorabilia, featured Scottish internationalist Neil Dewar from Lochgilphead – and it was signed by the man himself.

Ken told the Advertiser: ‘I can’t be exact with the dates but I got the photo from Neil in the early 1970s when I was in my early teens.

‘We were living in Crinan at the time and Neil was working at the hotel there where my mum was also working.

‘I recall a conversation with him where he was talking about how much the game had changed since his day and how much better football boots were now. He also mentioned how difficult it had been heading a laced up leather football, particularly when it was wet.’

Neil Dewar is remembered as a natural, two-footed centre forward, strong on the ball and with a cool head on his shoulders.

Born in 1908, Dewar began his working life as a fisherman before impressing Third Lanark sufficiently for them to sign him – for £20 – in October 1929, shortly before his 21st birthday.

In his debut season, he scored 40 goals and helped the club to the Second Division title in 1930–31.

‘Big Neilly’ quickly became a favourite of the Third Lanark faithful, scoring 35 goals in 37 games for the Thirds in the First Division the following season.

He played for Scotland five times, against England (1932), France (1932) and Wales (1932) and against the English League (1933) and Irish League (1940).

Dewar’s form soon caught the eye of English scouts and in 1933 he signed for Manchester United for an impressive £4,000.

The boy from Lochgilphead scored on his debut for the Red Devils, but despite a goal tally of 14 goals in 36 games never really settled and left Old Trafford for Sheffield Wednesday later the same year.

In just half a season with Wednesday he finished joint top scorer on 13 goals.

After losing his place in the side the following season, he won it back in 1934-35 and scored the only goal in the victory over Arsenal in the Charity Shield, ending the season as The Owls’ top scorer with 21 goals.

In all, Dewar made 95 appearances for Sheffield Wednesday, scoring 50 goals, but with the club sliding to relegation he headed back to Scotland after the end of the 1936–37 season to re-sign for Third Lanark.

He played another three years of league football at Cathkin Park before retiring in 1940 and coming back to Mid Argyll.

He died on January 10 1982 at the age of 73.

After Ken posted the photograph on the ‘Old Lochgilphead and Surrounding Areas’ page, people came back with their own recollections.

Duncan Beaton recalled: ‘…his most famous international was against France, in France. He scored a hat-trick and Scotland won 3-1. He recalled being hit by seat cushions thrown by irate French fans.’

Another posted: ‘Neilly was a beautiful man, everyone who met him would tell you this. Third Lanark, Man United. The man would have been worth millions today.’