HE’S lived through two world wars and four British monarchs, and collected a birthday telegram from Her Majesty.
But now, after a lifetime following his beloved team across the land, a Capital centenarian is set to miss the trip to Hampden for the biggest game in the club’s history.
At the grand old age of 102, Sam Martinez is the oldest member of Hibs Supporters’ Association and can surely be forgiven for eschewing the frenzied crowds and unbearable tension of Hampden for the more familiar terrain of Hawkhill fans’ club.
Mr Martinez quit the terraces in his mid-90s but said he would roar on the team in spirit as he watches their battle for Scottish Cup glory, surrounded by fellow fans, on television at his supporters’ club.
After countless lean decades in the competition, he believes the club can shake off their cup hoodoo and seize the opportunity – as well as gloating rights – over their fiercest rivals.
“I’m so glad I’m alive to see this happen,” said the Wester Hailes resident. “But it could be my last chance.”
The former soldier, originally from Belize, who settled here in 1942, was lured to Easter Road after witnessing the snaking crowds of supporters meandering to the stadium.
“I thought there was a riot going on and I got a bit of a fright because they were all singing and I was this perfect stranger,” he said. “I jumped in the queue as the only black man there.
“So when a young man came up and gave me a complimentary ticket I thought he was taking the mickey. But he just said to me ‘Take it, you’re safe here’. And that was it.”
Asked about his memories following Hibs, he said: “I went to many league and Scottish Cup finals over the years and they were well beaten every time.
“I always say to my friends that there had to be a curse over Easter Road. And yet many years ago I remember that this club beat Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus – now they are all top teams in the world.
“The cup final is going to be a difficult game for Hibs. All the years they have had Edinburgh derbies – if there are three games, Hearts will win two and Hibs will win one. Even the Famous Five found it difficult to beat Hearts.”
Sam travelled from Belize in 1942 to join the Second World War effort. He was one of 800 volunteers to take up forestry duties in the Scottish Highlands, and after the war he moved to a hostel in York Place, where he catered for a very special visitor.
Speaking to the Evening News to mark his 100th birthday in February 2010, he recalled: “Harold Macmillan came to the hostel, and I made lunch for him – in those days it was all rationing.
“He had kippers, potatoes, turnips, carrots, and then custard and a cup of tea. He came down to the kitchen and said ‘By God, that was the best lunch I’ve had for a good time’.”
For decades Mr Martinez, who worked at Balerno Paper Mill for 25 years, hardly missed a game. Among his more hair-raising tales was the time in Montrose when the supporters’ bus left without him as he chatted with rival fans.
“Not having any money, we had to walk the whole way back to Edinburgh,” he said. “I think I got home at about noon the next day.”
His thoughts for the final? “We have been waiting for a long time for this,” he said. “I wish the players my best and will say all my best prayers for them.”