Ibrox survivor who wed days after disaster to celebrate 50th anniversary

A Rangers-daft pensioner will celebrate his golden wedding anniversary next week - 50 years after he survived being crushed to death in the Ibrox disaster.

Saturday, 2nd January 2021, 3:54 pm
Billy and Veronica Robertson on their wedding Day. Picture: contributed

Billy Robertson was saved from the Stairway 13 carnage after he was dragged from under a pile of bodies and unaware that his best friend John James McGovern had lost his life nearby.

Billy, now 74, was rushed to hospital following the horror event on January 2, 1971 that saw 66 fans killed and hundreds left injured.

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The staunch Rangers supporter then had to bury friend John later that week before he and wife Veronica went ahead with their planned wedding the following day in their hometown of Prestonpans, East Lothian.

John James McGovern – who left behind wife Ellen and sons Kevin and Keith - was on leave from the army when he and Billy travelled through for the New Year Old Firm game.

Now 50 years on from the disaster, Billy and Veronica - parents to three, grandparents to four and great-grandparents to one - will celebrate a half century of married life together.

Billy admits next week’s celebrations will be low key due to the ongoing pandemic and will be tinged with sadness as he remembers John, 24, who he lost on that fateful afternoon in Glasgow.

Billy and Veronica Robertson. Picture: Contributed

Billy, a retired plumber, said: “It is a day I will never forget as I lost my mate John in the disaster. We were leaving the ground when we heard the huge roar that Rangers had scored.

“Next thing I was on the ground with bodies below and on top of me and I just lost sight of John. It was the last time I would ever see him.

“I remember I couldn’t breathe and all the life was being crushed out of me.

“All I could think at the time was ‘please God, don't let me die - I’m getting married next week’.

“I must have blacked out as next thing I remember I was lying on the side of the pitch as the Red Cross guys had managed to pull me out from the pile of bodies.”

Billy was rushed to the city’s Southern General Hospital where he was treated for severe bruising before he had to make his own way home by train later that night.

Wife Veronica, 69, added: “Back then there was no mobile phones and we just didn’t know what had happened to Billy and John.

“The supporters bus they had been on arrived back but they weren’t on it. We all thought we wouldn’t see either of them again and unfortunately that was the case for poor John.

“We had to bury John the following Friday and then we got married the very next day on Saturday, January 9.

“Of course, our big day was affected by what had happened and we always raise a glass to John when this time of year comes around.

“We were planning on going to Ibrox to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary with all our family who are big Rangers fans, but because of Covid we are having to put it off to hopefully later in the year.

“We will be just having a very small thing in the house with close family, socially distanced of course, which is a shame but what can you do.

“There are lots of folk worse off than us and at least we still have each other.”

Scotland’s worst sporting tragedy saw 66 football fans crushed to death and more than 200 injured on the exit Stairway 13 at Ibrox Park, now Ibrox Stadium.

The disaster is believed to have occurred when a fan may have fallen as they were leaving the ground which caused a huge pile-up of people on the stairwell.

Many children were killed, including 31 teenagers and a nine-year-old boy, and most of the deaths were later found to have been caused by asphyxiation.

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