Lifelong Hibs fan dies happy after Scottish Cup Final win
HE was a lifelong Hibs fan who travelled far and wide to see his beloved team play.
Whether it involved flying overseas for big European games or sitting on coaches to away games for hours on end, William Johnston was never fazed.
The great-grandad cheered his heroes on at their highest points and supported them ever more at their lowest ebbs.
But as his health deteriorated in recent months, his popular catchphrase – one he repeated throughout his club’s titanic run to Hampden – became especially poignant.
“He always said ‘When Hibs win the Scottish Cup, I will die a happy man’,” his son, Kevin, told the News.
Just hours after they did so on Saturday, William slipped away quietly, the Hibs teddy bear he hugged in celebration during his final hours tucked safely under his arm.
The 76-year-old hadn’t been well enough to watch the match at Midlothian Community Hospital – but managed to produce a wide smile when wife May, 72, informed him quietly on Saturday afternoon that Hibs had lifted the famous trophy.
When a nurse went to check on him later, she found that William had lost his short battle with pneumonia.
“My dad lived and breathed Hibs,” Kevin, 34, said. “He had two main passions in life, that was his family and football, and he didn’t let anything get in the way of those. My dad was such a wonderful and funny man, and even though he was ill in the end, he never lost his passion and spirit for the team.
“He would sit glued to the TV during their matches, still reacting to everything like he used to.”
Known as ‘Grandad Bill’ to friends and family, William was born in McLeod Street, Gorgie – but was devoted to the team on the other side of the city.
He held a season ticket for many years, something he was forced to give up five years ago after being diagnosed with dementia.
But his family said that while he “couldn’t remember what he had for dinner last night”, he could easily rattle off his club’s history and would wax lyrical about the Famous Five.
Brought up in the city, he spent time in the army before travelling across the UK in the hotel trade.
For 20 years until his retirement, Bill worked for the city council as a front-of-house caretaker at Chesser House.
He had two sons with his wife May and a daughter with his first wife. He became a grandfather to eight and a great-grandad to one. He had three siblings and two daughter-in-laws.
Kevin said that going to the football with his dad had been a major part of his life.
“My dad used to enjoy going to the football with family – he would often go with his brother and brother-in-law,” he said.
“I remember before I was old enough to drink in an actual pub on match days we would go to the Hibs Club because it was family orientated. I know for a fact that if he had been able to go to the game on Saturday, he probably still wouldn’t be home – he’d be out there partying.
“I remember him saying to me that he’d seen Hibs win various other cups, but he would die a happy man if he saw them win the Scottish Cup.”
For years, Bill – who will be buried in his Hibs jumper – kept his Hibs teddy bear at the side of his bed at his home in Fisherrow, Musselburgh.
But after he contracted chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchitis, his wife took it into hospital, where he has been living since the beginning of this year.
Kevin, who thanked the hospital for looking after his dad, said: “In the last five years he hasn’t been to many games, I took him to couple two or three years ago but after that he started to deteriorate. He would still watch it, though, and I’d take him down to his local pub.
“Even though he was ill he still knew exactly what was going on. When my mum told him the final score on Saturday, he smiled and gave her a wee nod.”
Kevin added: “He had a picture of me at the side of his hospital bed when I was younger with John Hughes.
“He liked his Hibs teddy but what we find strange is the fact he was cuddling it when he passed away, because it wasn’t something he would do normally.”
A Hibs spokesman said: “The club would like to pass on their condolences to William’s family and friends. Saturday’s result brought joy to so many people, and we hope that the news provided William with a moment of happiness in his final hours.”
• Bill’s funeral will take place at Seafield Crematorium at 2pm next Thursday. His family said all were welcome – and could wear Hibs clothing if they wished.