Aug 18 2011 by John Rowbotham, Hamilton Advertiser
OVER 3000 people last weekend gathered in a Lanarkshire street for the unveiling of a memorial to Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone.
Dignitaries joined family, friends and football supporters for the unveiling of a statue to the Lisbon Lion.
The life-size statue of ‘Jinky’ has been placed in the grounds of the former St Columba’s Primary, 100 yards from the house in Old Edinburgh Road, Viewpark, were he grew up.
Pals of Jimmy say the statue sits on the piece of ground where Jimmy used to play football when he was a boy.
Bertie Auld, who played alongside Jimmy in Celtic’s historic European Cup triumph in 1967, attended the ceremony.
He told the crowd that the statue would encourage youngsters from humble beginning to believe that anything was possible.
A group of life-long pals came up with the idea of erecting a statue to Jimmy following his death on March 13, 2006, after a long battle with motor neurone disease.
Martin McHugh, Jim Docherty, Phil Agnew and Mick Wilson, backed by North Lanarkshire Council Leader Jim McCabe, launched the fund-raising drive three years ago.
It was backed by supporters of all persuasions.
Golf days were held and patrons of pubs and clubs throughout the area dug deep for a variety of fundraisers.
The effort netted £60,000, £40,000 of which was used to purchase and erect the statue on ground donated by Clyde Valley Housing Association.
At the ceremony on Sunday, Bertie and Jimmy’s widow Agnes officially opened the memorial garden which surrounds the statue.
Then Agnes along with son James junior, Celtic colleague Bertie and Joe McBride, plus Jinky’s life-long pal Bill Donald, councillor McCabe and statue project director Harry Gaughan each pulled one of seven ribbons to unveil the statue.
Among the crowd were North Lanarkshire provost Tom Curley, Uddingston and Bellshill MSP Michael McMahon and ex-Celtic stars George McCluskey, John Fallon, Dixie Deans and Charlie Gallagher.
The man who created the statue, Scottish sculptor John McKenna, was also at the ceremony to see his work unveiled.
He studied pictures and film of Jinky before producing the bronze which has Jimmy in characteristic pose – his right arm aloft.
Martin McHugh, the managing director of a Cambuslang engineering company, who knew Jimmy for 40 years, said the statue was a fitting tribute to a football genius.
“Jimmy is certainly the most famous person to come out of Viewpark,” he added.
“He lived there all his life and always stayed loyal to the community.
“Everyone knew him through the good times and bad, and as Bertie said, the statue will be an inspiration.”
Mr McHugh said £7000 from the money left over from the fundraising would go to charities linked to motor neurone disease.
The memorial in Viewpark is the second statue of Jinky to be erected.
In December, 2008, a memorial statue was unveiled at the main entrance to Celtic Park in honour of the man voted the club’s greatest-ever player.