Shankly's village is brought back to life.
THE tiny abandoned Scottish village which gave birth to Bill Shankly has been given new life with the opening of a new heritage attraction and a restored memorial to the legendary former Liverpool manager.
Members of the Shankly family attended the unveiling of the Glenbuck Heritage Village, which is now open to the public, along with a delegation from Liverpool supporters union, Spirit of Shankly, and invited guests from the local community and the various bodies involved in the restoration.
The mining community of Glenbuck is regarded as one of the most prolific breeding grounds of footballers in the world with over 50 professional players emerging around the turn of the 20th century, despite it only ever housing at most around 1,700 people, the East Ayrshire region also being responsible for the iconic managerial triumvirate of Shankly, Matt Busby and Jock Stein.
The decline of opencast mining in the area led to the demise and demolition of much of the village, but, after years of lobbying from native campaigners, a joint initiative from the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust and East Ayrshire Council has seen the site of the village redeveloped.
The memorial to Bill Shankly, initiated and funded by Liverpool supporters in 1997, has been relocated to the spot where the Shankly family home once stood, with a number of further memorials moved from the nearby village of Muirkirk, along with a new memorial to the community's football team - the Glenbuck Cherrypickers - and the installation of a number of information boards to give visitors an insight into the history and cultural significance of the place.
Bill Shankly's niece, Barbara Alexander, was born in Glenbuck and has been involved in the campaign to revitalise the village since it began nearly two decades ago.
She formally opened the site along with fellow family members Cheryl Hynd and Fergus Ewing, MSP, and said it was a dream come true to see the rejuvenation of Glenbuck. She said: "This has been a day I have dreamt of for many many years and it has been wonderful.
"I didn't want Glenbuck to be a forgotten village, as there are so many of them in Ayrshire at the present time, so this is a dream come true.
"I always hoped there would be houses built in Glenbuck again and, while we're not there yet, the heritage village is the first phase and it's wonderful to see.
"My uncle Willie would have been so proud to see so many people here today to remember him, especially on his birthday."
Cheryl Hynd, Bill Shankly's greatniece, was the final resident to leave Glenbuck village in 1993.
She said: "I was brought up in Glenbuck and left when I was 15 years old. I have so many fond memories of my childhood here and to have something tangible like this that reminds me of that time is amazing.
"I never thought I'd see anything on this scale - the home I lived in, the houses I visited and the vast playground of history is on display for the world to appreciate. I'm so thankful to everyone who has worked to help keep this heritage alive."
Among those who travelled up from Merseyside was one of Bill Shankly's granddaughters, Emma Parry, who has been guest relations manager at the Shankly Hotel, in Liverpool, since it opened in 2015.
"It has been an amazing experience to travel up to Glenbuck with people that absolutely idolise him, the Spirit of Shankly union which is so dear to my heart, to see this new memorial unveiled in a place which is like hallowed ground.
"To see the impact my grandad's memory still has on people is quite profound really.
"It's people who have been raised with beliefs to strive for what you believe in, that ethos to work together as a team to be the best, that sense of loyalty and community which was such a big part of who he was as a man and a football manager, and these were things he learned in Glenbuck but are also the characteristics of Liverpool people.
"It was quite poignant to hear how there were more than 50 top-level footballers who emerged from the village, which was a community of only around 1,700 people, and they still had that kinship, it's all about family and looking after each other."
Spirit of Shankly committee member Stephen Monaghan said: "We are delighted and privileged to be here. Bill Shankly built and made our club what it is today.
"His spirit runs through it, and when we formed the union we knew immediately we had to take his name. And, of course, Glenbuck holds a special place in our hearts.
"One Liverpool fan, Jimmy Flowers, who unfortunately couldn't make it, organised the original memorial and a trip here back in 1997 and it's brilliant to be back now and see what has been done.
"SOS are both humbled and proud to be part of these celebrations."
Fellow SOS member Peter Hooton added: "To come and see the spiritual home where Bill Shankly came from, his humble background, a mining village where nothing has existed for years, but which has now been restored into a heritage centre. is absolutely fantastic. especially for the great man's legacy.
"I still think he's relevant today in 2019, his attitude, his principles, his belief in the values of hard work and that is being carried on today with Klopp's philosophy".
The restored memorial to Bill Shankly, also inset, below, is unveiled in the partially-restored East Ayrshire mining village of Glenbuck, with members of Liverpool supporters union, Spirit of Shankly, in attendance Pictures: CHRIS OWEN