They lie silent. Their voices are stilled, their lives cruelly cut short. But they are not forgotten.

In a cemetery in Glenmavis, Lanarkshire, a gravestone stands proudly on a cold but bright winter’s morning. A plaque beams with the face of an obviously handsome and apparently cheerful 16-year-old.

It is the resting place of Alexander Orr, a dedicated supporter of Rangers and one of the 66 victims of the Ibrox disaster 50 years ago today. Alexander was also a son, a brother and a mate. He is remembered by his sister, Cathy Flanagan, as a lad full of good-natured mischief who was ‘never down in the dumps’.

The resting place of Alexander Orr, who died aged just 16 in the Ibrox Disaster of January 1971

The resting place of Alexander Orr, who died aged just 16 in the Ibrox Disaster of January 1971

The resting place of Alexander Orr, who died aged just 16 in the Ibrox Disaster of January 1971

An ambulance is seen helping with bodies that had been crushed in the tragedy at Ibrox

An ambulance is seen helping with bodies that had been crushed in the tragedy at Ibrox

An ambulance is seen helping with bodies that had been crushed in the tragedy at Ibrox

In a cemetery in Muiravonside, Falkirk, a bench gleams as the sun sets on a dreich Sunday. A glance at the inscription shows it commemorates Margaret Ferguson whose life also ended on a stairway at Ibrox. She was the only woman who died in the disaster. She was 18. She, too, is lovingly recalled by her sister, Mary Gibb.

‘Colin Stein was her favourite player. She loved him,’ says Mrs Gibb of her sister’s affection for the Rangers centre-forward. ‘A relative of ours was a taxi driver and he knew where Colin lived. Margaret coaxed him to take her to his house. She had bought a teddy bear as Colin’s wife was expecting a child. It’s said that she gave him the bear and asked him to score a goal in the Old Firm match on the Saturday. But who knows?’

Days later Stein did score a late equaliser in the match. ‘Apparently she had left before that, though,’ says Mrs Gibb. Margaret died shortly afterwards in the crush on stairway 13.

The resting places of Margaret and Alexander whisper of the lasting pain inflicted on survivors by tragedy. They also speak powerfully, though, of remembrance.

Bystanders line the road in Markinch for the burial of three local boys who died in the disaster

Bystanders line the road in Markinch for the burial of three local boys who died in the disaster

Bystanders line the road in Markinch for the burial of three local boys who died in the disaster

They are not forgotten. ‘We have been busy this year,’ says Iain McColl at the grave of Alexander. ‘We have put up plaques, restored gravestones or renovated benches on 22 sites this year.’

McColl, who was six at the time of the tragedy, has a family link to that day of enduring horror. His father was there but returned home safely after spending the afternoon in the main stand, safely away from the terracing packed with Rangers fans where the deaths occurred.

The legacy of the catastrophe was that his mother always told the young McColl that he was to sit in the stand on his regular visits to Ibrox. With the careless abandon of youth, he assured her of his compliance before heading to the covered terracing. ‘That feeling of concern never left her,’ he says.

The enormity of what happened half a century ago, however, has also remained with him, growing in resonance over the years. McColl, one of the forces behind the Founders Trail, which organises bus tours commemorating the club’s history, is now involved in renovating headstones, refurbishing resting places or installing plaques in crematoriums, all to pay respect to the victims of the disaster.

The collapsed railings of stairway 13, where the crush occurred after Rangers scored late on

The collapsed railings of stairway 13, where the crush occurred after Rangers scored late on

The collapsed railings of stairway 13, where the crush occurred after Rangers scored late on

The names of the 66 fans who died in the stairway crush 50 years ago are on a wall at Ibrox

The names of the 66 fans who died in the stairway crush 50 years ago are on a wall at Ibrox

The names of the 66 fans who died in the stairway crush 50 years ago are on a wall at Ibrox

His fascination with Rangers history began as a boy when questions about the founders were not answered satisfactorily. His research began. It led to the formation of the Founders Trail in 2009. This venture has now taken more than 11,000 fans on a bus tour of the club’s formative moments.

It has embraced another cause. ‘There is a great sense of fulfilment,’ he says of the restoration of resting places. 

Keen to emphasise that he is merely part of a wider effort, he adds: ‘The driving force is helping the families and letting them know that this generation of Rangers supporters hasn’t forgotten their sons and daughters, their fathers. They are remembered.

‘The younger generation has stepped forward. There is an overwhelming sense from the support that this is the right thing to do. The feedback is that these victims were fellow supporters, just like ourselves.’

Iain McColl, one of the forces behind the Founders Trail, maintains the graves of the victims

Iain McColl, one of the forces behind the Founders Trail, maintains the graves of the victims

Iain McColl, one of the forces behind the Founders Trail, maintains the graves of the victims

He knows he has brought the founders back into the collective consciousness of the fans. The families of the victims of the Ibrox disaster are now helped in a tangible manner, with work on headstones or the installation of plaques.

‘We haven’t brought them back to life but we have shown they are still in the hearts and minds of supporters,’ he adds. He knows of the heartbreaking tales. The young fan who sneaked out the window to attend the game after being told he could not go. He never returned. The five boys from Markinch, Fife, who went to a match and never returned. The father who lost two sons and died in the July. ‘He never recovered,’ says McColl. ‘How can you?’

His words remain unanswered in the wind in Glenmavis.

There was a frantic question that was asked with desperate urgency on the evening of January 2, 1971. It was posed in towns and villages, in homes, in bars, in clubs.

‘I remember someone shouting to me when I was outside my house: “Is your Margaret home yet?”. I didn’t know why they would ask that but I soon found out,’ says Mrs Gibb. A frantic, traumatic night ensued. Her sister, a fervent Rangers fan, had gone to the match.

‘The bus came home and Margaret was not on it,’ she says with chilling simplicity of the arrival the supporters’ coach in Maddiston, near Falkirk. Mrs Gibb and her father searched for information, hunted for the whereabouts of her sister, who, at just 18, was the youngest of 11 children.

Emergency service personnel and volunteers help lay the injured and dead on the Ibrox turf

Emergency service personnel and volunteers help lay the injured and dead on the Ibrox turf

Emergency service personnel and volunteers help lay the injured and dead on the Ibrox turf

‘We were told that only one woman had died and she was much older than Margaret, 35 to 40 years of age,’ says Mrs Gibb. ‘We had to wait until the Sunday to find out that was wrong. That was when we knew, the day after. The waiting was horrendous. Once you know, there is no hope. But the waiting was awful, though I somehow knew it was Margaret.’

The pain is palpable 50 years on. ‘I have never celebrated New Year,’ she says. ‘But we commemorate Margaret every year. We play music and we talk about her with family and friends. My parents never recovered. They both died five years after they lost Margaret.’

Cathy Flanagan, the only sister of Alexander Orr, tells a similar story. ‘My uncle phoned the house about 5pm to ask if Alex was home yet,’ she says of the scene at the family home in Airdrie on an evening that was to be shrouded in dread. 

‘My dad said it was a bit early for that and what was the problem. My uncle said there had been a disaster. We didn’t know what it was or how serious it was.’

The steps after the Ibrox Disaster of 1971 which killed 66; today marks the 50th anniversary

The steps after the Ibrox Disaster of 1971 which killed 66; today marks the 50th anniversary

The steps after the Ibrox Disaster of 1971 which killed 66; today marks the 50th anniversary

Alexander travelled with the Greengairs supporters’ bus but was not on it when it returned from the game. ‘We didn’t have a car and my uncle drove us into Glasgow,’ says Mrs Flanagan, who accompanied her dad on his search for his son.

‘We went to Ibrox, we went to hospitals. We were stopping people on the road that were the same build as Alex. We had this idea that he may be confused by what had happened and was just wandering about.’

The trail led to a mortuary. ‘My dad went in to identify what we were told was the body of a young lad. My dad just told me: “Just you stay here”. So I sat outside the room. When he came back, I knew. My dad had turned grey-headed.’

She adds: ‘When we went home my mum knew straight away. She could just tell when we walked in the door.’

The effect of the tragedy never left her parents and remains with Mrs Flanagan to this day. She says: ‘We never celebrated New Year after that. My mum and dad were never the same. He wouldn’t even watch the football and if he saw something in the paper about the disaster — or even years later about Hillsborough or whatever — he would tear it out before my mum could read it.’

Mrs Flanagan named her only son Thomas Orr Flanagan. She has both memories and a tangible legacy from her brother.

Mourners attend a funeral service following the tragic events at Ibrox Stadium back in 1971

Mourners attend a funeral service following the tragic events at Ibrox Stadium back in 1971

Mourners attend a funeral service following the tragic events at Ibrox Stadium back in 1971

‘I still have his Rangers books and loads of other stuff. There is a tea towel with the words of Follow Follow on it. He was a boy who was full of fun, a handsome lad. He loved going to the games on the supporters’ bus. It would come from Greengairs and pick him up in Airdrie.’

The supporters’ club erected a plaque on Alex’s grave. The headstone was refurbished this summer with the aid of the Founders Trail.

‘The writing on it was becoming a bit faded and we were going to do something about it when Iain McColl phoned and said the supporters had raised money for this sort of thing and they would be honoured to do it. It looks beautiful,’ says Mrs Flanagan.

In a far corner of that cemetery in Glenmavis, McColl looks at the headstone and emphasises the principle and purpose of the supporters’ endeavours.

‘The appeal is open for families to approach us if they need help in this way,’ he says. ‘It is all about putting your arm around these people who have lost loved ones. It’s saying: “We can help”. It’s a great feeling knowing that the support has helped — not me, the support.’

A memorial will be held on Saturday prior to Rangers welcoming rivals Celtic to Ibrox

A memorial will be held on Saturday prior to Rangers welcoming rivals Celtic to Ibrox

A memorial will be held on Saturday prior to Rangers welcoming rivals Celtic to Ibrox

The New Year has already witnessed a dual pilgrimage for Mrs Flanagan. She puts a wreath at the grave of her beloved brother and lays one too at the memorial at Ibrox.

‘It’s difficult to believe it’s 50 years ago,’ she says of that night when she was just 18 and her brother did not come home. ‘The pain never goes away.’

She has one last remembrance. ‘He used to shove me away from the mirror when I was doing my make-up. He was always playful, saying: “Make way for the handsome guy”. He was full of life you know. He lived for Rangers.’

He lives on for her and for the support of the club he loved. Margaret Ferguson. Alexander Orr. Two of the unforgotten.

This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You May Also Like

Airbnb will PERMANENTLY ban renters who hold parties at its properties across the US

Airbnb said on Tuesday it will its ban on parties in homes…

Ghislaine Maxwell Complains of Being Put on ‘Suicide Watch’ Ahead of Sentencing – Crime Online

Convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell was put on suicide watch Friday ahead…

Does Bernie Ecclestone Wear A Wig? F1 Team Owner Unique Hairstyle And Rumors

Let’s find out “Does Bernie Ecclestone Wear A Wig?” Questions about Bernie…