JERRY WOODS continues his Diary of his road-trip to Lisbon in May 1967 to see Celtic play in the European Cup Final. Jerry emailed me this morning with his thoughts on Celtic latest match in European competition, against the Romanian Champions Cluj last night, and he was not happy, just like you and me I suppose.
Anyway back to Jerry’s tale which he’s put into his own self-published book, To Lisbon and back on a fiver. It’s now Sunday 28 May and the five Bhoys are on the home run. If you haven’t been reading the Diary you can find all the instalments on our homepage going back to a week last Sunday…
Sunday 28 May – Home, James and don’t spare the horses!
This was the last full day of driving required to reach home (thank God). It was now 60 miles to Calais and 520 from Dover to Methil.
The two day drive from Lisbon was so energy sapping that my mind was numb and my body was in meltdown due to lack of sleep and food to maintain my stamina. I was totally exhausted. My arms were almost hanging off due to my car not having power steering, but with the thought of one more day’s drive to reach home, the adrenaline kicked in (No Red Bull).
Because of the previous night’s storm I decided to wait until it was fully daylight before attempting the 60 mile journey from Abbeyville onto Calais to catch the 12.00 noon Townsend ferry. The roads in Abbeyville were littered with storm debris. Some trees had been blown down, and although the roads were not blocked, we had to drive slowly to avoid the debris, and the large amount of water from the overnight rain.
Since leaving Lisbon on the Friday morning, no Celtic fans had passed us in either cars or buses. Then a couple of miles south of Boulogne, we stopped to help a group of four Celtic fans in a new yellow Ford Anglia who required assistance. The car had broken down during the previous night’s storm and we were the first from the UK to pass them. We decided to help them as it was now only 22km to the ferry at Calais. The owner of the Anglia had a tow rope and I towed him and his three passengers to Calais.
The Morris Oxford was a great car and with the help of the Spanish monk’s blessing, I towed the five adults in the Oxford and the four in the Anglia to the Calais ferry. We arrived at Calais about 9.30 am for the noon ferry to Dover with much shouting and flag waving by everyone.
In the Ferry queue, there were some other cars in front of us, but no Celtic supporters. We were the first. We were the last going out, and the first to return!
During our wait in the queue, Martin, John and Brian went onto the beach at Calais for a game of football. Others in the queue decided to join them and they used the tricolour flags as goalposts. After our three returned to the car, it was discussed as a group that to complete our journey home, we still required one more tank of fuel (the 10th) at a cost of £3 plus. Nobody voiced any objections.
After clearing French customs and ticket booths, the ferry started loading about 11.15 am. Prior to boarding, it was agreed by everyone in the queue to allow the Ford Anglia to be hand pushed onto the ferry first. This was successful, to loud cheers from everyone. It was now our turn to board and it was such a joy and relief to be on board the ship!
John and Brian buggered off with their flags to bars to join in the celebrations with the other Celtic fans. On the ferry, I washed, shaved and changed into a shirt and tie, and exchanged the 90 pesetas I had left for 10 shillings sterling.
In the ship’s café, I devoured soup, pie, chips and milk, and from the Duty Free shop I bought a bendy toy for Pauline which cost about 4 shillings. Danny bought a Titi-Gogo toy for his niece.
The noise and singing from the ferry bars was horrendous, and any neutral would have steered well clear of the on board bars. During a visit to the toilet, I met Brian who informed me that John and he had met up with the guy from Kilmarnock whom they had met in the bars in Lisbon.
We arrived in Dover at 12.30 GMT and joined the queue for Arrival and Customs Clearance with John and Brian lying p*ssed in the rear of the car. We cleared Customs OK. The time was about 1.15 pm and we were soon on the A20 (via Dartford tunnel, 2/6d toll required) to London.
On A1 North of London, it was discovered that the other four between them did not have enough money for the final tank of petrol. All that was required to return home safely was £3 for 12 gallons of fuel, yet the other four guys could not deliver.
The main two culprits John and Brian knew the money situation at Calais, yet they were prepared to spend all their money in the bars on board the ship, and now they were lying drunk in the rear of the car without a care in the world!
Between the five of us, we had 10 shillings 9 pence left and I decided to stop at the next garage on the A1 for 2 gallons of petrol. With these two gallons, we now had enough fuel to reach the garage in Doncaster where he had filled up on the way down.
On arrival at the Doncaster garage, Danny and I asked to speak to the owner who recognised us from our previous visit due to the flag display the previous Sunday. We introduced ourselves to the garage owner and explained the situation regarding shortage of money.
As a security deposit for 12 gallons of petrol, we offered him my wedding ring and Timex watch, and Danny gave him his watch and surrendered his passport (I don’t remember or care if the other three offered anything).
Danny also promised the owner that on arrival home he would send him a five pound postal order to cover the postage for the return of our property and a bit extra for his troubles. The garage owner accepted, took our security items, Danny’s passport, address, names and car registration. (The monk’s blessing was still working!)
With regards to the items left at the garage, Danny, true to his word, posted his Five Pound Postal Order and received the return of all out belongings about ten days later. Danny returned my wedding ring and my watch to my parents in Methil.
My wedding ring was the only thing of value and was purchased in Dublin in 1964 by Helen my wife. Although this all happened over 50 years ago, it still annoys me. My wedding ring! My car!
We were on our way again with enough petrol to get home. The distance between Doncaster and Methil was about 300 miles. We left the A1 at Darlington and took the A68 via Northumberland to Carter Bar and Musselburgh.
During this part of the journey on the A68 north of Tow Law and near the England/Scotland border at Carter Bar, we hit a very large fog bank that stayed with us until we reached Musselburgh. The time was 11pm and the distance from Carter Bar to Musselburgh was about 60 miles.
The journey was worse that the Pyrenees, speed was reduced to 30 mph, and it would take over 2 hours because of the fog and the hills on this part of the A68 to reach Musselburgh. The yellow headlights did not help. Even though I was knackered, I just wanted home so no matter how slow, I just kept driving.
On arrival in Musselburgh, Martin Sullivan told me that during this part of the 2 hour journey, he had kept his hand on the handbrake in case I fell asleep.
On route from Musselburgh to the Forth Bridge, we realised that we required 2/6 pence for the Forth Road Bridge tolls and we had only 9 pence left. We arrived at the Forth Bridge at about 2.00 am. We stopped at the Toll Booth and explained our predicament to the attendant about money and that we only had enough fuel to reach Methil, so we could not go via the Kincardine Bridge.
He made a phone call, gave us the thumbs up and opened the barrier to allow us to cross the Bridge free of charge to great cheers and many handshakes. Rasputin the monk’s blessing had worked again!
Although nearly home, I was on the point of exhaustion. First stop Buckhaven about 3.00 am, dropped off John and Brian, next stop Methil for Danny and Martin and then I drove home to Glenrothes. The time was now about 3.45 am. I set the alarm for 9.00 am because I still had to pick up Helen and Pauline from Tullibody later that same day.
Any time I met Aggie (Danny and Martin’s mother) in the future, she would always thank me for taking her two sons to Lisbon and bringing them back home safely. Danny, Martin, John and Brian might tell their friends they “were there”. But they were only there because of me, my car, my resolve, my determination and the 3,600 miles I drove. Yes, I “was there”!
I never met Brian White again. I met up with John Allan in February 2018 after a newspaper advert to find him and I have kept in touch since. Danny and Martin Sullivan I met occasionally until their early deaths as young men.
More from Jerry’s Diary from To Lisbon and back on a fiver tomorrow only on The Celtic Star.