To Lisbon and back on a fiver – Wednesday 24 May, the Scottish five pound note and Our Lady of Fatima

JERRY WOODS has written about his road-trip to Lisbon and back with a group of fellow Celtic supporters from Fife to attend the European Cup Final in Lisbon on 25 May 1967. He was 23 back in 1967 and after all these years he’s put the story down on paper and self published a brilliant little book, titled, To Lisbon and back on a fiver.

Jerry has a very limited number of copies available to readers of The Celtic Star and appropriately enough they cost just a fiver (with a pound going to The Celtic Foundation. Anyone wanting a copy can email and we’ll put you in touch with Jerry to sort.

His To Lisbon and back on a fiver Diary started last Sunday on the site and if you’ve missed the story so far, it’s well worth looking back on our home-page and to enjoy the wonderful story, so vividly told after all these years.

Let’s hand over to Jerry now to tell us how the Bhoys got on on Wednesday 24 May where the day begins in a camp-site at Burgos in the north west of Spain.

Wednesday 24 May – The Scottish Five Pound Note and Our Lady of Fatima

We decided to leave our overnight Burgos campsite just before dawn. The distance from Burgos to Lisbon was 750 km (468 miles old mileage). No washing this day. The last part of the journey, Lisbon, was within touching distance.

For the first and only time, the old warhorse refused to start. It had been very damp during the night and we were at the edge of a very large lake “Vitoria Gaztiez”. Anyway with a good push, she sprung into life (What a machine!)

The distance from Burgos to Valladolid was about 80 miles or about 126 km – a drive of about 2 hours. On arrival at Valladolid the car required fuel (5th tank filling). We noticed a garage that doubled as a Bureau de Change, and the owner or employee was sitting outside next to the gasoline pumps. Before filling up, I decided to try my luck and exchange my Scottish Five Pound Note for pesetas.

While I was considering this option, John and Martin were giving him the Celtic Song and flag display and he joined in the entertainment, because he already knew about the Final in Lisbon.

I presented the owner (?) with my Scottish Five Pound Note and he said “El Scotia” and while I was still in shock, he exchanged my Scottish Five Pound Note for 800 pesetas. I then paid him back about 500 pesetas for a tank of fuel.

Before we departed, we had a short football discussion with the owner (?) about the Celtic game. I shook his hand (gratefully) and waved goodbye. Now it really was “Lisbon or Bust”.

Years later, I found out that Valladolid was the largest Roman Catholic Teaching College in Europe with many Scots students training for the priesthood, and maybe the owner of the garage had exchanged money for Scots in the past?

Valladolid to Lisbon was now 390 miles, 625 km and the driving time was over 8 hours. Our next stop was on the Spanish/Portuguese border via the lovely city of Salamanca. I couple of miles before the border is the 12th century Spanish town called Ciudad Rodrigo in the River Agueda, and this old town is absolutely spectacular.

We arrived at the Spanish border town called Fuentes de Onoro after 11 am and we waited in a small queue, where the flag display was on again and a full Passport check was required. While waiting for clearance, the three younger lads had a kick about with a small ball that they had brought with them, and two of the Spanish Guardia Civil joined in the kick about. There was no problem clearing Spanish border control with the guards shouting Good Luck “Buena Suerte” and Good Trip “Buen Viaje”.

We drove over to Vilar Formoso, the Portuguese Border Control town. In 1967 Portugal was still governed by the dictator Antonio de Olviera Salazar. We had no problem entering Portugal at this border. The guards were very friendly, shouting Good Luck “Boa Sorte.” We replied with cheers and a flag display. The time now changed back to GMT and the distance from Vilar Formoso to Lisbon was just under 230 miles, 400 km, a drive of about 5 hours.

The route in 1967 from here to Lisbon was over the highest mountain range in Portugal (the Sierra da Estrela) via Gaurda to Coimbra. Gaurda is the highest town in Portugal. Thank God, it was daylight, for this part of the journey was very slow and dangerous and the distance from Gaurda to Coimbra was about 80 miles over this mountain range.

Many old women dressed in black (to indicate that they were widows) were selling fruit, vegetables, eggs and unpasteurised goats milk. We stopped and bought goats’ milk, oranges and apples for a few escudos. For reference this route over the mountains was Gaurda, Seia, Manteigas, Goveia, Govilha, Coimbra. There is now a new motorway to Lisbon on the east side of the mountains that is 60 km shorter.

Just after Coimbra, the roads were much better, straighter and flatter. A couple of miles outside Coimbra, we stopped to assist a Celtic fan with a broken down Hillman Imp (a Big End problem). He told us that he had broken down during the night and his three mates had taken separate lifts to Lisbon. They had deserted him with his car with the promise to phone a Recovery Company in the UK to rescue him. Poor bugger, I expect he managed to get home OK, but his car could still be lying there.

On the drive to Lisbon on the A1, we passed the holy religious town called Fatima where the Virgin Mary was supposed to have appeared in a vision to some Portuguese children. I would have loved to have stopped. It was about 18 miles to Fatima, but with Lisbon in sight and with just enough petrol to reach the city, we decided to push on.

About 20 km north of Lisbon we stopped to use the spare gallon of petrol from the jerrycan. Just after this, we joined the newly built Autostrada into Lisbon. We drove into the city with the River Tagus on our left and noticed the spectacular new “25 de Abril” suspension bridge which was opened in August 1966.

This bridge connects Lisbon city to Almada on the other side of the River Tagus. In Almada is the massive “Christ The King” statue (built in May 1959) with small ferries from Lisbon to the statue in Almada. There is now a new 2nd suspension bridge across the Tagus called the “Vasco de Gama”. It was opened in 1995.

We stopped and parked the car in the port area of the city “Porto de Lisboa” in a square called “Praca de Sao Paulo” 15-1200-429. The Praca (square) has an RC Church at one end called “Igreja de Sao Paolo”.

On one side of the square is a tram route and at the corner of the opposite side (where the car was parked) was a building called Pensao Sul Americana (In English this means “guest or boarding house south”). We had arrived here about 4.30 pm GMT and with the car now requiring fuel (just made it!) the square looked a safe place to park the car. With everything looking good, we decided to check out the Pensao Sul Americana for vacancies.

They had rooms to let (we found out why later) and the charge was 10 escudos (2/6p) per room per night. The normal price in 1967 for a 3 or 4 star would have been about £1 5 shillings per night (10 times that price). We checked in at the grubby reception, and had to surrender our Passports (this was Portuguese visitor regulations). Danny and I booked in one room and the other three lads shared another. Our room was on the second floor with a window overlooking a side road leading onto the square.

The room consisted of a blocked up fireplace, one large double bed with a horsehair mattress, manky pillows and bed covers. Underneath the bed, there was a large chipped piss pot, and in the rest of the room there was a small, no-drawer cabinet, a large basin and hand jug for washing but no towels.

The floor was just bare, with uneven floorboards, but the door did have a lock with a very large key. The bed and the bedcovers looked horrible, as if they had never been washed in years. The only air in the room was via the open window (no air conditioning in 1967!) and the heat in the room was unbearable.

I think the toilets were somewhere on the landing, but we never checked them out. When we required a piss, the open window was good. When we returned to the room that night, we slept with our clothes on, but what did we expect for 10 escudos? It was a pension house, doss house or brothel.

That evening, maybe about 7 pm after a rest on the benches in the square, rather than the room, we decided to check out the area around the square. This was the dock area of the city and was used by sailors from ships form many countries all around the world.

Outside our pension house, we met a pimp called Da Silva who said he was Irish. Danny told him that the only Irish in him was when his father from a merchant ship met his mother in a brothel. We told Da Silva get lost. He more than likely had more money that we did. We ended up in a small pub café called the “Bar Arizona”. It was a great Portuguese name to go with the Pensao Sul Americana with its pimps, pubs, beds and prostitutes. It was a great area to stop!

At the Bar Arizona we bought some food and drink, and stayed there for a couple of hours. By this time the square was getting really busy with locals, Celtic fans and sailors. They must have heard about the Bar Arizona and the Pensao Sul Americana! John, Martin and Brian decided to move on with their flags and songs, and to join the other fans for the night’s entertainment.

Danny and I sat in the square to enjoy the Celtic show and we discussed what to do about the shortage of money. Danny mentioned a story he had read in The Sunday Post regarding a local Church of Scotland minister called the Reverend Kenneth Tyson who had offered to help any Celtic fans in need. I retrieved the newspaper from the car and after reading the story in full, we decided we would visit the Reverend Kenneth Tyson at the St Andrews Church of Scotland, Lisbon.

We retired to our five star accommodation for the night. The time was about midnight. It was very hard to get to sleep due to the noise in the square and the heat in the room. For entertainment we decided to find out how far we could pee out the window, and maybe shower some drunks! Anyway, sleep did get the better of us and we forgot about the state of the bed. Big day tomorrow, and the purpose of our visit!

Jerry Woods

About Author

The Celtic Star founder by and is editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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