SALTCOATS is home to a Lisbon Lion legend in Bobby Lennox – but there is another pivotal figure living in the Three Towns who literally paved the way for the famous side of 1967 to lift the European Cup.

Donnie McMillan, now aged 80, is a former boxer, a Scottish champion who used to train by running up and down the stairs at Celtic Park.

His grandson Dean has spent years researching his papa’s life.

Donnie was one of seven brothers from Glasgow who were all boxers and all Celtic fans. He was once dubbed ‘The Fighting Celt’ by a newspaper.

And 53 years ago this week, on May, 25 1967, after Celtic had just beaten Inter Milan 2-1 to become European Champions, the stocky boxer made his way through the crowd of Hoops fans, who had invaded the pitch at the Estadio Nacional, to help captain Billy McNeill and his legendary team mates reach the cup.

Evening Times reporter John Quinn, who knew Donnie from covering boxing, recalled the night and said: “He acted as a one-man minder until he got through the crowd.”

Dean, who was instrumental in the campaign to have a statue of Bobby Lennox erected in Saltcoats, told the Herald: “My dad had always told me about my papa, but I wanted to look into myself. He used to train at Celtic Park. He would make fur coats and he sold them to players and security guards who would let him train there.

“I wanted to tell the story of what happened, it’s incredible. I even found some photos of him helping the team get through the crowd, you can see him moving towards Billy McNeil. There’s another one of him where he’s fallen asleep at a bus stop in Lisbon.”

Donnie was was the Scottish Middleweight Champion, and went on to be the number one contender for the British Middleweight title in 1973 at the age of 33.

He moved to Saltcoats in the 70s and was a regular in Bobby’s Bar. He held a season ticket at Celtic Park, but had to stop going due to dementia.

The previously untold story of Donnie’s pivotal push to help the Lisbon Lions after they had just made history on the park was published on Celtic blog, CelticNewsNow.

Celtic blogger and author Scott Alcroft told the Herald: “Being a Celtic fan and from the Three Towns myself, I thought, ‘How many people actually know this story about Donnie McMillan?’

“People deserve to know about how he was so pivotal in getting Billy McNeill through the crowd to pick up the European Cup on that famous night in Lisbon.”


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