ON OAKBANK Street in Maryhill in 1945, a group of local lads playing football on a home-made ‘pitch’ were astonished to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

“The street ran up to the gates of a disused iron quarry, and we schoolboys had cleared away sufficient debris to make our private pitch,” recalls Times Past reader and regular contributor Dan Harris.

“One Sunday, three plain-clothed police officers climbed over the high boundary wall and arrested every player – except me.

“The offence was playing football on a Sunday. The reason I wasn’t arrested was because of my accent. I’d been evacuated to Canada during the war, so I didn’t speak Glesga, and had been in goal wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey top.”

Oakbank Thistle in 1951.

Oakbank Thistle in 1951.

Dan laughs: “The officers thought I was a Canadian boy who didn’t know the law. One of the officers whispered in my ear: ‘Pick up your jacket and beat it…’”

In fact, Dan was Glasgow born and bred, growing up in nearby Garscube Road.

Fortunately for the young ‘criminals’ a GP working in Oakbank Hospital, which overlooked the quarry and its unofficial football pitch, contacted the police and told them watching the boys play football was therapeutic for some of the Servicemen being treated on the wards.

“These wounded men sat on the hospital balconies watching us play football and a few of them were Canadian,” says Dan. “I was the only player they understood.”

Dan Harris

Dan Harris

A nice footnote to this story, says Dan, is that the doctor who called the police was Adam Little, who played for Rangers.

Little’s footballing career began in the Rutherglen Academy team and he also played for Lanarkshire Schools, and was honoured with a Scotland Schoolboy International cap.

He was 17 when he signed for Rangers, under manager Bill Struth, and he went on to pick up 17 winner’s medals. He played in the New Year’s Day game of 1943, when Rangers overwhelmed their great rivals Celtic 8-1.

He joined the Royal Medical Corps during the war and while serving, he played football for the British Army and Arsenal.

The experience on Oakbank Street inspired Dan and his friends to form their own street team, Oakbank Thistle.

He explains: “Clothes were still rationed, so family and neighbours ‘pitched in’ and donated coupons to enable us to buy the football strips from Lumley’s in Sauchiehall Street.

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“I am on the far right of the back row, in the photo. The wee man next to me is our manager, Willie Campbell. He had been recently released from a Prisoner of War camp in Europe. He also found his involvement with us to be very therapeutic.

“A few of us in this photo went on to win the Glasgow Northwest Secondary Juvenile League in 1952, with Kilmun Thistle. Kilmun Street, which the team was named after, was bombed during World War 2.

“The Germans’ objective was to bomb the locks of the Firth and Forth Canal just yards from Kilmun Street, on March 14, 1941. They missed the canal but, sadly, 83 people were killed, 180 injured, and more than 100 homes completely destroyed.”

Tell us about your street football teams - where did you play? Any famous players get their ‘big break’ in your squad? Get in touch with Times Past to share your stories.