It is with great sadness that we have to advise the death of a former Heart of Midlothian stalwart, “Davie” Laing, at the venerable age of 92. In a maroon shirt, he was a powerhouse half-back whose robust tackling and shrewd distribution skills earned three Scottish League International caps and took him onto the fringe of the national team.
Davie was born on 20 February 1925 at Gateside, in the north of Fife, where his father worked on the railway. He was always a potential footballer and played for the Area School team when he was only thirteen years of age, and then the Bayview Youth Club side that won the Scottish Secondary Juvenile Cup in 1942, beating Petershill Juveniles by 3-0 at Easter Road.
At the age of 16, the powerful half-back played on trial for East Fife, but no deal was concluded and, on 2 September 1942, Hearts stepped in to secure Davie’s services from Bayview Youth Club. His debut would take some time, because the Second World War was at a critical period and Davie served in the Royal Navy for three years, being a wireless operator in Somerset. In the short-term, he was able to play football as a guest for East Fife and Bath City, but that ended when Davie was posted overseas to Canada and the United States.
Davie came back to his home at Thornton after the conflict had ended and he made his long-awaited debut for Hearts first team on 16 November 1946 at Cappielow Park, Greenock. He was left-half in an excellent 1-0 League victory over Morton and the muscular 5’9” midfielder went on to make 311 appearances for Hearts, 259 (with 17 goals) in the national competitions.
He was a never-say-die player, but success at club level with Hearts eluded Davie Laing. Nevertheless, the Fifer did help the club reach two Scottish FA Cup Semi-Finals (1951-52 and 1952-53) and to claim runners-up position in the Scottish League in 1953-54. At that time, he earned a place in the Scottish League team and played three times: in a 2-0 win over the League of Ireland in March 1952; in a 0-3 defeat against the Welsh League in September 1952; and in a 5-1 win over the League of Ireland in October 1952.
Away from the game, Davie was developing a fine reputation as a sports journalist.
The sturdy half-back represented the club with distinction on tours of Germany, Sweden and South Africa. However, on return from South Africa in 1954, Davie lost his place in the half-back line to Davie Mackay and John Cumming. As a result, he moved to Clyde in September 1954 for a fee of £3,000. He repaid that with interest, playing a major part in Clyde’s Scottish Cup Final Replay victory over Celtic on 27 April 1955.
Due to injury, Clyde was denied his energy for much of the following season and the Glasgow club was relegated from the First Division. This led to Davie signing for Hibernian in July 1956, but he played only six Scottish League games before moving to the English Division Three (South) club, Gillingham, in August 1957.
Davie played almost 100 games for Gillingham over two seasons and at the same time he undertook the Football Association coaching course, becoming a coach to Kent Educational Authority. In the summer of 1959, the Fifer moved to the Southern League club, Margate, where as captain, he was much admired for his hard-tackling, distribution and leadership skills. Davie subsequently played for Ramsgate Athletic and Canterbury City, before heading back to Margate where he was a reserve player and coach until the summer of 1965.
He was by now an accomplished journalist with Kent-based newspapers and Davie eventually returned to Scotland in 1965 with The Scottish Daily Mail. He was also a sports writer with the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch and when the Daily Mail closed, Davie went to work with an East Lothian newspaper. In 1969, he became Hearts Public Relations Officer and programme editor, and Davie subsequently returned to Kent where he worked sixteen years for the Dover Express until retiring to Kirkcaldy in 1990.
Davie Laing was known as a strong and forceful player who also impressed the crowd with his intelligent ability to build up the attack. It says much about the man that despite his reputation as a tough tackler, he played for 21 years without being booked or sent-off. The Heart of Midlothian Football Club extends its sincere condolences to his family.