Former Dons defender Jim Kirkland today revealed how he saved Pittodrie from burning down – only to be told off for being out too late.
Pittodrie’s main stand was ravaged by fire in February 1971 to such an extent players were forced to change at Linksfield for the rest of the season.
However, just six years earlier, Kirkland stopped a similar disaster when he spotted flames inside the stadium’s boardroom in the early hours.
His quick response ensured the damage was not as severe as 1971, although there was little thanks from one Dons board member.
Now 73 and based near Glasgow, Kirkland said: “I was coming home late one Saturday night with my girlfriend after we had been at a dance.
“We were walking past the golf clubs on Golf Road at around 3.45am when I noticed a light in the Main Stand.
“At first I thought it was light from a lamppost, but when I got closer it was moving around.
“When I walked up to the stand I saw it was a fire inside the boardroom, so I ran to the bottom of the street where there was a phone box and called the fire brigade.
“If I hadn’t been there I don’t know what would have happened because all the stands were wooden at that time.
“When you look back to the fire at Bradford, it could maybe have turned out something like that due to all the wood.
“Thankfully there wasn’t that much damage and it was all confined to the boardroom.
“One of the directors talked to the press and thanked me, but after that took me aside privately and told me off for being out late at night. I was 19 years old.”
The damage caused by the 1971 fire was more severe:
The fire just six years later was far more damaging with 35 firemen in breathing apparatus battling to keep it under control.
Amid the chaos, firemen rescued the Scottish Cup which the Dons had won the previous season after a 3-1 defeat of Celtic.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in the blaze, although the dressing rooms, offices, team kits and club records and memorabilia dating back to 1903 were destroyed.
Kirkland played in the first two games of that Scottish Cup-winning run, against Clyde (4-0 win) and Clydebank (2-1 win).
At the end of that 1970 season, where he had an extended run in the first team, he moved to Grimsby Town.
He said: “I loved my time at Aberdeen.
“Despite playing in the first two rounds of the cup, I was left out for the quarter-final.
“That was hard to take at the time, especially when they went on to win the trophy.
“However, by then I had more or less accepted I would be moving on at the end of that season.
“Ally Shewan was in ahead of me and went on to make more than 300 consecutive appearances.
“Ally was a fantastic trainer and always leading from the front.
“When Ally left Aberdeen I thought I would get a chance at the beginning of the 1969-70 season.
“Manager Eddie Turnbull was a fantastic coach, but around that time he and I didn’t really see eye to eye.
“He played other people and changed the team about and I didn’t get a game in the ’69-70 season until September.
“That came against Celtic and they beat us 3-2 in what was a very close game against many of the players from the Lisbon Lions. I kept my place for a few months after that.”
Kirkland started in Aberdeen’s very first away game in Europe – a 4-1 defeat of KR Reykjavik in 1967. The Dons had won the first leg 10-0 at Pittodrie.
They would exit the Cup Winners’ Cup 3-2 on aggregate to Standard Liege in the next round.
He said: “That was a great experience as I was only 20 and it was my first-team debut.
“I had been playing well in the reserves for a good few seasons.
“Winning the first game 10-0 probably helped as well.”
Kirkland still keeps close tabs on his former club and remains in contact with Shewan.
He said: “I have been to a few games at Pittodrie every season in the last few years.”