Robert "Bobby" Ancell

Robert "Bobby" Ancell was a man of great sporting talent and also one who seemed to remain in complete control of his foot-balling career at top-flight both as a player for two decades, a full-back, and a manager for almost two more. He began the former at St. Mirren for six seasons and two Scotland caps, curtailed by injury, and finished it with one year at Dundee. He began the latter with two campaigns at Berwick Rangers and ended it with three at Dundee once more. And in between he had played in England and spent a decade at the off-field helm at Motherwell, creating the Ancell Babes.

However, it all began in Dumfries, where he had been born in 1911, the son of an English-born father, an Attendance officer for the Local Education Authority, and a local mother, then on-the-field at Lockerbie's Mid-Annandale, which had, although non-League, a Scottish Cup run in 1930 that brought him to the attention of St. Mirren. Once signed at nineteen he was soon in the team, whilst still living at home and continuing the day-job as a printer. He was there in 1934 when The Buddies, then in the Second Division but promoted, were heavily defeated by Rangers in the Cup Final 5-0, there again the following year when they were relegated and again the year after that when re-promoted. And it was at that point that Newcastle came in for him. He was then twenty-five.

Bobby Ancell would spend eight years at The Toon, although four were War years, when he served in the RAF. He would also on Tyneside very shortly after arrival in 1936 marry Margaret Murray. She was Glasgow-born, so they presumably had met in Scotland, and they were to have one son. But, released by Newcastle in 1944 at the age of thirty-three he returned north and joined Dundee, played for the club once he was demobbed and football had restarted in 1946 and remained with it effectively until 1950 at which point, by then almost forty, he took the first steps in management.

Now with him and family based in Edinburgh he spent two years as player-manager with Berwick Rangers, taking them into the Scottish League. Then he had three seasons at at the managerial-only helm Dunfermline with promotion in 1955 to the First Division. But he did not stay, choosing instead in the summer to go to an almost-relegated Motherwell. In 1955-56 Dunfermline finished third from bottom, Motherwell mid-table. In 1956-57 Dunfermline was relegated. Motherwell was 7th and Ancell would construct the "Babes" team that would by the end of the decade have finished third.  

In 1965 Motherwell had ended the season fourteenth when Ancell was tempted back to his old club, Dundee, in sixth. He would take them to the final of the League Cup and into Europe but step back in 1968, now at almost sixty years of age. Instead he devoted himself to golf, playing off scratch and was living in Monifieth until his death in 1987 at the age of seventy-six to be cremated in Dundee with Margaret's passing in that same city in 1999, aged eighty-five.

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