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Tributes paid to former Ross County player and Inverness councillor


By Alasdair Fraser

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Former railwayman, councillor, union rep and Ross County footballer Stewart 'Poker' MacLennan was also a keen angler.
Former railwayman, councillor, union rep and Ross County footballer Stewart 'Poker' MacLennan was also a keen angler.

A much-loved former Highland League footballer who made a lasting impact in local civic and sporting life will be laid to rest tomorrow.

Stewart MacLennan, known affectionately as “Poker” by his friends, passed away peacefully at home on May 6, aged 85.

In working life he served on the railways, also distinguishing himself as a trade union official and becoming a burgh councillor and court baillie.

On retirement from the railways, he worked as a janitor at both Inverness High School and the city’s St Joseph’s Primary, where his football coaching knowledge helped many youngsters improve and progress through the school ranks.

Latterly of Dochfour Drive in Inverness, Mr MacLennan married the late Margaret and is survived by sons Malcolm, Roddie and Niall.

He was also proud grandad to Fionnlagh and Màili.

Talent with a ball at his feet saw the young Mr MacLennan break into Ross County’s first team, where he became a mainstay at wing-half during the 1950s and early 1960s.

After his time there he became a well-known face on the local welfare and amateur football scene, coaching and managing the Railway team with the help of his friend, the late Sime Waldie.

Stewart MacLennan (back, far left) with Railway Club players after they won the Welfare League First Division in 1976.
Stewart MacLennan (back, far left) with Railway Club players after they won the Welfare League First Division in 1976.

He remained a Ross County supporter throughout his later life, however, regularly attending matches right up until the coronavirus pandemic closed stadiums.

Also active in promoting County’s Staggie Lotto draw, his great service to the Premiership club was honoured by a minute’s silence ahead of the team’s recent home victory over Hamilton Accies.

Mr MacLennan, also a keen fisherman, is remembered by those who knew him as a gentleman who loved a good story and tales of the “old days”.

Ian Davidson, a local football historian, who played for the British Legion at the age of 16 alongside a much older Mr MacLennan, recalled: “If you hadn’t known, you could have easily told he had played at a higher level.

“My daughter knew him well from working at County, and everyone will remember him as a gentleman, in the truest sense – somebody that everybody got on with.

“He was one of those people always willing to stand and have a chat with you, and if you had any issues he would listen.

“He was a warm-natured man and very empathetic. You couldn’t have met a nicer guy.”

In a statement Ross County said: “Everybody at the club is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Stewart MacLennan.

“He was a former player and outstanding ambassador for the club, who committed a great deal of time and energy to Ross County, including heavy support of our lottery which he took great pride in promoting every week.”

Chairman Roy MacGregor added: “He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and his Ross County family too.”

Dozens of tributes were also paid online from those who had known him.

David Macdonald said: “Poker was a popular character with a wonderful dry sense of humour and will be missed by many.

“I played for Railway when he and Sime Waldie were in charge, and many a quip and laugh was had. Great memories Stuart. God rest.”

And John Holden recalled: “Poker, you have been one in a million. It has been a pleasure knowing you and working with you.

“No one will ever know what you did for your fellow men and women.

“You are a legend – no one will ever be able to lace your boots.

“I will never forget the great nights we had in the railway club or what you did for the miners during the strike.

“A man with very strong principles.”

A funeral mass will be held at St Mary’s Church, Huntly Street, Inverness on Friday at 12.30pm, thereafter to Tomnahurich Cemetery with the cortège due to leave the church at around 1.15pm for anyone wishing to say farewell.


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