Belfast Telegraph

Oval legend big John still revered by all Glenmen

By Eddie McIlwaine

It will be a labour of love when Glentoran fan Philip Stevenson puts the finishing touches to the book he has written about the club's former legendary manager John Colrain, the 30th anniversary of whose death comes up on Monday.

Stevenson, a salesman and former editor of the Glentoran Gazette, says: "Big John was only 47 when he died. He is still revered at the Oval and has his place in Glentoran folklore after the two wonderful years he spent as manager from 1966.

"He led the Glens to back-to-back Irish League titles and guided the team to a draw at home with Glasgow Rangers. The greatest achievement of all, however, was the Glentoran performance against Benfica in the European Cup. The Glens drew 1-1 at home and 0-0 away and only lost the tie on the away goal rule."

And Stevenson in his tome – to be called simply 'John Colrain – A Life In Football' – added: "Let's not forget that tour of North America, when under the guise of the Detroit Cougars, John Colrain's Glentoran took on some of the best from Britain, Europe and South America and held their own in a North American League."

Colrain, from Bridgeton in Glasgow, spent four years at Celtic – with Bertie Peacock as a team-mate – scoring 33 goals as a striker before moving on to Clyde and Ipswich and then arriving in Belfast as the Glentoran player manager at 28 in 1966.

In fact, when he was making up his mind about whether he should accept the Glentoran offer of a job it was Bertie Peacock who told him to go ahead and become player manager at The Oval. The late Bertie is a legend in his own right after his years with Celtic and then with his home town club Coleraine and his dealings with the Milk Cup.

But what happened after Glentoran for John Colrain?

Glentoran fan Stevenson has spent many years now researching the John Colrain story, speaking to former team-mates like Walter Bruce, John Kennedy and Danny Trainor and other players who worked under him, his family and friends and the Glentoran fans who fell under the spell of this most charismatic of managers. Philip will launch his book later in the year.

Lovely Lili and the anthem beloved of Allies and Axis alike

The greatest hit of World War II was Lili Marlene composed by German Norbert Schultze and immortalised by Marlene Dietrich as an anthem for troops on both sides of the conflict.

I mention Lili today because she emerged in the first place in a poem called The Song Of A Young Sentry, written 100 years ago this month in 1914 by a young German soldier called Hans Leip, months before he was sent to the front in World War I.

He called his poem Lili Marlene after his girlfriend Lili and a young nurse called Marlene, who had been at his bedside as he recovered from a gunshot wound. Schultze fell in love with the poem in 1937 and he transformed the verses into a ballad as a tribute to Leip, who died in action on the eastern front.

Schultze, who passed away 10 years ago at 91, was given a rough time by Hitler's propaganda chief Josef Goebbels, who didn't like the lyrics and tried to make Norbert change his composition to a marching tune. But Lili the original took off on German radio when stations began broadcasting it to the Afrika Korps in 1941 with Dietrich as the voice.

American Lale Anderson cut her version of Lili with the lyrics translated into English and Dietrich also recorded this version and sang it to American troops as the war drew to an end in 1945.

The song, which was still popular on radio and occasionally in the charts right into the Seventies, goes like this:

"Underneath the lamplight, By the barrack gate, Darling I remember the way you used to wait...

Belfast Telegraph


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