On my epic 3 ferries (to Bute, Colintraive, & Gourock) Saturday cycle, I saw 2 red squirrels as an ‘omen’, and was overjoyed to learn that Killie had beaten Rangers (for the uninitiated, 2 red squirrels adorn the Kilmarnock FC (KFC) crest).






Ten years of chaplaincy at KFC affords fond memories of helping Ian Downie (aka Nutz) on with his red squirrel mascot costume before rolling onto the pitch and around the ground entertaining with his jokes, cartwheels and scattering of sweets. What a star he was, and how we miss him, having passed into glory nearly 3 years ago, aged 72.

Ian ‘Nutz’ Downie wasn’t so much an unsung hero, in that his praises were, and continue to be, sung by KFC and all who fondly remember him. He would have been buzzing at Rugby Park on Saturday!

Thinking of ‘Unsung Heroes & Heroines’, Stewarton’s very own Rose Reilly MBE (married name ‘Peralta’) came to my attention via the most excellent BBC series ‘Icons of Football’, 6 half-hour documentaries on the nostalgic exploits of Archie Macpherson, Richard Gough, Steve Archibald, Charlie Nicholas, Paul Sturrock, and capping them all ‘Rose Reilly’. I lapped up all ‘behind the scenes’ details on these Scottish icons, but was especially moved by Paul Sturrock’s story; vulnerable, resilient and inspiring in his fight with Parkinson’s disease. But Rose Reilly’s story blew me away!

As the English Lionesses scrape through to the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup, here in Scotland we have a fitba treasure who has already won (equivalent of) a Women’s World Cup medal, Captain Rose setting up a goal and scoring in Italy’s 3 – 1 win against West Germany. Alas, such was the prejudice and ignorance of the Scottish Football Association and sensitivity of the home Women’s Football Association at the time, Rose wasn’t able to flourish in her homeland and had to go to France and Italy to further her footballing career.

Rose eventually retired aged 40, after winning 8 Serie A titles, a French title, and 4 Italian Cups. At long last she was acclaimed at home and inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame (2007) and given a place in the Scottish Football Hall of Fame. A play has been written and performed to celebrate Reilly’s amazing story and she has personally invested much in her local Stewarton community. Among many awards, she was given an honorary doctors degree from Glasgow Caledonian University (2019), and appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2020 for services to women’s football. An ICON indeed!!!

I prefer ‘icon’ to ‘idol’ in describing our heroines & heroes. ‘Idols’ attract all attention to their abilities, the glory residing in themselves, whereas ‘icons’, like windows, point us beyond themselves, inspiring us to learn from, emulate and similarly pass on the shine and blessing that they have experienced, enjoyed, explored and expressed in life and their particular passions and pursuits.

Saturday’s iconic red squirrels didn’t just point me towards a Killie victory; they reminded me of dear icon Ian ‘Nutz’ Downie, and pointed me to the author of all creation. Cycling up the East side of Loch Fyne was affa’ fine. Alas, sloshing from Strachur to Dunoon was pretty soggy; by (Loch) Eck it was fair dunnin’ doon to Dunoon. But even the rain was iconic as I praised the generous God who gave the grace, grit, gears, lungs & legs to cycle. God is Good!