New author Tom lost for words with publication of first book

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They were all there, coming from far and wide, famous names and faces who have donned the black and gold shirt. Among them were Sammy Reid, the man more synonymous with the 1967 team than anyone else for scoring that goal. Five members of the team who knocked the mighty Rangers out of the cup that year made the effort, all told. Ken Bowron, the club’s record goalscorer, was never one to miss a Berwick Rangers opportunity, so he was in attendance. So too was former manager Jim Jefferies, perhaps not so busy this week after being sacked by Hearts seven days earlier.

For Tom Maxwell, the young journalist from Berwick who eight years ago came up with an idea for a book about Berwick Rangers’ unique place in senior Scottish football, the occasion was almost too much. He was standing in front of 150 or so friends, family, club legends, officials and fans, gathered in Berwick Town Hall to mark the launch of ‘The Lone Rangers: An English club’s century in Scottish football’. But having written 80,000 of them in three years of hard work, Tom was now lost for words.

“I’m really thrilled so many of you have turned up,” was all he could muster in what was clearly an emotional moment. “It’s all in there...”

With that, he had to take a seat to regain his composure.

What was obvious to everyone in the audience was how much it meant, not only to see published copies of his work in front of him but to see so many make the effort to be there and lend their support.

Tom may have feared a damp squib of an evening. What he got was anything but. “To see it in print is just an amazing feeling,” he said later, having regained his composure. “I was barely able to speak when it came to standing up and thanking everyone because I was so overwhelmed. It was just an amazing moment. It’s the best night of my life, and I mean that sincerely.

“The turnout has been absolutely phenomenal. To see not only so many friends and family, but so many Berwick Rangers legends in one place at one time, it is amazing. I hope how well it has gone tonight is a good indication of how well the book will be received.”

A former Berwick High School pupil who grew up as a Black and Gold fan, Tom writes with the sort of passion and depth of understanding about his home town and its football team that few could match. He makes it personal, writing from the heart with a wonderful sense of humour. One of the things that makes ‘The Lone Rangers’ special is that it is not really a football book at all. It would have been easy to regurgitate season after season, match after match, like other football history books do.

Instead, Tom delves off into other topics, starting with a meeting he sets up at the Scottish Parliament with MSP Christine Grahame, who has called for Berwick to become Scottish again. With wit and humour, he writes about the history of Berwick, outsiders’ perceptions of the town and where real Berwickers like him, living in England’s most northern town, feel they belong. It is a remarkably personal and perceptive book of which he should be very proud, and the turnout on Monday night of so many esteemed guests, many of whom had been interviewed by Tom as part of the project, was the tribute he deserved.

“I think it is a great thing to do and Tom has put an awful lot of work into this book,” said Jefferies, who wrote the foreword for ‘The Lone Rangers’. “When he contacted me he was telling me all about it and it is great credit to him to see so many here tonight. Some have travelled a long distance to be here and that is a fitting tribute to Tom for putting this book together.

“Tom showed me a draft of the bits covering my time at the club. It’s not all about football. It’s different and I think it will be a fantastic read. It’s one of these books that you’ll want to pass on to your grandchildren.”

Jefferies played for Berwick before being poached from Gala Fairydean to become manager. It was his first post at a senior club and kick-started what has become a very successful career.

“I could have written a book just on my time at Berwick with some of the things I had to contend with,” added Jefferies with a wry smile.

That was what the evening became. It was time for reminiscing about old times at Shielfield. We had Bowron recalling with freelance journalist Ian Smith his first game, a midweek match against Queen’s Park at Shielfield when he scored twice - “one a diving header and the other swept in with my left foot” – in the last two minutes to rescue a 4-4 draw. We had the ’67 team catching up too.

It’s unlikely so many Berwick Rangers legends will be seen together in the same room again.

‘The Lone Rangers: An English club’s century in Scottish football’ is now on sale. (Northumbria Press, £17.99)