And it took the breath of everyone
there away. First they looked puzzled but then they
realised they were watching something poignant and
rare. It was then they started applauding and that's
precisely when we started to hope this could be the
start of something better.
The hearse taking the body of
Tommy Burns trundled to a halt outside his church
and there, waiting to help carry the Celtic icon's
coffin, were two men from the other side. Walter
Smith and Ally McCoist stepped forward, picked up
their friend and carried him into his church. It
was the most uplifting sight most of us are ever
likely to witness and it cannot be underestimated.
Here were two groups, fiercely passionate in their
desire to beat the other, locked in a common
cause.All rivalry was forgotten, tossed aside as
Smith and McCoist walked one last time with a man it
was their privilege to know.
They openly admitted they had come to
admire him and relish his company. Theirs was an
unashamed act of friendship and respect which should
be an example to all of us. When Rangers' management
team hoisted their fallen comrade on to their
shoulders they were letting everyone see it is
possible to operate on opposite sides but never lose
sight or touch with one another or the things that
They were demonstrating that despite
the bitterness and fractured logic which taints
large parts of Scotland there is a brotherhood that
owes nothing to any religion. The only belief is we
are all the same.
The bond of friendship between these
three men was always stronger than the rivalry
between the country's two biggest clubs and if it
offended anyone that Smith and McCoist, rather than
Celtic-minded men, carried the coffin that's a pity.
It's also a view that would have insulted Tommy
No one was more committed to his club or his
religion than Tommy Burns, yet two of his best
friends came from the opposite side and that should
tell us something.
They took him into St Mary's and when
the funeral mass was over they lifted their friend
once again and carried him out again. There was a
round of applause inside the packed church and also
outside where another mass of people had gathered to
say their farewells to a man who commanded the
respect of all no matter their religion or race.
It was one of the most heartbreaking yet
inspiring moments in the history of the Old Firm