A PRESTONPANS couple were wed just a week after the groom almost became a victim of the Ibrox football stadium disaster.

Billy and Veronica Robertson, of the town’s Gardiner Crescent, will next Saturday (January 9) celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.

East Lothian Courier: Billy and Veronica at a family party

But their thoughts this week will very much be with the 66 people who lost their lives on January 2, 1971, following a match in Glasgow between Rangers and Celtic.

Rangers fan Billy was injured in the tragedy – but his best friend John James McGovern, 24, of Ormiston, never made it home.

As well as those who died, more than 200 were injured in the crush on the stadium’s stairway 13.

Crush barriers had collapsed as thousands made their way out of the stadium.

Rangers fans began leaving the match early, having believed the visiting Celtic side had won.

However, a last-gasp goal in stoppage time from Rangers caused a roar to erupt from inside the stadium – which led to some fans trying to go back up the stairs and colliding with those coming down.

Billy was attending the match with his best friend, who he knew as Govs, having left from Ormiston on a supporters’ bus.

The pair were caught up in the middle of the disaster, with Billy trapped under several bodies.

The bus returned home to Ormiston without him, and the driver told his awaiting family of Billy’s situation and there were fears that he had died.

Veronica’s sister Liz said that Billy’s dad collapsed at the news.

Billy survived the incident but, tragically, John – who left behind wife Ellen and sons Kevin and Keith – did not, having died right next to him. Billy found out the news the next day.

East Lothian Courier: Billy at Ibrox next to a memorial to those who lost their lives in the disaster: he is pointing to the name of his friend who died, John James McGovern

Billy at Ibrox next to a memorial to those who lost their lives in the disaster: he is pointing to the name of his friend who died, John James McGovern

Billy was treated at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital.

After being discharged from hospital a little while later, a battered and bruised Billy immediately made his way home in an odd pair of shoes, having lost his in amongst the crowds.

Liz said: “He was staggering down the path as if he was drunk but he wasn’t.”

John’s funeral took place on January 8, the day before Billy’s wedding.

Liz added: “[Billy] stopped going back to football for a little while after that. He was able to recover from it but I think he still thinks about it in his head.”

She described the fact that Billy and Veronica have been married for 50 years as “quite an achievement”.

For their 40th wedding anniversary, the family treated the couple to a hospitality evening at Ibrox.

Billy now enjoys sitting back and watching football on television and is still as big a Rangers fan as he was then.

He and Veronica used to enjoy socialising with friends in local pubs and clubs, such as Ormiston Miners Club and others in Tranent and Prestonpans, but are now enjoying the quiet life.

They met through Veronica’s cousin and began courting.

The couple were married on January 9, 1971, at St Gabriel’s Church in Prestonpans.

East Lothian Courier: Billy and Veronica on their wedding day

Billy, 74 and originally from Ormiston, worked as a plumber, and Veronica, 69, was a post-room manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters, Gogarburn.

They have three children – Nicola, 47, Donna, 45, and Billy, 39 – four grandchildren (Declan, Calvin, Liam and Dionne) and one great-grandchild, Millie, with a second due in February.

The couple are now both enjoying their retirement.