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It is with great sadness that the club learned of the passing of former player Walter Borthwick.

Born in Edinburgh, Borthwick’s first senior club was Morton, spending two seasons at Cappielow before joining East Fife in October 1967. Jimmy Bonthrone, the man in charge at Bayview was looking towards youth in his efforts to steer the club back to the top flight after a nine year absence. The 19 year old forward made a scoring debut in a 3-1 win at home to Stranraer and added a further eight goals before the end of the campaign as the team just missed out on a return to the first division, finishing in third position four points behind second placed Arbroath.

1968-69 saw East Fife again finish third in the table, with Borthwick now established in the side as a strong tackling inside forward. The Fifers had started and finished the season strongly but a dip in form at the turn of the year left them with just too much to do to catch Motherwell and Ayr United.  

The departure of Jimmy Bonthrone to join Eddie Turnbull’s coaching team at Aberdeen and the appointment of Bill Baxter in the summer of 1969 brought further change, significantly with the addition of ex Scotland Internationalists John Martis and Pat Quinn to the Bayview ranks. Initial league results were disappointing but with Borthwick, by now operating as a wing half, the club embarked on a Scottish Cup run that had the crowds flocking back to Bayview. After comfortably disposing of local rivals Raith Rovers 3-0 they saw off the challenge of another first division outfit in Morton to reach the quarter finals of the competition for the first time since 1950. With 14,994 fans looking on the Methil men lost out to visitors’ Dundee by a solitary goal, but the Fifers had served notice that the good times were just around the corner. It was no surprise that the hard working Borthwick was voted player of the year for his efforts.

The following season promotion was at last secured under Pat Quinn, with Borthwick missing just four games throughout the campaign, also contributing four goals, including a hat-trick in a 5-1 rout of Stirling Albion in a rare appearance back in the forward line.

Life upstairs provided no shortage of entertainment for the Bayview faithful. After a sticky start the men in black and gold eventually found their first division legs, beating high flying Hibernian in a memorable encounter in January, but a relegation struggle continued to the last day of the season when a Joe Hughes goal at Fir Park earned a draw and finally secured East Fife’s first division status at the expense of Dunfermline Athletic.

The following season as the Fifers consolidated their position in the top league, finishing in a creditable 9th place and qualifying for the Texaco Cup. For Borthwick it was a particularly satisfying season, scoring some spectacular goals such as a late winner against his old club Morton in a thrilling 4-3 win at Bayview. In addition to being voted the player of the year by Buckhaven Supporters’ Club Borthwick’s six years service at Bayview was recognised along with Peter McQuade, Dave Clarke and Dave Gorman. 3,379 fans turned out to pay tribute to the four stalwarts with English first division side Wolverhampton Wanderers providing the opposition in a testimonial match.

1973-74 turned out to be Borthwick’s last season in East Fife colours as the Fifers suffered relegation. After 228 appearances and 35 goals for the club a move to St Mirren ensued, where he would later play under Alex Ferguson. This was followed by short spell with St Johnstone and an even briefer return to Love Street, before a return to Fife to join Dunfermline Athletic. In 1980-81 Borthwick hung up his boots, but continued his love of the game as a coach with Hearts and with the SFA in East Lothian, also managing Arbroath in 1991-92.

Walter Borthwick will be remembered as an industrious versatile player, always with his sleeves rolled up, ready for battle. Off the field he was kind, benevolent and generous and will be sadly missed by the many people he influenced during his time in the game.

East Fife Football Club would like to pass on our sincere condolences to Walter’s family and friends at this sad time.

BORTHWICK Walter 1971 72 colour