Rangers are mourning the loss of one of the club’s greats after the death of Ronnie MacKinnon at the age of 83.
A defender of composure and exceptional pace, MacKinnon made almost 500 appearances for the Ibrox side, winning two league titles, four Scottish Cups and three League Cups.
He was a stalwart of Scot Symon’s treble-winning team of 1963-64 – one of the club’s most revered outfits – but cruelly suffered a broken leg during Rangers’ run to glory of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972.
Also capped 28 times by Scotland, MacKinnon’s international career is full of golden memories.
After playing with Pelé in 1966, he was part of the team that secured a special place in Scottish sporting folklore by inflicting a stunning defeat on World Cup holders England at Wembley one year later.
Scotland’s Ronnie MacKinnon (right) confronts Brazilian legend Pele during a friendly match ahead of the 1966 World Cup
MacKinnon, who has died aged 83, played nearly 500 times for the Rangers in the 1960s and 1970s.
Your browser does not support iframes.
After leaving Rangers, MacKinnon moved to a new life in South Africa and spent 30 years there before returning to Scotland to live on the Isle of Lewis.
The Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club recently hosted a tribute evening for MacKinnon in Stornoway which was attended by former teammates Peter McCloy and Alex MacDonald, alongside Rangers chairman John Bennett and chief executive James Bisgrove.
Confirming his death, a club statement said: “Everyone associated with Rangers Football Club is saddened to learn of the passing of former player, Ronnie MacKinnon, at the age of 83.
“Hall of Famer MacKinnon won two league titles, four Scottish Cups and three League Cups, while he was also capped 28 times by Scotland.
“The club extends our sympathies to Elizabeth, his widow and all his family.
“The family asks that their privacy be respected at this sad time. The club will pay further tribute to Mr MacKinnon in due course.
Initially a winger, MacKinnon attended Govan High School alongside Sir Alex Ferguson and, like the future management icon, took some of his first steps into football with the Benburb junior team. His burning ambition, however, was to find a house along the road at Ibrox.
“I was silly with the Rangers and always wanted to play for them,” MacKinnon recalled in an interview on his 82nd birthday last year. “I dreamed it would happen, but I never thought it would happen.
“One day I had the chance to play for a junior team and I had a good match. It was at Renfrew Juniors Stadium.
McKinnon (second from left) helps oust Geoff Hurst in Scotland’s famous victory over world champions England in 1967 at Wembley.
He was part of the Rangers team beaten by Bayern Munich in the 1967 European Cup Winners’ Cup final and is seen here trying on a hat in Nuremberg.
“I came home and the phone rang and my mother answered and she was all confused. She told me it was Scot Symon on the phone and I couldn’t believe it. He told me he wanted me to come to Ibrox at 9:30 the next morning.
“It was like winning the lottery. I walked into training and there were all my heroes. I thought I was dreaming. There was Willie Woodburn, George Young and all the greats. They made me feel at home and shook my hand.
“I was last on my first day of training. But gradually, over time, I got stronger, and the muscles in my legs got stronger, until finally they couldn’t grab me anymore. I left.’
In his early days he replaced Jim Baxter on the left half, but dislodging the Fife genius would never have been possible. Then came a suggestion regarding central defense.
From that moment on, there was no turning back.
“I loved center half,” MacKinnon said. “My twin brother Donnie was a central defender and we could train together.
“I had played seven or eight games for Rangers and then I started in the 1962 Scottish Cup final against St Mirren.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was playing with Baxter and (Eric) Caldow and guys like that, but they made it easy for me and to win a medal was amazing. Scot Symon was so happy with me, he continued to play against me and in 1963/64 we won the Treble.
MacKinnon is mobbed by jubilant fans after Rangers beat Slavia Sofia to reach the 1967 final
Firmly established at Rangers, Scotland made their debut in 1965. It wasn’t a bad start as MacKinnon contributed to a 1-0 win over Italy at Hampden, with club colleague John Greig scoring the goal winner.
A year later, MacKinnon faced Pelé in a 1-1 friendly against Brazil at Hampden. The famous image of them in a heated discussion, however, was actually about someone else.
“Pélé wasn’t happy,” MacKinnon admitted. “Billy Bremner was just a little guy but he was tough as nails and he tried to play ‘keeper’ with Pele.
“He asked me to talk to Bremner about his tackling. I said, ‘Any other player but not him!’
In April 1967, he reveled in a watch of a different nature as Baxter led humility England on home turf with a 3-2 victory in the Home Internationals. This is the first defeat suffered by the world champions in 20 matches.
“Has there ever been a better performance from a Scottish team? ” MacKinnon reflected in 2021. “I don’t think so.
A month later, however, his emotions took a different direction when Rangers agonizingly lost the European Cup Winners’ Cup final to Bayern Munich after extra time in Nuremberg.
Unlike others on that team, MacKinnon would not get the restorative reward of glory five years later.
MacKinnon (back row, second from right) lines up with the Rangers team in 1967
A corner scrum in the second round against Sporting Lisbon left MacKinnon in agony on the turf. His leg was broken.
He received a medal after Willie Waddell’s side secured a final victory over Dynamo Moscow in Barcelona, but, when he was in his 30s, a year’s layoff ended his time at Rangers.
“It was horrible,” he recalls. “In the case of a broken leg, it all depends on where it is. Trying to get back into the team was a hell of a job. This took me back to square one.
“This shows that you are in the hands of the gods.
“But I got a good offer to play for Durban United and I loved it.”
From the sunny coast of South Africa to his final years in the Outer Hebrides, MacKinnon’s achievements continued to be recognized with righteous reverence.
His place in the Rangers pantheon is indisputable.