Ricky Hill’s winter in Edinburgh memorialised in book about Hibernian
Ricky Hill has been hailed as a trailblazing footballer at Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership side Hibernian.
The 62-year-old former Hotels International and Bermuda striker was on the brink of making history as the club’s first Black player when he had a three-week trial with them in 1981.
Hill, then 22, featured in three matches for Hibernian’s reserves against Hearts, Dundee United and Queen’s Park, opening his scoring account in a 3 -0 win over the latter club.
The opportunity to go on trial was made possible by his Hotels team-mate, Denis McQuade, who was also a former professional in Scotland.
Hill, whose stupendous aerial ability for a man of only 5ft 11in was a feature of his playing days, was due to return to the club for further trials but declined because of the extremely frigid conditions in the region.
“They were reviewing it and, of course it was very, very cold and I wasn’t too comfortable in the cold, so I never went back,” Hill said.
Although he never signed with the club, Hill still left an impression on many, such as Edinburgh-based journalist and author Colin Leslie, who has featured the former player in a book on Hibernian in the 1980s due to be published later this year.
“Although I was young at the time, I remember there being a lot of interest in Ricky's trial at the club, both from supporters and the media,” Leslie said. “A Black player had never played for Hibs’ first team, so he stood on the brink of making history.
“Ricky played well in his three trial matches for the reserve team and even managed a goal. But he was understandably affected by a bitterly cold winter — even by Scottish standards. That winter was one of the coldest on record, and for a man from Bermuda, the temperature must have been unbearable.”
Hill told The Royal Gazette at the time: “The weather was against me. I was playing with four pairs of socks and two jerseys and even gloves.”
Striker Kevin Harper eventually became the first Black player to play for Hibernian in 1993. The club are now one of the most multicultural and diverse in Scotland.
Leslie, a former sports editor of The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh and Hibernian fan, tracked Hill down as part of his research for the book.
“I was keen to find out more about his brief association with the club and after we arranged a Zoom interview, I was delighted to hear that Ricky was still proud of his time in Edinburgh and I was fascinated to hear about his life and sporting achievements after he returned to Bermuda,” he said.
“I found Ricky a really engaging and friendly personality, so I thought it would be a nice idea to send him a Hibs jersey 4,000 miles across the Atlantic to wear as a reminder of his time with the club and as a gesture of international friendship.
“What made it even better is that the jersey arrived in the week before Hibs contest the Scottish Cup final, so after seeing him wearing his green and white colours with pride, we have made him an honorary Hibs fan! Hopefully Ricky's good wishes for the final bring Hibs a bit of luck and we bring the cup home from Glasgow."
Hibernian will face St Johnstone in the cup final at Hampden Park today (10am Bermuda time).
Hill, who also represented Bermuda in cricket as an equally talented opening batsman, is thrilled to be featured in the book and to have been made an honorary Hibernian fan.
“I’m pretty excited and happy that a book is being published and I’m going to be featured in it,” he said. “I’m also quite honoured to be an honorary fan of Hibs; that’s exciting.”
As for the cup final, he added: “I’m quite excited about the match and will be tuning in to the television to watch, hoping that Hibs win. Hopefully, I bring them some good luck.”