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Tributes for popular former Highland League hero after his death in New Zealand

By Alasdair Fraser

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Malcolm Cowie
Malcolm Cowie

Tributes have been pouring in for a well-loved former Highland League football figure who passed away suddenly in New Zealand last week.

Malcolm Cowie, who was 71, played for Inverness Caledonian in the early 70s and also enjoyed spells with Peterhead, Keith and hometown team Buckie Thistle.

A PE teacher by profession, he also managed Nairn County and Elgin City before emigrating in 1988.Past players and club associates remember him as an inspirational mentor and leader.

Inverness freelance journalist David Love, who knew and interviewed him, recalled: “Malcolm was an absolute gem of a man and a fine footballer.”

In New Zealand, he continued to teach sport and built a reputation as one of the country’s top schools and college coaches.

Former Clachnacuddin committee member Billy Corbett expressed his sadness on hearing of Mr Cowie’s death describing him as “a top bloke” who would be sadly mourned by those who remembered him across north football.

Mr Corbett said: “I knew Malcolm well and met him countless times through his playing and management days. We also shared a beer or two.

“He was a top full-back in his playing days with Caley, Buckie Thistle and Nairn and did really well in management before he emigrated to New Zealand.

“I remember a Clach game against Nairn County around about 1982 when Malcolm was manager - and not too fondly! They beat us 6-4 in an Inverness Cup tie, with former Scotland international John McGinlay scoring a hat-trick in a strike partnership with Steve ‘Pele’ Paterson (ex-Manchester United defender and legendary Caley Thistle manager). Malcolm signed them both.

“It was one of the best games I saw in many years of committee work at Clach.

“I hadn’t seen my old friend for many years but I’m gutted to hear of his sad passing. He was a true gentleman.”

A statement from Buckie Thistle FC said: “We are heart broken and very sad to hear this news, our thoughts are with Malcolm’s family at this sad time.”

On social media, there were numerous recollections of his time in teaching and in football in the north of Scotland.

Neil Fyvie, a former pupil of Mr Cowie’s, wrote: “Malcom was my PE teacher in primary school in Aberlour, Speyside High School and when I played for Nairn County and Elgin City when he was manager.

“Malcolm was key in my early love of the game. At every opportunity he would organise lunchtime kickabouts and practice sessions.

“He was a gentleman, witty, and loved a song! I admired him. I was so pleased to read of his achievements in New Zealand.”

In 1988, Mr Cowie joined Saint Kentigern College near Auckland, where he remained a member of staff.

A statement by the college read: “His death is a tragic loss and he will be missed by all.

“He has contributed significantly in many areas, including physical education, as housemaster, Dean, in sports, attending camps and field centres.

“He was a highly-respected coach and manager, particularly in football where his leadership contribution reached a national level.

“He has impacted countless young people and his death will touch many staff and past and present students, as well as the wider community.”

New Zealand Secondary Schools Football (NZSS) also paid a glowing tribute to his “positive attitude, enthusiasm and strong management”.

His years of service included coaching New Zealand-wide schools’ representative teams from 1988 to 2007 on tours of Australia, Europe and South Korea.

He joined the NZSS Football national executive committee in 1988 and served as chairman for 18 years. On standing down, he accepted the role as patron.

There was even a tournament named after him in 2005, while in 2008 the New Zealand Secondary School Sports Council acknowledged his “exceptional contribution to secondary school football” in a special award.

Mr Cowie’s funeral will be held in the Saint Kentigern Chapel on Sunday, November 8.

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