In the summer of 2012, I began work digitising Scottish Football Museum content for Alzheimer Scotland’s Football Memories project. For the first few months in the role I had no access to service users, so attended an open day at Fir Park for the Motherwell group connected with the project for more information on how our content could be delivered to service users. Here I met Norrie Gallagher who was co-ordinating the Motherwell group. He suggested that together we could help produce a book of photographic memories for Joe Wark, who was a former Motherwell footballer, living with Alzheimer’s disease.
I didn’t know a great deal about Joe’s career, though it was clear he meant a great deal to Motherwell Football Club and it wasn’t difficult to find out information. This was a man who played for Motherwell for 16 years, under 8 different renowned full time managers, and played for a Scottish League side against England. I was understandably nervous when Norrie and I were first invited to the Wark home to begin work on the book, but I needn’t have been. Joe and his wife Maureen made us feel very comfortable and Joe was instantly very entertaining company. For months Norrie and I were privileged to spend afternoons in Joe’s company, drinking coffee and listening to years worth of footballing anecdotes, until the book was completed.
Joe did a great deal to promote the project. He was very open about his condition and when the book was completed, he appeared in the Evening Times to promote the work the project was doing. The book was also put on display at the Summerlee Museum in Coatbridge. Joe attended the Football Memories reminiscence groups with Norrie at Fir Park, helping to give other men the confidence to join and share their football memories in a safe environment. Through working with Joe, I also began work as a support worker for Alzheimer Scotland and was then given a full-time role with the Scottish Football Museum. Were it not for Joe’s selflessness, I can’t be certain either of these roles would have been made available to me.
I will always look back fondly on the afternoons myself and Norrie spent with Joe. Motherwell fans remember an honest, hard working footballer, who despite his League cap, and appearing in the Sunday Mail team of the year, merited far greater recognition than he received in his playing days. I remember a kind gentleman, who shared freely from his life with 2 relative strangers, and kept them captivated for months. I’ll always consider that a privilege.