A prodigious Uist footballing talent tragically taken far too soon

A few weeks ago I wrote how Scotland’s second strip from the 1978 World Cup ended up being worn by Northend in the Uist and Barra League and a number of people got in touch who wanted to know more about one of the players missing from the photo, Angus Peter MacLean.
Angus Peter Maclean was a lynchpin of the all-conquering Northend side, but sadly lost his life at the tender age of 22 in a fish farming incident.Angus Peter Maclean was a lynchpin of the all-conquering Northend side, but sadly lost his life at the tender age of 22 in a fish farming incident.
Angus Peter Maclean was a lynchpin of the all-conquering Northend side, but sadly lost his life at the tender age of 22 in a fish farming incident.

MacLean (Aonghas Phàdraig Dhòmhnaill Lachlainn from Peninerine) was the jewel in the crown of the great team that conquered all before them in the late 1970s and early 80s. A prodigiously talented forward, Angus Peter idolised Kenny Dalglish as a youngster and those who played with him and against him can vouch he possessed the same eye for goal as his hero who was making a name for himself at Celtic when Angus Peter was a youngster.

At that time you had to be a talented player to get a game for the top teams in Uist at the age of 15. More often that not you would need to be content with initial appearances from the substitutes’ bench, but Angus Peter was unique in that he stayed in that Northend team from a young age and became its spearhead, guided and encouraged by the MacLeod brothers, Seonaidh Beag and Ruairidh a’ Mhuilich, who played an important role in helping younger players adjust to senior football.

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Together with Calum MacDonald in goal they quickly became the spine of that fabled side with Angus Peter leading the attack. Blessed with an innate football intelligence allied to a fierce competitive spirit, in stark contrast with his quiet demeanour off the pitch, he was a defender’s nightmare – fast and skilful and exceptionally good in the air.

Capable of scoring spectacular long range goals, Angus Peter once racked up ten strikes in a game where Northend had to match Benbecula United on goal difference. He was definitely one of the players from that generation who could have stepped up to a higher level and what elevated him amongst his peers was the consistency with which he performed week in week out.

Sadly Angus Peter never got the chance to fulfil his potential as he was tragically drowned in a fish farm accident on Loch Sheilavaig in May 1981 aged 22. Almost six years to the day when one of his brothers, Alasdair, had also been drowned in a local fishing accident at the tender age of 17, you can’t even begin to imagine the devastating impact the loss of a second cherished son in similar circumstances had on that family far less his friends, work colleagues and teammates.

As a 15-year old about to make my own senior debut debut for Southend I well remember the shock that reverberated throughout the community not to mention the regret that I wouldn’t be able to play against one of Uist’s finest players.

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At the time Northend issued a statement written by Father Colin MacInnes who managed the team in their heyday: “His abundant skill and intelligence on the football park was obvious to any who watched or played with him. Often a spectacular player it was his consistency for which Angus Peter was most noted. What made him more remarkable was the combination of these skills with his characteristic sportsmanship and fairness. He was a truly great player.”

Angus Peter’s reputation throughout Western Isles football was such that a minute’s silence was observed before every game in Lewis the following weekend, including Harris for whom he had played a number of games.

Speaking to some of Angus Peter’s teammates they recalled how hard it was to return to playing after his loss but also of the need to honour his memory by continuing to dominate the local football scene as they had done during their three-year unbeaten run in all competitions from 1978-81.

As Father Colin wrote in that tribute at the time – “Football in Uist will be much the poorer for Angus Peter’s death” – but for those who knew him and saw him play the name of Angus Peter MacLean will never be forgotten.