William Beveridge Liddell was born on 10th January 1922, the eldest of six children, at Townhill near Dunfermline to James Liddell, a miner, and his wife who had the unusual first name Montgomery. He passed the entrance examination to attend Dunfermline High School but was disappointed to find that the school played rugby, not soccer. Fortunately, his games master was a Scottish rugby international, Ronnie Boon, who encouraged the young Liddell to apply himself to the rugby field while developing his soccer skills. Even though his school did not play ‘soccer’, his performances for a boy scouts’ team won him a place in the Dunfermline Schoolboys’ team. He made his debut for the Scottish Schoolboys team in 1936, playing in front of a crowd of 40,000 against England at Villa Park, albeit in a 5-0 defeat.
On leaving school Liddell intended to pursue a career in accountancy but events quickly intervened. On the suggestion of Matt Busby, then a Liverpool player, the Merseyside club offered to sign Liddell and to arrange a position with their accountants, Simon Jude and West, giving him £1 pocket money until he could sign professional forms when he was seventeen. He duly arrived in Liverpool on 27 July 1938 and duly signed as a ‘pro’ on 17th April 1935 (just a month or so before another youngster called Bob Paisley joined the club). Records show that in 1939 he was living at 70 Saxon Street L6 (now demolished).
World War Two was to prevent him making his league debut until eight years after he joined the club although he made many appearances in wartime football including several caps for Scotland. He joined the RAF in December 1942, continuing to play and gaining another Scotland call-up to face England at Maine Road. Sadly while playing in a friendly at match at Bridgnorth where he was stationed he broke his leg. In 1943 he went to Canada to train as a navigator, although he was never to see active service.
He made his much delayed ‘debut’ for Liverpool on 5th January 1946, scoring in an FA Cup tie against Chester City. He would go on to play for the Reds 492 times, scoring 215 goals and score 8 goals in 29 appearances for Scotland. His final game for Liverpool was against Blackburn on 29th April 1961, scoring one of their 5 goals which made him, at 38 years 55 days Liverpool’s oldest goal-scorer.
Throughout his playing career Billy Liddell had continued to work in accountancy and after retiring from football he worked in the Bursar’s office at Liverpool University. He was always active in the life of the city, being a Justice of the Peace and involved in a host of charitable causes. In May 1967 he took to the football pitch again to play in a charity match in aide of Bankfield House Community Centre in Garston. The game was played at South Liverpool’s Holly Park ground and a big crowd came along to see a Billy Liddell team play opponents captained by the great Hungarian Player, Ferenc Puskas. Liddell’s team included such great stars as Bert Trautmann, John Charles, Billy Bingham and Dave Hickson. Puskas’ team included future Manchester City manager Malcolm Allison. Liddell’s team won 5-3, the crowd being delighted by Puskas scoring all of his side’s goals.
Sadly in later life Billy Liddell developed Parkinson’s Disease which eventually required him to move into a nursing home in Mossley Hill. He died on 3rd July 2001, aged 79, in a week which also saw the death of Joe Fagan and Tom Saunders.
Just before the war Liddell had met local girl Phyllis Farrance and on 20th July 1946 they were married at Island Road Methodist Church in Garston, moving into a Liverpool FC club house at Bowring Park. In the late 1940’s they lived in Garston at 14 Gladstone Road L19, moving in the 1950’s to 31 Chequers Gardens L19. The Liddells were great friends with Bob Paisley and his wife Jessie and their twin sons Malcolm and David attended Quarry Bank High School with Robert and Graham Paisley.
A later view of the now demolished Saxon Street where Billy Liddell had lodgings in the late 1930's.
The Liddell home in the late 1940's
The Liddell family home from the 1950s.
A plaque at South Parkway Station commemorating the charity match which brought Billy Liddell and Ferenc Puskas together in 1967. The station stands on the site of Holly Park, ground of South Liverpool.
© Liverpool Footprints