When a Scottish international was (briefly) lost at sea

This day in football history

On 15 May 1974, Scotland midfielder Jimmy “Jinky” Johnstone had to be rescued by the Coastguard after a prank went wrong.

Johnstone and a few teammates were out in the early hours of the morning in Largs, a town on the Firth of Clyde, about 33 miles from Glasgow. They had beaten Wales 2–0 just a few hours before and had a match against England on the 18th, so manager Willie Ormond sent them out for a few hours to enjoy themselves.

After a few drinks, they were returning to the team hotel by the beach when Johnstone, who played his club football for Celtic, climbed into an empty rowboat. Rangers fullback Sandy Jardine jokingly kicked the boat out into the water before anyone realized that it had no oars. The tide began pulling Johnstone out to sea, so a couple of other players — Celtic’s David Hay and Hibernian’s Erich Schaedler — found another rowboat and set out after Johnstone. Unfortunately, their boat began to leak, forcing them back to shore as Johnstone’s boat continued drifting away.

Johnstone was eventually rescued by the Her Majesty’s Coastguard and the story — known as “The Largs Boat Incident” — became a media sensation. It had little effect on Johnstone, however, who went on to lead Scotland to a 2–0 win over England three days later.