· May 19, 2017

The Untold Story of Donnie McMillan and The Lisbon Lions

The 25th of May 1967 is engraved in every Celtic fan’s mind. On that sunny evening in Lisbon, a Scottish champion who trained at Celtic park was pushing his way through the crowd on the pitch to make a pathway to the big cup. He wasn’t wearing the hoops and didn’t play for Celtic – he was a boxer from Glasgow.

Donnie McMillan (pictured with fellow Saltcoats local and Celtic Legend, Bobby Lennox) made fur coats by day. This was his key to Celtic Park: he would make fur coats for the players and the security guards’ wives.

Most of us have seen the iconic scene in Rocky when he runs up the famous Philadelphia steps. Trade that with a diehard Celtic fan Donnie McMillan running up the steps at Celtic park as his heroes train on the pitch – I know which position most of us would rather be in.

Donnie went to the final in Lisbon and like most of the support he found himself running through a moat surrounding the pitch to join the celebration. Sean Fallon said to him we need to get Billy to the cup, so in the words of the reporter John Quinn, “He acted as a one-man minder until he got through the crowd.” There was also an article about it in the Scottish Sun, where Billy McNeill spoke about Donnie helping him through the crowd.

A photo of all the McMillan Boxing Bhoys
A photo of all the McMillan Boxing Bhoys.

Donnie was one of seven brothers who were all boxers and all Celtic fans. Donnie was the Scottish Middleweight Champion, and went on to be the number 1 contender for the British Middleweight title in 1973 at the age of 33, with the champion Bunny Sterling almost 10 years younger. Donnie was stopped in the 11th round due to a cut. Donnie was also the first person to stop Alan “Boom Boom” Minter, who would later become World Champion.

A telegram sent from Celtic to Donnie to wish him luck at the British title fight
A telegram sent from Celtic to Donnie to wish him luck at the British title fight.

Sadly, Donnie’s career ended in tragedy when he knocked out the Middleweight champion of Zambia, Hugo Chansa. Hugo collapsed as he went to his corner and died in hospital. Donnie was detained in the country for a few days after being forced off the plane that was taking him home.

Donnie McMillan
Donnie McMillan

Donnie is a season ticket holder to this day and he sits in the Jock Stein lower stand. Donnie has no photos of himself in Lisbon so if you happen to find one in your collection, please contact Dean McMillan on Twitter (@dean_mcmillan) or leave a comment below.

Trending Celtic News

Load News That's all Folks!
View the latest Celtic news or browse the Celtic FC news archive