Torrance Gillick signed for Everton from Glasgow Rangers having played in every forward position for the Scottish club. He spent most of his time at Goodison on the right wing, occasionally switching to the left in order to accommodate Albert Geldard, but no matter where he played he rarely failed to do what he did best: entertain. A natural showman, Gillick could, at will, effortlessly waltz past defenders with some of the most flamboyant trickery Evertonians have ever seen.
Born in Airdrie during the First World War, Gillick first came to prominence with Petershill a famous Glasgow junior club. After being spotted by Rangers long-serving manager Bill Struth, he was signed shortly after his 18th birthday and won successive league and Scottish Cup doubles with the Glasgow giants.
PERHAPS SURPRISINGLY, when Everton came in with a club record offer of £8000 for the 20-year-old in the summer of 1935, Rangers accepted it. Gillick quickly became a Goodison favourite.
While his pace made him an exhilarating sight when in full flight, his major shortcoming seemed to be his outlook on the game. Gillick, sometimes to the annoyance of his team-mates, played for laughs. At times he could prove to be entirely ineffective, as if his mind was elsewhere, and then in a moment of genius could turn a game with a piece of skill.
ON OCCASIONS, however, this carefree attitude brought him into conflict with the club authorities. In Glasgow, he clashed with manager Bill Struth, a dour Calvinistic type who obsessed about issues such as proper diet and the correct way of dressing. Rangers players were expected to wear bowler hats as a way of distinguishing them from the common crowd; but as Archie McPherson, the famous Scottish commentator, noted: ‘Gillick, an inside forward right out of the old school, would rather have fed the bowler hat to his greyhounds than wear one, and only brought it out of a bag a few yards before entering the stadium.’
Gillick’s form was greatly helped by the introduction of the dogged inside right Stan Bentham to the first team at the start of the 1938/39 season. Bentham provided Gillick with an even more regular supply of the ball and the two men proved to be stars of a Championship winning side. ‘As far as I’m concerned,’ Bentham later said, ‘Torry just stayed on the wing, not interested. But suddenly he’d tune in and go past three or four blokes as easy as anything, and either score, or put over a great cross.’
The late Gordon Watson told David France and Dave Prentice in the Gwladys Street Blue Book: ‘Torry Gillick was an outrageous crowd pleaser. The outside-right was tremendously gifted and his sublime footwork set up a bonanza of goals during our 1939 championship triumph. He was always surrounded by breathless admirers – his team-mates. I used to stop and marvel at him. He was that good. Torry had the world at his feet but was denied further success by the outbreak of World War II. Torry was the top Scottish winger of his day and possibly any other day.’
Gillick returned to Scotland at the start of the war and played for Rangers during wartime friendlies, officially rejoining them in 1945. He formed an effective partnership with Rangers left winger Willie Waddell, lifting the Scottish League Championship in 1946/47 and the Scottish Cup a year later, as well as two Scottish League Cups (1947 and 1949). He left Rangers for Partick Thistle in 1951, where he played for a single season. On retiring he later ran the greyhound track next to Ibrox.