MYSTERY surrounds the spelling of a surname that marks Alloa’s former public baths and gymnasium.

The Speirs Centre, in Primrose Street, was named after local boxing champion Tommy Speirs when it was reopened in 1998.

However there appears to be some confusion over the correct spelling of his surname.

According to his birth certificate, the boxer from Alloa was born Tommy Spiers, rather than Speirs.

Indeed, his nephew, who currently lives in Tillicoultry and bears his name, is also called Thomas Spiers – using the ‘ie’ spelling.

Yet on Tommy Speirs death certificate, and other family documents, his name is spelt ‘ei’ and his daughters, Isabel and Jean, also go by the same spelling.

Tommy’s youngest daughter, Jean Roy (72), told the Advertiser, “I don’t have a clue [why there are different spellings].

“As far as I know going back generations it has been Speirs. I don’t know why my cousin is different.” Tommy Speirs was born and brought up in Alloa and got a taste for boxing in his teenage years.

He fought his way up and in 1929 at the age of 22 he became the Scottish Amateur Lightweight champion.

A year later he turned professional and between 1930 and 1935 (plus one bout in 1938) his record stood at 42 wins, 11 losses and one draw.

On 25 August 1933 he was crowned Lighweight Champion of Scotland after knocking out the holder, Jim Hunter of Dunfermline, in the ninth round.

One of the most controversial fights of his career came in 1933 when he fought Johnny Cuthbert of Sheffield for the British Lightweight Championship.

The fight consisted of 15 three-minute rounds and the referee gave it to Cuthbert, despite many declaring Speirs the real champ.

A well-known boxing critic wrote at the time, “I have seen Johnny Cuthbert in action frequently but not so often as I have seen Spiers and last night I saw a British champion made to look very ordinary indeed by a boy who has still a lot to learn about the rudiments of the noble art. In my view, Tommy Spiers won no fewer than nine out of the fifteen rounds.

“Cuthbert had years of experience behind him.

“He should simply have mowed down the Scot but the plain truth is that any threat of mowing came from the Scot.” Following his retirement from the sport in 1935, he worked at the Kilbagie Paper Mill and was involved in several local gymnastic, wrestling and boxing clubs.

It was this commitment to helping youngsters, many from poorer backgrounds, coupled with his boxing achievements that saw him recognised with the naming of the Speirs Centre.

His eldest daughter, Isabel (78), said, “Most days in his spare time he was trying to get the kids from the bottom end off the streets.

“He had a club at Park Lane and used to teach them boxing, gymnastics and wrestling.” Jean added, “A lot of the kids at the bottom end didn’t have any money – they were quite poor – but he used to say it didn’t matter if he didn’t get the money he’d let them in [to the club] anyway.” Jean said her dad was a “humble man” and didn’t boast about his boxing achievements.

She said, “Everybody had a good word to say about him and everybody knew him in Alloa.

“The amount of men that used to stop me in the streets and say ‘if it wasn’t for your dad getting me off the streets I don’t know where I’d be today’ was incredible.”