Former Dumbarton FC footballer Thomas (Tim) Dunion Whalen has died peacefully at his home in Newark, California, with his family by his side. He was 83.
Born in Dumbarton, Whalen was the son of Anne Dunion and Michael Whalen, who was employed at William Denny and Sons’ Leven shipyard in the town.
He spent the first 30 years of his life in Dumbarton, where he was educated at St Patrick’s High School and where he would meet the love of his life, Margaret Neeson Whalen, and go on to play professional football for Dumbarton FC. He was part of the Dumbarton team of the 1950s who became known as “The Nearly Men”.
This was because they frequently flattered only to deceive and, despite their often brilliant football, never won a cup or a league title.
The surviving Dumbarton supporters from that era still drool at the memory of the players of the day. Whalen was one of them, inside right to the legendary centre forward Hughie Gallacher, Dumbarton’s record goal scorer to this day with 205 goals to his credit.
Their team mates included players like John McColl, Tommy Craig, Leslie Brown, John Heaney and later Bertie Auld, who went on to win a European Cup medal with Celtic in 1967.
The fans still ask how Dumbarton did not win promotion at that time.
Several times it was within their grasp and they were drawing record crowds to Fatal Boghead, as the club’s stadium became known because visitors usually left defeated.
A cup-tie against Raith Rovers, captained by Scotland skipper Willie McNaught, on 3 March, 1957, attracted an official attendance of 18,001. However, those of us who squeezed on to the terracing, and other schoolboys who “jooked in” that day, reckoned there were more than 20,000 in the stadium.
According to the club’s official history, there was one occasion in January, 1956, when Sons’ fans claimed the team had intentionally lost 2-0 to St Johnstone.
In response, at the end of the season, the board offered a trip to the USA, home of chairman James T Fitzgerald, if promotion was won the following season.
Fitzgerald, who was the manufacturing director of Burroughs Machines Limited at Strathleven Industrial Estate in Dumbarton, had been influential in getting all the Dumbarton players jobs at the Burroughs adding machine factory.
Whalen was one of those who took advantage of the offer and became a highly skilled toolmaker.
Despite the fact that 101 goals were scored by Sons the following season – many of them “laid on” by Whalen for Gallacher and company – the club once again failed to win promotion, coming only ninth in the league.
Whalen was no slouch himself when it came to putting the ball in the net and once scored four goals in a 6-1 drubbing of East Stirlingshire.
In 1961, disappointed that the America trip bonus had not come his way, Whalen moved to San Francisco with his wife, Margaret, and their three children, Thomas, Patricia and Caroline.
Whalen continued his professional football career successfully with the San Francisco Scots, where he continued to lay on and score goals for his team.
Described at his funeral service in Fremont Memorial Chapel as a hard-working, dedicated man, Whalen spent more than 10 years as a tool and die maker at Lenkurt, before settling at United Airlines, where he worked as a machinist for 20 years. He was described as having “a life defined by his generous, caring and compassionate spirit”.
He was a fun-loving person who will be missed dearly by all his friends and family, but remembered forever for his warm and jovial nature. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Margaret Neeson Whalen, son Thomas, daughters Patricia and Caroline, grandchildren, Ryan, Chris, Sean, Erin, Laura, Julia, Erica and Mollie, and seven great-grandchildren, as well as his sisters Mary McMillan, Helen Robb and Margaret Whalen.