Obituary: Gilbert Lawrie, chief executive of Dumbarton FC

Dumbarton boss was a lifelong football fan and saved the club from crisis. Picture: SNSDumbarton boss was a lifelong football fan and saved the club from crisis. Picture: SNS
Dumbarton boss was a lifelong football fan and saved the club from crisis. Picture: SNS
Born: Vale of Leven, July 4, 1960. Died: Houston, Renfrewshire, January 21, 2016, aged 55

Gilbert Lawrie, chief executive of Dumbarton Football Club and chartered surveyor, has died at his home in Houston, Renfrewshire, aged 55.

A rotund, outgoing man who often wore a “bunnet” to his team’s matches, Gilbert was a football fan from childhood.

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He then graduated from the terracing at Boghead Park to become a kenspeckle figure in the directors’ boxes and boardrooms of Scotland’s senior football clubs.

Dumbarton, the Sons of the Rock, were always Gilbert’s team and he supported them fervently from his time as a pupil at Dumbarton’s Knoxland Primary School, whose black and gold uniform colours were identical to the team’s.

It could also be said of Gilbert Lawrie that he was the man who saved Sons from extinction at a crisis point in their proud history, which dates back to 1872 when a group of shinty players decided to switch codes after watching a match between Queen’s Park and Vale of Leven at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

Dumbarton first won the Scottish League in 1891 and celebrated its centenary in 1972, which was around the time when Lawrie left Knoxland and went on to continue his education at Dumbarton Academy.

A bright pupil, who was especially good at Maths, Lawrie complete his education to qualify as a chartered surveyor at Glasgow College of Building and Technology.

Lawrie’s Seventies school years were amongst the best in Sons’ history when they won the Second Division Championship and were for a time in the top division.

Meanwhile, he landed a job at Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery in the east end of the city where he was mentored by one of the directors, Robert Campbell Ward, who just happened also to be a director of Dumbarton FC.

Lawrie went on to be successful in the commercial property business when he moved to Bell Ingram and eventually on to the board at Chestertons Estates. He was the Scottish director in charge of the care and maintenance of prestigious private properties and government buildings in Scotland.

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Apart from watching football, his leisure time was taken up in Dumbarton Riverside Parish Church where he was a well-known and respected Boys Brigade Officer.,

After his first marriage, to Lesley, which unfortunately failed to last, Gilbert Lawrie married in 2007 Dumbarton woman Fiona McLaren who, his friends say was “the true love of his life”.

This was a tragically short-lived marriage as Fiona sadly passed away 18 months later around Hogmanay, which thereafter became an annual period of mourning rather than celebration for her husband.

Gilbert and Fiona were always welcoming and generous hosts to family and friends and they all enjoyed these social evenings immensely.

Following Fiona’s death, Gilbert immersed himself in his work and particularly in Dumbarton FC where he concentrated full-time on his CEO duties.

He was instrumental in the present owners of the club, Brabco, purchasing most of the shares and securing the move to a new stadium in the shadow of Dumbarton Rock, where they are today taking part in the Championship League.

Right up to the time of his death, Gilbert Lawrie was playing a pivotal role in progressing the aim of Brabco, the DFC majority shareholding consortium, to move the club to a new ground for Sons at Dalmoak, near Renton, Dunbartonshire. That process is ongoing.

His friend David Carson said: “Gilbert was a quiet but formidable ‘backroom’ operator and presence at DFC and helped steer the club to safer waters during a few periods of concern and uncertainty.”

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Tributes to Gilbert Lawrie have been flooding into his social media site since news of his death broke on Friday morning.

Dumbarton fans showed their appreciation of his life and work with a minute’s applause before their match with Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park on Saturday.

Gilbert was a sociable person who liked nothing better than to go out after the match to his local pub in Houston for a few drinks with football friends, who included Ally McCoist, formerly manager of Rangers.

He would later watch the sport on television and listen to music relaxing at home. Occasionally he enjoyed good food and wine with friends at his favourite restaurant, La Parmigiana, in Glasgow.

Gilbert was a lifelong fan of The Who with vast knowledge and collection of the band’s CDs.

He was a fanatical music devotee with huge recording collection across a whole spectrum of genres. He also loved dogs and would walk his across the fields near Houston.

Born in Vale of Leven, Gilbert was the only child of Jim Lawrie, a director of Allied Distillers, Dumbarton, and his wife, Jessie, by whom he is survived.