Obituaries: David Potter, Scottish football historian and enthusiast who specialised in Celtic FC
David Potter was a sports writer who published around 34 books on Celtic and at least 40 others on other topics most notably football and cricket, and as a Celtic supporter he placed a great emphasis in his works on the history of Celtic.
He was brought up in Peffers Place, Forfar, and attended the North School and Forfar Academy, excelling academically, then studying at St. Andrews University before he became a teacher of Latin and Spanish at Glenrothes High school for nearly 40 years.
A very prolific writer, he helped to provide information via his work which made his books an indispensable foundation for many others’ articles and reports.
His catalogue of work encompassed works on classic players from generations back (for example, Sunny Jim Young and Tommy McInally) but also on recent eras as well including one on Celtic Park too.
The greatest aspect was the academic rigour and quality of his works which are quite humbling, but he also found great anecdotes that are highly entertaining and informative on the subjects of his work.
Journalist Graham Spiers ranked him as “one of Europe’s most erudite and prolific football historians”, which those of us who read his work would certainly agree with.
David Potter was not afraid of going against the grain, had the courage to call a spade a spade and would provide opinions on issues with facts even if others have their old long-held beliefs countered (for example, on Celtic players and caps awarded).
He had no wish to pander to anyone, and instead be iconoclastic when the facts clearly proved the point.
A very fine writer too, there are many who enjoy his niche works which without him would have long passed the rest of us by in the footnotes of Celtic's club history.
He helped to bring back to the forefront of the support the wonderful characters in the club’s history and the environments surrounding them. If anything, you felt as if you were stepping back in time in their shoes, and that was a wonderful skill.
David Potter's catalogue of work helped to deconstruct Celtic down to the ground, and illustrated to the support the human side as much as the football side of the people and the club. Sometimes the stories could even touch you.
Many of those within Celtic historian circles are in debt to his work, and his books helped reignite interest in the club's history away from the standard tentpole events.
As a supporter, he was a keen supporter and match attendee, and was a stalwart on the bus run by the Joseph Rafferty CSC Kirkcaldy.
He also commentated on football matches for Kirkcaldy’s hospital radio service and also wrote for the programmes for Celtic, Forfar Athletic and Raith Rovers.
It was not just football that was his interest. He has also umpired cricket matches in the summer and was a scorer for Falkland Cricket Club. His other passion was drama, and he wrote a history of Kirkcaldy’s Auld Kirk Players.
Long into retirement, David Potter continued his ceaseless run of books. Not only a wonderful author, he also presented at events run by the Celtic Graves Societies, and with his great accent and knack for finding an interesting anecdote, it was a joy to listen to him.
He didn't just write books, but also assisted everyone. The list is countless of all those (including this writer) who had been given invaluable help on sourcing any information on Celtic from his infinite fountain of knowledge of the club. David Potter was invaluable, helpful & selfless in all correspondence with him. A truly humble man.
Notably, by background he was of Scottish Protestant descent, and had said that he had followed in the footsteps of his earlier family members. That is a key note as another example that demonstrates that the ties that have long bound the support to Celtic and Scotland has not alone been an Irish-emigrant monopoly.
He passed away in July 2023 from cancer. At the time of passing, he was survived by his wife (Rosemary), three children and their grandchildren, as well as the family dog.
We were all so proud to have David Potter as a member of the Scottish sport writing community, and even more so as a great Celtic historian, whom many would rate as on a par with the more celebrated Campbell and Woods whose legacy has often overshadowed that of all the others within the niche field.
David Potter was a man who simply lived and breathed sport, Celtic and its history, and some of us would argue that there was not anyone more knowledgeable of our club than him.
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