Scottish football has lost one of its most distinctive and authoritative voices with the death of Dick Donnelly, a veteran journalist who was steeped in the game – on Tayside specifically.
Donnelly, who has passed away at the age of 74 after a battle with cancer, was known latterly for his reporting skills from both Tannadice Park and Dens Park while covering Dundee United and Dundee for all national newspaper titles.
He was a fixture in the press box at both grounds and was regarded with equal warmth and respect on both sides of the street. But it was as a goalkeeper where he first made his name, making 107 appearances for East Fife between 1960 and 1964. He later joined Brechin City and also played for Arbroath.
Donnelly started reporting on football for Dundee paper The Courier at the request of Tommy Gallacher, who had himself made the move from playing football – for Dundee in his case – to writing about it. But Donnelly was also known to many for a voice that crackled across the airwaves in his role as a radio reporter, principally for Radio Tay.
His brogue was imbued with both experience and Dundonian gravel. Despite debate about whether he ever actually described it as being a “dour, dreich day at Dens Park”, he became associated with the phrase.
Born and brought up in the west end of the Dundee, he later moved across the Tay road bridge to Balmullo in Fife. Hence why he became known among friends and colleagues as “the Bard of Balmullo”.
Both senior clubs in Dundee yesterday mourned the legendary broadcaster and journalist. “Everyone at Tannadice is very saddened to hear of the passing of broadcaster and reporter Dick Donnelly,” said a statement released by Dundee United.
“Dick was a hugely important figure in covering football in Dundee over many decades who attended all the major games involving United, both at home and in Europe, and was always entertaining and fair in his reporting. His voice was instantly recognisable on radio broadcasts. Scottish football journalism is a poorer place for his passing.
“Dundee United sends deepest condolences to his family.”
A statement from Dundee FC said: “All at Dundee Football Club were saddened to hear of the passing of Dick Donnelly. Dick was a well known face around Dens having covered games for a number of decades as a broadcaster and reporter. His smiling face brightened up the Dens Park press box on a match day while he kept those unable to make the match up to date with the latest goings on. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Colleague Ron Scott of The Sunday Post, a former president of the Scottish Football Writers’ Association, said: “I have known Dick for over 50 years – since I was a teenager – and I never knew anyone who had a bad word to say about him.”