Auld Boab is a long-time Dunfermline fan who has agreed to share some of his Pars memories each week. Over the past 6 weeks, he has looked back on the 1950s and 60s era with a different theme each week (Local Boys, Defenders, Goalkeepers and Wingers) and then his top 3 Pars players from the period. Last week, he focused on players 2 & 3 in his top 3. This week, in his final article for Pars Review, he writes about his favourite player.
Auld Boab, near exhaustion as he was, had a shine in his eyes when he began to recall his numero uno:-
"Where on earth do I begin when I remember the top man, Charlie Dickson? Well, let’s try at the beginning. In the early fifties, we had a great centre-forward called Jimmy Millar, an ox-strong holder of the ball with finishing ability which belied his solid appearance. But so good was he that Rangers snapped him up, and in the search for his successor, Pars turned to Penicuik Athletic and in early 1955, signed their rangy centre-forward, Charlie Dickson, who went straight into the first team for the next game V Stenhousemuir at Ochilview. When Charlie arrived at the ground for his debut, he received a telegram from Jimmy Millar, wishing him good luck. How classy was that?
Many fans travelled through to see our new signing. My journey was in the back of Bruce and Glen’s delivery van, with ten other fans, all seated on cushions on the floor, backs against the van interior on either side, no seat belts in those days! Bruce and Glen was the class grocer in town, situated post-war in Bridge Street, on the north side across from the town clock, but in the early fifties, the shop moved to the south side of Bridge Street, near the Glen Gates, where it remained until it was squeezed out by the large supermarkets in the 70s. Both shops were characterised by the exotic aroma of freshly ground coffee, allied to polished wood. Whatever your requirements, a smart white-aproned man behind the counter would go and collect your order, awaiting the completion so that the cost could be totted up. This gracious style of shopping was, of course supplanted by the arrival of self-service supermarkets
Our first sight of our replacement for Jimmy Millar was a lanky gangling lad, fast, keen, sprightly, like an adolescent leveret. Subsequently in his career, Charlie never did anything the easy way, and his very first goal for us in his very first senior game was a harbinger of what was to come. Somehow, a ball from left-winger Anderson struck the bar and fell, squirming, to find Charlie all alone on the 6-yard line, with what should have been an easy tap-in. But the ball was bouncing awkwardly for an excited Charlie to control, and at waist-height, too low to header, too high to knee in; with instinct rather than a considered option, Charlie moved the ball forward, partly waist, partly chest, partly thigh, and worked the ball into the net before any defender could react. Unexpected, unconventional, two words which came to define Charlie’s playing style. A second goal followed later via Charlie’s head, a very promising debut, (with George O’Brien inside him, Joe Mackin in goals), followed the very next week by his sterling performance in that Gentleman George Duthie match V Partick in the Cup - though Charlie did not score, he ran the Partick defence ragged, and created the chaos for our goals and the two winning penalties. The Dunfermline Press described his having come through his home debut ‘with flying colours’. So, a favourite was launched!
Charlie’s Dunfermline stats are impressive. 340 appearances for Dunfermline, 215 goals, the highest tally in our annals. But how do I give a picture of him to our younger fans who never saw him? How can I put the finger on what made him so loved by the fans? I can but try.
He was all heart, fast, bouncy, never-say-die, chasing everything to the final whistle. He was awkward on the ground, with ball control which, frankly, was poor, but his unorthodoxy enabled him to beat defenders, plus round keepers when they represented the last line of the defence. On any number of occasions, he could beat a centre-half with his speed, deceive the keeper with an unconventional change of direction, only to sclaff the ball past the post of a yawning empty goal. With other players, such an outcome might lead to hoots of derision, but with Charlie, everybody would laugh, knowing the next train was just two minutes away round the corner, and sure enough the goalie would fumble a shot from midfield, and who was there to poke it home? Charlie! Or Peebles would break down the wing, sling over a cross begging to be headed home, and who was there? Charlie!
Indeed, Charlie was the ultimate in his use of the head to score goals. He jumped high, and also jumped long, covering yards in the air to meet a cross, most regularly from that right wing. And his headers were accurate, timed to perfection, hardly ever over the bar, rarely stopped by the keeper, but more often projectiled into a space in the goals. He always seemed to know where to be to meet a cross, unlike our forwards in recent years who have by-passed prolific service from Ryan Williamson; indeed, Williamson has been criticised for the quality of his deliveries, but Charlie Dickson would have exercised his striker’s sixth sense, and would have known exactly where to situate himself to apply the finishing touch.
Charlie was never greedy, but proved to be a prolific penalty-winner, and a great provider, laying on chances for his fellow-forwards. Bill Shankly spoke in the recent programme about instructing a forward to drop hand grenades - that was exactly what Charlie did! With his unorthodoxy and tireless running, he created merry mayhem in the opposition box, exactly the conditions for his colleagues to thrive. We used to speculate that defences could not possibly know what Charlie would do next, when Charlie himself had no idea what he would do next!
I hope I have given our younger readers some kind of picture of Charlie in action, so let me turn now to his memorable games. That famous 1955 Cup victory over Partick Thistle in the Cup, Charlie’s second game for us, when he created confusion, at times clapping his hands to rouse his team-mates! And then, at the end of season 1956/7, ending in relegation by a single point, we played Rangers at home in our final match, losing 4-3 to a last-minute goal! Centre-half for Rangers, playing his last League game before retiral, was big George Young, Scotland’s celebrated Captain, who by this time was slowing, and dependent on his experience to handle centre-forwards, though he was still playing for Scotland; but he had never met in his career anyone like Charlie Dickson, who proceeded to run rings round him. Before the match, George may have been sad at the prospect of hanging up his boots, but post-match after the roasting Charlie gave him, turning him every which way, George must have been delighted with his decision to go!
Then against Partick once more in that memorable 10-1 Melrose game in April 1959, Charlie scored only one (with his inevitable head), but the Press described ‘Dickson the irrepressible who by his enthusiasm and unselfishness, made five of the goals possible’. Then Jock Stein’s very first game in charge, March 1960, and Charlie scored in ten seconds V Celtic (hope the turnstiles were working!) to send us to a shock 3-2 win, and on the march to win our last six games to avoid relegation. On to the Cup Final V Celtic, when Alex Smith’s speculative lob, nearly secure in Haffey’s hands, was chased at speed by Charlie, and while he did not get a touch on the ball, his attempt was enough to deceive Haffey into letting the ball squirm through past him; but while most keepers might have retrieved the situation with an about turn, Haffey was not quick enough, for as he turned, Charlie was already through to tap it home before leaping high into the air in celebration. A Cup-winner!
But highlight of Charlie’s career has to be that double hat-trick (who nowadays ever scores a double hat-trick?) against St Mirren at East End in January, 1962, on a snow-covered pitch. Seven of my favourites were playing (Connachan, Mailer, Miller, Peebles, Smith, Dickson, Melrose) - some team! Here is the cavalcade of goals (and misses!):-
14th minute - Melrose nods home a McDonald corner;
20th minute - Charlie nets after a keeper fumble of a Mailer shot;
Pre-half-time - Charlie misses two easy chances;
46th minute - Charlie misses another good chance;
47th minute - Charlie nods home a Melrose shot rebound off the goalie;
53rd minute - Charlie beats three men before shooting home;
55th minute - Charlie scores from a Peebles cut-back from the bye-line;
87th minute - Charlie heads home another cross from Smith on the right;
89th minute - Charlie side-foots ball in from a left-wing cross from Peebles.
By which point, we were all freezing on the terracings, but could not bear to leave such a memorable spectacle, the pinnacle of Charlie’s career, and his best-ever game for the Pars. He always took such joy in his goals, not by running straight to the crowd like Higgy to receive the fans’ acclaim, nor by wheeling away like an aeroplane, Faiss-style, but by leaping gleefully in the air with his arms up, before turning to embrace, and be embraced by his team-mates (while still upright, trotting back to the centre - no rolling-on-the-ground orgy in those days!).
Like Mailer and Duthie, Dickson played the game in the finest spirit, and a quiet modest pleasant nature meant that he was incapable of any shoddy or vindictive action on the field. He sadly died in Whitburn in 2013 aged 79, but he remains an Athletic icon, a man whose name inevitably brings a smile to the face of anyone who saw him. What a wonderful way for a wonderful player to be remembered - with a smile!
Charlie Dickson in a word - ENTERTAINMENT!”
Auld Boab slumped back, “My dram now, my boy, make it a Lagavulin, with a wee splash of water. And, Michael...... remember...... a large one!”
(Now that Auld Boab has shared some reminiscences with us for now, we have another guest writer lined up who will take us through his memories of the next decade, 1965 to 1975. Coming soon!)
(Some of you may recognise the writer's identity but for the purpose of the articles he has agreed to write for Pars Review, he has asked me to refer to him as "Auld Boab").
Many thanks to Auld Boab for his fantastic series of articles over the past 6 weeks.