Thursday, August 16, 2018

Alan Sisson Dunbar

Athlete, broadcaster and journalist;

Born: February 26, 1934; Died: July 1, 2011.

Alan Dunbar, who has died aged 77 after a long illness, was a former athlete and drama lecturer who went on to become a successful journalist and broadcaster.

He was a man of many parts and sometimes conflicting roles. Luminaries from all realms of his life were present at his self-planned funeral at an Edinburgh hotel, the first ever held there, and heard tributes from family, to whom he was devoted, and former colleagues.

Winner of the 1957 Relay TeamScottish 100 yards title in 1955 and 1956 after earning his full blue at Glasgow University in 1954, Mr Dunbar had an unorthodox “flappy” arm action which was certainly eye-catching but for whatever reason, possibly his bad luck with muscle injuries, he was still overlooked for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games by the British selectors.

Mr Dunbar even defied the head of drama at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama to run in the Scottish Championships in 1955 when the college graduation clashed with the event.

Originally from Stranraer, where he won the Scottish junior 100 yards titles in 1951 and 1952, the year he also captured the AAA junior crown, Mr Dunbar went on to represent Scotland in the 1958 Empire Games in Cardiff, winning his first round heat before going out in the second round.

A member for many years of the legendary sprint team of Glasgow club Victoria Park AC, who monopolised the Scottish 4x100 metres relay championship throughout the 1950s, he amassed trophies galore. Yet he was certainly not someone who let his running do the talking.

In 1957 he withdrew from the final of the national 220 yards at New Meadowbank in Edinburgh (the forerunner of the 1970 Commonwealth Games stadium) in protest at the condition of the then cinder track and he later organised an unsuccessful petition, backed by abound 50 athletes, against further use of the venue for Scottish championships. No wonder one headline described him as the “Stormy Petrel of the Track”.

His transition to1958 Relay Team broadcaster and sportswriter was a natural one when he hung up his spikes in 1961 and became the voice of athletics on Radio Clyde and the scourge of the Scottish selectors as a fearless and regular contributor to the Evening Citizen and The Scotsman.

Mr Dunbar was one of a loyal and dwindling band of reporters who covered the sport week in, week out, no matter the weather and even when illness severely hampered his mobility.

In tandem with his media work, he also continued his career in drama, lecturing at Langside College in Glasgow from 1956 to 1963 and, until 1971, at the city’s Central College of Commerce.

Moving to Edinburgh he changed to communication at the then Napier College and eight years later became a much esteemed senior lecturer in communication at Queen Margaret College, a post he held for the next 10 years.

A period of illness persuaded him to retire but he soon began branching out, accepting an invitation to become a guest director at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For the next 20 years he was a permanent member of staff of Edinburgh Acting School, directing many shows with, according to principal Anna Finline, “great enthusiasm, expertise and intellect”.

It was typical of the man that he directed his final stage exit.

He is survived by Margaret, his wife of over 50 years; two daughters, Stephanie and Sara; two sons, Jonathan and Alan; and two granddaughters Georgia and Bryony.

Doug Gillon

Life membership of VP-Glasgow has been granted to Doug Gillon for his services to athletics in Scotland.  Doug, who was for 34 years the Herald's Athletics Correspondent retired from full time work last year and although he continues to write a fortnightly column, has recently moved to a new home in Cornwall.  Doug was back in Glasgow on a personal visit in February 2012 and took time out to receive our certificate of life membership from the Club Secretary.
Gordon and Doug
Doug covered his first major sporting event when the Commonwealth Games came to Edinburgh in 1970 and since then has covered every summer Olympics since he attended Munich in 1972 and every World Championship since 1983.

Over the years he was awarded 3 SJABritish Sports Journalism Awards and a life-time achievement prize at the Scottish Press Awards.

Doug became a member of Victoria Park AAC when he moved to Glasgow in the late 60's.  He competed in middle distance events and the 400m hurdles.

Appropriately, the certificate awarded to Doug was printed and embossed with the Club's badge and colours back in the 70's.

He was delighted to receive the award and hoped to be back in Glasgow to meet up with old Club mates when we officially open our new display cabinet.

Moira (O'Boyle) O'Neil - 1956 - 2012

The entire athletics community has been saddened to hear of the death on Wednesday of former Belfast and Dublin marathon winner Moira (O’Boyle) O'Neill who passed away at her home after a long struggle with cancer.  O’Neill only last week celebrated her 56th birthday. Daughter of famous Donegal athlete Cyril O’Boyle, Moira was prominent in the sport as a teenager in Scotland, to where the family had moved in the late sixties.  She won the Scottish Intermediate (U17) and Scottish Senior cross country titles in her first year in the grade.  Her father had been Irish mile champion on a number of occasions while her mother Noreen also took up the sport late in life.

The family returned home to Glenswilly in the 1980s and Moira took a job as a community worker in Belfast and through her work was well-known in the Markets area of the city.  She was also for a period the manager of the Whiterock Leisure Centre.

Despite beingMoira O'Boyle or O'Neill successful on the track and cross country, it was the marathon that brought the former Victoria Park, Glasgow athlete her greatest successes.  She made a winning debut over the 26.2 mile distance in Derry in 1982 before going on to claim victories in Belfast (1985 & 1986) and Dublin (1988). Her time in Dublin of two hours, 37 minutes and seven seconds is still the second fastest ever by a Northern Ireland athlete.

She had come to prominence in January 1972 when she was part of the Victoria Park Intermediate Girls team that won the Scottish Womens Road Relay and later that year became Victoria Park's Ladies Captain.

That same year, at only 16 years of age she won the Intermediate 1500m at the SWAAA Championships with a PB of 4:44.1 and followed that achievement with a bronze medal in the SWAAA 3,000m with a time of 10:21.6.

A major triumph for Moira came in 1973 when she won the SWCCU CC Championship in Edinburgh and was over a minute ahead of the rest of the field.

She represented NI at two Commonwealth Games taking eighth in Edinburgh in 1986 and twelfth in Auckland four years later.  Earlier she had also run for Scotland at the International Cross Country Championships in Monza, Italy.  She was a member of the British team that took gold medals at the World Student Games Cross Country.

Moira is survived by husband Gerry O’Neill from Portrush, a former marathon runner, her father Cyril, mother Noreen and sister Pat.
Thanks to information found on
A Life In Athletics and the Inside Track Blogspot.

Ronnie Whitelock

Ronnie Whitelock, one of our best loved and respected life members passed away in Hospital late on Friday the 7th of December with his family around him.

Born in 1932, Ronnie joined Victoria Park at Scotstoun as a junior in 1947.  He was clearly an exceptionally talented sprinter and he was quickly promoted to the senior squad where he was coached by the late Willie McFarlane.

During his Ronnie at Scotsounearly years, he served his apprenticeship at John Browns shipyard before securing his long term future in the drawing office.  It was there that his colleagues fashioned a set of starting blocks from a 4”x4” block of wood and two off cuts of aluminium.  Those very starting blocks were used throughout what was to become a very illustrious career.

In his early career, he enjoyed success at the Rangers Sports, the Police Sports and a variety of Highland Games at the then venues of Ibrox Stadium, Hampden Park, Helenvale and Westerlands.

In 1956 he was part of the winning Victoria Park 4x110 yards relay team at the Scottish Championships in Meadowbank.  The team was Alan Dunbar, Bobby Quinn, Harry Quinn and Ronnie.  This group became lifelong friends and up until quite recently they would meet regularly and rib each other about past glories.

1957 was probably his best year on the track, winning gold at the Scottish Championships over 100 yards with a time of 9.8 seconds, winning gold in the 4x110 yards relay, competing for Scotland and competing for Great Britain against Russia at White City.  The latter earning him life membership of Victoria Park.

He went on to win two more Scottish sprintRonnie in action titles in 1959 and 1962.  He was a member of the winning Victoria Park 4x110 yards relay teams on four occasions and represented Scotland in at least four international matches.

Once his successful career as an athlete was over he continued as a coach for many years and many younger athletes benefitted from his experience.  Ronnie had a great sense of humour and he was always popular with the youngsters.

Always keen to be involved in athletics he became a track referee, a track judge and a marksman.  He officiated over many years at all levels and made a name for himself as a track referee for disability athletics.  He was much sought after and for many years was the track referee at the Bute Highland Games.

He was still officiating last winter within the Kelvin Hall and he was present at Victoria Park Glasgow’s last but one agm.

His last trip to Scotstoun was in October this year to see the Club’s newly completed display cabinet.  Thanks to his generosity, the centre piece of the display is those very same starting blocks which were made for him in the 1950’s with his handmade leather running shoes in situ.

Everyone who knew Ronnie said he was a lovely kind man “a gentleman”.  He’ll be greatly missed by all.

His funeral will take place at 3pm on Thursday the 13th of December at Clydebank Crematorium.  All friends and club-mates are invited to join his wife Irene, son Donald and daughter Elspeth for the service.  The family have requested no black ties.  Club colours would be a nice touch.

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