So just who were the Class of ‘55? Epilogue – Celtic’s David Duffy

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Well, the good news is that we now have a resume of David’s life and career, as provided by his daughter Karen.

David Duffy was born in Dundee on Tuesday, 16 August 1932. A boyhood Celtic supporter, he played football from an early age and enjoyed success with St John’s school then Dunkeld Amateurs, with whom he won the Scottish Cup.

Quite a few of the Dunkeld team turned professional, including another Dundonian Duffy who played for Celtic!

Inside-forward John Duffy signed for Celtic in 1948 and following a stint on National Service with the RAF he made his Celtic first-team debut against East Fife at Bayview on Saturday, 21 March 1953. That match ended in a 4-1 defeat and John did not enjoy better luck in his second and final appearance for the club, and 4-0 hammering by Dundee at Dens Park a fortnight later. John would be on the periphery as Celtic won the Coronation Cup the following month then the League and Cup Double in the spring of 1954. He was released by Celtic at the end of that campaign and joined Southend United, where he made more than a century of appearances before retiring in 1960.

Centre-forward John Coyle also enjoyed senior success. He played alongside David with junior club Dundee St Joseph’s before joining Second Division Dundee United in 1950. Despite a career interruption for National Service, he scored an incredible 112 goals in 132 matches for the Tannadice men – including a club record 43 in 1955/56 – before First Division Clyde paid £8,000 for his signature in December 1957.

John continued on the goal trail at Shawfield, his 31 goals scored over the next five months including a hat-trick in Clyde’s 3-2 win over Motherwell at Celtic Park in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup and the only goal of the final against Hibernian at Hampden three weeks later. He then scored a double as the Bully Wee beat Rangers 4-0 to win the Glasgow Charity Cup.

That form earned Johnny his place in the 22-man Scotland squad for the World Cup finals in Sweden that summer, together with clubmates Harry Haddock and Archie Robertson. Sadly, John did not make an appearance in Sweden and would be fated never to represent his country at that level. He scored 59 goals in his 85 games for Clyde before leaving the club in the spring of 1960 to join Cambridge City.

Of the others, Dennis McGurk played one League game for Hibernian in March 1950 before joining East Fife in September 1952. He also played south of the border with Hull City. Charlie Thomson signed for Derby County and the McAnearney brothers Tom and Jim both played with Sheffield Wednesday.

David Duffy was playing in Junior football with St. Joseph’s when he was spotted by Celtic and signed for Jimmy McGrory in 1950. Amongst his close friends at Celtic Park were Vincent Ryan, Jimmy ‘Peam’ Docherty and Billy Craig, brother-in-law of Sean Fallon. The Sligo legend had signed for Celtic in March of that year and was also amongst David’s favourite players, others being Bertie Peacock, Bobby Collins, Willie Fernie, Jock Stein and John McPhail.

David spent two years doing National Service in RAF, playing for the station teams and turning out for Celtic reserves whilst on leave. He was demobbed in January 1955 and turned full-time with Celtic at that time. Whilst there would be no first-team action for him, David was a regular pick in the reserves, featuring at left-half in a 1-0 victory over Rangers at Celtic Park on Friday, 24 September 1955, when Matt McVittie scored the only goal of the game (As an aside, it was my great pleasure to host some of Matt’s family on a stadium tour of Celtic Park on Saturday, something which only came about as a result of this series of articles!). The Celtic team that day was as follows.

Benny McCreadie; Peter Goldie & Frank Meechan; Frank Whyte, John Jack & David Duffy;
John Higgins, Matt McVittie, Jim Sharkey, Jimmy Rowan & Bertie Auld.

Three members of that team would be released by Celtic at the end of April 1956, those being David, Jimmy Rowan and Frank Whyte. David returned to working at his trade as a plumber whilst signing for Second Division Montrose on a part-time basis for season 1956/57. Later that year, though, David married his sweetheart Mary Clark and decided to give up playing football. He would still be closely involved in the game though, as a commentator for visually impaired supporters every week at Dens Park and Tannadice for over 20 years.

David is now happily retired, and on August 16 he celebrated his 90th birthday with his family of four daughters, seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren (number 12 on the way!).

Living happily ever after with a loving family, having lived his dream of wearing those famous green and white Hoops!

As a footnote, David’s daughters did not escape the football world after their dad had retired, as two of them married professional footballers! George Sinclair was a talented forward with Arbroath in the First Division of 1977/78 before moving to junior outfit Dundee North End.

And John Holt will be no stranger to Celtic supporters of a certain vintage. John made over 400 appearances for that wonderful Dundee United team under Jim McLean which won the first major trophies in the club’s history. John played in both League Cup final victories of 1979 and 1980 then the title triumph of 1982/83, all three won remarkably on the ground of fierce city rivals Dundee.

He was also pivotal in United’s run to the semi-final of the European Cup in 1983/84 and the final of the UEFA Cup three years later, those campaigns ending in bitter disappointment at the hands of AS Roma and IFK Gothenburg. John would enjoy spells at Dunfermline Athletic, Dundee, Forfar Athletic and as a player-manager at Deverondale in the Highland League before following in his father-in-law’s footsteps by signing for Montrose in 1993, once again in that combined role.

Having returned to Tannadice in a coaching capacity, John replicated David’s footsteps again by working for Celtic, initially as a scout then as the manager of the woman’s team. His last job in football was as the caretaker manager back at Links Park, Montrose, after his old United captain Paul Hegarty had been sacked as manager.

Hail hail!

Matt Corr

Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue

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About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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