The Family Dunn Well!
Remarkable Coincidence In Dynasty Story
What chance would there have been of two Jimmy Dunns – father and son – being born on this date (November 25)? And of both going on to receive FA Cup winners’ medals as inside-forwards?
The Edinburgh-born Wolves version, whose death and funeral we reported on at length in 2015, would have been 96 today. His father arrived in 1900, in Glasgow.
We were contacted this autumn about some background information on the family and the recent appearance of an article on the www.toffeeweb.com website made this a perfect day for offering further insight on the remarkable footballing Dunns.
First, some background…..Jimmy Snr achieved Goodison immortality when he appeared alongside Jimmy Stein and Dixie Dean as scorers in Everton’s 1933 FA Cup final victory over Manchester City.
He was described as diminutive and, standing at 5ft 5in and wearing size two boots, there were probably comparisons with one of his son’s Wembley team-mates, Johnny Hancocks.
He was known as ‘Ginger’ and we assume the prolific Molineux man was as well on account of his similar hair colour. Dad totalled 304 appearances and 103 goals in eight years at Hibernian and won five of his six Scottish caps while with them.
“Most famously,” the www.toffeeweb.com feature tells us, “in March, 1928, he dazzled on England’s home turf as the ‘Wembley Wizards’ humbled England – with the great ‘Dixie’ Dean in the ranks – 5-1. Remarkably, the tallest forward in the five-man Scottish forward line was hat-trick hero Alex Jackson at just 5ft 7in.”
It was on the word of Dean himself that Jimmy joined Football League champions Everton a few weeks later. When asked by the Goodison powers-that-be who they might sign from the England side, the record-breaking marksman identified the ginger-topped forward, who, much to the disappointment of Celtic, moved south of the border on £8 a week basic. The average wage at the time for a tradesman was said to be £2.50.
Home was one of the terraced club houses on Goodison Avenue. “All the players were there,” we are informed in the article by a quote from Jimmy Jnr’s only surviving sibling, 92-year-old John. “We lived next door to Dixie. He was a gentleman, a wonderful man. He was Dad’s best mate.
“‘Billy Dean’ it was – if anyone called him Dixie, he never liked it. Dixie got Dad into a lot of trouble – he’d take him off drinking and then leave him on the doorstep afterwards and Mum would go mad. She called him ‘The Big Fella’. ‘Have you been with The Big Fella again?’ she used to say.
“Dad was very quiet. He wouldn’t push himself, so Billy had to push him and Dad would give in. They were great pals.
“When we were a bit older, Mum would get us around the fire with the big grate and go through Dad’s career – she knew it all. She knew her football, although she had not been to a football match before she first came down to Liverpool.”
At five, John was too young to see his dad, who had been doubtful during ‘special training’ at Buxton, play in the 1933 final. But he remembers seeing the victorious Everton side show the Cup off as they went round the city – on a horse and cart! He was in the Wembley crowd, though, for Wolves’ win over Leicester 16 years later.
In 1935, young Jimmy headed to Devon with his mother and siblings – sister Helen died in infancy – when their father signed for Exeter after 155 Everton appearances and 49 goals.
The stay in the south-west was much briefer before he kicked off a spell as a Wolves scout and then made the move into management at Runcorn. Work off the pitch came in a shipyard making rivets.
He remained well connected on Merseyside and barely needed the season ticket Everton gave him upon retiring as a player. Known as he was to various managers, he was always welcome anyway and once, when Wolves were playing at Liverpool, Bill Shankly saw him and asked: “Are you going to watch the match, Jimmy?” The answer was: “Oh, I’m alright, Bill. I’ve got a couple of complimentaries and am just waiting to collect them.”
Wolves had seeped further into the family dna through young Jimmy, who had attracted interest from Anfield during the long reign of George Kay. Liverpool went in for him but, during a trial, his arm was gripped and he was told to go back when he had ‘a bit more meat’ on him.
Then a Wolves scout spotted those familiar red family locks, noticed a promising talent and invited him to the West Midlands, where Stan Cullis told him: “You’re Jimmy Dunn’s lad. Well, if you’re as good your dad, it will do me.’”
We have written various articles celebrating Jimmy Jnr’s Molineux stay of 144 games and 40 goals and his feat of following in his father’s footsteps by helping lift the FA Cup in 1949.
His service was all the more outstanding given that, during his time with junior club St Theresa’s when he was frequently on the losing side against the likes of Liverpool A and Everton A, he had a career-threatening accident.
In a game in Stanley Park, he climbed over some railings to retrieve the ball, fell on a spike and was told after a visit to hospital that he would never play again. Happily, normal service was resumed and brother Tommy also tried his luck at the club amid spells at Bournemouth and Chelmsford after playing alongside John with Everton Colts in 1945.
“During the war, we used to play on Sundays against the Italian prisoners of war,” John added. “You should have seen the crowds we used to get! I was at outside-left, Jimmy was centre-forward and Tommy was at inside-forward.
“Tom and Jim worked on the railways as engine stokers but when I went for an eye test, I was found to be colour-blind, so I had a letter calling me up.
“I could either go down the mines as a Bevan Boy or get a job as a cook in the forces – I took that as at least I’d get something to eat. I joined the RAF and was posted to Aden working in the mess. That’s how I went on to become a professional chef.
“When Dad was poorly, Dixie Dean came with one of the Everton directors to see him in hospital. Dixie hadn’t seen us lads for years but could point out which one was which – and we were grown up by then. A gentleman, he was.
“Dad lost his battle with stomach cancer in 1963, just months after his beloved Blues lifted the League title for the sixth time. He was only 62 and Tommy was the same age when he died.”
*We repeat our thanks to Rob Sawyer for his help in making his fascinating article available to us.