One of the last living people to witness Dixie Dean’s record-setting 60th goal of the 1927-28 league season was buried today. 

Dick White was a great friend of mine and all my family. He got to know my late grandfather, Charles Mills (who I write about here) in the early-1950s. They shared two passions – the Catholic Church and Everton Football Club – and the lives of our families have overlapped ever since. Matchgoing, church, their sons (my uncles) sharing the same school, my father and Dick’s son working together, and so it goes on. He lived a long and good life (he was 96 when he passed away last week) and remained fiercely passionate about Everton until the end. I remember sitting in his retirement flat in Formby a few years ago, as he agonised over the final minutes of an inconsequential end-of-season game on teletext (he couldn’t bear listening on the radio) and the relief and joy when a win was confirmed by the flicker of a screen was palpable.

Dick still attended Goodison Park until in his nineties, a tradition he had started in the mid-1920s, when he went with his Dad, a policeman from Cork. He witnessed the entirety of Dixie Dean’s career and was present on the afternoon the great man plundered his sixtieth league goal at the end of the 1927-28 season. It was on the afternoon that the greatest feat of goalscoring was completed that Dick was the central character in the finest football story I’ve ever heard. He recounted it to me for my first book, Everton: The School of Science, and kept 600 Evertonians enraptured by the same tale when he recounted it at the launch dinner at the Adelphi Hotel in October 2003.

I recount it here and will raise a glass later to one of the finest men I knew:

 "I kept saying to my father, in the week leading up to that game, “Hey, Dad, we’re going to have to be up there early.” My father was never a man to hurry, though. Although he was no longer a policeman he had that majestic, slow policeman’s gait — he walked that pace everywhere. And he always insisted that I went up to the ground with him." 

On the day of the Arsenal match, the youngster was particularly on edge: "We lived 10, 15 minutes’ walk away from Goodison, but you wouldn’t believe, on this particular day, he still left at the same time and insisted I was with him in case I got lost! We walked up to the ground, along Walton Lane, up Bullens Road and into Gwladys Street. The old Boys Pen was on the Bullens Road, just around the corner of Gwladys Street, and my father always paid his bob (1 shilling... or 5p in today’s money) and stood under the clock on the corner of Gwladys Street and Goodison Road. We got to the corner, he put his hand in his pocket and produced fourpence, which was what it cost to get in the Boys Pen, and said: “Now, at the end of the game, meet me on the corner, by that lamp-post.” I said, “Yes, all right, Dad, I’ll be there.” And off he went and I got in the queue." 

The streets around Goodison were filled with throngs of expectant and excited fans. As 3 o’clock neared, the long queue to the Boys Pen was shortening, but Dick White was still far from the turnstiles. When he was within five boys of the front of the queue, disaster struck. The gates shut. "I was distraught. I’d been looking forward to this for weeks, months. It was history in the making. I was weeping and all sorts of things were going through my mind. Shall I go home? Or shall I wait until three-quarter time (when they opened the turnstiles)? If Dad comes out and I’m not here, he’ll be worried, so I’ll have to wait…"

Tears streamed down his face. "Then this gentleman was walking along, and stopped, and looked at me. “What’s the matter with you?” he asked. So I unburdened my sorry tale on him. “How much money have you got?” he asked. “Fourpence,” I said. “Well, you need a shilling to get in,” he told me. “Yes,” I said. “I know.” And he gave me eightpence! I don’t think I even thanked him! I legged it to the nearest turnstile, paid my shilling and fought my way through this mass of people behind the Gwladys Street goal, around to the far side, as near as I could get to the players’ subway, and fought my way down, almost to the well."

 Dick White, thanks to his Good Samaritan, had seen Dean’s last two goals and the record broken, and met his father, as planned, at the lamp-post outside Gwladys Street School: “Wonderful to see the great man get his record,” he said. “Yes, Dad,” I replied. “But I very nearly missed it.”

So I told him the story and he stopped, and looked at me. “He gave you eightpence?” he said. “Yes.”

“EIGHTPENCE! You know what that would buy? (It would probably have paid for about four pints.) Who was he?”

“I don’t know, Dad. He just came and saw me.”

“Did you thank him, then?”

“I don’t remember.”

For weeks after, he’d show me to people and tell the story, and he’d always end it with: “And this unknown man gave him eightpence!”’

Dick and my grandfather, Charles Mills, at my book launch in 2003

» Read also: Resting in Blue Heaven – A Tribute to Dick White by David Prentice

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Reader Comments (13)

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Rob Sawyer
1 Posted 06/02/2014 at 21:17:05
Bravo James, Dixie and Dick. Fantastic stuff.
Michael Polley
2 Posted 06/02/2014 at 22:13:30
Great story. Great man. Great Legend !!!!
Patrick Murphy
3 Posted 06/02/2014 at 22:38:00
Fantastic tribute to a man who all Evertonians should be proud to have had as a fellow supporter and I'm sure all at Everton FC are proud to have had as a patron. Sorry for your loss James and deepest sympathies to all of Mr White's family and friends.
Peter Mills
4 Posted 06/02/2014 at 23:02:29
James, thank you for posting this. I was with Dick only 3 weeks ago, we went for lunch to that hotbed of Evertonian opinion, The Freshy, and he was as full of love for his club and his family as he had ever been.

When I first started going to the match in the 60s, any 3 of my dad, my brother, grandad or me would squeeze into 2 seats of the Bullens Road stand. After the match we would meet Dick and his pals at the corner of Bullens Road and Gwladys Street, and I would listen to their opinions on what I had just witnessed. I very quickly learned that not one match had been played but 50,000, everyone had seen a different game. And Dick in particular taught me that everyone's opinion was valid so long as you supported Everton Football Club.

I guess that meeting on the corner, and the walk back to the station or car, was an early version of ToffeeWeb for me.

Rest in peace Dick. As your son Terry said in his very eloquent eulogy in church today, "...One last time Dad - Come on you Blues".

Dennis Stevens
5 Posted 06/02/2014 at 21:31:51
Marvellous tale, James - from a marvellous book too.

& ale only 2d a pint!

Dave Charles
6 Posted 07/02/2014 at 10:37:15
Thank You, James, it was a lovely read and sadly the memories are going of Dixie but we've still got and will always have the history.

Thank You again.

Rick Tarleton
7 Posted 07/02/2014 at 10:55:00
I met Dixie when he ran The Dublin Packet. My dad was one of the Tarletons as distinct from me, I'm just a Tarleton, brother of the great "Nella" and brother-in-law of the great Ernie Roderick. To my dad's amazement, I was a blue, perhaps the only Tarleton who ever was, I haven't another except my own son.

Anyhow, soon after I was 18, my dad took me over to Chester to meet William Ralph Dean. I was a cynical teenager – How could Dean compare with Alex Young and Roy Vernon who'd just brought the title back to Goodison for the first time since the war? Still Dad was trying to bond (to use the modern parlance) and I was off to university in a week's time.

We walked in the pub and Dean shouted, "Joey" – my dad's name – and they shook hands and he introduced me. He, Dean and, to a lesser extent, me talked for a couple of hours. The pub closed as pubs did then and we sat with the great man. he was a lovely and amazingly modest man. He talked admiringly of Young. I left and was really impressed.

Now, as I am in my late 60s, I look back on that day as one of the great days of my life. There probably aren't too many of us left who've actually met him. Considering his prowess in the air, he wasn't very tall, no taller than me and I'm five ten, but above all he was a gentleman and a nice person to boot and in terms of great footballers, he is a true great, worth Ł100 million in the modern transfer market.

Lee Gray
8 Posted 07/02/2014 at 11:30:37
Now THAT is what being an Evertonian is all about.....wonderful.
Peter Laing
9 Posted 07/02/2014 at 12:15:45
Fantastic story, James, and the one about your late Grandfather. Such stories make the hairs stand on end, they are in my humble opinion the fabric of Everton Football Club.
Tony Waring
10 Posted 07/02/2014 at 15:18:03
Just received news of Dick's death from my sister who still lives in Crosby though I've been down in the southwest for 17 years now. Dick was a great Evertonian and I used to swap tales with him on the way into and out of church. I never actually realised he was the last person alive to see Dixie break the record. Thanks for posting this story.
Bob McEvoy
11 Posted 07/02/2014 at 15:24:04
James...lovely stuff.. Do you have any idea why there isn't a blue plaque where Dixie was born? I realise it's the not the same property on site but from what I understand that shouldn't matter. Seems to me Wirral BC are missing a trick here.
Terry White
12 Posted 20/02/2014 at 16:47:32
On behalf of Dad's family, I'd like to thank everyone for their very touching comments and to James Corbett for his lovely article. Dad was a true gentleman of the old school and a die-hard Blue. He was greatly loved and will be sadly missed.

Mike Waring, thanks for the memories of happy days in Crosby. SS Peter & Paul was his spiritual home (unless you count Goodison) even when he moved to Formby. We had a lovely celebratory funeral mass and he is now buried in the cemetary behind the church.

David Jackson
13 Posted 26/02/2014 at 14:54:21
Great Story, James, and a belated post as I have just been told about the article by my family back in Liverpool. My dad Bill Jackson was a great friend of Dick's for many many years along with my uncle, Tony Jackson. Dick used to pick us up outside the Cabbage Inn in Netherton on a Saturday and take us to the game.

The earlier posts certainly brought back some great memories and the story of Dick and Dixie was retold by my dad a few years back at our local up near Carlisle. My dad also held their attention as he told the story of his friend Dick seeing the great Dixie score his 60th goal.

Dad also made mention of Dick having to bunk off school that day as the game was played on a weekday afternoon. If true, I am sure he would have been excused as it was part of a great education!

A truly great guy, God Bless Dick!

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