A life­long – and long life – Dee fan looks back at his 105 years.

Michael Alexan­der meets life­long Dundee FC fan Chic Kennedy who cel­e­brated his 105th birth­day this week

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - malexan­[email protected]­courier.co.uk

As life­long Dundee FC fan Chic Kennedy cel­e­brated his 105th birth­day with fam­ily and friends at Or­char Nurs­ing Home in Broughty Ferry this week, it was a chance for him to re­flect on a re­mark­able life­time that has seen him live through two world wars, the Great De­pres­sion – and more ups and downs for the city’s pro­fes­sional foot­ball teams than he might care to men­tion!

The grand­fa­ther of six and great­grand­fa­ther of seven said the se­cret of liv­ing to 105 was sim­ply “good food as a child” and, in re­cent years, do­ing the times ta­bles in his head ev­ery day to keep his mind ag­ile.

“The odd sherry or two also helps – but I was never a drinker,” he added.

But as the re­tired baker sat down for an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with The Courier to talk about the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of his life, it quickly be­came clear that hav­ing grown up dur­ing a time of mass poverty and dis­ease in Dundee, he was

“We were one storey up – the plane came down on its side past the win­dow

lucky to sur­vive child­hood at all.

One of 11 chil­dren, Chic, the son of Dundee scrap dealer Thomas Mar­shall Kennedy, was born on Jan­uary 7 1914 at 28 Green­mar­ket – a top-floor ten­e­ment which was de­mol­ished a few years later to make way for the con­struc­tion of the Caird Hall.

As a young­ster, he re­mem­bers his fa­ther go­ing out ev­ery night to smoke his pipe and “put the world to rights” with other ‘mar­ket boys’ at ‘The Chains’ around the now de­mol­ished Royal Arch.

The fam­ily were “luck­ier than most folk” when it came to be­ing able to af­ford to eat, he said, thanks to his fa­ther be­ing in busi­ness.

How­ever, money was still in­cred­i­bly tight and when the fam­ily moved to a two-bed­room ten­e­ment at 43 Nether­gate in 1916, he re­calls the “ter­ri­ble” con­di­tions – the “un­healthy houses, ver­min that were some­thing aw­ful and an out­side toi­let”. The over­crowd­ing was ex­ac­er­bated by the fact that in ad­di­tion to their own fam­ily of 11, Chic’s fa­ther took in three of his sis­ter’s chil­dren af­ter she died, as well as his old granny.

Chic says go­ing to bed at night was “fun” and there was a “ri­tual” as the fold-down cabi­net beds came out in the ex­tremely cramped rooms.

De­spite be­ing rel­a­tively well off, how­ever, only six of the 11 Kennedy sib­lings made it to adult­hood.

When Chic was three or four years old, he re­mem­bers his younger brother and sis­ter, John and Lizzie, dy­ing from tu­ber­cu­lo­sis in the same week.

“I re­mem­ber the lit­tle white coffins go­ing out the close,” he said.

“I had one on my knee. My fa­ther had the other on his. We went on a horse-drawn cab to the ceme­tery. They were just bairns…”

Chic re­mem­bers the mass hunger marches and ri­ots in Dundee dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion of the early 1930s.

As a pupil at Tay Street School, he used to get a “bathie ticket” from Mr Hoy the head­mas­ter – a sys­tem where go­ing for a swim at the old water­front swim­ming baths ac­tu­ally meant hav­ing a bath.

He won the team race in an in­ter-school swim­ming com­pe­ti­tion – and years later he and his brother, James, used their swim­ming prow­ess to res­cue two boys in dif­fi­culty in the Tay off Barn­hill.

He has happy mem­o­ries of hol­i­days in Tay­port where his par­ents used to rent a cot­tage in sum­mer.

De­spite be­ing of­fered a trial with Dundee School­boys in Perth, any hopes the foot­ball-daft young­ster had of be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional player were dashed when his mum said he had to get a job.

Re­call­ing how he could never af­ford foot­ball boots and used to have hours of fun us­ing scrunched-up news­pa­per as a ball, he left school two weeks be­fore his 14th birth­day to start work in a bis­cuit fac­tory, earn­ing two shillings per week.

He se­cured full-time work at An­drew G Kidd – work­ing as a baker the rest of his work­ing life.

Work­ing in a “re­served” oc­cu­pa­tion, he served in the Home Guard dur­ing the Se­cond World War – re­spon­si­ble for man­ning the anti-air­craft guns that were mounted at Kingsway East.

Mar­ry­ing Betty – whom he met at the old Kingsway ice rink – on Septem­ber 12 1942, he re­mem­bers “like yes­ter­day” the oc­ca­sion when a Luft­waffe air­craft, ap­par­ently un­able to find RAF Leuchars, “straffed” Nether­gate.

“We were one storey up – the plane came down on its side past the win­dow. What a fear­some sight it was. Gee whiz!”, he said.

On an­other oc­ca­sion, he was sit­ting out on the sill wash­ing the win­dows – his wife hold­ing his legs to make sure he wouldn’t top­ple out – when an­other plane came “shoot­ing past”.

“It wasn’t funny” he said, re­call­ing how he al­most fell.

Some of the most mem­o­rable bat­tles of his life, how­ever, in­volve his beloved Dundee FC – a team he first watched aged 12.

Chic laughs when he re­calls chil­dren like him get­ting “sneaky-ins” at Dens Park – hid­ing un­der men’s coats as they went through the turn­stiles.

He talks fondly of see­ing leg­endary play­ers like “the mas­ter” Billy Steel and Alan Gilzean. He re­mem­bers “well­dressed” Dundee United play­ers, in the Se­cond Divi­sion at that time, turn­ing up at Dens wear­ing bowler hats for derby games.

When it comes to foot­ball to­day, how­ever, he thinks the av­er­age foot­baller is over­paid and is sad­dened there are “no real stars”. He also thinks there’s “too much his­tory” for a merger of Dundee and Dundee United to ever work – be­cause it would “chase the die-hard fans away”.

Chic and Betty, whose son Tom and niece Cather­ine re­side in Broughty Ferry and Moni­fi­eth re­spec­tively, lived in Canada for around 30 years af­ter re­tire­ment – only re­turn­ing to Dundee seven years ago af­ter their daugh­ter Ann, who lived in Toronto, died. Betty passed away a year past Au­gust. But as Chic looks back on his time – laugh­ing that in­stead of his an­nual birth­day card from the Queen say­ing ‘Dear Charles’ it now says ‘Dear Chic’ – he added: “I’ve had a very happy life.”

Pic­ture: Kris Miller.

Chic Kennedy cel­e­brated his 105th birth­day with fam­ily and friends at Or­char Nurs­ing Home in Broughty Ferry.

Top: Chic Kennedy and his wife Betty on their wed­ding day in 1942; and, above, im­ages of the cou­ple dur­ing their life to­gether. Left: Chic with his son, Tom, who is now in his 70s.

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