Dixie Hale as part of the Waterford FC 1956 team who were known as ‘The Glamour Boys.’ Back Row L to R: Shamie Halpin, Billy Barry, George Hale, Jimmy O’Dwyer, Sonny Price, Jimmy Gauld. Front Row: L to R: Joe Casey, Dixie Hale, Denny Fitzgerald, Eddie McIllvenny and Jack Fitzgerald.
Alfie Hale pays tribute to his ‘wonderful brother’ Dixie who died last week in Swansea.
The football and wider Waterford community is mourning the death this week of a much loved son of the Déise, Dixie Hale, the older brother of the League of Ireland great Alfie, who died after illness in his adopted Swansea just three weeks short of his 86th birthday on Wednesday last, May 12.
Born on May 29, 1935, to Alfie Snr and Alice in Dominick’s Place in Waterford City before moving to nearby Ard na Greine, Dixie, along with Alfie, the late Harry and George, went onto play with St. Joseph’s and Waterford FC in the 1950s.
After a footballing career that saw him move to Kilcohan Park at the age of 16, he also became the first player to sign professionally at Shamrock Rovers a year later, and when home sickness struck after moving to the capital, he arrived back to Waterford before moving to Swansea where he went onto have a great career with many clubs in the English leagues.
While a love of sport was the prime focus of Dixie’s life, there’s no doubting that his unbridled love for his family was the most vital thing that glued his 85 years of life on earth together, and he’ll be most fondly remembered by those who knew him.
“A GREAT MAN”
In a touching tribute to the last of his three brothers, the legendary Alfie told the Waterford News & Star that “the final light has flickered on the life of a great man, who was much loved, always had great time for everybody, and lived his life to the full.”
“As they say, brothers are brothers, and there’s nothing that comes closer than that. There were four of us that all played together with the same clubs, St. Joseph’s and Waterford. There was something between the four of us, and that was obviously a very close loyalty.
“It’s been a very sad situation for us over the past few years because our brother had Alzheimer’s, and he slowly went downhill. He is in God’s hands now, and I think that’s the only thing that makes things a bit easier for all of us.”
The late Alfie Hale Senior with his four sons, George, Harry, Alfie and Dixie.
‘A GREAT LIFE’
“The one thing that I can say with a great deal of certainty to you is that Dixie had a great life, and he would be the first person to say that himself. He had a great sporting life and he loved every minute of it. He took such pride in it from his schooldays playing hurling to recent times when he was still playing golf.
“He had a love of hurling from an early age, but he made it at football. He tried it at squash, snooker, and played golf. He excelled at most things in his life.
“For me though, he never had a bitter bone in his body. For some people would say of the injustice that he came across in his footballing days when he was ignored entirely by Ireland when players of lesser ability were been handed International caps.
“He wasn’t alone in that though because two other Waterford men, Seamie Coad and John O’Neill, along with him, were ignored on a regular basis. I would have classed these three men as three of the most magnificent midfield players that ever played football in Ireland never mind Waterford.
“The one thing I admired about my brother for that was that he never held any bad feelings towards anyone for that, and he played at a time when the maximum wage was there, and was about to be broken. He would have got the fruits of it for a year or two as the game escalated into millionaires row.
“I remember that he was the first to say good luck to the lads, but he had this thing that he felt that players could never enjoy the game as much as we did. I think that was a true saying for him because he was great player, but even a greater brother to us all.”
“A PLAYER OF CREATIVITY & CONTROL”
Whilst Dixie was Alfie’s older brother, what kind of player did he see him as? “I think it’s difficult to say that to a younger brigade today, who are all about modern day football. If you were to go back to the Johnny Giles day, well you could put any two of Seamie, John or Dixie, with himself and Billy Bremner.
Dixie Hale accepting a special award from former Irish international player and manager Johnny Giles back in 2006.
“You would get the same dynamic. They were great footballers, and Dixie was one of these. What he was is that he was special as a midfield player because he was a creative player, and a player like those I’ve mentioned that could control a game. Often when the striker wasn’t able to put the ball in the net, up they’d pop.
“He had the ability to score goals from 35 yards. These sort of things don’t come easy, and when people follow football, they follow it because of the expectation of what they expect from a player that was able to turn a game inside out when it was looking dull. He had a spark that would change a game.
“People in the stands jumped with excitement by watching the likes of Dixie, Seamie, John, Johnny Giles, and countless others. They wanted to see creative play and get a finish to it. Dixie was one of these players that definitely had that.
“After playing for Waterford at 16, he was coming up to the age of 17 when he was able to sign full professional forms, but up to then he was classed as an amateur. Because my late father had played with Shamrock Rovers, and had toured America with them, he had a leaning for Dixie to go to Dublin.
“They were been managed at the time by the legendary Paddy Coad so my father thought that instead of him leaving the country that he would get professional football at home and he wouldn’t have to travel far, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way.
“Although Shamrock Rovers took him on as a full time professional, he didn’t realise that he was the only one, and he was in Dublin walking O’Connell Street day and night, looking for someone to talk to, and for a bit of companionship. It didn’t last, and it showed in his play. He drifted and wanted to come home.”
“NO FOR IRELAND”
“There’s a story to him coming home because Shamrock Rovers wanted to retain him because they felt that he was something of value. They knew that Arsenal were interested in signing him. They refused to release him, which was never heard of before but what happened with him is that he came back to Waterford.
“Rovers had protested at this, but they hadn’t realised is that every year on the May 1 every player had to be retained on a professional contract. There was a little bit of mischief created by my father with the secretary of Shamrock Rovers called Captain Scully.
Dixie during his time with Watford.
“He asked him to do him a favour because they played together with Rovers in the 1920s/30s and let his boy go home to Waterford. He “forgot” to retain Dixie by May 1 and he didn’t send the letter out so that meant that he was free to come back to Waterford. Shamrock Rovers never forgot it and they stated publicly and in a letter to my father that he’d never play for Ireland, and he never did.”
It was his brother’s love for football and Waterford that saw him return as Alfie remembers fondly his return to the Blues before his move to Swansea. “His return to Waterford coincided with the signing of Jimmy Gauld along with the Fitzgerald brothers, Jack and Denny, they went on a magnificent run and they were within ten days of winning the double, but ended up with neither.
“There was a lot of broken hearts after that. I’ve had a lot of lucky breaks in my life, and this is not about me, but I have to say in terms of Dixie, and he never held anything against anybody, but he never really got a break in life.
“In his time spent in England, he had a tragedy as everybody knows about in his family when his young son was killed, and while it took him a long time to get over that, the truth is he never got over it. He moved onto Watford eventually after being in “outer space” as he would put it with Barrow.”
At the first International soccer match ever held in Croke Park in 2007 are two Waterford Legends Davy Walsh and Dixie Hale.
“A GREAT BROTHER”
“He loved that time in Barrow and Workington though, and he met a lot of great people. It was these people that took him to Watford where he had a glorious campaign over four or five years. He was such a popular guy, and they really loved him.
“He would always talk about the FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United when they drew 1-1 as the greatest game that he ever played in. The one thing that I can say though is that my brother loved his life in football, and enjoyed every minute of it.
In summing up his brother, an emotional Alfie said, “He was a great brother, a great brother to us all. He was always regarded by us all as the best. And what a hurler he was. It was often mentioned that if they had gotten him to play with Mount Sion instead of De La Salle, he would have won an All-Ireland.
“He was a man that took everything in his stride, and at the end of it all, he loved coming home to Waterford, and we loved going over to him. It’s hard for me right now not to be emotional about it because we loved him so much.”
‘KNIGHTS IN SHINING ARMOUR’
“I think that he always gave value for money to everybody in sport, but he always appreciated where he came from. He was a great guy, and that’s what he was. There was a lot more people like him out there that was Dixie’s type of guy. They should have been a contender, and they should have got the breaks in life.
“He loved who he was and what he had. I know that there is a lot of people that I know in football that were better players than we were, but at the end of the day, there’s more to life than just sport. There’s a lot of add ons to life that he took his stride, and he loved every part of his life. We loved him and will forever miss him.”
“Dixie mightn’t as I said earlier have gotten the lucky breaks in life on the football pitch, but he was blessed to have a great family, who looked after him, and cared for him so wonderfully during the last few years.
“His wife Janet, son Neil, daughter Andrea, and his beloved grandchildren Molly and Jaydee were his knights in shining armour. They nursed and cared for him so much that words can’t really express the gratitude that the rest of us have for them.
“He meant the world to them and they meant the world to him. They supported him all the days till the nights ended and shadows fall. They were his rock and were always by his side through the most difficult times and the great times. Rest in peace my wonderful brother and thank you for the most beautiful memories.”
Dixie is survived by his wife of 60 years, Janet, son Neil, daughter Andrea, grandchildren Molly and Jaydee, brother Alfie, sisters Lily, Kathleen, Myra, and Alice, nieces, nephews, extended family and friends to whom we offer our deepest and sincerest sympathy. His funeral will be held in Swansea at a later date. May he rest in peace.
Waterford FC legend, Dixie Hale, presents Andrew O’Connor with his Waterford United U-19 Player of the Year award at the RSC in 2014.