Dick the Gick
Nobody knows for certain exactly when Dick the Gick first showed up at Shelbourne Park. Some say it was 31st February 1929 while others maintain it was in the latter half of the Tang Dynasty. When the two factions meet, it often results in a very long and repetitive argument.
The famous American author, Mark “Never The” Twain once famously said that there are only three certainties in the world – death, taxis (yes, I wondered about that myself) and the presence of Dick the Gick at Shelbourne Park in the thirties.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 saw many ruined Shels fans leaping to their deaths from Row Z of the terraces, which meant there was suddenly space for new enterprising supporters. Dick the Gick was one of these. He had been born at forty years of age and wore an old sack tied with sisal around his waist, believing it to be the height of fashion. Like all thirties football supporters, he wore a flat cap and glasses, twirled a rattle incessantly and was as ugly as sin.
Rumour had it that he had been a Greek shipping magnate who had fallen on hard times (the book by Charles Dickens) though his broad Ringsend accent made this unlikely. Others claim he was the Crown Princess Anastasia still in hiding from the Bolsheviks, though he was always the first to lead the singing of “Keep the Red Flag flying.”
Dick’s rattle was a major reason for the upswing in Shels fortunes during the thirties. The Irish Times reported on one occasion that, such was the clamour emanating from the object, that the opposition were frequently terrified and refused to venture into the Shels half of the field.
Dick never missed a Shels match right through the thirties but the real reason for his cult status among Reds fans was that, in all that time, he never once paid the admission fee. At first, he used to scale the wall at the back of the dressing rooms but when security got wise to that, his methods of entry became more and more convoluted.
He was one of the first recorded spectators to pole-vault into a football ground, sailing in over the Canal End in a match against Cork Imponderables; another ruse was to disguise himself as a referee, complete with white stick and Labrador; on one famous occasion, he hid himself inside a vaulting horse and tunneled into the ground, unfortunately coming up under the penalty spot at precisely the wrong time.
A trawl through James Joyce’s little-known homage to Dick – “What’s Sixpence to a Football Club?” – reveals some highly inventive ways that The Gick avoided paying the admission fee. On one occasion, he strapped himself to the visiting Dundalk centre-forward and pretended to be a Siamese twin; on another, he circumnavigated the ground nine times before blowing on a trumpet and the walls came tumbling down; sometimes he would approach the officer on the gate, point up at the sky and exclaim “Look, a squirrel” and then nip inside while the officer was busy scanning the heavens.
Probably Dick’s most famous escapade was the parachute incident in a Cup tie against Cork Despicables in 1936 which resulted in him being booked for descent. The stunt made headlines around the world and earned the enterprising fan an exclusive contract with OK magazine.
With many people attending Shels matches simply to marvel at Dick’s increasingly bizarre entry tactics, it was of course in the club’s interest to make sure he evaded the matchday security. Turnstile attendants were instructed to pretend to be lacing up their shoes whenever they saw Dick approaching badly disguised as a halibut and the security guards were told to run into each other like the Keystone Cops and allow him to access the terraces unmolested to rousing cheers from the supporters.
His death in 1944 from a lethal cocktail of TK Lemonade and Smarties provoked a nationwide outpouring of grief, though some suspected it was merely another of his brilliant ruses to evade detection. Even his state funeral in an open-topped casket wouldn’t budge some cynics, though many lost their ration books in Paddy Powers when his death was officially confirmed.
Despite popular misconceptions, there is absolutely no truth in the rumour that Dick was the grandfather of a modern-day Cork fan who, it is said, can magically appear in two grounds hundreds of miles apart at the same time.