Dan McMichael was an iconic figure in the club’s early years and played a huge role in Hibernian’s history. We look back at his life and the unveiling of the memorial for the former manager.
February 2019 marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Dan McMichael who played a special role in the history of Hibernian Football Club.
Born in Ireland in 1865, Dan was a ship’s carpenter to trade. He moved to Edinburgh in the mid-1890s where lived with his brother-in-law, James ‘Judge’ Murphy. Although he had never played professional football, Dan had been a renowned sprinter in his younger day.
Described as a ‘tall, serious-looking man with a bushy moustache who was never known to speak harshly or ungenerously to anyone’, Dan joined Hibernian a few years later and filled every role from secretary to the treasurer, manager to physio. The undoubted highlight being that 1-0 win over Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final which Dan sportingly agreed would be played at Parkhead following a disaster at Ibrox which claimed the lives of 18 supporters at a Scotland v England game a few weeks previously.
Dan’s Hibernian team then won the Glasgow Charity Cup beating Celtic 6-2 which meant that the Easter Road Trophy Room held four pieces of silverware, including the Rosebery Cup and the East of Scotland Cup. The following season Hibernian won the League Title for the first time, finishing six points ahead of nearest rivals Dundee.
Dan left his beloved Hibernian for a short spell but returned to lead the club for a further 15 years after his replacement Phil Kelso left to join Arsenal.
As well as being manager, Dan turned his hand to anything and did odd jobs around the ground when his office commitments finished.
One day an English journalist visited Easter Road in search of material for an article, and he spotted what he assumed to be the groundsman painting the goalposts. When he asked where he could find Dan McMichael, the reporter was astounded when the ‘groundsman’ replied that he was talking to him.
Whilst he kept the club in a prominent position, especially during the war, Celtic had overtaken Hibs as the preferred club of the Irish community in Scotland.
The two rivals met again in the 1914 Scottish Cup Final, but on this occasion, it was Celtic who emerged triumphant, winning 4-1 after a replay, although accounts of the first game suggested that Hibernian had been on top and deserved to win.
By the end of the war, the club’s finances were in a sorry state, and the Glasgow based media took great delight in making fun of the faded and worn Hibs jerseys which looked more yellow than green.
Their performances were such that an Easter Road chip shop owner, Jock Ward, had taken to offering fans free fish suppers if the team won at home. His profits were safe as the campaign saw just three wins in 19 matches.
Dan’s story ended tragically in 1919 when he was one of 100 million victims worldwide of Spanish flu possibly having picked up the infection working in the docks at Leith. He collapsed on his way home from Brockville on 1 February 1919, after a 1-1 draw with Falkirk.
Taken home to be with his wife, Jane, at 247 Easter Road, he was confined to bed, where he died peacefully five days later. His funeral was well attended and Hibs directors paid for a wreath in the shape of a broken harp, reflecting the Irish heritage of the manager and the club.
Dan’s football philosophy would go down well at Easter Road today, as he was once quoted as saying: “I don’t need money to bring stars to Easter Road. Hibs bring out their own stars.”
A few years ago, it was discovered that Dan had been buried in an unmarked grave in the Eastern cemetery behind the Famous Five stand and members of the St Patrick’s Branch of the Hibernian Supporters Club organised fund-raising activities to raise money to provide a fitting memorial for the former manager.
A gravestone, which bears the symbol of the Celtic cross, was paid for courtesy of £3,000 donations from Hibernian fans as far away as Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia and Qatar.
Lifelong Hibernian fan Hugh Cockburn also took part in a charity bike ride from London to Edinburgh to raise money.
The stone was unveiled on Saturday 8 December 2013 by Hibernian legend Pat Stanton at a poignant ceremony attended by members of Dan’s family, supporters and directors of the club plus Terry Butcher who said that he was extremely honoured to be invited to the service.
Pat Stanton (left) unveils the headstone for the club's former manager, secretary and treasurer Dan McMichael.
He said: “It was a marvellous occasion – it wasn’t sombre at all, it was very uplifting. Pat Stanton, Sir Tom Farmer, the Chairman and the all the directors were there plus there were hundreds of fans.
“The St Patrick’s Branch had done a fantastic job in raising the funds; it is a beautiful headstone and it’s fitting that his grave should be marked in this way.”
Dan’s grandson Anthony McMichael said: “I would like to thank the members of the St Patrick’s Branch of the Hibs Supporters Association for the way they organised today’s event. It’s been absolutely fantastic to get the family together. I had never met some of them before and others I hadn’t seen for forty years.
“My father was the youngest of ten children and Dan died when he was only twelve, but there have always been a few Hibs stories in the family. My father was also called Tony and he used to have the Waverly Hotel in Bonnyrigg where there were photographs of the old Hibs teams in the bar.
“I was also delighted that Hibs legend Pat Stanton unveiled the headstone and that Terry Butcher was able to attend and what a great speech he gave, with no notes. I am glad that my speech was before his as I couldn’t have followed him.”
The headstone of former Hibernian manager, secretary and treasurer provided by funds raised from the St Patrick’s Branch of the Hibernian Supporters Club.
In total, Dan McMichael managed Hibernian in 598 matches across his two spells – helping the club to a league title and a Scottish Cup during his time in charge.
Written by John Hislop