William Dunning was born on January 2nd, 1865, in Arthurlie, East Renfrewshire. At the age of twenty three, after spending his early footballing days between the sticks with Johnstone Juniors, the young goalkeeper joined Glasgow’s newest club, Celtic, in 1888. He made his debut for the Celts in the Club’s first ever Scottish Cup tie, a 5-1 victory over Shettleston in the first round on the 1st September, 1888.
Willie would predominantly feature in the Scottish Cup for Celtic, as well as occasionally in the Glasgow Cup and friendlies (keep in mind the Scottish League system was not introduced until 1890-91). Only days after his debut, Willie featured as Celtic lost 0-2 to Cowlairs in the Glasgow Exhibition Cup Final. Ironically, a week later, the Celts (with Dunning once again in goal) defeated the same Cowlairs side 8-0 at Celtic Park in the second round of the Scottish Cup. Willie would also feature in the next round, as Celtic beat Albion Rovers 4-1 in front of a crowd of only 600 at Celtic Park.
Before Celtic took on St Bernard’s in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup, Celtic travelled to Ibrox to face Rangers in the first competitive meeting between the two sides. Willie only conceded once, as 4,000 spectators witnessed Celtic hammer their future rivals 6-1.
When Celtic did meet St Bernard’s, it was a fairly easy outing, as they ran out 4-1 winners in front of almost 6,000 people at the Powderhall Grounds, Edinburgh. In the fifth round, Celtic lost 0-1 to Clyde at Celtic Park (although it was John Tobin in goals that day) before the Scottish Football Association declared the result of the match void and ordered a replay. This was due to the match kicking off late and ending in darkness as the visitors arrived in illegal footwear and took a long time to change to more suitable boots.
The second time the sides met, a fortnight after the first match, Celtic won 9-2 with Willie back between the sticks once again. Having been recently knocked out of the Glasgow Cup by Queen’s Park (0-2), the Scottish Cup was the only significant competition the Celts remained in, and their first Scottish Cup run would continue, as they defeated East Stirlingshire 2-1 in mid-December.
Celtic would go onto beat Dumbarton 4-1 in the semi-finals, before losing to Third Lanark 2-1 in the Scottish Cup Final (this was the second final between the teams in only a week; however, due to heavy snow, both teams agreed prior to the first match that it would only be a friendly – regardless, Third Lanark won 3-0). However, John Kelly was the Celtic goalkeeper for all of these matches, as William Dunning departed for Glasgow Hibernians just after New Year. He only played twice more for Celtic after the Scottish Cup win over East Stirlingshire, as Celtic defeated Vale of Leven in a friendly (1-2) and Clydesdale in the North Eastern Cup (1-5).
He would later join Aston Villa in England, and was part of their 1893-94 league winning side. At his peak, he was considered to be one of the best goalkeepers in the game.
William Dunning died at only the age of thirty seven, in 1902, as he succumbed to tuberculosis in a Southampton hospital.