Former Marmalade frontman Dean Ford is to be remembered in his home community, with a bench at Whifflet Park being dedicated in his honour and a memorial plaque being installed on it.
The singer – whose real name was Thomas McAleese – found fame with the beloved group, who became the first Scottish band to reach number one in the UK charts with their 1969 cover of The Beatles song Ob-la-di Ob-la-da.
He passed away suddenly on Hogmanay 2018 in Los Angeles, at the age of 72; and now the permanent tribute will be put in place thanks to the efforts of his sister, Liz Carson, and project supporters Jim McGinty and Sandra Corbett.
Liz said: “Tom was born in Airdrie but spent most of his childhood and early adulthood in Whifflet. Both of us enjoyed many happy times in Whifflet Park.
“He was a big celebrity in Coatbridge when his songs were top of the hit parade, and when he became a professional singer he would often fly back to see our mother in Calder Avenue.
“It’s lovely to think there will be a permanent memorial in a place that meant so much to him.”
Liz, who now lives in South Africa, added: “Local activist Jim McGinty and family friend Sandra Corbett have been instrumental in getting us to this point and I can’t thank them enough.
“We don’t have many family members left in Scotland, only a few cousins – but I’m sure some Marmalade fans and maybe pals of Tom’s from the Coatbridge days would be interested in being there for the dedication.”
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Born as Thomas McAleese to parents Thomas senior and Elizabeth, the much-loved singer later adopted Dean Ford as his stage name.
A pupil at Clifton High in Coatbridge, he began his singing career by accompanying a jazz ensemble at Whifflet Parish Church hall and formed his first group, The Tonebeats, at the age of 13.
His big break came after a memorable performance with the Monarchs at the Barrowland ballroom in 1963, where he was seen by members of popular Glasgow band The Gaylords and invited to join them – with the group going on to find further fame as Marmalade.
Their hits included Reflections of My Life and Rainbow, both written by Thomas, and the band toured with The Who before Thomas quit the group in 1975; later moving to LA and becoming a limousine driver for famous names including Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan.
He remained a passionate, hard-working musician in his later years, completing new solo album Feel My Heartbeat in 2017 and releasing album My Scottish Heart just two months before his death.
Announcing his death in December 2018, his daughter, Tracey McAleese-Gorman, described him as “an amazing man, a gentle soul and extremely talented musician”.
Tom’s relatives, friends and fans are invited to attend the dedication event in Whifflet Park, the date of which is still to be decided.
Anyone who would like to attend the ceremony is asked to contact community partnership manager Matt Costello by emailing [email protected] to express their interest.