Is there a greater sight in football? Thousands of Celtic scarves held aloft as ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rings out in football grounds at home and abroad.
For some Celtic supporters the scarf is a cherished item, sometimes passed down from parents or older relatives, and looked after with care. For others it’s something bought without much thought on the big European nights and soon discarded or simply used to keep the neck warm in the kind of weather we’re used to on the fringes of western Europe. But it means something. It’s a public statement – it declares to the world “I’m a Celtic supporter.” And it’s a statement that Celtic fans have been making for decades.
Some of the surviving photos of the Celtic brake clubs show that scarves have been a feature of the support for almost a century. Here are the bhoys (and they’re all bhoys) from the Tally Ho Brake Club, believed to have been based in Hamilton, in the 1930s and 1940.
Wearing suits and bunnets (and gigantic bunnets at that!) was the height of fashion for football fans at the time but you can clearly see some home-made scarves making an appearance here, jostling with flags, ties and badges for attention.
It was the 1960s before scarves really came into their own and started being produced in numbers rather than being knitted in front of the fire. At the time the major youth fashion was Mod and a regular feature on that scene were vintage-looking scarves, often made by a company with the magnificent name of ‘Duggie Majestic’. Their wool or silk scarves (like the one below) became big sellers and it is believed their success saw other producers branch out into football scarves.
A dark green scarf with a shamrock design and the legend ‘Celtic Football Supporter’ proved a big seller and a good few survive to this day:
Some fans favoured a light-weight print version with the official club badge:
As these fans showed at Central Station in 1970 (on their way down to the European Cup semi-final first leg at Elland Road, Leeds) it was now unusual to see fans without scarves regardless of the weather or surroundings:
By the 1970s it was becoming clear that a distinct terrace culture had developed and fans wore not only scarves (and not just round their necks either!) but hats and replica tops were common sights as fans adopted a more tribal feel to following their club. Bar scarves were now among the more popular adopted by Celtic fans in a variation of green and other colours. This classic design remains a favourite:
At the end of the 1970s and dawning of the ’80s printed scarves became easier to make and were becoming more prominent when YNWA was getting aired. Usually sold outside the ground (as they still are) by gentlemen like the one below in front of the old Main Stand, the clubs were also getting in on the act themselves by opening official shops to sell their wares:
While many supports split along the lines of casuals and scarvers in the 1980s, Celtic fans in the main still held on to their scarves. The amazing scenes at Love Street in the last-day decider in 1986 showed that while some favoured aqua jerseys and yellow cardigans (!), scarves were still an essential ingredient in a Celtic celebration:
It is now a common sight for players to take their pick of scarves and other items thrown at them from the stands at cup finals when doing their lap of honour. It is very rare that a player brings their own scarf with them to the games but then Johnny Doyle was always one to stand out from a crowd:
When Hibs captain Pat Stanton joined Celtic in the mid-1970s, he couldn’t believe that the Viewpark Bhoy carried his own scarf with him onto the team bus for away games. It was because Johnny was a Celtic fan himself and so dedicated to the cause that he is still fondly remembered among his fellow supporters today.
Of course, his closest friend at Celtic Park needs no introduction. Here they both are with Dom Sullivan and scarves in abundance celebrating winning the league at Tannadice in 1981:
The deaths of Johnny Doyle and Tommy Burns, almost 27 years apart, demonstrated how differently such events were marked over time. Scarves have now taken on a new role when fans grieve for their heroes:
Nowadays, there is an abundance of designs and colours (including pink for the girls) on scarves for fans to buy as well as those which honour certain players and mark special occasions (and the bizarrely popular half-and-half scarves with opponent clubs):
Home and away, the Celtic support remains one of the most easily identifiable in world football:
It is unlikely that James Connolly would ever fall into the celebrity category but this Irish Republican patriot (and Hibs fan) is still remembered by the Celtic support in modern times:
The political dimension to the Celtic support has been best represented in recent years by the Green Brigade. The Ultras group were also responsible for re-igniting interest in old style scarves among the fans which, going by the number adopted by supporters in various parts of the ground, have proven very popular:
It is hard to envisage a time when scarves won’t be worn by the Faithful, given how enduring they have proved down the decades despite the vicissitudes of fashion. For many Celtic fans scarves appear to be a key aspect in their identity – especially at a time when virtually any message, colour or design can be placed on a scarf professionally so catering for virtually all tastes.
It is doubtful whether there are any Celtic scarves out there as old as this one though. It is owned by an elderly lady who has been attending games for over 70 years – and who purchased it in either the 1930s or 1940s when she was a girl outside the ground (against her mother’s wishes!). A truly wonderful Celtic artefact but, more importantly, an essential feature still of this fan’s experience of supporting the team down the decades:
We’d love to see a photo of your own Celtic scarf – and if there’s a story to it, or anything about it you consider special, even better. We’ll collate them online for publishing here. Email your pictures to: firstname.lastname@example.org or share using Twitter (TheShamrock@CelticRetro) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheShamrockGlasgow).
Issue 1 of The Shamrock – Celtic Retro fanzine on sale now. Can be bought online via Paypal – details here: https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/the-shamrock-issue-1-on-sale-now-only-3/
The fanzine can also be bought on the day of the game at the Glasgow Programmes stall behind the Lisbon Lions Stand and from various sellers around the main entrance points to Celtic Park.
Also available from Calton Books on London Road and Casa Rebelde in Dublin.