IHF Presentation on Celtic fan culture 27.6.15 – Excerpt

Frank Devine IHF flyer big

On this coming Saturday, 27th June, the latest presentation in the series of History Talks organised by the Irish Heritage Foundation in Scotland is being held at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

Frank Devine is a graduate in Economic and Social History with Politics from the University of Strathclyde and a contributor to the ground-breaking ‘Celtic Minded’ books edited by Dr. Joe Bradley.  Frank’s presentation will feature on the identity and representations of Celtic FC fan culture in the West of Scotland from the club’s foundation in the 1880s to the present day.

The event, which starts at 1.30pm, is expected to be well-attended and you are urged to get there early.

Frank has kindly allowed us to produce this excerpt from the presentation to give a preview of the issues that he will discuss.  We are sure that these will be of keen interest to the readers of The Shamrock, touching as they do on many areas close to our heart.  We hope you enjoy this excerpt:

Match Days

On the morning of ‘The Game’ supporters congregate in thousands of houses throughout Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire.  Bank employees, the unemployed, social workers, bricklayers, teachers, production workers, insurance salespeople, shop workers, office workers, as well as a wide range of other occupations, all come together under the one banner: a community is constituted.  The vast majority of Celtic supporters, including the ones that sit in the expensive seats and the corporate boxes at Celtic Park, are working class or hardly more than one generation removed from a working class lifestyle and background.   Indeed, given the reality of the Irish diasporic experience it would be fair to assert that the vast majority of Celtic supporters have never been to a Celtic match or attended Celtic Park.

Before and after matches Celtic supporters crowd into premises popularly viewed as Catholic, Irish or Celtic bars throughout the West of Scotland.  In fact one internet website – Celticbars.com – suggests that there are almost 1800 of these establishments world-wide.  Reflecting on this figure, this is an astonishing number of bars advertising themselves as supporting one Scottish football club, although it is my assertion throughout this presentation that Celtic is much, much more than just a football club and needs to be vied in a much wider perspective..  In Glasgow licensed premises over recent years that have attracted Celtic supporters include, Bairds Bar, Traders Tavern, Waxy’s Dargle, The Wee Mans, Rosie O’Kane’s, The Squirrel Bar, The Emerald Isle, The Hoops Bar, The Foggy Dew, Lynch’s/The Old Barns, Mulvey’s, The Tolbooth Bar, The Empire Bar/Costello’s,  The Caltonian, Mulvey’s and the Tolbooth Bar – most situated in and around the historic Celtic heartlands of Glasgow Cross, The Calton and The Gallowgate – are packed with thousands of Celtic supporters, many of whom have made the pilgrimage from Ireland and further afield as well as from other parts of Scotland.  .  These bars are instantly recognisable to anyone who walks through the Gallowgate district of Glasgow’s East End as well as a number of other urban areas.  Some have the Irish tricolour flying from the premises and some are pained in the green of Celtic and Ireland.   The same is true of pubs in other parts of Glasgow, for example in The Gorbals, Govan, Govanhill, Blackhill and ‘The Garngad’ as well as in other parts of the Greater Glasgow area including Clydebank, Paisley, Greenock, Dumbarton and Port Glasgow and indeed, any number of other areas. 

In Lanarkshire Celtic supporters have in the recent past, or continue up to the present day, to congregate in, a number of clubs, pubs and bars long viewed as Celtic bars.  These include – or included in previous years – such premises as the Commercial Bar and Finbars – now the Priory Bar and John Carrigans –  in Blantyre, The Clock Bar and The Big Tree in Coatbridge, Franklyn’s Bar, McCormick’s Bar and Saints and Sinners in Bellshill, Tully’s Bar and the Railway Tavern in Motherwell.  Other Celtic supporters will meet up in Kelly’s Bar in Cleland, The Big Shop in Glenboig, the Era Bar and King Lud Craignuek, Doherty’s, the Auld Hoose and Hemingways Bar in Hamilton.  Carrigan’s, The Hibernian Club, Carfin Vaults and McAuley’s bar in the Celtic stronghold of Carfin, as well as dozens of other pubs  and clubs throughout the ‘heartlands’ are packed with supporters.  Therefore – and this is the important part – this ‘Celtic Culture’ goes well beyond the confines of Celtic Park and into the homes and communities of its historic support.  Indeed, one can imagine this community also coming together in bars in Sydney, Hong Kong, New York and Toronto and a hundred other places dotted throughout the world.  Celtic lives beyond the ‘Fever Pitch’ atmosphere of a Saturday or Sunday afternoon or a Wednesday evening.

Before games much of the support board coaches organised by hundreds of Celtic supporters clubs.  Originally known as ‘Brake Clubs’, they were previously organised throughout the Catholic parishes of the West of Scotland.  The Catholic parish has traditionally provided the basis for the evolution of many Celtic supporters clubs in the West of Scotland and further afield.  The “Garthamlock Emerald”,, “Mossend Emerald”, “Commercial Bar No 1 Blantyre”, “Claddagh Blantyre”, “Bothwell Emerald”, “Bellshill and District”, “Bellshill Brigada”, “Starry Plough”, “Sons of Donegal”, “East Kilbride Athenrye”, “Tom Williams Port Glasgow”, “Linnvale Shamrock”, “Notre Dame Motherwell”, “Nine In A Row Motherwell”, “Che Guevara Kirkmichael”, “Whifflet Saint Mary’s”, “Phil Cole Coatbridge”, “Chapelhall Shamrock”, and “Saint Mungo’s Shamrock” amongst hundreds of others.. 

The communal singing and playing of recorded songs in licensed premises, the coaches of supporters clubs  – almost certainly this was and is the context in which many young Celtic supporters are and were introduced to the wider dimensions of Celtic fandom, including the songs and ballads characteristic of the support – and in private transport, comes to a crescendo as thousands of supporters from Scotland, and from Ireland, England and far beyond fill the stands of Celtic Park.  It’s my central argument that supporting Celtic Football Club generates an enormous wave of communal solidarity among the fans, and indeed, that it is this ‘feeling’ of community that assures Celtic FC of the ‘passion of a people’.

More information on the work of the Irish Heritage Foundation in Scotland (as well as information on a previous presentation by Frank) can be found on their excellent website:  http://www.irishheritagefoundation.org/

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