THE RISING CLUB – Willie Maley

Nineteen year old Willie Maley and his elder brother Tom were among the first recruits to the new Glasgow Irish club called Celtic in late 1887.

Writing almost three decades years later in the ‘Weekly Mail and Record’ in June 1915, the man who became Celtic’s Secretary/Manager and would guide the club through to its Golden Jubilee in 1938 recalled the very earliest days at the first Celtic Park – even before the inaugural game had been played:

“Once Tom and I had definitely decided to join the Celtic we were quickly brought into touch with the “heid yins” and I may say that never since have I met a more enthusiastic body of men than that first Celtic committee.

At their head they had Dr. Conway, a most popular and kindly East-end medical, whose untimely end a few years later robbed the new club of a worthy chairman and one who would, if he had been spared, have been a worthy representative of the great club it was destined to be.

Of the rank and file of that committee, besides John Glass I met J.H. McLaughlin, H. Darroch, John O’Hara, James M’Kay, Frank M’Erlean, J. M’Donald, Joseph Shaughnessy, John and Willie M’Killop, Hugh Murphy, Dan Malloy and Davie Meikleham.  It is hard to believe, but of that list of rare good friends only three are left with us.

The work of the club went on in great style, and the new ground proceeded with greatest keenness.  The enclosure was situated at the corner of Janefield Street and Dalmarnock Road, bounded on one side by the Janefield Cemetery.  We had, in addition to the playing pitch, a practice pitch.  The old pavilion still lives in my mind.  The dressing rooms were built underneath the stand, which was built to hold about 500 people.  In addition we had comfortable offices in the little erection.

In the process of building the first team we used to have little practice games even before the ground was completed and I remember my first appearances on the famous pitch.  With several other young players who had been secured before the big “catches” were made, we stripped under the shadow of the stand in course of erection and, wearing a white shirt with a band of green across it from shoulder to shoulder, the pioneers of the great Celtic trotted out before a handful of enthusiasts.

We had several of these practice games and after each we were taken down in the little League Hall in East Rose Street, now the headquarters of the rising club, and here, after a good tea, we used to have harmony provided by our good friends.

With the inclusion in the Celtic net of Kelly, Dunbar, M’Callum, Groves, Coleman, M’Laren, M’Keown, Gallagher and James M’Laughlin, the excitement rose tremendously, and these little gatherings got to be regular parties.  In Neilly M’Callum, once he got settled among us, we had a regular artiste, and his singing was a great treat to us all.”

Willie Maley (middle-row, 2nd from right) with team-mates and Celtic committemen, in the first ever Celtic team photo: taken on 22nd December 1888, away to Vale of Leven

Celtic team 1888 large Willie Maley

To read more Celtic Snippets please click here:


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