Celtic Charity Christmas Cards – 2015

The Shamrock is pleased to announce that after the success of our initial Celtic charity cards project last Christmas we now have cards to buy for the 2015 festive season. The Brother Walfrid-inspired design which proved so popular last year has been adopted again.

 

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Almost £500 was raised least year split equally between our two nominated charities. This year our nominated charities are The Kano Foundation and the Society of St Vincent de Paul Scotland. The Kano Foundation barely needs any introduction as an inspiring supporter-led initiative which since 2009-10 has taken over 3,000 children from all backgrounds to matches at Celtic Park for free. When Brother Walfrid had the idea of establishing the Poor Dinner Children’s Table in the Sacred Heart parish in Bridgeton in the 1880s it was the laymen and women of the local conferences of the St. Vincent de Paul who ran the kitchens that prepared the food for the impoverished children. The Society continues to do vital work in communities in Glasgow and beyond today for the homeless, children with special needs and families facing poverty.

 

More information can be found about each charity here:

http://www.thekanofoundation.com/

http://www.ssvpscotland.com/

 

The cards are A5 size with a colour cover and plain text inside with a Brother Walfrid quote and the Celtic cross design from the club’s first jersey. The cards have been designed at no charge by our wonderful friends at Kinghorn Creative (https://kinghorncreative.wordpress.com).

 

The cards cost £1 each plus P&P and are available in batches of 5 and 10. As with last year £1 from the sale of each card will be split equally between the nominated charities. We are hopeful of beating the amount raised last year and initial interest has again been encouraging.

 

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Payments can be made via PayPal to theshamrock@outlook.com.  Please insert ‘Charity Christmas Card’ in the instructions section and please let us know your name and address for sending. Please also select the “I’m sending money to family or friends option NOT “I’m paying for goods or services” to avoid fees being deducted.

 

The costs for batches of 5 or 10 cards are:

 5 cards – £6.26 including P&P* (£5 split between the charities)

 10 cards – £11.68 including P&P* (£10 split between the charities)

 * These postage prices apply to Scotland, the Six Counties of Ireland, Wales and England.  For the Republic of Ireland or further afield please email us for a quote.

 

If you have any queries please contact us by email on theshamrock@outlook.com

 

Thank you once again for your support.

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Gil Heron, Celtic’s Black Arrow, goes Dutch

Gil Dutch newspaper headline

The Netherlands newspaper de Volkskrant has today published an article in advance of Thursday’s visit by  Ajax about Celtic’s trail-blazing striker from the 1950s, Gil Heron, the first professional black footballer in both the United States and Scotland.

The article focuses on  the relationship between Gil and his son, the musical legend Gil Scott-Heron, who wrote ‘The Revolution Won’t Be Televised’, ‘The Bottle’ and ‘Johannesburg’ and considered by many to be the inspiration for the development of rap music.

You can read the article here – http://www.volkskrant.nl/muziek/legendarische-vader-die-z-n-legendarische-zoon-niet-kende~a4193172/

Please be aware that the Google translation into English has not been entirely successful, for instance Gil Senior’s first marriage did not last 18 years and at no time was he sent to jail!

 

Read the original article by The Shamrock ‘The Noble Stride: Celtic and the Pioneering Herons’ here:  The Noble Stride

 

Click below to read about Michael Marra’s wonderful song in tribute to Gil Heron ‘The Flight of the Heron’ and listen to the song by Michael and Scottish band The Hazy Janes:

https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/tribute-song-to-celtics-black-arrow-gil-heron/

 

Tribute song to Celtic's Black Arrow: Gil Heron

 

 

Film Review: CELTIC’S SMILER

CELTIC’S SMILER – THE NEILLY MOCHAN STORY

Smiler cover

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When the ball hits the net

Like a vampire jet –

That’s a Mochan!

(That’s a Mochan!)

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Neilly Mochan, as the above tune demonstrates, is no unsung Celtic hero.  I first heard this supporter’s song in the early 1990s, four decades after Neilly’s renowned exploits up front in the Hoops.  Despite the passage of time, I knew who Neilly was:  the old, white-haired man on the bench next to a succession of Celtic managers.  He was no mere eye-witness to Celtic history, he lived it and his name is write large over many key chapters in it:  The Coronation Cup Final in 1953; the Double the year after; the 7-1; Lisbon; Milan, the 4-2; the Centenary Double.  Even my Dad, then an 8 year old in the crowd at the Coronation Cup Final (or ‘The Mochan Final’ as Jock Stein and team-mates referred to it), remembers Neilly’s amazing goal that day.  Pat Stanton describes it as “the sort of goal that Superman or Popeye might score – and with his weaker foot too!”  This is truly the stuff of legend.

neil mochan card

There are plenty of history books that record Neilly’s goal-scoring achievements and his long service of dedication to the Celtic cause.  The book on which this film is based – the much-anticipated follow up by Paul John Dykes to his excellent debut ‘The Quality Street Gang’ – will breathe new life into the Mochan legend and bring him to the attention of a new generation of  Celtic fans.  But the medium of film is different altogether:  a book contains all the information but a film conveys the drama, the humour and first-hand accounts of a life well lived.  These are the features brought together here which truly illuminate Neilly Mochan’s life story up on the big screen – and what a tremendous achievement it is.

Goal Diagram  Neilly Mochan 1953 Coronation Cup Final
That goal!   Neilly’s magic strike in the ‘Mochan Cup Final’

 

 

From Pat Stanton recalling Neilly’s increasingly fanciful tale of his Coronation Cup goal, to various Lisbon Lions’ glowing descriptions of a cherished coach and mentor to Brian McClair discussing some gentle dressing mocking from Mochan to make sure his head didn’t get too big – this documentary film really has it all.  There could be no better introduction to the life and times of a great Celt.  There is a great cameo from author Pat Woods – who has done more than most to document the club’s treasured history – and it’s a delight to hear him explain the significance of the 7-1 victory and a give personal recollection of the Neilly’s five goals against St. Mirren in 1960.  Mentions of that feat re-occur throughout the film – most memorably when Frank McAvennie discusses the two occasions when he was substituted after scoring four goals only to be goaded by Neilly in the dug-out: “You’ll never beat me son!”

 

Neilly Mochan v George Young
In action in the hoops – against Geordie Young of Rangers

 

 

The story is told from all sides:  Neilly’s sons, a brother, a nephew; Celtic historians and biographers; Celtic players from the 60s, 70s, 80s and even into the 90s – including some you may have rarely heard of but who all make a valuable contribution to an understanding of a man who straddled the decades when Celtic became a force in world football.  In his later years he left his mark on dozens of young players making their way through the ranks at Celtic Park mostly through his humour and peculiar observations on things such as ‘obstacle illusions’ yet he was respected by all, as Billy Stark pointed out: ““No one overstepped the mark with Neilly.  He could cut them down with a one-liner.”  Or, in the case of striker Andy Peyton, a superbly crafted wind-up which left the Englishman handsomely out of pocket, out-foxed by the old fox.  Graeme Souness also learned it was not wise to talk ill of Celtic or ‘his’ players in Neilly’s ear-shot.

 

Danny McGrain bench Love Street 86
Love Street 1986 – Neilly urges Davie Hay’s men on to a sensational last day Championship victory

 

 

This is not your standard football documentary.  The graphics used throughout are striking and innovative.  From the thrilling opening sequences we’re taken on a journey punctuated with first-hand accounts of the staging posts in a remarkable career.  Crucially we see great footage of Neilly in action in glorious black and white at Hampden, Celtic Park and beyond.  The stylised re-enactment of Neillly’s famous Coronation Cup final goal at Hampden stands out.  His significance as a sharp-shooter who helped restore Celtic’s tradition of free-flowing attacking football in the 1950s becomes apparent as does his role as a vital cog in the Stein Machine that careered across Europe a decade later.  Archie MacPherson, one of a virtual ‘Who’s Who’ of Scottish football who contributes to the film, describes Mochan as “the interpreter of Stein’s moodsand a crucial intermediary between the famed manager and his players.

 

We also come to understand how he was a key figure and confidante in a succession of Celtic squads under managers Billy McNeill and Davie Hay right through to Tommy Burns’ return to the club as manager in 1994 and the dawning of a new era.  This film expertly captures the humour and humanity of man who ensured the Celtic spirit burnt bright in the boot room and dressing room during some dark times.  His importance was outlined by Billy Stark when he recalled rejoining a club in turmoil as Assistant Manager but could rely upon an ever-present behind the scenes:  “Neilly gave us reassurance.  His aura settled us down.”

Centenary Champions squad
With a hand on Billy McNeill’s shoulder, Neilly is deservedly centre-stage as Celtic celebrate the historic Centenary Double

 

With a running time of a familiar 90 minutes, all the big moments are covered of a career which, in terms of longevity and Celtic dedication, can only be matched by the likes of Willie Maley and John Clark.  There are many highlights and thrilling insights although, in terms of impact, Neilly’s sudden passing and the emotional loss felt by family, friends, colleagues and proteges is captured with genuine poignancy.  What Brian McClair described as a “cacophony of a laugh” would no longer be heard ringing out in Paradise.

This film will prove a wonderful introduction and an enduring testament to a Celt who was truly faithful through and through.  If you want to ‘give the gift’ of Celtic this Christmas, look no further than this slice of Celtic magic.

Welcome to The Moch!

The Shamrock rating:   8/10 

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Watch the film trailer here:  http://www.smilerdoc.com/#top

Due for release:  December 1st 2015  More information here:  http://www.smilerdoc.com

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Read more from The Shamrock here:   https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/the-shamrock-online/

Issues 1 and 2 of The Shamrock – Celtic Retro magazine on sale at Celtic Park on home matchdays and through Paypal.  Digital version also available:   https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/magazine/

Sham Issue 1 front cover  Sham 2 cover

Book Review: ‘PACKIE BONNER – THE LAST LINE’

Review:   ‘The Last Line – My Autobiography’ – Packie Bonner

  Packie Book cover

If there is a funnier and more enjoyable biography by a recent Celtic player than this effort by Packie Bonner then I’ve yet to read it.  This much-anticipated book is laden with wonderful, often hilarious, stories about his Celtic team-mates, his family, his upbringing and also life after his goalie gloves were retired.  Unsurprisingly, pride of place is given to his remarkable journey as the Republic of Ireland’s Number 1 as the country, led by Jack Charlton, went from international also-rans to serious contenders at the European Championship and World Cup tournaments.

I was concerned that the book might prove quite bland like most player biographies.  Listening to Packie on Radio Scotland in recent seasons he is a pleasant but also largely innocuous commentator and I felt this book might also adopt a ‘safe’ approach.  Instead, without resorting to the tabloid sensationalism that some other former Celts opted for, he tells his story his way and is critical when necessary but insightful throughout.  Often there are relatively few words he has to say about individuals he has dealt with for whom he clearly has no time.  The absence of hyperbole makes his disregard for the likes of Roy Keane, Lou Macari and John Delaney all the more damning.

Packie Bonnar young

Packie – fresh off Doherty’s coach from Donegal

He comes across as a man largely without ego, even shy at times.  He places the responsibility for this on his childhood growing up on the Atlantic coast in Ireland’s north-west and parents who ingrained in him a respectful outlook on life.  His love for his family, local community and County Donegal shine through – Cloughglass, near Burtonport, has been his place of retreat and succour throughout his adult life.  His background and natural modesty did not prevent from making the leap of leaving the Donegal countryside for Glasgow as Jock Stein’s final signing and going on to overcome homesickness to establish himself in a Celtic dressing room full of characters and then going on – fairly quickly – to take over as the main goalkeeper from Peter Latchford.  His dedication and application helped provide solidity to a very good Celtic team which withstood strong challenge from Aberdeen and Dundee United to win the league title more often than any other Scottish team, although they failed to match the achievements of Ferguson and McLean’s in Europe.

I’m often surprised at the criticism that comes Packie’s way from fellow fans because his record demonstrates that he was not just a good Celtic ‘keeper, but a great one.  He has more Celtic appearances (641) and clean sheets (253) than any other goalie in the club’s history.  For those who with over 200 Celtic first team appearances, his shut out record of 39.5% is beaten only by Charlie Shaw (53.2%) and Davie Adams (43.3%), both of whom played a century and more earlier.  He played for Celtic both in sunshine and in shadow: up until 1989 he helped win four League titles, two Scottish Cups (missing out on the Centenary season final due to injury) and a League Cup before six years were endured without any silverware until he won the Scottish Cup again with his close friend Tommy Burns as manager in 1995.  To have kept the Celtic goal for a fifteen year period and secure over 250 clean sheets is a remarkable achievement.

Pat Bonner young Packie – Celtic’s Number One

Of course, being the man he is, Packie gives the credit to his team mates with whom he shared success and friendship:  McGrain, Aitken, Burns, Nicholas, McStay, McAvennie and many others.  And he has tales about almost all of them!  One of the most striking features of this book is the quality of the story-telling which comes across as natural and co-writer Gerry McDade deserves credit for the support he brought to what is an engaging and easy book, a true joy to read.  There were some genuine belly-laughs with tales of Johnny Doyle’s pet cockatoo, the off-field antics of Anton Rogan and having to share a flat (and the burden of the domestic duties) with Tommy Burns during their spell at Reading.  When you discover what Packie’s father-in-law was wearing the first time they met it may come as no surprise that he later accused the Donegal man of trying to kill him (although he assures us the two incidents are not connected).  There are of course times when being universally referred to as ‘Packie’ in a multicultural city like Glasgow can give rise to difficult situations, as illustrated in one outrageous story here from the early ‘80s which I was fortunate enough to hear the man himself tell at a supporter’s function a few years back to tremendous laughter.

Pat Bonner  in pants  BONNER WI A STONNER

Packie warming up in the Celtic Park bathroom before a game – unaware this photo was being taken.  The fact that Packie Bonner rhymes with the Glaswegian slang ‘stauner’ is wholly coincidental

How Shay Given escaped Celtic’s clutches is more likely to make you cry than laugh as will this account of life under Lou Macari’s bizarre time in charge.  But there’s also the time he and Charlie Nicholas visited Shotts Prison; his constant reminders to fellow ‘keeper Jim Stewart of his bewildered expression that fateful day at Love Street 1986; the momentous party in Mark McGhee’s house the night the Centenary Double was secured; and the conversation he had with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican during Ireland’s unforgettable time at Italia ’90.

Packie 1989 cup final celebration

Hampden in the Sun – celebrating the 1989 Scottish Cup Final win against Rangers

All these stories – and many, many more – make up the Packie Bonner Story:  an absolute delight to read capturing as it does a momentous period in Celtic’s history and also in the history of Irish football.  It is a source of pride that this is a great Celtic man and therefore no surprise that as a mark of respect – and a mark of the man – that he gives over the last words of his story to another Irishman who has also left an indelible mark on the history of Celtic, Sean Fallon:  ‘The way to live life is to be nice to people – what else can we do in this life?’

Packie Republic celebrating

Forever Packie – Ireland’s hero

Hardback, 351 pages

Penguin/Random House

 

The Shamrock rating: 8/10 

 

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The book can be purchased in hardback, paperback and Kindle here:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Last-Line-My-Autobiography/dp/1785031848

Also available at the Celtic Shops and Superstore.

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Read The Shamrock’s other Celtic book reviews here:  https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/celticreviews/

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Issues 1 and 2 of The Shamrock – Celtic Retro magazine on sale at Celtic Park on home matchdays and through Paypal.  Digital version also available:   https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/magazine/

Sham Issue 1 front cover  Sham 2 cover

Celtic Snippets – Celtic fans in solidarity in Aberdeen, 1935

‘FOOTBALL CROWD SUPRISES LOCAL PUNDITS’

When Celtic travelled to Aberdeen on 9th March 1935 for the Scottish Cup Quarter Final, interest in the tie was unusually high.  The Dandy Dons were enjoying a purple patch at the time (much like just now with no silverware to show for it either) and Celtic, who were being coached by the legendary Jimmy McMenemy and enjoyed nine successive wins following his appointment, were renowned for the attacking flair of Delaney, MacDonald, Buchan and, of course, the world-famous Jimmy McGrory who led the frontline.

A record crowd turned up at Pittodrie with over 40,000 crammed onto the terraces.  This was 6,000 more than the previous record (against Rangers in 1929) and in the second half one a crash barrier collapsed resulting in injuries to a number of home fans, with one having to spend the night in a local hospital.  The crowd had also been swelled by a large Celtic away support.  Travelling by road to Aberdeen at the time was a long and arduous journey and usually involved an overnight stay (this remained the practice for some supporters clubs through until the 1970s) – as well as a good excuse to get a right good drink in.

The cup game wasn’t the only event in the Granite City that day . . .

A ‘hunger march’ had been organised in Scotland by the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement (NUWM) to protest against oppressive ‘means testing’ and reduced unemployment benefit rates which had been introduced and were now being administered rigidly by a nation-wide Unemployment Assistance Board.  Known as the ‘Scottish March Against the Unemployment Act’ it started in Aberdeen and would end up two weeks later in Glasgow in a 30,000-strong demonstration in George Square, having gathered support along the way from the north-east through Fife, Lothians and Lanarkshire against the ‘Slave Act’ as the new legislation had been labelled.

It had been predicted that the protest march would meet with little support in Aberdeen, as the journalist Frank Pitcairn* – who walked with the march – wrote in the Communist Party newspaper the Daily Worker:

“The Labour bureaucrats and the bourgeoise of Aberdeen said there would not be much interest in the start of the march because there was a cup-tie match in Aberdeen that day – Aberdeen playing Celtic.  Football, they said, takes the workers’ minds off politics. 

The thing that jolted them worse than anything else was the sight of the Celtic boys up for the Cup, standing along the pavements shouting “Red Front” as the marchers passed.” 

This was one of a number of significant mass demonstrations that took place during the economic depression of the 1930s with the most famous occurring the following year with the ‘Jarrow Crusade’ march from the north-east of England to Westminster to highlight the lack of jobs and widespread poverty in the region.  The campaign against the worst excesses of the Unemployment Act succeeded in securing support from outwith the unemployed and working class and ultimately delayed the introduction of the reduced benefit rates by up to 4 years in parts of Scotland.

There was little celebration among the Celtic support later that day though, with the home team (who at the time played in the city colours of black and gold stripes, with the now well-established red and white not being introduced until four years later) running out 3-1 winners, McGrory scoring Celtic’s consolation.  “Glasgow forwards lack punch” said the Glasgow Herald headline.  Celtic were putting together a fine team but it would be another year before the League flag returned to Celtic Park – for the first time in ten long years.

The journey back to Glasgow proved memorable for a group of Celtic fans from the Gorbals – for all the wrong reasons.  Thirty of them were crowded into the back of a furniture van and heading home “when the van got out of hand at the dangerous corner of the new road at Dunblane, crashed through the wooden fence and hedge, and finally overturned at the foot of an embankment” according to the Herald.  There were “fortunate escapes from serious injury” with only three fans having to spend the night in the Stirling Royal Infirmary and all being released the next day.

It was not known whether the driver of the now destroyed furniture van had the permission of his employer to use the vehicle for the jaunt up north . . .

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*Frank Pitcairn – real name Claud Cockburn, he was the son of a diplomat who had gone on to become a Foreign Correspondent with The Times (London, not the Evening Times in Glasgow!) before starting up his own newspaper The Week.  As a closet Communist he wrote for the Daily Worker using the Pitcairn pen-name and went on to fight on the elected government side in the Spanish Civil War – where he attracted the ire of George Orwell for promoting Soviet propaganda.  He later moved to Ireland and became a novelist and newspaper columnist.  It was while working as a sub-editor at The Times that Cockburn and some colleagues devised a competition to see who could write the dullest headline for the newspaper.  Cockburn won with his entry:   “Small Earthquake in Chile, Not many dead”.  He also coined the phrase “Believe nothing until it is officially denied.”

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Read more Celtic Snippets here:  https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/celtic-snippets/

If you love your Celtic history, you’ll love our magazine – available in print or digital versions:   https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/magazine/

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My First Celtic Game 01 – Archie MacKay

My First Game Archie flyer

 

The first in a series of supporter recollections of the first time they saw the famous Hoops in action . . .

Carishaval, Bornish, Liniclate. Not exactly noted venues for watching football, unless you happened to grow up in the southern isles of the Outer Hebrides and one or more of your relatives played in the Uist and Barra Sunday League. Eriskay, another U&B League venue, on the other hand, has been ranked by Fifa as one of the top eight unique places to play football in the world.

They should have seen Carishaval before it was returned to nature. It’s not exactly the enclosed wilderness of Cathkin Park; there are a few less hints that football was once played on its wild, open slopes, bordered by a loch, fenced crofts and the main, single track spine road through the centre of South Uist. When news made its way across the Minch to the mainland that Askernish, the nine-hole golf course on the island had originally been constructed as eighteen holes by the legendary Tom Morris Senior, the “discovery” was met with worldwide incredulity. How could a course set out by such a famous figure have remained hidden from the world for so long? Renowned course architect and sceptic, Martin Ebert, arrived to scour the dunes in search of evidence of the long abandoned holes. I followed him and master greenkeeper, Gordon Irvine, as they traipsed through the west coast machair excitedly pointing here and there at “clearly man made greens” where any other wanderer would see the never ending dune lands, undulating their way along the island’s exposed Atlantic coast.

I’d bet a week’s wages that even Ebert and Irvine couldn’t find Carishaval’s football pitch today.

We used to cycle to the games, my brother, my best mate and I, although not the games in Liniclate – that was about 25 miles north. Bornish was about 10 miles north, we could manage there and back on the bikes.

For the Liniclate games we were offered a lift on the Southend team’s minibus. Can you imagine! Travelling with the team to the game. They might not have been Celtic players, but they were the guys who ran out onto the pitch on Sunday afternoon – the guys everyone had come to see – and when they arrived pitch side, all eyes turned. We strutted off the team bus as if fundamental to their success (in those years they were the team to beat) and we felt like champions. On the way home the players used to have a whip round and send us away with ten bob each. Fifty pence! It felt like a million dollars.

My father was a goalkeeper for Southend – the south end of South Uist, not the one with the longest pier in the world. His playing days ended with a back injury during a home game at Carishaval – a pitch that sloped towards the large loch that skirted its south and west sides. Youngsters were strategically placed along the loch’s flanks to catch stray balls before they reached the water. The Wanderers goalkeeper – in later years exposed as a prolific kleptomaniac – wandered up the pitch to ask my prostrate dad if he could borrow his goalkeeper’s top for the rest of the game. It was a bright yellow – a modern (in the ‘70s) version of Johnny Thomson’s. Needless to say he never got it back.

Carishaval

Carishaval: former home of Southend FC of the Uist & Barra League

The Uist and Barra League was, and remains, a summer Sunday League, so there was never any impact on the professional football season. Everyone – literally everyone I knew in South Uist – was a massive Celtic fan: fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters. It’s still the same today; the Celtic top remains de rigueur and the radio remains the popular choice for listening to Saturday afternoon games. Satellite has taken over for live games of course (the mainland may take a long time to catch up with what’s happening in the islands, but the same doesn’t apply in the opposite direction).

But this was long before regular live football on telly, which was reserved for enormously important occasions: cup finals, World Cups and the like. I remember a load of people coming round once for a cup final against a now defunct club. The black-and-white telly blew up pre-kick-off, but luckily one of my uncles was a TV repair man – that was an actual job in the days of tube-built televisions – and had his kit in the van.

My two-year-old brother, with innocent childish curiosity, sauntered over while my uncle’s head was buried in the back of the telly, examining valves, and grabbed the unusual object propped up on the carpet beside him. It was a soldering iron, it was switched on, and he was clasping the wrong end. We learned all we needed to know about the dangers of grabbing hot soldering irons from his ear-splitting reaction. At least his lungs were in excellent working order, as was the telly shortly afterwards. I don’t remember taking much notice of the game, other than its obvious importance to the well-oiled adults in the house but, in my research, I note that we won our 25th Scottish Cup that afternoon, against the beasties, with an Andy Lynch penalty the solitary goal.

Other than the rare showcase games, radio was the only available medium for live broadcasts. Radio Scotland medium wave to be precise, with commentary from the inimitable David Francey weaving in and out of the constant static. Poor reception interwoven with Francey’s dramatic style (if Celtic stepped over the halfway line it sounded like a goal was imminent) meant an edge of the seat listening experience. As his voice quickened and its tone rose invariably it faded into the rising static and by the time it returned you had no idea whether or not there had been a goal – judging by his excitement it could have been five each.

The radio, and wonderful commentators like Francey and his successor David Begg, were the islander’s eye inside the fabled Paradise. Listening to those Saturday games, or the intensely dramatic European nights was like, as a child, listening to our grandmother recite the most gripping local folklore, one tale of which included a ghost dog at Carishaval.

If it wasn’t for Archie Macpherson and Sportscene on a Saturday night you’d hardly believe Celtic really existed – only the best fiction could be as electrifying as all that. But there it was, Celtic Park and its famous players on the telly on a Saturday night, a gigantic stadium teeming with vocal – yes, vocal – fans. (I’ll never forget the first time I saw Macpherson, whose first name I shared, making his way along that gangway above the Jungle to his commentary position with ‘Archie Archie, Archie Archie’, somewhat surreally chanted by all around me.)

We had a large extended family, like all good Catholics (and lots of bad ones too), and most of them had had the good sense to bugger off and make lives for themselves on the mainland. Which was great for us because we had exotic uncles, aunties and cousins who came to visit each summer. My cousin Wullie was, unsurprisingly, a massive Tim. His family left Glasgow to make the Livingston new town their home in the early seventies and he made the journey to Celtic Park most matchdays on the supporters bus. He was about three years older than me. There were cousins in Uist the same age, but we hit it off – inseparable best mates every summer.

‘Come back with us and I’ll take you to a game,’ he suggested one year. I was still only twelve so chance was a fine thing, but the seed had been sown and the question persistently asked of the parents. Within a couple of years my brother and I were travelling unaccompanied to Livingston on holiday. It’s almost unimaginable now to think of halfway sensible parents allowing their kids to traverse the country alone, but the almost daily pleading since that first proposal probably wore them into submission. Our uncle promised to pick us up at St Andrew’s bus terminal in Edinburgh and return us there a fortnight later. If my parents had known anything about St Andrew’s, any notion of travelling alone to be dropped off in its grimy, pish-stained, junkie infested surroundings would have been instantly knocked on the head.

We didn’t get to see Celtic that year. We had to be back for the start of school and the season hadn’t kicked off yet. No amount of begging to stay another two weeks until the Bhoys played was going to wash.

But the following year, Celtic were playing a pre-season friendly on the same Saturday we were scheduled to return to the islands. ‘Please mam. Och please mam. It’s just an extra day mam. We’ll get the ferry on Sunday. Please mam. Plea… What? We can? Really? We can stay! Yessssss! We’re going to Celtic Park! Yah beauty!!’

Joy unconfined, celebrated like a Celtic cup final victory. It was only a friendly, but it wasn’t just any old friendly. Celtic were hosting Arsenal and it was Charlie Nicholas’s first game back at Celtic Park since his unedifying exit.

We couldn’t sleep the night before. So many questions for my cousin. What time do we leave? How long to get there? Where do we get the bus? Will it be full? What if it’s full before it gets to us? (That thought in particular appalled me.) How many people will be going? How will we know when we’re nearly there? I can’t wait, I wish we were going now!  Wullie was calmness personified. He’d been there, done that, knew the routine. I marvelled at his cool demeanour. How could he be so relaxed? We were going to Celtic Park in 12 hours!

Celtic Arsenal match prog 1984

The strange thing is, after all that time waiting, fantasising, dreaming of going to Paradise, I remember almost nothing of the game itself. Only a few patchy memories of the day remain. As we journeyed in to Glasgow I scanned the skyline incessantly, searching for it, desperate for my first glimpse of the Holy Ground. I couldn’t look round to engage in conversation in case I missed it as it appeared in my view. My cousin was teasing me – he knew exactly what I was doing and he was trying his best to distract me. But he couldn’t draw me away from the window, and then it was there. Those towering floodlights. That had to be it.

‘Is that it, Wullie, there?’ I asked, pointing. A knowing smile was the only answer I needed.

Celtic Park. Oh my God! There it is. That fabled place. The one off the telly. The one I’d sung songs about since I was able to talk. Our uncles at home had Celtic singles they played on the record player: The Celtic Song and Over and Over. I had known them since I was able to form words. We used to stand side by side singing them to our drunken uncles on boozy Saturday nights at my granny’s house.

My stomach flipped. This was real. This wasn’t David Francey fading into static as Celtic surged forward. This wasn’t imagining where Tommy Burns was on the pitch with the ball at his feet. In a few minutes I’d see the ball at his feet. I’d see it in Packie Bonner’s grasp, I’d see Danny McGrain stopping an attack – by Charlie Nicholas of all people, my hero until he abandoned me, sucked in by the champagne London lifestyle.

Celtic first team 1984- 1985

Celtic First Team – Season 1984-5

I remember the distinctive smell of it: the chippie on London Road, the burger vans. I remember the noise of it: ‘Programme, err a match programme’; ‘Hats, scarves, badges and tapes, err a hats, scarves, badges and tapes.’ I remember the bustle of it: everyone hurrying to the turnstiles, eager to get inside, a mass of people all with a shared purpose, all brothers and sisters in the Celtic family. We bought a scarf each and wrapped its green and white warmth around our necks. We were about to lose our virginity and become proper Celtic fans. I couldn’t take my eyes off the lights until we turned that corner and there it was – Paradise! In all it’s fabled glory!

We sat in the main stand. Wullie said he always went to the Jungle but assessed that we weren’t ready for that yet. I looked around me in awe, drinking it all in, sucking the entire ground, the grass, the stand, terraces, smells, sounds, absorbing every atom of it. It was like an out of body experience it was so difficult to believe we were actually here. That grass – that green, green football pitch where Celtic players played. And there they were, out there warming up. Not even noticing we were there for the first time, not bothered that folk were gawping at them in devoted adulation.

Celtic Park early 1980s

Celtic Park – early 1980s

Celtic won the match three-two and the two things I remember are: that Pat Jennings, the colossal, legendary Irishman was playing in goal for Arsenal and that John Colquhoun shimmied past what seemed like half the Arsenal team before thumping a 35 yard screamer past his flailing hand. Wullie said it was the best goal he’d ever seen scored at Celtic Park in the ten years he’d been going. And we were there that day to see it too.

 

Archie’s first game was Celtic v Arsenal at Celtic Park on 4th August 1984.  Celtic won 3-2 (Goalscorers: McClair, Melrose, Colquhoun/ Meade, Nicholas) 

Attendance: 23,000. 

The Celtic team was:  Bonner, McGrain, Sinclair, Aitken, McAdam (McInally), Reid, Provan (Colquhoun), W McStay, McGarvey (Melrose), Burns, McClair

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If you would like to share the memories of your first Celtic game then please email us at theshamrock@outlook.com

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Read more from The Shamrock here:   https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/the-shamrock-online/

Issues 1 and 2 of The Shamrock – Celtic Retro magazine on sale at Celtic Park on home matchdays and through Paypal.  Digital version also available:   https://theshamrockglasgow.wordpress.com/magazine/

Sham Issue 1 front cover  Sham 2 cover

Book Review: ‘CELTIC – THE EARLY YEARS’

‘Celtic – The Early Years’ by Brendan Sweeney

Brendan  Book Covers Front and Back

 

“Close your eyes for a minute and try to envisage your life without Celtic . . . What were the reasons behind our formation, what were the social conditions, who made it happen and how did it all come together?” 

In over 450 detailed pages, those questions about how Celtic began and why are painstakingly answered in this book in a way that will change forever your view of this ‘Irish combination’ which went on to become famous throughout the world of football and beyond.  128 years of unbroken history is a remarkable achievement itself in the modern era and many of the reasons why Celtic became such an incredible success story are laid bare in this expertly researched book which focuses on the club’s infancy.

This is the first ever book dedicated to examine the foundations and earliest years of Celtic Football Club.  Reliant upon fascinating primary sources from the 1880s and ‘90s, it builds up an incredibly detailed picture of the men and motivations that brought Celtic into existence.  Glasgow in the 1880s was a city still coming to terms with the astonishing rise in population following the Great Hunger of the 1840s which forced hundreds of thousands of Irish men, women and children to flee their homeland – the poorest of the poor making it only as far as Clydeside or Merseyside.  The East End became the Irish ghetto in Glasgow and hunger, poverty and illiteracy were key motivating factors in the establishment of the Poor Children’s Dinner Tables by the headteachers of the Sacred Heart and St Mary’s Schools:  Brothers Walfrid and Dorotheus.

Walfrid sketch 1890s

More than those Marist Brothers were involved though and the identities and inspirations of those who turned the idea of a Glasgow Irish football club to support the Dinner Tables into reality are set out here.  For the first time there is a truly detailed consideration of all the aspects – social, political, religious and sporting – which brought Celtic into being.  And what a story it is as the picture unfolds of a group of men striving to make a difference and restore pride and a sense of identity to their community.

This book presents evidence in a compelling manner. Newspaper reports, first-hand accounts and original research are published in full to enable the reader to reach their own conclusions on many of the controversial issues surrounding Celtic’s foundation and first four seasons in operation.  A real flavour of the times is conveyed along with fascinating insights.

Brother Dorotheus

Brother Dorotheus – originally from Dundee, headmaster of St. Mary’s School

This densely-packed book considers all these issues and much more.  The wonderfully unique cover design, superb lay-out and over 70 photos and illustrations – many of which have lain unseen for decades – all combine to present an impressive and long-lasting testament to the birth and survival of our great football club.  The author himself firmly sticks his colours to the mast on the key issues that arise.  He unfailingly refers to Celtic as ‘we’ throughout, bringing his passion to the pages and explaining that what is revealed here is our story for we are Celtic:  past, present and future.  The author’s commitment to the Celtic cause is well-known as over the last two decades he has been involved with various supporter initiatives including the ground-breaking Celts for Change campaign, the Celtic Supporters Association, the Jungle Bhoys and the Celtic Graves Society.  It is uplifting to see that kind of commitment channelled into this revelation of the true, gritty story behind Celtic’s birth and early development.

As is common with many football books of this size, the sale price is £19.99.  The price is certainly merited here given the quality of the research work undertaken, the volume of materials explored and reproduced, as well as the impressive packaging and presentation.  For many with an interest in Celtic that goes beyond the latest signing or sequence of results, this is a book they that will return to again and again.  The stories of the early struggles, the heart-breaking conditions experience by the immigrant poor of the East End and the determined and committed individuals who drove the Celtic ‘project’ forward keep drawing the reader back.  This grand old tome will be well worn, such is the range and interest of the topics and personalities explored – as well as their importance in shaping the club that now has a world-wide reputation.

John Glass close-up

John Glass – a Celtic Founding Father and much more

When you take into account that this is the author’s first venture into publishing, your appreciation for his efforts becomes even keener.  The tale that is woven here is inspiring, uplifting and challenging in equal measure. Much like the football club itself.  ‘Celtic – The Early Years’ answers many questions that I had about how the club came into being and addresses a lot of previous uncertainties.  The Celtic library is considerable and increasing regularly in size, especially with supporter-written books, yet this is one of the most informative works about the club I love that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

This is a ground-breaking debut book and a remarkable achievement driven by an obvious and deep-rooted affinity for Celtic which helps rather than hinders the incredible story that unfolds on its pages.

If you thought you knew the history – think again!

Close your eyes COVER with founding father pics

Hardback, 450 pages

CQN Books

 

The Shamrock rating: 9/10 

 

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The book can be purchased here:   http://celticearlyyears.com/

Listen to an engrossing Celtic Underground podcast interview with the author Brendan here:  http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/a/9/6/a969b9a556ea937b/Celtic_Underground_No264.mp3?c_id=10237675&expiration=1447127205&hwt=44d624e4eb0d036a0021a5417bd71397