Will Quinn was a fixture at Celtic Park for almost three decades. Employed as both trainer and also groundsman under Willie Maley from 1912 through to the late 1930s, he worked with some of the greatest names in Celtic history including Patsy Gallacher, Jimmy McGrory, Jimmy Delaney, Alec McNair and Jimmy McMenemy, amongst many others.
The first Celtic team he trained won four successive championships from 1914-1917 and another in 1919. He witnessed Patsy Gallacher’s amazing goal that helped win the Scottish Cup in 1925. In 1931 he chaperoned the players on their club’s first tour of the United States. And, just a few months later, Will was the first person from pitchside to reach the prone figure of John Thomson on that fateful day in September 1931.
Will’s distinctive moustache and formal-style posture were features of Celtic team photographs for many years yet a bizarre incident almost cut short his Celtic career – and his life.
Celtic, 1915 – Trainer Quinn and manager Maley in suits
47 year-old Will was at his home in the Gallowgate (then Great Eastern Road) on the night of 18th November 1923. He awoke feeling unwell and rose from his bed to get some medicine from a cupboard to help him settle. Still half-asleep Will reached for one of a number of bottles in the cupboard believing it contained medicine. Instead, he picked up a bottle of linament (also known as embrocation) and drank it down – without realising he was consuming a potent cocktail of various chemicals including chloroform.
Will immediately collapsed on the floor, waking his wife in the process. Horrified, she called for help and an ‘ambulance waggon’ arrived quickly and carried him to the nearby Royal Infirmary.
Scottish newspapers the following day reported that Will was in a serious condition and remained unconscious. Many fans feared the worst. Slowly but surely though, he started to recover and within a couple of weeks he was back home and fit to return to work.
Will had survived his brush with death. He resumed his duties at Celtic Park and in the years ahead he would switch between ground-keeping and training the first and reserve teams at Celtic Park.
After a ‘long and trying’ illness Will did eventually pass away in late June 1939 from natural causes. He had been a long and faithful servant to Celtic FC. The departure of manager Maley a short while later in February 1940 brought home the fact that an era in Celtic history was well and truly over.
Will’s story of near-doom no doubt generated much mirth in the dressing rooms at Celtic Park where liniment was an ever-present at the time. Originally used on horses, it had become a popular oil for footballers and other athletes to use to relax their muscles before exercise. Its strong smell permeated changing and treatment rooms up and down the country.
It wasn’t quite the tonic that Will Quinn had been looking for that night in the Gallowgate but he lived to tell the tale of how he almost came a cropper at his own hands.
Read more Celtic Snippets here: