Some call them boards, some call them plaques. Others call them shields. Whatever term you use, the tradition of club emblems that appear on the back and front of buses carrying Celtic supporters home and away has continued through generations. When fans swapped over from the horse-drawn brakes and early open carriages and charabancs to buses in the 1930s and ’40s, supporters clubs took over from brake clubs. Even before individual supporter club flags became commonplace, boards and plaques were designed and taken on buses letting everyone they passed know which group of Celtic fans it was and where they were from.
Photos of some of the earliest boards and plaques still survive. Unsurprisingly they belong to clubs from real Celtic strongholds. These are the members of the Millburn CSC from Glasgow’s Garngad district celebrating the 7-1 victory over Rangers in 1957 with four plaques on display:
Formed in 1948, the Carfin CSC went to Fife following Celtic against East Fife in the last 1950s and took a mascot with them as well:
When the Carfin bhoys celebrated their 40th anniversary in Celtic’s centenary season the members, some of whom were related to those above, had a picture taken with the new board:
One of the early Celtic brake clubs (and most notorious) was the Kent Star from the Calton district of Glasgow’s East End, in the heart of what is now the Barrowlands. Originally a street gang, the Kent Star ultimately became a supporters club and for many years this photo of the Kent Star CSC from 1951 was on display in Baird’s Bar:
In the north of Glasgow, many from Garngad moved over time to Springburn and beyond and it was no surprise that this area was home to a few Celtic clubs, including the Springburn No.1:
The village of Banknock in Stirlingshire was home to a large CSC in the 1960s and many of the members are pictured here alongside their ‘Celtic Cha-Cha-Cha!’ posters:
Even in England, Celtic supporters clubs were formed in the 1950s and 1960s and unsurprisingly one such area was Corby, the steeltown which became home to thousands of Scots. The tradition of having one young fan kitted out in a Celtic strip, which started with the brake clubs, continued on as shown in this photo and the Carfin CSC of the same era (in the brake club days the young boy would usually play a bugle as well!):
Jimmy Mallan from Paisley was a Celtic first-team player in the 1950s and a diehard fan. As was often the case, CSCs would be named after players who came from their town or village and here is the Jimmy Mallan CSC with a superb plaque featuring Jimmy in his playing days:
When the Caithness branch of the Celtic Supporters Association visited Celtic Park in 1967 not only did they get their photo taken with the Scottish Cup but the legendary Sean Fallon posed with the Highlanders also:
It comes as no surprise given the historic linkage between the Celtic support and Ireland that supporters clubs flourished across the Irish Sea. Here is the Derry No.1 CSC in the 1960s:
One of the best-known Celtic areas in the city of Glasgow is the Gorbals, home to a number of brake clubs including the Sarsfield which later became the Sarsfield CSC. Here are some of their members pictured on their way to the Lisbon final in 1967:
When a documentary was made about Celtic and their city rivals in the early 1970s, fans from the Gorbals Emerald CSC were interviewed and their plaque featured (briefly) in the film also:
A famous son of the Gorbals was James Stokes, a Celtic fan who was awarded the Victoria Cross for valour shown in the battlefields of World War 1. James later worked as a gateman at Celtic Park. The well-known Gorbals watering hole, the Brazen Head, is home to the James Stokes VC CSC and their board doubles up as a card table on longer bus journeys!
The town of Lochgelly in Fife has hosted a CSC for over 50 years. This was the original plaque the bus carried in the 1960s:
When the Lochgelly bhoys went to see Celtic play Arsenal in London in 1984 there was a new plaque on show:
Following the death of popular member Arthur McKenna, the Lochgelly CSC decided a change of name was needed in honour of their great friend and this of course meant a new plaque has to be made:
The designs of CSC plaques varied tremendously. They were usually created by a member (or a member’s relative or pal) who had some artistic merit. Unsurprisingly, the club symbols of four leaf clover and shamrock featured prominently as did the Irish flag and of course famous players whom CSCs were often named after. There was none more famous than Billy McNeill and the club based at the Mally Arms in Eglinton Toll, Glasgow took the name of Caeasar’s No.1 after the club’s most famous captain:
The Stanley Bar was a famous Celtic howff and Tim oasis in Glasgow’s Kinning Park district and their 25th May CSC chose one of the most famous Celtic images including Big Billy in their impressive club plaque:
In the 1970s, the Pollokshaws CSC had a plaque which also featured Billy’s pal with the big ears and nine flags to represent the club’s first 9-in-a-row:
9-in-a-row has also long featured in the names of Celtic fan clubs including one from Motherwell as well as this bus from Ayr:
Billy’s Lisbon Lion team-mates were also popular choices as demonstrated by this excellent plaque from the St Fergus CSC in Forfar & District featuring the man who scored the most important goal in Celtic history, Stevie Chalmers:
The more conventional board used by the St Fergus CSC is none too shabby either:
Not to be outdone, supporters in neighbouring Arbroath chose their famous abbey to be the centrepiece of their club plaque:
Celtic supporters in Patna, East Ayrshire named their club after the goalkeeper that Billy McNeill chose as his No.1 and who held that position for the best part of a decade, Donegal’s own Packie Bonnar:
The photo above was taken in the late 1980s/early ’90s and the Packie plaque survives until this day, a truly fine piece of work:
Before Packie the long-established Celtic goalie was the very popular big Englishman Peter Latchford who is pictured here with Celtic fans in his hometown of Birmingham in the 1970s:
Packie’s long-time team-mate, The Maestro himself, lent his name to a CSC in Stirling in the St Ninian’s parish and they are still going strong to this day. As well as some fantastic banners they also have a great bus plaque featuring the Maestro in all his glory:
Roy Milne was a Celtic player in the 1940s who moved to the USA after his career was over. He later returned to Scotland and took over a pub in Alva, Clackmannanshire and it was no surprise when the local CSC, formed in 1974, decided to name itself after the popular ex-Celt known to everyone as ‘Cowboy.’ Although he passed away in 1998 the club still proudly carries Roy’s name:
It will come as little surprise that one of Celtic’s greatest strikers also has his name adorned on a range of supporter club plaques including this club from Manchester:
While the Birmingham No.1 CSC had their best 1970s formal gear on when meeting Peter Latchford, in the mean streets of Hamilton in the same decade there was no need for such formality when going to the game, as demonstrated in this photo of the Eddlewood CSC. This was an era when taking flares to the game didn’t mean you would risk arrest for it! An inflatable Jinky also makes an appearance:
Into the 1980s and the Glasgow University CSC could boast not one but two fine plaques in this photo as well as some interesting hair styles and clobber . . .
Over in Govan, the famous Govan Emerald CSC were never ones to hide their green-and-white lights under a bushel. The Emerald was originally a brake club and in 1914 it was at the centre of a post-match riot outside an Orange Hall in Motherwell. Safe to say the current Emerald bus is made up of only the finest upstanding citizens the ancient burgh of Govan is proud to call its own and wouldn’t be caught in any such bother. They might be involved – they just wouldn’t get caught!
Further down the Clyde from Govan, both sides of the river enjoy strong Celtic representation. The Dumbarton Harp is one of the oldest Celtic supporter clubs going while Port Glasgow is home to up to five different clubs today:
Celtic’s glorious Centenary season of 1987-88 and the introduction of a new club crest featuring a Celtic cross prompted lots of clubs to update their own plaques. In Easterhouse, the Lochend CSC proudly featured the new design:
The Kings Park CSC, formed in the shadow of Hampden Park in 1984, also adopted the Centenary crest:
The bhoys and ghirls in the Oban Emerald were another CSC who adopted the Centenary crest into their club’s plague along with the Irish national flag and the Starry Plough:
In stark contrast to the Plough, The Merry Ploughboys CSC in Haddington chose a flag for their board which has certainly turned a few heads down the years!
In nearby Tranent, the Jim Leslie CSC went for a more conventional plaque to announce the imminent arrival of the Tranent Brigade:
You don’t even need to be a club who travels to games by bus to have a bus plaque, as the Italian Celts CSC ably demonstrate with this excellent effort created by two young disabled boys:
If you get the chance to stroll around one of the bus parks at Celtic Park on matchday, you will see that Celtic supporter clubs continue with the tradition of carrying eye-catching boards and plaques on their journeys to the games. Here are some examples from the 2018-2019 season:
The image above, although of poor quality, is of a particularly innovative design displayed by the Sunny Leith CSC. The design is captured much better on the pennant below which is also the work of Celtic fan Brian McAuley, from Edinburgh.
Brian is currently a member of the Craigmillar & Gilmerton CSC and down the years he has created new boards and plaques for over 20 different supporters clubs in his unique style. This is the design he produced for the Cavendish 7-1 CSC in Pollok which shows the Celtic goalie Dick Beattie holding up his seven fingers in triumph in that famous game. Below is a photo of the actual plaque the CSC use:
Brian is entirely self-taught. He decided to start creating his own designs and offering them to supporters clubs as he felt that a lot of the plaques were becoming quite basic and samey in theirideas: “I used to see some plaques that were very simple just the Celtic badge with their CSC name round and thought it lacked imagination and originality. I mean it is Celtic after all, surely we can do better.”
His first design was for the Edinburgh No.1 CSC which he was a member of in 1985 which featured four colourful flags:
He then approached the Lisbon Lions CSC in Glasgow with an idea he had and it took off from there. Here are a sample of some of the plaques that Brian has designed and gifted to different Celtic clubs:
The Maryhill Harp CSC is one of Brian’s personal favourites: “I tried to make the connection between the name of the club Harp-angel-paradise and the cup asking to be taken back, the word ”back” implying it had been there before. I’m not a great artist and I think a real artist could have made a really good job of this one. “
Brian’s work has helped invigorate and keep alive this great tradition of Celtic fan clubs creating and carrying their own identities whenever they travel in support of their team. It is something that is unique to the Celtic support in terms of the continued popularity of the bus plaques and the wide range of styles that are used to reflect different branches of supporters.
Celtic plaques, boards and shields have been a regular sight at games for at least seven decades and thanks to those who keep the CSCs running and fans like Brian, this is a tradition which will keep going for years to come. It’s a small thing, but it’s a wonderful thing.
It’s a Celtic thing!
Many thanks to those who have shared photos of their boards from today and yesteryear on social media.
If you have any photos of CSC plaques or boards (or better versions than the ones taken through bus windows above!) that you’d like to share please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian still produces designs for CSCs and if you would like to contact him for more information his on Twitter at @BrianMcAuley67 or you can send an email to email@example.com and we’ll pass it on.