Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The formation of Celtic Football Club

Celtic Football Club was formally constituted on Sunday, the 6th of November, 1887.

What became Glasgow Celtic Football and Athletic Club was formed in 1887 at a meeting in Calton. That Sunday afternoon meeting was presided over by Brother Walfrid and John Glass, two of the major characters in the club's formation. Although Brother Walfrid can be said to have been the instigator and the primary motivator in the club's inception, it appears John Glass was the catalyst that made it happen. Glass the Irishman from Donegal was a joiner and a humanitarian, whereas Brother Walfrid the Irishman from Sligo was of the Marist Brothers Teaching Congregation, which made him a humanitarian by default. Glass was, by all accounts, a highly respected leader of the Irish Catholic community in Glasgow and he is also acknowledged as the man who persuaded a number of famous players to join the embryonic Club. As a reflection of his influence, Willie Maley, a famous Celtic personage, once described Glass as the man “to whom the club owes its existence.”

It is widely believed that Celtic Football Club was born in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church Hall on East Rose Street, which is now Forbes Street, in Calton. However, in 1892, St. Mary's Hall was in Henrietta Street, now Orr Street, as can be seen from contemporary maps. The Celtic Wiki website states fairly clearly that the hall in question was an L-shaped building that was partly on East Rose Street and partly on Henrietta Street. Looking at an 1892-94 Ordnance Survey map of the area (shown on the Celtic Wiki), you can clearly see the rectangular St. Mary's Hall in Henrietta Street. However, there are also two L-shaped buildings, adjacent to each other, that are shown as being on Henrietta Street, between St. Mary's Hall and the corner of East Rose Street. All three of these premises were built sometime between 1872 and 1892.

The L-shaped building shown closest to the junction (it's a crossroads) of East Rose and Henrietta Streets on the 1892 map was still standing in the summer of 2010, with the remains of an adjoining building, the one on the very corner, being just a wall with boarded-up windows and doorway. One of those three buildings, either St. Mary's Hall or one of the two L-shaped buildings, was most likely where the meeting took place.

The place looked pretty decrepit in 2010, but back in 1887, the situation facing Glasgow's poor, Catholics and Protestants alike, was similarly woebegone. Being a Catholic Brother, Walfrid was, not unnaturally, only concerned with his 'flock', who were particularly deprived. Glasgow was then the most densely populated city in Europe and words like squalor, disease and human suffering need not be considered overblown in describing the environs of its East End. To alleviate some of the suffering, in 1869, Brother Walfrid set up a charity called 'Poor Children's Dinner Table'. Later, in 1884, together with Brother Dorotheus, Brother Walfrid established the 'Penny Dinners' for the poor children from the slums of the Parish.

According to 'Glimpses of old Glasgow' by Andrew Aird, published in 1894, the 'Poor Children's Dinner Table' “Does most beneficent work. It has tables in thirteen different districts of the city, and gives about 2,400 dinners daily.” In the words of Brother Walfrid, talking about his 'dinners', parents who perhaps couldn't afford a full penny “could send the bread and the children could get a large bowl of broth or soup for a halfpenny.” Those who were not able to pay at all were given a free meal. Against that background and having had some success arranging one-off, fund raising games, Brother Walfrid was inspired to create Celtic Football Club, as a means of raising funds on a more regular basis for his charitable works.

Part of the inspiration came from the success of Hibernian in Edinburgh, another club with fundamentally Irish roots. When the Hibernian team were invited to celebrate in St. Mary's Hall in Calton, (exactly where was that, you might ask) after they had won the Scottish Cup in 1887, Brother Walfrid and John Glass, perhaps challenged by John McFadden, the secretary of Edinburgh Hibernian, decided that anything Edinburgh could do, Glasgow could do better. After all, Glasgow smiles better! And in Glasgow, they weren't having any of that namby-pamby temperance movement that was part of the make-up of Hibernian. Now that's a heritage with which the patrons of Baird's Bar are content. There was a Glasgow Hibernian, but it was as short-lived as the idea that Celtic should only employ the “right sort” of players.

In 1897, the name of Celtic Football Club was changed to Celtic Football and Athletic Company Limited. The name is pronounced 'Seltic' rather than 'Keltic'. It's amusing to hear commentators on ESPN talking about “Seltics Seltic heritage” when they surely mean its 'Keltic' heritage. It's quite likely that Brother Walfrid wanted the correct usage of the word 'Celtic', but somehow or other the 'soft C' was adopted and “C'moan the Sellik” is what's heard in Celtic Park.

The first Celtic Park, used for four seasons up to 1891-92, was established on land lying to the north east of Dalmarnock Street, now Springfield Road, and adjacent to London Road. The second Celtic Park was opened on the site of the third stadium, on the 13th of August, 1892, in time for the start of the new season. Celtic Park is sometimes referred to by commentators as Parkhead, after the district of the city in which the stadium is located. It is also known as 'Paradise'. According to 'The Second City' by C. A. Oakley, published in 1946, that's because when it was built, “[the ground] seemed so palatial, in odd comparison with an adjacent graveyard, that it was described as the 'Paradise'.”

In addition to the football pitch, the second Celtic Park had a banked, concrete cycling track around the perimeter of the field and hosted many major cycling events, including the 1897 World Cycling Championships. Celtic Park also hosted several full international matches between Scotland and England, the last of which was in 1904. The stadium was the first to have a double decker stand, which was built in 1898, although it was burned down in 1927. Amusingly, Oakley's book describes the capacity of Celtic Park as being 70,000 and goes on to add that it was “too small” – however, he meant that it was too small to hold the size of crowd wanting to go to international matches. Celtic's first ever game, the first official game at the old Celtic Park, was against “a side of Rangers” who called themselves 'The Swifts'. Celtic beat that reserve side by 5 goals to 2, watched by a crowd of 2000.

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