Founded in 1888 To Establish A Better Way Of Life
For Irish Emigrants In Glasgow's East End
Glasgow Celtic are acclaimed as Ireland’s best supported soccer team by fans all over the 32 counties of Ireland and by Irish exiles all over the world. British football clubs have major fan clubs in Ireland but only Glasgow Celtic can claim total unrivaled allegiance with Irish sports fans.
From the North West barony of Ballymote, Co. Sligo, Brother Walfrid entered religious life in the Marist order as a young novice and football issues were not on his mind at that particular time.
After the Great Irish Famine of 1845 thousands of people from the North West region of Ireland, especially Donegal and Sligo, emigrated to nearby Scotland and many thousands settled in the East End of Glasgow . Starvation and mortality was rampant in all the East End Irish neighbourhoods of Glasgow. Escaping from poverty was the privilege of very few.
Brother Walfrid, born in 1840, and still in his teens, heard harsh stories from his parents and neighbours of pitiful poverty amongst their own people who had fled to Glasgow to escape the Irish Famine but now their fate was no better in Glasgow. The young man pondered endlessly how he might serve his own people in Glasgow as he saw at first hand the deprevation.
He made a decision early in his life that he could aid his fellow Irishmen in Glasgow slums by serving in the Marist religious community. Later as the leader of the Marist Teaching Institute in Glasgow, he went amongst the Irish emigrants in the East End and endeared himself to the souls and minds of all Irish catholics.
Constantly raising funds to run soup kitchens to feed the starving, he realised much more was needed. In 1887 the Sligoman became aware that another Irish cleric, Canon Edward Hannon, had founded Hibernian Football club in Edinburgh in 1875, with a major Irish catholic influence.
He instigated swift action to set up a similar club in the East End of Glasgow to steer the youth of Irish emigrants to a life of vision and purpose. A meeting was announced for the 6th November 1887 at St. Mary’s Parish Hall, East End, Glasgow, and a packed arena sanctioned the Irish clerics football concept.
By unified consent the new Glasgow football club was baptised as ‘CELTIC’. The new club was instantly and passionately adopted by thousands of Irish emigrants and their families living in the East End slums. The colours first worn were white shirts with green collars and the club adopted a red Celtic cross cum badge on the front.
The first ever match was a ‘Friendly’ against Rangers and a 5 - 2 victory planted historic seeds for all future Irish generations of Celtic fans. As Celtic blossomed on and off the field, football fans all over Ireland saw the famed green and white hooped shirts later emerge as an integral part of Irish sporting life. A great and historic bond of unity and solidarity between Celtic and Ireland was a natural progression.
In the 21st century Irish fans continue to embrace a unification unmatched by any other soccer club who play their sporting games in a foreign country.
From Melbourne to New York and Donegal to Kerry, Celtic enjoy universal support amongst the Irish by their heritage foundation and the inspiration of a famous Irishman from Ballymote, Co. Sligo.
By Derry JF Doody