A step back in time with two unsung Celtic heroes – The Dohertys of Donegal

Charlie and the Bhoys: A step back in time with two unsung Celtic heroes

Part 7: The Dohertys of Donegal

Sometimes it just takes a chance conversation to unearth some real Celtic gold.

Charlie Doherty is one of the supporters who sits beside us at Celtic Park and, as you do, we have struck up a friendship over the years as we witness the many highs and occasional lows related to following our team. It is a relationship based solely on that two hours or so we spend together each time the Hoops are in action at Paradise, something echoed all around the stadium I suspect. Celtic Pals.

Sometime ago, Charlie mentioned a photo I might be interested in seeing, and sure enough he was right. It was an image of Charlie’s grandfather – also named Charlie Doherty – trying to clear the snow from the Celtic Park pitch to allow a New Year’s Day game against Rangers to go ahead, observed by a pipe-smoking Jimmy McGrory.

I immediately go into ‘statto’ mode, trying to identify the game. The Celtic End is covered, so no earlier than 1958. The Great Man is the manager, so no later than 1965. We only played that fixture at home every second year and it wouldn’t always be snowing at that time of year. The usual stuff. Best guess I have is that the photo was taken in January 1962. Everything fits.

Charlie then advises me that his grandfather was the head groundsman at Celtic Park, and he believes he may be the club’s longest-serving employee.

Charlie Doherty with the Scottish Cup

He adds that his great-grandfather also worked for the club for many years, and that his name was Will Quinn! And that he has ‘a few other photos I’ll send on in case they are of interest to you.’

Will Quinn

Well, he did send them on, and they were of interest, to say the least. Some incredible images, many of which we have published on The Celtic Star over recent weeks. Quite unique.

There was clearly a story there which deserved to be told, so it duly joined the list of projects to be properly researched and written when time permitted.

It took a while, but over the past few weeks I have been working on Charlie and the Bhoys, a step back in time with two unsung Celtic heroes who worked for the club from the era of Maley to the tenure of Stein. The first six parts of the story focused on the remarkable life of Charlie’s great-grandfather, Will Quinn, who served Celtic with such distinction in different capacities between 1911 and his death in 1939, despite some horrific family tragedies which he had to deal with. If you missed that series of articles earlier, why not pick up on those which you will find HERE

My ‘Celtic Pal’ Charlie’s Grandfather Charles Doherty was born to Farmer Dominick Doherty and his wife Mary Doherty (nee Gallagher) in Carrickyscanlan, around eight miles west of Letterkenny in County Donegal on Saturday, 17 November 1888, just a few months after Celtic Football Club played its first competitive match. Indeed, on that very day, Celts lost 2-0 to Queen’s Park at the first Celtic Park on Dalmarnock Street (now Springfield Road) to exit the Glasgow Cup at the semi-final stage in what was the first-ever meeting between the clubs.

First Celtic Park plaque

In the previous round, played on Saturday, 27 October 1888 at the original Ibrox Park, Celtic had beaten Rangers 6-1 in the inaugural competitive match between those two teams, Tom Maley and James Kelly on the scoresheet just as they had been when the Bould Bhoys beat the same opposition 5-2 in the friendly match which launched Celtic to the football world at their new home five months earlier.

Dan Drake article

Queen’s Park would duly thrash Partick Thistle 8-0 in the one-sided final at Ibrox – with both William Berry and James Hamilton netting hat-tricks – to follow Cambuslang as just the second winners of the fledgling competition.

Glasgow Cup final match advert 1888

The Spiders retained the trophy the following year, edging a controversial five-goal thriller with first-time finalists Celtic at the original Cathkin Park on Dixon Avenue, but ‘The Irishmen’ would then win four of the next six Glasgow Cup finals as well as a Scottish Cup and three Scottish League flags to replace Queen’s Park as the pre-eminent team in the country by 1896. Celtic would become a huge part of Charlie Doherty’s life in later years and his family are still rolling up to watch his beloved Hoops in action to this day.

Celtic team of 1896 with Glasgow Cup

The Doherty family in that part of Donegal can be traced back at least five decades before his grandfather’s birth in 1888, according to information provided by my friend Charlie’s relative.

“The Doherty family were in Fahykeen from the early 1800’s. Patrick is listed on the Tithe records for 1834 and his son Charles is on Griffiths valuation in 1858 on the same plot of land. The house – or what’s left of it – would be quite easy to find today.

Dominic was born in Fahykeen – his sister Ann’s marriage notes say the family home was there – but he moved a mile up the road to Carrickyscanlan at some point to another Doherty house and that was where his family were born and brought up – including Charles, Charlie Doherty’s grandfather. The site of this house could easily be found too.

Dominic was in Scotland when he died so it would be good to find out when he came across – did the whole family emigrate together, were the children young at the time? They were in Donegal in the 1901 Census but there are no Dohertys in Carrickyscanlan in the 1911 Census. I will try to find them in Scotland in that Census.”

That sounds like a challenge, so I’m soon on the case.

Dominick Doherty of Fahykeen married Mary Gallagher of Drumnashammer in the Roman Catholic Chapel of Glenswilly, Donegal on 12 February 1888, as volunteers from that county continued work on the first Celtic Park across the Irish Sea in Glasgow. The newlyweds’ ages are simply stated as Full Age, although their death certificates would suggest that Dominick was around 34 and Mary 31 at that time. Dominick was a Farmer, as was both his father Charles Doherty and Mary’s dad, John Gallagher. The witnesses were Patrick Doherty and Mary Doherty, whom I believe to be Dominick’s cousin and his wife.

A little over nine months later the couple would be blessed with the arrival of their first child, a son Charles Doherty, born on 17 November 1888 in Carrickyscanlan, as mentioned above. Note that the name of the townland was often recorded as Carrickascanlan at that time.

A second son John Doherty would duly follow, born at Carrickyscanlan on 6 January 1890, but tragically baby John would survive just six months before passing away at home on 13 July, having been ‘coughing and throwing off’ for four days.

Dominick and Marys’ first daughter, Bridget Doherty, was delivered on 28 September 1893 at Carrickyscanlan and a second, Annie Docherty, is then born on 11 June 1895, once again at Carrickyscanlan, to complete their family.

Sadly, no information from either the 1881 or 1891 Census of Ireland is available, which causes a few headaches to say the least in terms of research, but the Doherty family situation is captured on the first Census of the new century, taken on 31 March 1901, with Dominick, Mary and their three surviving children living in Carrickyscanlan.

There is no specific address listed, the entry is simply given as property number two and the family details are shown as follows.

1901 Census: Carrickyscanlan, Conwal, Co. Donegal

Dominick Doherty (Head, 42, so born c1859 in Donegal) Farmer/Navvy on railway who cannot read or write and speaks Irish.
Mary Doherty (Wife, 41, so born c1860 in Donegal) Can read and write and speaks Irish.
Charles Doherty (Son, 12, born 17 November 1888 in Donegal) Can read and write.
Bridget Doherty (Daughter, 7, born 28 September 1893 in Donegal) Can read and write.
Annie Doherty (Daughter, 5, born 11 June 1895 in Donegal) Cannot read and write.

Note that the ages listed for Dominick and Mary on the Census records are inconsistent, as their death certificates would later place those as c1853 and c1856 respectively.

This will be the last time the family are recorded on an Irish Census, as within the next decade they will have relocated to Scotland, with life-changing implications for young Charles in particular.

To be continued.

Hail, hail!

Matt Corr

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About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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