Celtic Crowned Champions and the Last Word on Their Coronations

Over the weekend, the Coronation that really mattered took place on Sunday in Edinburgh and not London. Celtic went to Tynecastle knowing that a victory would give Ange Postecoglou his second title in a row.

That Hearts game was also a small piece of Celtic history as it was the first time the Bhoys have played on the weekend of a coronation. Despite this, some of the club’s most celebrated moments have involved the crowning of a new monarch.

Prior to Saturday – and since Celtic’s first game in 1888 – there have been four coronations: in 1902, 1911, 1937 and 1953. The Bhoys have had different experiences for each of them.

1902 – Coronation of King Edward VII

The death of Queen Victoria led to King Edward VII being crowned on 9 August 1902. On the day of the Coronation, Celtic Park hosted the annual Celtic FC Sports meeting. It was a dull, windy day but still 20,000 fans went to Glasgow’s east end to watch cycling, the high jump and running contests. The event was even prominent enough to attract competitors from the USA.

From a footballing perspective, the royal celebrations took place in the shadow of disaster. At Ibrox in April 1902, a stand collapse during a Scotland versus England match resulted in 25 supporters being killed as well as more than 500 injuries.

On the day of the 1902 Coronation, two Celtic players (Johnny Campbell and Tommy McDermott) were in football action, turning out for Scotland in Belfast. The Scots won 3-0 versus Ireland in a match held to raise money for the Ibrox Disaster Fund. The need to generate money following the tragedy also led to Celtic winning a famous trophy. In 1901, the Bhoys lost to Rangers in the Glasgow Exhibition Cup Final. After the disaster, Rangers used this trophy as the prize for what became known as the British League Cup.

Sunderland and Everton were invited to join the two Glasgow sides in a four-team tournament. At Celtic Park, the Bhoys easily overcame Sunderland by 5-1. Rangers travelled to Merseyside to draw 1-1 with Everton before winning the Celtic Park replay 3-2.

These results pitted Celtic against Rangers in the final on 17 June 1902. Due to the upcoming royal event, it was also unofficially known as the Coronation Cup. At the original Cathkin Park, 10,000 fans watched as Celtic claimed a 3-2 extra time victory, with Jimmy Quinn getting a hat-trick.

In August and September 1902, an Ibrox Disaster Benefit Fund Tournament also took place. On 24 September, Celtic took the title with a 4-2 final victory over Morton, the goals coming from Willie Loney (2), Davie Hamilton and Tommy McDermott.

1911 – Coronation of King George V

After the death of Edward VII, George V was officially crowned as king on 22 June 1911. Given that the event fell in the middle of summer, there was no official football games for Celtic (or other clubs) at this time. Instead, all around the country there were local events held to mark the Coronation. Some of these involved five-a-side tournaments which featured local sides named ‘Celtic’, including in Kinglassie in Fife and Inverurie in Aberdeenshire.

Prior to the Coronation, Celtic’s final games had been in May 1911 as part of a European tour which included matches in Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Switzerland and France. It was 15 August 1911 before the Bhoys were again in action, starting their league season with a 3-0 home win over Airdrie.

1937 – Coronation of King George VI

Unlike other Coronations – which followed a monarch’s death – the 1937 event was different. George V died in 1936 and was replaced by Edward VIII. However Edward abdicated that same year, meaning his younger brother George was crowned on 12 May 1937.

Celtic did not play on the day of the Coronation, but some Bhoys were in action. To mark the King’s event, a special Glasgow versus Edinburgh match took place at Hampden Park. Celts Willie Buchan, John Morrison and Chic Geatons turned out for the west coast side, who won 2-0.

The days leading up to the Coronation were some of the most momentous in Celtic’s story. On a positive note, the Bhoys claimed the Scottish Cup on 24 April 1937, with a 2-1 win over Aberdeen. That was an historic occasion as the European record for a club match. Officially, 146,433 crammed into Hampden; unofficial figures suggest even more were present.

Less cheery was Celtic’s final league game before the royal ceremony. On the last day of the league season (30 April 1937), the Celts travelled to Fir Park to meet Motherwell. When the Bhoys left it was as holders of the record for Celtic’s worst ever competitive defeat.

The scoreline of Motherwell 8-0 Celtic tells its own disastrous story. Injuries hampered the Hoops, especially ‘keeper Joe Kennaway going off and being replaced by forward Willie Buchan. The main ‘Well hero on the day was Alexander Stewart, who scored six times.

Closer to the Coronation, Celtic had more luck. Four days before the crowning, Celtic met Clyde in the Glasgow Charity Cup semi-final, winning 3-1. The final took place at Hampden, three days after the King’s ceremony. Just over 21,000 fans watched an exciting encounter; three times the Bhoys came from behind to win 4-3 against Queen’s Park.

1953 – Coronation of Queen Elizabeth

Before Saturday’s event, it had been 70 years since the last coronation in Britain. This was for Queen Elizabeth on 2 June 1953. Once more, the Celts did not play on the day of the crowning. However their last game before this event is one of the most storied and celebrated in Celtic history, still sung about to this day.

In May 1953 – as a means of commemorating the Coronation – a special contest was held which brought together four English teams (Arsenal, Man Utd, Spurs and Newcastle) and four sides from Scotland (Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen and Hibs). The Celts had a poor domestic season – although did win the Glasgow Charity Cup – but were generally expected to struggle, only being invited in the hope of attracting larger crowds. But instead they spectacularly rose to the occasion.

The quarter-finals pitted Celtic versus English champions Arsenal. Pre-match expectations of an easy English victory were quashed with Bobby Collins giving Celtic a 1-0 victory. Against Manchester United in the semi-finals, 73,000 watched Bertie Peacock and Neilly Mochan make it 2-1 to Celtic.

As the song goes, the final meant “all Hampden was covered in green, white and gold.” The Celts met Hibs at Hampden Park. 117,000 fans were entertained as Neilly Mochan and a late Jimmy Walsh strike gave the Bhoys a hard-earned 2-0 triumph and claimed the Coronation Cup.

Celtic beat Hearts 2-0 on Sunday and it was party time as the Bhoys celebrated title number 53. It’s 130 years since the first time that Celtic were crowned Champions. You can find out more about this inaugural triumph in the new book ‘The Bould Bhoys! Glory to their name’ available now from Celtic Star Books.

Matthew Marr

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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