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

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

Part 1: Will Quinn – Early years in Ayrshire

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.

More months back than I care to remember – sorry, Charlie – he mentioned a photo I might be interested in seeing, and sure enough he was right. It was an image of Charlie’s grandfather – also 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.

Charlie then advises that his grandfather was the head groundsman at Celtic Park, and he believes he is the club’s longest-serving employee. 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, which we will get to in due course.

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

It has taken a while, but here we go with the first part of 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.

Charlie Doherty’s Great-Grandfather William Quinn was born on 21 March 1875 at George Street, St Quivox, – a village on the north-eastern outskirts of Ayr – to Michael Quinn, a Town Porter, and Rosina Quinn, nee Vance.

That very same week, Queen’s Park were engaged in a Scottish Cup semi-final struggle with Kinning Park-based outfit Clydesdale, whom they had defeated exactly 12 months earlier in the first-ever final of the competition. The 1875 last-four tie would go to three matches before Queen’s progressed to the second Scottish Cup final, where they would retain their trophy by beating Renton 3-0 at the first Hampden Park, their home ground in Crosshill, now the site of Hampden Bowling Club. We were still more than 12 years away from the formation of Celtic Football Club – which would later play such a huge part in Will’s life – in Glasgow’s east end.

We will actually begin our story around a decade earlier, as Will’s parents Michael and Rosina Quinn marry on 1 June 1866 at Trinity Chapel in Ayr, a Scottish Episcopal Church.

At that time, the Groom Michael Quinn was 38 and a Private in the 21st (Royal Scots Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot, based at Ayr Barracks, on the south side of Ayr Harbour. His parents were listed as Richard Quinn, a Forester, and Margaret Quinn, nee Mills. It is possible that they remained in Ireland after their son Michael joined the army, as he was born there. There is no sign of Richard and Margaret Quinn – Will Quinn’s paternal grandparents – in the Scottish Census records of 1841-71.

Bride Rosina Vance was 20 and a Sewer (Seamstress?), who lived at George Street, St Quivox, where her son Will would be born nine years later. Her parents were noted as James Vance, a Labourer, and Jane Vance, nee Wilson. We will duly find out that James Vance was born in Donegal and Jane Wilson in Mochrum, Wigtownshire, and that the Vance family – Will Quinn’s maternal grandparents and their children – had been living in Ayrshire since at least 1831, as a first son Joseph Vance was born there around that time.

Michael and Rosina Quinn – Will Quinn’s parents and Charlie Doherty’s Great-Great Grandparents – would be blessed with 10 children over the 24 years following their marriage in Ayr in June 1866.

We do know that they lived in Ireland around 1869 and Newport, South Wales two years later, possibly because of Michael’s army postings, as their first two children James and Mary Jane Quinn were born in those locations. But by 1873 the family are back in Ayrshire and settled in St Quivox, as a third child Michael Quinn junior is born there.

The 1881 Census (taken on 3 April 1881) shows Michael (50, a Town Porter, born in Ireland) and Rosina Quinn (33, born in Ayr) living at George Street, St Quivox, Ayr with their first six children; James Quinn (12, born in Ireland c1869), Mary Jane Quinn (10, born in Newport, South Wales 1871), Michael Quinn junior (8, born in Ayr 1873), William Quinn (6, born in Ayr on 21 March 1875), Rosina Quinn junior (3, born in Ayr 1877), Isabella Quinn (1, born in Ayr 1880) plus a lodger, Mary Gilmour, an 24-year-old Dressmaker born in Glasgow.

Note that Rosina’s parents, James and Jane Vance, are also living in George Street, St Quivox at that time, at number 100. James will pass away there a few months later, on 6 May 1881 from Cardiac Disease, aged 77. And to complete the story of Will’s maternal grandparents, Rosina’s mum Jane Vance died of a Brain Disease on 22 January 1888 at 192 Mill Street, Rutherglen, the home of her daughter Jane Neithercut. She was listed as being 74 years old.

The Quinn family would move the short distance from St Quivox to Newton-on-Ayr over the next few years and it would be there that tragedy would strike. On 9 January 1886, Will’s eight-year-old younger sister Rosina Quinn junior died of Tuberculous Meningitis at 2 Wellington Street, Newton. Will would have been just 10 years old at that time.

On leaving school, Will commenced working life as a joiner. The 1891 Census was taken on 5 April 1891, the day after a Celtic side featuring Willie Maley and Sandy McMahon lost 1-0 to St Mirren at Westmarch, Paisley in the inaugural Scottish League season. It shows his parents Michael (64, a Porter, born in Ireland) and Rosina Quinn (45, born in St Quivox, Ayr) living at 34 Wellington Street, Newton, Ayr with seven of their children; James Quinn (22, an Upholsterer, born in Ireland), William Quinn (16, a Joiner, born in St Quivox, Ayr), Bella Quinn (11, born in St Quivox, Ayr), Richard Quinn (7, born in Newton, Ayr in 1882), Joseph Quinn (5, born in Newton, Ayr 1885), John Quinn (3, born in Newton, Ayr in 1887) and Francis Quinn (7 months, born in Newton, Ayr in 1890).

Westmarch Grounds, Paisley. Home of St Mirren

Will’s elder sister Mary Jane Quinn moves into service sometime between 1881 and 1891, as in that 1891 Census she is listed as a 20-year-old Housemaid, one of four domestic servants working at Savoy, on Racecourse Road, Ayr, the home of retired soldier Norman Macdonald and his family.

Two of Mary Jane’s fellow workers, both Irish girls from Kilkenny, are significant to this story.

I believe the cook Mary Hoban (42) may be related to Minnie Hoban, a 22-year-old domestic servant who would marry Upholsterer James Quinn – Will and Mary Jane’s elder brother – that same year, on 4 June 1891 at St Margaret’s RC Church, St Quivox, Ayr.

And 27-year-old Tablemaid Catherine Dalton, known as Kate, would become the first love of Mary Jane’s teenage brother Will Quinn.

Oh, and that photo we mentioned at the start of the article?

I believe it is from January 1962 but happy to stand corrected.

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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