Port Glasgow CSC, No.1 Branch…
Port Glasgow Celtic Supporters Club No.1 Branch was registered in 1948 with John Gault as president, Jim McCann as secretary, Willie Tolan as treasurer, and Jim ‘Digger’ McCullagh as bus convener. They also had help from Frank Reilly, Jimmy Buntain, and Tommy Foster.
They are the oldest CSC in the town. The early members showed an indefatigable will to raise funds for their own premises and did so by hosting dances on a monthly basis. While in search of their goal, the members did not lose sight of Celtic’s charitable remit.
Indeed, they put appreciable effort into supporting worthy causes through a number of other dance nights held at the Town Hall. Eventually, the club had sufficient funds to move into four rooms above Monty’s Bar, where they remained for twenty years.
During that two-decade period, three key men came aboard and directed the club to new heights. The first was Thomas ‘Tucker’ Mulgrew, who joined the club as a fifteen-year-old in 1957. He had initially travelled to matches on Arthur Donnachie’s rebel bus but having been picked up by the Port Glasgow No.1 on a number of occasions, not least for the Coronation Cup Final in 1953, he decided to commit to the latter on a permanent basis.
Tucker was first tasked with the job of protecting the club board at the back window of the bus. However, he was soon propositioned to become bus convener, a position in which he excelled. The Port Glasgow bus, from which Tucker always operated, became known as ‘The Chapel Bus’ because several clergymen travelled with them.
Away matches invariably proved the most popular pilgrimage. Life on those road trips entailed a visit to the cinema or dancing after games. All had to be present for a midnight departure back to Port Glasgow, which was the only condition. The trip of trips was the long jaunt north to Aberdeen. It was then that the club would check into Hasties Hotel for the weekend. Uncannily, the countless journeys with the CSC gave Tucker the opportunity to meet a lady named Roberta, who later became his wife.
The next coup for the club came in the shape of Jackie Dow, who spent many years on the committee, championing the club’s name and playing an instrumental role in a range of aspects within the organisation. After lengthy service, he abandoned the position to join as a more conventional member. However, his commitment to the community meant that Jackie became the go-to man for ticket collections and related inquiries.
The last of the remarkable trio to join was Hugh Doherty. He was 21 when he became a member, and he dedicated a great deal of time to the club and ran a number of charitable projects on its behalf. Many ardent fans from the area were once taken to their first ever match through the CSC, and it was Hugh who was largely responsible for that.
Between lending time to local children and assisting the less fortunate, Hugh gave unequivocal devotion to the CSC. Eventually, he was given recognition for his efforts by heading the committee. Under Hugh’s stewardship, the group hosted annual bingo stalls for the benefit of Holy Family fetes and St Vincent’s in Langbank.
He mobilised the CSC further and added beneficiaries closer to home when organising members trips to Portobello and Girvan. In the presidential role, he both prospered and became synonymous with the club. That fact was given credence when Celtic recognised his efforts in the match-day programme on his 60th birthday.
Towards the late 1960s, largely thanks to the work of the trinity, the club became the largest registered CSC in the world. Thus, in 1972, the decision was made to acquire a social club at Fyfe Shore. The property was officially opened by Bobby Murdoch in December of that year.
The social club was the scene of many a great charity evening, with icons such as Jimmy Johnstone not unfamiliar with guest appearances at the venue. By the time the social club was underway, the committee had undergone a major overhaul. Peter Mooney headed the club as president, joined by Hugh Doherty (still in reserve at this time,) Thomas Mulgrew as bus convener, Martin Coyle in a secretarial role, and Tony Gault in charge of social convening.
Of the original founders, only Willie Tolan remained, still in his position as treasurer. Just prior to the acquisition of the social club, the Celtic and Rangers clubs within Port Glasgow came together to raise funds for the Ibrox Disaster Fund in 1971. It was a strangely companionable evening of dancing in the Town Hall.
A mark of the Port Glasgow CSC was that it was approached by the oldest overseas supporters group, Kearny NJ CSC. The Americans, led by former Port man Jimmy Gavin, requested assistance in holding a dance at Fyfe Shore.
The committee obliged, and the event attracted the attendance of Jock Stein and John McPhail. Jimmy Gavin, president of the Kearny CSC at the time, kept in touch with the Port Glasgow club, and his affection for it endured until his passing.
In the late 70s, the branch was introduced to St Joseph’s Hospital in Rosewell. After twelve months of supporting, lobbying, and collecting for the hospital, the club was able to donate £250. That was quite a sum in those days. The ultimate appreciation for the club’s altruistic action was displayed in 1982 when newfound secretary Joe O’Rourke (who now acts as General Secretary of the CSA,) relayed a message that he received from St Joseph’s on the club’s behalf.
It was an official invitation for the club to meet Pope John Paul II at the medical institute. Club president Hugh Doherty and his wife, Mary, represented the CSC proudly. The partnership with the hospital continued to flourish thereafter. Indeed, donations grew to just shy of the £20,000 mark by the time the club closed in the mid-1980s.
The phenomenal Celtic Supporters Branch sadly met that closure following a string of break-ins at Fyfe Shore. Today, the CSC operates as a travel club from the A.O.H Hall. Michael Conroy, a former Celtic left-half in the fifties and native of the town, is an honorary club member. Back when the dances of the early days took place, Conroy was ever-present. The trustees included Hugh Doherty, Danny Doherty, and Tommy McDade, who took charge of bus convening duties.
It is a testament to their love of not only Celtic but also the Port Glasgow community.
David McIntyre – CelticBars.com
An extract from Football Without Fans – The History of Celtic Supporters Clubs by David McIntyre ( Celtic Bars). Football Without Fans – The History of Celtic Supporters Clubs is out now and available in print and kindle versions HERE. Watch the video in the Celtic World tweet below for some amazing facts on the Celtic support around the world.
Just before Christmas, David McIntyre from Celtic Bars was interviewed by Celtic TV about his Football Without Fans book. Here’s the video on Celtic TV’s You Tube channel . You can order a copy in print or kindle from Amazon regardless of where you are in the world. Order your copy HERE.