Founding Father: Hugh Darroch

Hugh Darroch was the original treasurer of Celtic Football Club and one of the key founding committee members. He was born in Glasgow in 1859 to Irish parents from County Antrim. His father, also named Hugh, passed away in a mining accident before his second birthday. As such, the family downsized, moving to London Road, Bridgeton, where his mother opened a clothes shop.

By the time Hugh Darroch left education, he was a manager in a very successful pawnbrokers, which prompted him to move out to a property on the Gallowgate within St Mary’s parish. He also took over his Mother’s shop at this time, on Bain Street, and turned it into one of the most successful in the city.

A central part of the St Mary’s parish, Darroch became involved with the Saint Vincent De Paul Society, assisting the local conference of the organisation, which brought him into contact with the likes of Brother Walfrid and Dorotheus. He was a popular figure in the community, excelling as a member of the Catholic Literary Society, and his popularity rolled over to the founding fathers of Celtic Football Club, of which he was one. It was thus no surprise when he was elected as the first Celtic Treasurer in 1887, upon the establishment of the club.

Darroch was busy helping Celtic get off the ground, yet at this time he married a widowed woman named Mary Walls on Boxing Day 1888. He had a son with Mary, whom they named Hugh, in line with family tradition. Dr Joseph Scanlan, a prominent club member, was Darroch’s best man and would later marry Mary’s younger sister, Sarah Walls.

Shortly after marriage, Hugh and his young family moved into Monteith Row, overlooking Glasgow Green. This address was once one of the most sought after in Glasgow, but by this time most of the wealthy residents had moved to the west of the city and the area was populated by respectable working class people, many of whom were of Irish extraction. Living along the row was fellow Celtic founder, William McKillop, and original subscriber to Celtic, Francis Henry, who was also the older brother to one of the club’s committee members, Stephen J Henry.

Tragically, Hugh was diagnosed with malignant cancer on his neck four years later. “During his illness, Darroch maintained his Treasurer duties with Celtic, sharing the role with John H McLaughlin and James McKay. Sadly, he would pass away at home on 11 September 1891, having previously been looked after by founding father and the first man to ever kick a ball for Celtic, Dr John Conway.

Hugh Darroch was the first founding father to pass away, aged just 32, leaving his wife widowed for a second time. His obituary in the Glasgow Observer confirms that he died as a result of the disease and that he was interned at Dalbeth Cemetery after a requiem mass at St Alphonsus.

The obituary outlines his involvement and love for Celtic:
Football was his favourite game. He was among the first promoters of the Celtic Club and on its institution he was elected Treasurer. In his death the club loses a zealous and devoted supporter. At their game on Saturday – out of respect for deceased – the club’s team wore craps bands on their arms.

Hugh was the first person that Celtic players ever wore black armbands in tribute to. The flags at Celtic Park also flew at half mast as the funeral cortege passed the stadium on its way to Old Dalbeth.

A report in the Weekly Freeman’s Journal on 14 September 1891 revealed what happened at the funeral of the great Celt:

A Requiem Mass was sung by Father Trawley in St. Alphonsus’ Church on Monday for the repose of the soul of Mr. Hugh Darroch, a gentleman engaged in the pawnbroking business in the East End of this city, and who died at the early age of thirty-two years the previous Friday. The remains of the deceased, encased in a brass-mounted coffin, lay on a catafalque in front of the high altar. The sanctuary was draped in black cloth, and on the coffin were several floral wreaths, including one from Mr. Darroch’s late employees and from the Celtic Football Club.

During the mass Monsignor Munro was present in church, as were also Messrs. Francis Henry, Glasgow School Board; E. Williamson, and J. Quigley, P.L.G.; Dr Couway, Dr Scanlan, S.J. Henry, Glasgow Catholic Literary Society; Bothers Walfrid and Christopher, of the Marist Order; John Heass and J.H. McLaughlin, Celtic Football Club; and McCairns, solicitor. At the conclusion of the Mass, the funeral party proceeded in ten mourning coaches to Dalbeth Cemetery, where the interment took place.

Mr. Darroch, who had friends everywhere, and an enemy nowhere, was connected with St. Mary’s Conference of the St Vincent de Paul Society. The first treasurer of the Celtic Football Club, he was one of its chief promoters. He appears to have been highly popular in the football world, and one writer remarks that the Celtic Club will miss Mr. Darroch’s sound practical advice. Another writer in an athletic paper writes that in him the poor ever found a friend to succour and help them.

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About Author

Hailing from an Irish background, I grew up on the English south coast with the good fortune to begin watching Celtic during the Martin O'Neill era. I have written four Celtic books since the age of 19: Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support, Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events, Walfrid & The Bould Bhoys: Celtic's Founding Fathers, First Season & Early Stars, and The Holy Grounds of Glasgow Celtic: A Guide To Celtic Landmarks & Sites Of Interest. These were previously sold in Waterstones and official Celtic FC stores, and are now available on Amazon.

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