Missing – Have you seen Celtic’s first ever trophy?

135 years ago, Celtic’s players, known as The Bould Bhoys, attended an awards ceremony after winning the club’s first ever competition: the Glasgow North Eastern Cup. However, the prize for this has become something of a mystery…

Celtic entered five cup competitions in their maiden season (1888-89), these being the Glasgow Exhibition Cup, Scottish Cup, Glasgow Cup, North Eastern Cup and Charity Cup. They reached the finals of the Exhibition Cup and Scottish Cup and in the North Eastern Cup Final, they beat Cowlairs 6-1.

To mark Celtic’s North Eastern Cup victory, an awards event was held on 31 May 1889. This “smoking concert” was held at Campbell’s in Dunlop Street in Glasgow’s city centre.

Last night, a group of Celtic fans took part in the latest Celtic history walking tour. With this tour taking place in Glasgow City Centre, they heard the full story of this event, and the trophy confusion.

Although the team received ‘badges’ (medals), newspapers said there was no trophy as a new cup was being made, with the original being given to the North Eastern Association’s reserves competition.

One newspaper at the time wrote that the North Eastern Association’s president “presented the handsome gold badges to the individual members of the Celtic team, at the same time explaining that the magnificent new cup which the Association had ordered was not quite ready, but would be handed over in due course, and that the old cup had been generously gifted to their 2nd XI Association.”

Another journalist stated that “the Chairman intimated that the existing North-Eastern Cup was to be handed over to the N.E. 2nd XI. Association, and that a new trophy was at present being manufactured, which the Celts would shortly become possessors of.”

In the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, there is a trophy on display. It is engraved: ‘The North Eastern Challenge Cup’. However, this is the original trophy, crafted in 1882. It is not the new one which was made in 1889.

Glasgow North Eastern Cup Trophy

Celtic were first formally given this new trophy when they retained the North Eastern Cup in 1890 after beating Northern 2-0. According to newspapers at the time, the new cup was very imposing. It was said to be even better than the Glasgow Cup and Charity Cup, both impressive looking prizes. One reporter even suggested it could be sold if money was ever needed!

However, the whereabouts of this new trophy are now unknown.

Interest in the Glasgow North Eastern Cup began to fade the early-1890s. Fewer teams entered and in its final year there were only three sides, even after extending boundaries to include Partick Thistle. It was last played for in 1894-95, when it was won by Clyde.

It is worth nothing that a Celtic team was definitely awarded the original trophy, which is now displayed at Hampden. In 1889-90 (and the following year), Celtic’s reserves won the Glasgow North Eastern Second XI Cup, and thus received the cup which had been manufactured in 1882.

But what happened to the second (1889) trophy? There’s different possibilities:

1. It’s simply been lost
2. It’s in a store somewhere, waiting to be found
3. It was melted down
4. It was reused as another trophy, its original purpose forgotten

The practice of re-using trophies was a fairly common occurrence in this era, and later than this too. When Celtic won the 1951 St Mungo Cup, the trophy they received had originally been used for a yachting competition in the 1890s!

The first trophy to be given to Celtic would be an iconic piece of history. In recent years, a medal from the 1889 North Eastern Final has been sold for £10,000. The first trophy would be even more sought after!

But, for now at least, there the trail ends. It is to be hoped that the trophy still exists and is just waiting to be discovered. So be sure to go home and search in your cupboards and lofts, especially if you’ve any old trophies lying around!

Matthew Marr

Follow Matthew on Twitter @hailhailhistory

Matthew’s debut Celtic book titled ‘The Bould Bhoys – Glory to their name’ was published by Celtic Star Books last year and is available to order HERE . And you can now get a copy for HALF PRICE in our Father’s Day sale!

This brilliant book is also available on Amazon Kindle for just £3.49 and includes all photo sections that appear in the hardback edition.

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About Author

Matthew Marr first started going to see Celtic in the 1980s and has had a season ticket since 1992. His main Celtic interest is the club's history, especially the early years. In 2023, Matthew published his first Celtic book, telling the story of the Bhoys' first league title. He also runs Celtic history walking tours.

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