New faces, new roles but more heartache for Will Quinn

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

Part 6: New faces, new roles but more heartache for Will Quinn

Will Quinn with motor cyclists at Celtic Park

A few months after the wedding of his eldest daughter Margaret Quinn to Charlie Doherty, Will would see another of his children leave the nest. At St Michael’s RC Church in Glasgow’s east end on 19 October 1921, his son Stephen Quinn, a 22-year-old Picture House Stage Manager, tied the knot with Confectionery Worker Margaret Clyde.

Stephen lived at the family home at 750 Great Eastern Road, now part of the city’s Gallowgate thoroughfare in the shadow of Celtic Park and adjacent to the church, whilst his bride, one year his senior, resided nearby at 33 Gray Street, Parkhead, Glasgow, later renamed as Dervaig Street. Stephen’s parents are listed as William Quinn, Football Club Trainer, and Bertha Quinn, nee Backhauser (deceased). Margaret’s parents were William Clyde, a Coalminer, and Annie Clyde, nee Kane.

Having proudly carried out his duties as club trainer since 1911, the final part of Will Quinn’s career at Celtic Park would see the introduction of a series of younger men to assist or replace him in that role, with Will presumably moving across to focus on tasks as a groundsman.

As the Hoops showed off their newly won Scottish Cup in front of the old Janefield Street pavilion in the spring of 1923, both Will and new man Eddie McGarvie are captioned as trainers, but beyond that season it will be Eddie alone who will be photographed with the playing squad.

Eddie McGarvie with the 1925/26 Celtic squad

  Above pics: Will and Eddie McGarvie with 1923 squad then Eddie with a later squad.

That was the least of Will’s concerns in November 1923, as a fatal error of judgement at his home in Great Eastern Road almost cost him his life at the age of 48. Will drank from a bottle of liniment – embrocation fluid – having mistaken it for medication he was taking at that time. Over the next year or so, the Quinn family moved to a new home at 24 Canmore Place, between Tollcross and London Roads.

Sadly, that family tragedy was only delayed a few years, as Will watched a second daughter pass away on 1 May 1927. Rosina Mary Quinn was the third child born to Will and Annie, back on 27 April 1913. Rosina had suffered from Pulmonary Phthisis for three years and when that developed into Pneumonia on her 14th birthday, she would survive just four more days before succumbing at home as her broken-hearted parents looked on.

In the close season of 1929, Peter Farmer replaced Eddie McGarvie as Celtic trainer. Having previously worked at Olympique de Marseille and Torino, Farmer had coached the French national team at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam the previous summer.

Born in Renton in 1886, Peter’s mother was Margaret Madden. What are the odds she was related to Celtic legend Johnny Madden – the ‘Father of Czech Football’ – Willie Maley’s former teammate who hailed from the Vale of Leven and who was also a pioneer in terms of coaching in continental Europe at that time?

Willie Maley and Peter Farmer with the Celtic squad in 1930

By that time, Will and his family had moved home again, from Canmore Place to 1395 London Road, and it was from there that daughter Anastatia Grace Quinn left to marry Albert Edward Bellerby on 3 August 1929, once again at St Michael’s Church. Anastatia, a Fishmonger’s Assistant, was 21, whilst her new husband was a 27-year-old Bleachfield Foreman living at 18 Rivington Road, Pendleton, Salford, Greater Manchester.

The groom’s parents were Thomas and Betsy Bellerby, nee Hope, and the witnesses were two of Anastatia’s siblings, her brother John Quinn and sister Nora Quinn, both at that time residing at the London Road address.

The following summer, Will, by now 55 years old, was back for a final spell as Celtic trainer, proudly photographed with Willie Maley’s latest batch of hooped hopefuls, that wonderful young team who would experience such adventure, triumph and ultimately tragedy in the years to follow.

Will Quinn back as trainer with the class of 1930
Celtic FC 1931 – a team destined for triumph then tragedy

Will would embark with the Scottish Cup-winning Celtic party on that incredibly poignant North American tour of May/June 1931, as one young Prince – Jimmy McGrory – enjoyed his last trip as a single man, and another – John Thomson – his last real trip anywhere. Distinctive in his ‘Tam O’Shanter’ beret, these were perhaps the final formal photographs taken of Will with the first team.

Indeed, the smiles captured on the faces of the Celts on that great adventure would mask the sadness which fate was keeping in store. By the end of the decade, six of that travelling party – three of the players, John Thomson, Peter Scarff and Bertie Thomson, plus James Kelly, Tom Maley and Will himself – would have passed away.

Will wearing his distinctive ‘Tam O’Shanter’ with the Celts on tour in North America in 1931

Two of those young stars – John Thomson and Peter Scarff – had played their last games for the club in the closing months of 1931 and were familiar faces missing from Celtic’s team photo for the 1932/33 campaign, whilst newcomer Jack Qusklay had replaced Will as trainer.

John Anthony Binnie Qusklay was born in Dundee on 11 December 1902, the family name of Quaskaly having been amended at some stage following their arrival from Ireland, as often happened back then. My own maternal great-grandfather was christened McKeown, before adopting the ‘more Scottish’ McEwan around the same time.

Jack Qusklay and the Celtic team of 1933

Jack Qusklay became a trainer at Dundee United in 1927, the Tannadice club ironically having changed their own name from Dundee Hibernian just four years earlier. In the spring of 1932, he left newly relegated United to join Celtic, as the grief-stricken Parkhead club sought to challenge League champions Motherwell and Scottish Cup-holders Rangers for the major honours following the tragic events of the previous year.

Another Glasgow club recruiting a trainer for that new season was Partick Thistle, who welcomed back their 1921 Scottish Cup-winner Jimmy McMenemy. The legendary ex-Celt had spent some time out of the game as a publican following his retiral from senior football, and in October 1934 he would make the short trip across Glasgow to rejoin Celtic as the successor to Qusklay, who had returned to his native Dundee to set up a private physiotherapy practice.

Jimmy McMenemy with the squad of 1935/36

Will would combine his duties as groundsman by assisting Willie Maley with the reserve side. In the spring of 1935, now 60 years old, he is photographed proudly with Maley and the team which won the Scottish 2nd XI Cup by beating St Johnstone 6-5 in the two-legged final. The young Celts retained the trophy 12 months later with a more comfortable 7-4 success over Motherwell. The photograph contains Will’s signature and that of future legends Malcolm MacDonald, John Crum and Jimmy Delaney.

Autographed photo of the Second XI Cup winning team of 1934/35 – Will’s signature is bottom right

Will Quinn would spend the last seven years of his career, and indeed his life, in that dual role at Celtic Park, preparing the platform – quite literally – for Maley’s last great side to become the finest on these islands. But fate had yet one more cruel twist for him, as a third daughter lost her life long before her time.

On 16 January 1938, 23-year-old Nora Quinn, a Drawing Office Tracer, also succumbed to Phthisis, the illness which had afflicted elder sister Rosina a decade earlier. Nora had been struggling with the condition for 16 months and this time the death was not registered by her father, Football Club Groundsman William Quinn, but by her eldest sister, Anastatia Grace Bellerby, of 10 Victoria Avenue, Higher Blackley, Manchester.

Having buried two wives and three daughters, Will would not have too much longer to wait before finally being reunited with his loved ones. He passed away on 24 June 1939 at McAlpin Nursing Home, 121 Hill Street, Glasgow, aged 64 years, his occupation given as Football Club’s Groundsman.

Will’s death was registered by his widow Anastatia Quinn, who lived with him at 1395 London Road, Glasgow. The death certificate states that Will was married to Catherine Dalton, Bertha Backhauser Hislop then Anastatia McAvoy. Cause of death is given as carcinoma of spine, which Will had endured for six months. His parents are listed as Michael Quinn, a Town Porter, and Rosanna Quinn, nee Vance, both deceased.

As a footnote to Will’s story, his widow Anastatia Quinn survived her husband by the best part of two decades. She passed away on 26 January 1959 at Stobhill Hospital, 133 Balornock Road, Glasgow, aged 82. She is listed as the Widow of William Quinn, Football Club Trainer and her normal place of residence is 1395 London Road, Glasgow. The cause of death is recorded as cardiac failure and broncho pneumonia and the death is registered by Will and Annie’s eldest son, John Quinn, of 11 Firpark, Sorn, Ayrshire. Annie’s father is listed as John McEvoy, a Tailor, and her mother as Grace McEvoy, nee unknown, both deceased.

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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