Our Foundation – The Celtic Way…
St Mary’s in the Calton – At the very heart of Celtic since the beginning
There are few places, if any, which can claim such strong links with Celtic Football Club as the church – and indeed the church hall – of St Mary’s parish in Glasgow’s east end.
Completed in 1842, the beautiful old church itself can be found to this day in the shadow of Celtic Park, in Abercromby Street just off the Gallowgate, but it was in the long-gone hall just around the corner, at 67 East Rose Street, where two very significant events occurred in 1887.
On 12 February of that year, Hibernian FC beat the establishment clubs of the day to win the Scottish Cup, far and away the country’s most prestigious trophy at that time. The Hibernian team featured a number of players who would later turn out for Celtic, notably James McGhee, James McLaren and the winning goalscorer, ‘Darling Willie’ Groves, whilst beaten finalists Dumbarton had another future Parkhead great at centre-forward, Johnny Madden.
A party was held to celebrate that achievement, but not in Leith, where the club was based, or even in nearby Edinburgh. It was in St Mary’s church hall in East Rose Street where ‘the Hibernians’ were feted by the Irish community in Glasgow’s east end. No doubt a great day for the Irish, as the song goes
At that function, it was suggested to Brother Walfrid – allegedly by the Hibernian chairman – that with such enthusiastic local support it would make sense for Glasgow’s Irish community to have its own football club as a social outlet for their young men and as a means for raising much-needed funds for the poor families within the parishes of the area. The suggestion was taken on board, with Walfrid, John Glass and a number of key individuals from within that community progressing their ideas until at a meeting in that same hall on 6 November 1887, it was agreed that The Celtic Football Club would be formed. The rest – as they say – is history.
The church has continued to play a part in that history in the 136 years which have followed that momentous decision. An annual mass is celebrated there every November to mark the anniversary of the birth of the club, attended by club officials and supporters. Indeed, at the mass celebrating our 125th anniversary – attended by directors of Barcelona, our Champions League opponents that night – a collection was taken to raise funds for a mosaic reflecting the club’s roots to be placed at the entrance to the church.
And the fairytale continued that evening, as a Celtic side weakened by the loss of both their captain and star striker proceeded to beat the greatest side on the planet courtesy of a late winner from a Coatbridge teenager!
Insert as many photos as you like of that brilliant night!
A few years earlier, in May 2008, the funeral of one of Celtic’s favourite sons – former player, manager, coach and always supporter Tommy Burns – was held there, his childhood parish. There was something especially unique and special about that poignant day as the Celtic family gathered together at the place where it all began to say goodbye to one of their own.
And speaking again about beginnings, in July 2021, it was fitting that the garden of St Mary’s church was the location for the unveiling of a memorial commemorating An Gorta Mor in Scotland. It had been that tragic situation which had forced young Andrew Kerins to leave his Sligo home for a new life in Scotland in 1855, the teenager settling in Glasgow’s east end.
In 1887, now ordained as Brother Walfrid, it would be he who would be crucial to the formation of the club we love today, and his legacy lives on inside the church, where Walfrid’s stunning portrait by Peter Howson takes pride of place.
The formation and early years of Celtic Football Club are the themes of a very special event being held in Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza hotel next month, on Saturday, 23 March 2024 to be exact. Under the banner of Our Foundation – The Celtic Way, it will be a night full of fun, music and unique Celtic content, commencing with a champagne reception, a four-course meal, and including entertainment from the excellent Celtic punk band The Wakes.
We will also be giving away some incredible prizes via a raffle and live and silent auctions, whilst we will be including some wonderful surprise elements, which will only be revealed on the night. And as if you needed any further encouragement to snap up the remaining tickets, best news of all perhaps is that all profits from the event will be passed to Celtic FC Foundation.
For the past six months or so, the volunteer Celtic FC Foundation Supporters Committee has been working hard to pull this event together, and it promises to be something else. As an appetiser for the event, we will be providing news of a very special competition exclusively in The Celtic Star over the coming days. So, watch this space!
Our Foundation – The Celtic Way will be THE most unique Celtic event of 2024.
It’s an excellent way to get through another international weekend with a Celtic fix, have yourself and your company a load of fun whilst raising money for the wonderful work carried out in our name by Celtic FC Foundation.
You can pick up your tickets by clicking on the image below….
Follow Matt on X/Twitter @Boola_vogue and keep up to date with progress and news of this fabulous event on our social media platforms @CFCF_Supporters