So just who were the Class of ‘55? Part 2…
Wednesday’s article in The Celtic Star featuring photos provided by Peter Goldie, Celtic’s oldest-living player, provoked a lot of interest and discussion. One photo in particular generated quite a few queries. It was a photoshoot taken at the annual trial match played at Celtic Park on Tuesday, 9 August 1955.
Some of the players of course are instantly recognisable as Celtic legends, whilst most of the others are familiar to those who know their history but a few of the faces presented some challenges in terms of identification. Here at The Celtic Star, we like to acknowledge every Celt who lived the dream and could proudly tell their family and friends “I played for Celtic,” so we thought we’d make sure we had a full cast list to publish. That’s when the fun started.
There was a report on the match in the following day’s Evening Times which listed the teams as follows:
Green and Whites (Hoops)
McCreadie; Haughney & Fallon; Evans, Stein & McPhail;
Docherty, Collins, McAlindon, Walsh & Mochan.
White and Greens (Shamrocks)
Beattie; Ryan & Meechan; McKay, Jack & Conroy;
Craig, McVittie, White, Sharkey & Auld.
Not all of the players in the photo featured in the match, as some were nursing or recovering from injuries. And an obvious absentee from the photoshoot was Bertie Peacock, who was in Belfast representing a Great Britain XI against The Rest of Europe in a match to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the six-county Irish Football Association. The Evening Times report also mentioned that a number of changes to the initial line-ups occurred at half-time – by which time the Hoops were leading 5-0 – as follows.
• Goalkeepers McCreadie and Beattie switched sides.
• Docherty and White switched sides.
• Goldie replaced Ryan for the Shamrocks.
• Duffy replaced Conroy for the Shamrocks.
• Rowan replaced Craig for the Shamrocks.
• Smith replaced Sharkey for the Shamrocks.
Yesterday, we looked at a couple of less familiar names who turned out for the mainly first-team ‘Green and Whites,’ Benny McCreadie and Jimmy ‘Peam’ Docherty.
Today our focus will be on those wearing the shamrock kits, some of whom I was struggling to name. Thankfully, Twitter did its job, and within minutes of The Celtic Star publishing the article, @CelticCurio had produced a list of all the surnames in the photograph. This was a huge help as we set about linking names to faces.
Top row: Higgins, Jack, McAlinden, Duffy, Evans, MacKay, Fernie, Meechan, Tully & Auld.
Middle row: Sharkey, White, Ryan, Craig, Beattie, Docherty, Goldie, Fallon, Boden, Bonnar, Haughney, Conroy, Stein, McCreadie & Mcllroy.
Front row: McVittie, Collins, Smith, McPhail, Rowan, Walsh, Reid & Mochan.
Starting with the back row, I was comfortable with John Jack (originally Jonas Kaduskeviechi) on the left, and Dunky MacKay, Frank Meechan and a young Bertie Auld from middle to right. The Celt fourth from left though was a new one on me. Curio gave his name as Duffy, a fact confirmed separately by Peter Goldie. He remains the most difficult player in the group to secure information (and another verifying photo) on, so if you can help in this regard please get in touch. Jamie Forrest has done some digging and has established that he is David Duffy, who played at Celtic Park between 1950 and 1956 without making a first-team appearance.
Peter Goldie on David Duffy
The only one whose first name I can’t recall is Duffy in the back row beside Bobby Evans. He was a really nice person and came from the Dundee area. If you get his first name, I would like to know it, Matt.
In the middle row, there were two names I was struggling with. The player standing second from left was identified as ‘White,’ but it turns out he was Govanhill-born Frank Whyte, who joined Celtic in August 1951 from St Paul’s Boys Guild in Whiteinch, before being farmed out to Maryhill Harp for that season. He would make his senior debut at Firhill in the penultimate League Cup section tie on Wednesday, 27 August 1952, just a few months after his 17th birthday, replacing John McPhail at centre-forward in the following team.
John Bonnar; Alec Boden & Sean Fallon; Bobby Evans, Jock Stein & Joe Baillie;
Jimmy Walsh, Willie Fernie, Frank Whyte, Charlie Tully & Bertie Peacock.
Whyte had netted twice for Celtic’s reserve side 48 hours earlier, but he would not get on the scoresheet in Maryhill, denied by a superb save from legendary Thistle keeper Tommy Ledgerwood on the stroke of half-time.
The only goal of the night arrived midway through the second half when Bertie Peacock seized on a loose ball to score. There was a shock result at Paisley, as Scottish champions Hibernian – featuring their full Famous Five forward line – were beaten 3-1 by St Mirren.
That meant Celtic only required a draw at Easter Road three days later to qualify for the knockout stages, but Frank would drop out of the team in favour of Jimmy Walsh with Jackie Millsopp on the right wing as Celts lost 3-0 in front of 52,000 spectators at Easter Road to miss out on qualification yet again.
Hibernian, in turn, would lose out to holders and eventual winners Dundee in the semi-final, whilst on the same evening my uncle Willie Jack scored a last-minute winner for Second Division Kilmarnock to beat Rangers at Hampden! Celtic would get a degree of revenge at the end of that season when they beat that fabulous Hibernian side 2-0 at Hampden to lift the Coronation Cup.
Frank would make one more appearance that season, a Glasgow Cup semi-final replay against Queen’s Park at Hampden the following midweek, Willie Fernie and Jimmy Walsh on target in a 2-2 draw, the Second Division amateurs then progressing to the final on the toss of a coin.
Whyte did not reappear in the first team until 12 months later, on Thursday, 20 August 1953, co-incidentally against Queens’ Park at Hampden in the Glasgow Cup, this a much happier occasion as his first goal for Celtic early in the second half decided the first-round replay. He smashed the ball home after Queen’s keeper Weir had failed to deal with a Bobby Collins shot to set up a semi-final clash with Rangers. Frank’s direct opponent that night was John Valentine, who would feature in a massacre on the same ground by Celtic four years later, whilst wearing the colours of Rangers in a League Cup final. Think I feel a song coming on.
Frank retained his place for the visit to Pittodrie two days later, Celts still looking for a first win in their League Cup group after a home defeat from the Dons, a 2-1 loss to Airdrieonians at Broomfield and a 1-1 draw with East Fife in Methil.
They would still be searching for that elusive victory after a 5-2 mauling in the Granite City, Neil Mochan’s last-minute strike and an earlier Jimmy Walsh equaliser the only crumbs of comfort on the day. Celts would finish bottom as East Fife comfortably won the group before going on to secure the trophy for a third time in seven years with a 3-2 win over Partick Thistle in the Hampden final. Those sides had beaten tournament favourites Hibernian and Rangers in the semi-finals. Frank did not feature again that campaign as Celtic somehow recovered from that dreadful opening to the season to win a first League and Cup double in 40 years!
Whyte would not appear at all the following season before making his comeback at right-half in a Glasgow Cup semi-final against Partick Thistle at Celtic Park on Friday, 9 September 1955. Goals from Charlie Tully and Neil Mochan either side of the break allowed Celtic to ease into a final clash with Rangers later that month.
That would be the first of eight first-team outings that season for Frank, the best spell of his Celtic career. The remaining seven matches were all in the League, commencing with a visit to Tynecastle on Saturday, 8 October 1955. Celtic were missing the star trio of Bobby Evans, Bertie Peacock and Bobby Collins – all involved in Ireland’s 2-1 win over Scotland in Belfast the same afternoon – and slipped to a 2-1 defeat with Willie Fernie scoring a late consolation goal.
All three returned the following week for a 2-2 draw with Motherwell at Celtic Park, but Frank retained his place as Celts were denied both points by a last-gasp equaliser from Aitken, after another goal from Fernie and one for young Matt McVittie.
After a four-week absence, Whyte featured in four successive League matches commencing with the trip to Dens Park on Saturday, 12 November 1955. A double from Mochan saw Celts move to the top of the table on goal average from Queen of the South after 10 games after a 2-1 win. Next up was a 3-0 win over struggling St Mirren at a foggy Celtic Park seven days later, Willie Fernie, Jim Sharkey and Neil Mochan the scorers.
The last Saturday in the month saw Celts visit high-flying Airdrieonians at Broomfield. The Hoops were under the cosh in the first half and had Dick Beattie to thank for saving an Ian McMillan penalty. After the break, however, Celts gained the initiative and won the match thanks to strikes from Mochan and Sharkey, with Fernie outstanding.
Jimmy McGrory’s men were again on the road as December opened with a visit to Annfield to meet bottom dogs Stirling Albion. A one-sided contest was over by the break by which time Celtic were two goals ahead thanks to Mochan and Fernie. Sharkey added a third in the second half.
Frank then dropped out of the side as Jock Stein returned after a lengthy injury, Bobby Evans moving back to wing-half to accommodate Stein in central defence. But he would have one last hurrah in the Hoops on Hogmanay at Palmerston Park, Dumfries, Stein injured in the Boxing Day Glasgow Cup triumph over Rangers. Celts trailed Queen of the South at the break but three goals in a 10-minute burst early in the second half from Mochan, Sharkey and Collins allowed them to maintain their lead at the top of the table.
Sadly for Frank, he would not be part of the title challenge beyond that as Jock returned for the Ne’erday derby with Rangers the following day. He joined Swindon Town in June 1956 after 12 games and one goal for the Hoops. It is believed he passed away in September 1984.
Peter Goldie on Frank Whyte
Frank Whyte (I’m almost certain that his last name was spelled with a Y) was a centre forward who played a few times in the first team. I think he came from the Partick area and was a real lively lad – great fun off the park. We thought he was going to make it but was let go too soon to my mind. But like everything else, these things happen.
To be continued…