St Pats, Coatbridge Lisbon 1967 friends reunite, NZ, Canada and Baillieston

Well, I must admit that after that last minute equaliser Kilmarnock scored at Celtic Park I did not think we were going to win the League. Glad to be proved wrong. Not a vintage season by any means but we got over the line in the end.

David Watson of Kilmarnock scores with a header to tie the score 1-1 during time added on after 90 minutes.  Celtic v Kilmarnock, Scottish Premiership, Celtic Park, – 17 February 2024. Photo Stuart Wallace/Shutterstock

In a way I think the Rangers fans will be more gutted than if we had wrapped it up easily. If you ignore the four games between the two teams then Rangers had a one point lead. One win and one draw in their games v us would have been enough for them.

Hopefully our dominance over them continues on Saturday but there have been occasions in the past where Rangers or Celtic have notched a Scottish Cup despite having lost out in league encounters.

Callum McGregor and Joe Hart of Celtic lift the Scottish Premiership trophy after the  match against St Mirren at Celtic Park  on May 18, 2024. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

It will still be a nervy Sunday morning (2amKO) for us in New Zealand.

With 25th May being only a few days away I thought you might be interested in the two photos attached. They are not the clearest unfortunately but they were taken quite a while ago – in 1967 to be exact. The guys in the photos are Neil Houston and Michael Sherry (Shansie), 2 Baillieston bhoys who are en route to Lisbon hitchhiking all the way.

Myself and another Baillieston bhoy – Alex Owens flew out on the day of the game. Despite having no mobile phones or any other means of communication we met them easily enough. The white coats were a help!

As you may recall from my Lisbon story in the book ‘In The Heat of Lisbon’ after the game the four of us had a celebratory beer in a bar in the city and Alex and I headed for the Airport. Alex dropped me home about 6am and I have never seen any of those guys since.

A few years ago a woman posted a video on a Celtic fans website. It had been converted from a cine camera film taken by her father in Lisbon in 1967. There were plenty shots of fans in the streets of Lisbon. Just at the end of the film I noticed a fan with a white coat waving a Green and White flag walking towards the camera – It was Shansie.

Inspired by this I made some investigations and eventually discovered he was now in Canada and involved with the Calgary CSC. So after more than 50 years I was able to get in contact with him. I asked him about Neil Houston but Michael said he had lost touch with Neil some years ago but had heard that he had passed away.

In March 2023 I was on a Facebook page for former pupils of St Pat’s Coatbridge. Someone had posted a photo taken at Celtic Park a short while previously. It featured six guys sitting in the front section of the main stand with the accompanying story telling how these were friends who had first met at St Pats and despite now living in diverse places they always met up once a year.

The names given included a Neil Houston. I had last seen Neil when he would have been 17 or 18 so I couldn’t be sure if it was the same guy. I contacted the author of the piece who confirmed that it was indeed him and that he had been living in Blackpool for many years.

I was able to get his email and at last I made contact with him. I asked him too about the other guys who had had that beer together in Lisbon. He was able to inform me that Alex was still in Bailleston. He did not have specific contact details but suggested that a visit to the Barrachnie Inn would find him. As for Michael Sherry, he had lost contact many years ago but had heard that he had died a while ago.

I was able to put the two of them back in touch. It so happened Michael was making a short trip back to Scotland in April. He managed to fit in a trip down to Blackpool and after such a long period the two of them met up at last.

One evening I got a lovely email from Neil telling me of their meeting and thanking me for my part in them being able to get together.

Next task is to get the story of their epic journey. With the three of us spread over three continents and different time zones its not easy to get a time suitable for all but I have managed to glean some information and from that I can see it should be a story worth hearing – involving, amongst other things , a generous granny, working at two jobs to raise some money and getting a lift on part of the journey on a Rangers Supporters Bus!

Hopefully I will be able to get back to you on that soon to share this Lisbon story with readers on The Celtic Star

All the best

Mike Maher

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