The Gallowgate: A Hub of Celtic History, Traditional Bars & That Baird’s Press Conference

The Gallowgate is a working class area in the East End of Glasgow that is synonymous with Celtic supporters and Irish culture. The street has formed part of the traditional walk to Celtic Park for thousands of fans over the decades and was traditionally the only area that was considered a safe haven for Celtic fans and the Irish in the city. Indeed, until recent times, any expression of Irishness was not welcome in areas such as the city centre.

There have been numerous Celtic bars that have featured in this area. In the Barras there is the popular Squirrel Bar and Trader’s Tavern. On the main Gallowgate street stands The Saracen Head, The Pheonix (previously The East Enders), Bar 67 and the Hoops Bar. At the very top of the Gallowgate, approaching Celtic Park, The Wee Man’s bar can be found. Each of these venues have Celtic memorabilia, pictures and paintings on the walls, and they have regular live music from Irish bands and singers. Some of the owners are fantastic people, who do their bit for charities, host functions and massively add to the culture of supporting Celtic.

Visiting one of these bar is a fantastic way to spend your time before and after a match, with an incredible atmosphere. On a personal level, The Squirrel Bar and the Hoops Bar are two favourites, both for the Celtic inspired interior and for the noise level to get up for a game.

The childhood home of Joseph Nelis, who was one of the founding fathers of Celtic, was located at number 4 McFarlane Street, which is the road directly next to Bar 67. Nelis was a great businessman and pawnbroker but was a strong opponent of Celtic being converted into a limited liability company in 1897. Ironically, it was in the Gallowgate where the meeting, which confirmed the club’s change in status took place, at Annfield Halls (site of the Bellgrove Hotel today).

Over the years, there have been many Celtic pubs along the Gallowgate, which have now sadly gone. The Emerald Isle pub was recently closed, Kerry’s Bar, The Foggy Dew and most famously of all, Baird’s Bar.

Baird’s was a Celtic institution. Its walls were a shrine to the club, covered floor to ceiling in memorabilia, newspaper articles and images. Scarfs hung from the roof and the first ever Celtic supporter’s banner took pride of place above the bar.

That banner was from the St. Mary’s Brake Club, which was the very first group of supporters that travelled to games together, by horse and cart, in the late 1800s. Brake Clubs were born from the League of the Cross and the St. Mary’s branch in the Calton was the first to ever exist. The banner depicts the image of early fan favourite, Tom Maley.

Lisbon Lion, Bertie Auld, worked in Baird’s Bar for a while. Though the pub was famed for the press conference that was held within it by Kenny Dalglish in March 2000.

Celtic were at a low ebb when Kenny Dalglish took over the reigns from John Barnes in February 2000. The club had just exited the Scottish Cup after a 3-2 defeat to lowly Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and the press coverage of the new interim management was relentless. Dalglish took great exception to the nature of this reporting and ordered a press conference, on 24 March 2000, to be relocated to the working-class beacon of hardcore Celtic support that was Baird’s Bar on the Gallowgate.

For a moment the sound of Irish bands, the thunderous atmosphere and the wall to wall memorabilia within this Celtic shrine remained silent and still. Amidst this rather awkward setting, a journalist opened the press conference by asking “Why are we here?” to which Dalglish replied: “Because I’m comfortable here. We like to get out and show the fans how we get ready for the game, and they get to see a media conference.”

Dalglish seemed relaxed, if smug, considering that his team were due to travel to Ibrox at 1pm two days later, in a bid to reduce the 12-point gap at the top of the Scottish Premier League. The Govan born man dismissed further questions regarding the fitness of his team with remarks such as “He’s got a sore leg,” when asked how Henrik Larsson was recovering from his double leg break. Next, the Celtic stand-in Manager was quizzed about whether he would remain in the dugout, or return to the director’s office: “I know you said that you won’t make a decision until the end of March, but will Sunday’s result affect your decision?” Dalglish adopted the lowest form of wit in his response: “I keep saying we’ll discuss it at the end of March. Every time we come to a press conference we hear the same questions. It might be repetitive for you to hear the same answers, but not half as repetitive as it is for us to hear the same questions.”

Dalglish then took the opportunity to impress the punters by waxing lyrical about Celtic’s recent CIS Cup triumph, which he described as “A marvellous achievement, despite the negativity written about it.” He went further to congratulate the fans who greeted the team back at Celtic Park and (incorrectly) claimed that it was the first silverware won at the new Hampden. In fact, Rangers earnt that accolade when they lifted the Scottish Cup.

It was soon Vidar Riseth’s turn to answer questions. Riseth had accompanied his Manager on the short trip from Celtic Park and was asked if Celtic’s appalling record against Rangers put them at a psychological disadvantage going into the derby game. Before Riseth could reply, Dalglish stepped in: “We prefer to be positive about things,” he remarked.

At this there was a heated exchange between the journalist and Kenny Dalglish before a female member of the broadcasting team interrupted to ask about the managerial position again. Once more, Dalglish batted the question away: “I have said all along the club is bigger than Kenny Dalglish.” At that the interview was brought to a halt and the Celtic legend looked in the direction of punters, at which point he is alleged to have stated that “There are people in the media who have an anti-Celtic agenda and don’t like to see the club do well.” When the tension finally subsided, Riseth and Dalglish signed autographs for fans in the pub and made a slow exit. It was a PR exercise which had been well received at the time but is reflected upon with a degree of embarrassment by most fans today.

Perhaps the fact that Celtic lost 4-0 at Ibrox that weekend has something to do with that.

Liam Kelly

About Author

Hailing from an Irish background, I grew up in Bournemouth with the good fortune to begin watching Celtic as a young child during the Martin O'Neill era. Still living on the south coast, I have a season ticket at Paradise and also travel to European away matches when possible. At the age of 19, I published my first Celtic book (Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support). Then, last year, I published my second book (Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events), which is sold in Waterstones and official Celtic FC stores.

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