The struggle to be the flag bearers and the rallying point for the Irish in Scotland was a real one

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Continuing our fantastic tribute to Sunny Jim Young from David Potter’s wonderful biography on the early Celtic legend…

Celtic legend Sunny Jim Young

To read the earlier instalments please check David Potter’s author page on The Celtic Star.

The relationship between Celtic and Hibs was complex. Hibs were looked upon as the “parent club” from which Celtic had sprung. They had won the Scottish Cup in the February of the year (1887) that Celtic had been born, and there seems to be little doubt that that was what put the idea into the head of Brother Walfrid and others that for the purpose of feeding poor children in Glasgow’s east end, a football team might be a good idea.

But Hibs had hit bad times in the early 1890s and Celtic had taken a few of their players, causing resentment in the Edinburgh Irish, who even saw the Glasgow side taking away some of their supporters as well. Celtic had of course done well in the 1890s, winning Scottish Cups and Scottish Leagues, but Hibs had fought back the last year or so, delighting their supporters when they beat Celtic 1-0 to lift the Scottish Cup in 1902, and now winning the Scottish League. On 2 January 1903, Hibs had hammered Celtic 4-0 at Celtic Park, a defeat that hurt Maley and the supporters particularly hard, for the struggle to be the flag bearers and the rallying point for the Irish in Scotland was a real one.

One of the points at issue between them was of course how far the “Irish” sides should sign Protestants and non-Irish. Celtic were of course far more visionary than Hibs in this respect, realising that Irish roots were significant, but the Scottish side of the club was far more so. Part of Hibs’ problems of the early 1890s had been caused by their exclusive sectarianism, whereas Celtic, Maley in particular, were always prepared to play non-Irish.

Several motions had been put forward at Celtic’s AGMs in the 1890s suggesting that there should be a limit on Protestants signed, but the motions had always been rejected. Young, of course, with no obvious Irish connections was an excellent example of non-sectarianism, but the same man was not unaware of the undercurrents present whenever Celtic played Hibs.

On Saturday May 16 Jimmy Young made his official debut before a disappointing crowd of 2,000 (something that perhaps said a little about Celtic’s poor season) in the Glasgow Charity Cup against Hibs. The team was McPherson; Watson and Battles; Moir, Young and Orr; Loney, McMenemy, Bennett, Somers and Quinn. Quite a few of the great team to come in the next few years were in place, although not in the position we would expect them to be.

The two inside men Jimmy McMenemy and Peter Somers were where they would become immortal. Young was at centre half, and Willie Loney who would become the centre half was played on the right wing where he was “a galaxy of tricks and dodges” as The Glasgow Observer put it.

The curmudgeonly “Man In The Know” however remains melancholic. He accuses both teams of “rough and shady play” and says “I was not very highly impressed with the play of Young, the Celts’ Bristol capture at centre half-back. He seems a very common player”, and by “common”, we assume he means “ordinary”.

Given the foul weather and the unsatisfactory nature of the Cathkin pitch (neutral venue was used because Celtic Park had already been booked for a cycling event, while the other semi-final between St Mirren and Rangers was played at Ibrox), Young felt that he did well.

After all, a goalless draw is a good result for a centre half and he was told by Maley that he would be in for Thursday night’s replay at the same venue.

Continued on the next page…

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About Author

I am Celtic author and historian and write for The Celtic Star. I live in Kirkcaldy and have followed Celtic all my life, having seen them first at Dundee in March 1958. I am a retired teacher and my other interests are cricket, drama and the poetry of Robert Burns.

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