Picture the scene: Celtic on the cusp of glory. By hook, crook, bus, plane, train and automobile, thousands of supporters had made it to Lisbon for the final of the 1967 European Cup. The faithful had won the hearts of the Portuguese people with their exemplary conduct and incredible atmosphere before the match. As the Celtic players lined up alongside their Italian opponents in the tunnel, Bertie Auld cleared his throat and began to sing: “Sure it’s a grand old team to play for…” Each of the Lisbon Lions joined in and Glen Daly’s immortal anthem was soon heard by the supporters. The support sang with the players as the team came into view: “Sure it’s a grand old team to see and if you know the history…” The enjoyment of the occasion by players and fans, in unison, appeared to mesmerise the Inter Milan outfit and gave Celtic the upper hand. That moment is regaled as one of the most iconic in the history of Celtic Football Club.
Throughout the years, supporters have enjoyed singing The Celtic Song at many other great times. It is synonymous with the club. A vocal monument to Celtic. However, it is an often-overlooked fact that fans are actually singing a combination of two different songs on the terraces – Hail Hail The Celts Are Here and The Celtic Song. The latter is played on its own over the speakers at Celtic Park before every home match, as the teams emerge from the tunnel.
Glen Daly eventually produced the iconic Celtic Song at Pye Record’s Marble Arch Studios in London, in August 1961. On his visit to record the immutable track, he had an hour to kill and reportedly went for a roast dinner in The Strand restaurant, which was among the most reputable in the city and boasted a guest list that was littered with celebrity names. Upon devouring the meal, the Calton born artist is said to have pondered over the second verse of The Celtic Song, which he felt was inadequate. It was at the restaurant table that a desperate Daly became inspired, when he recalled the voice of Belfast Celtic fanatic, Charlie Tully, who had sung the Antrim club’s classic song at a party in Kenilworth one evening. The lyrics that Glen Daly remembered hearing Tully slur were part of a short ditty that had been a favourite of Belfast Celtic’s support for years: ‘We don’t care if the money’s right or wrong. Darn the hare we care because we only know that there’s going to be a show and the Belfast Celtic will be there.’ The words were a perfect fit. Glen Daly’s anthem was complete, and the song was released on a 45rpm single record in October 1961.
Much like the attachment of This Land Is Your Land to Let The People Sing, Hail Hail The Celts Are Here was connected to The Celtic Song by Hoops supporters in the early 1960s.
Hail Hail The Celts Are Here can be traced back to a 1917 military marching song by D.A. Estron and Theodore Morse, called Hail Hail The Gangs Are Here. It was set to the tune of With Cat-like Tread, Upon Our Prey We Steal, which was a song featured in an 1879 Gilbert & Sullivan opera, named The Pirates of Penzance. The song had been largely plagiarised by Gilbert and Sullivan, who stole the original version, entitled The Anvil Chorus, from Italian opera composer – Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi had written The Anvil Chorus for an 1853 opera: Il Trovatore (The Troubadour), which in turn was based on the play, El Trovador, written by Antonio García Gutiérrez in 1836!
The lyrics to the 1917 adaption, from which the Celtic chant arose, can be heard in the video below:
A swift modification to make the version appropriate for Celtic Football Club was made and the song was then used on the terraces as a preamble to The Celtic Song.
As is aforementioned, The Celtic Song, as a standalone match day anthem, holds a historic and enduring place in Celtic folklore. It was first played over the tannoy at Celtic Park on 14th October 1961, prior to a league match against Stirling Albion. However, following its release, it was immediately under threat from the establishment. The media reported on the song in a very peculiar manner, instantly describing it as ‘inflammatory’, ‘potentially offensive’ and ‘a possible catalyst for old firm trouble’. The Daily Mail even ran a story in October 1961 with the headline: ‘Police Condemn New Celtic Rallying Song’. The piece went on to say:
Glasgow police attacked yesterday, an Englishman’s plan to give Celtic supporters two rallying songs. One of the songs – both have already been recorded – tells of the death of Celtic and Scotland goalkeeper John Thomson, who died 30 years ago. The recording company and who organised the recording session is C.P Stanton who runs Glasgow Jazz Club Promotions Ltd.
“It is ridiculous to suggest these records could cause more trouble,” he said last night.
Common sense eventually prevailed, and The Celtic Song lived on as the soundtrack to the Bhoys becoming champions of Europe six years later. It continues to have an impact, and for that Celtic fans owe a debt of gratitude to the elusive Liam Mallory, and Glen Daly, unless of course they are indeed the same person.