Belfast Celtic 1891 - 1949

"Darling of the Falls" Mickey Hamill to be Remembered in Belfast
One of the greats of Irish soccer history, who was once the guest of the US President, will be remembered at a special event in Belfast on Sunday, June 30. Former Ireland captain Mickey Hamill, a Belfast Celtic, Glasgow Celtic, Manchester United and Manchester City star, will be remembered at his graveside at Hannahstown Churchyard, where a special plaque will be unveiled by his family at 12.00 noon.

Organised by the Belfast Celtic Society, the event has attracted huge interest in the football fraternity and one of the top Directors at Celtic FC, Brian Wilson, will jet in to represent the Glasgow giants, who are celebrating their 125th year in football.

A former Labour MP for Glasgow, Wilson also wrote the official history of Celtic Football Club, A Century with Honour, as part of the club’s centenary celebrations of 1988.

For the first time, the Belfast Celtic Society will also team up with the Celtic Graves Society to host the joint event, as Hamill was a league winner with both clubs.

For the past five years, the Celtic Graves Society have marked the resting places of many of the Glasgow club’s most famous players, in Scotland, England and the USA and a delegation will travel from Scotland to be at the event.

Belfast Celtic Society Chairman Padraig Coyle is excited about the gathering, saying “Without question, Mickey Hamill was one of the greatest footballers Ireland has ever seen, plying his trade in four countries, spanning two continents.

“Born in Cape Street, off Leeson Street, he became the idol of his neighbours in the Pound Loney district and was known as ‘The Darling of the Falls’. “He was a leader in the truest sense of the word and captained Ireland to their first ever ‘Home’ International Championship triumph in 1914, where they cuffed England 3-0 on their way to the title.

At Belfast Celtic, he was a giant and his association with the club spanned 20 years – from his debut in 1909 until the late 1920s, when he was still winning leagues on the Donegal Road as he approached his fortieth birthday.
In between, he captained Ireland, claimed the English league title with Manchester United, spent a few years with rivals Manchester City and helped Glasgow Celtic win the Scottish league in 1916.”

The political upheaval of the early 1920s forced Belfast Celtic to withdraw from football for four years because of serious concerns about the safety of its players and supporters. Hamill played at Manchester City until 1924, before making his most audacious move of all - crossing the Atlantic to play in the newly established American Soccer League.
Playing at Windsor in the late 1920's
Padraig Coyle explained; “He was feted as a star in the USA and played for three teams there – the Fall River Marksmen and the Boston Soccer Club in Massachusetts, before finally turning out for the New York Giants soccer team. He was such a star; his Boston team were invited to meet President Calvin Coolidge at the White House in Washington DC in 1925. The American Soccer League even minted a medal in his honour, which is still in the possessions of the Hamill family. Mickey had planned to come home to retire in the late 20s, but Belfast Celtic were having none of it – they knew he was box office and coaxed him out of retirement, where he led them to a league title yet again.”

On retirement, Mickey would manage west Belfast club Distillery, as well as sitting on Irish boxing’s board of control. Most famously, he operated the Centre Half Bar, which was situated on the corner of Panton Street and Falls Road, until his tragic death in 1943.
The site of the bar is now the first stop on the Belfast Celtic Trail, which covers places of interest connected to the old club across west Belfast.
Mickey at The White House (standing outside the West Wing, no less) in 1925, where he was brought to meet US President Calvin Coolidge, with his colleagues in the Boston Soccer Club
Padraig Coyle has issued a call for all local football fans to attend the event, which will take place at mid-day at Hannahstown Churchyard on Sunday, June 30. He said; “Hamill is a man who transcends football – we’d love fans of all clubs to come and pay their respects, particularly as he played such a key role in the Ireland squads of his day. Afterwards, the Belfast Celtic Museum in the Park Centre will be open and we will welcome the wider Hamill Family, from as far away as Australia, to take a peek at the 250 exhibits. We will also be dedicating a new exhibit to Mickey Hamill and all local football fans are very welcome.”

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