I was so astounded, shaky and embarrassed that when I got to the dressing-room among such greats as Tommy Breen, R. P. Fulton, Jack Vernon, Jimmy McAlinden and Syd McIlroy, I had to be literally dressed for battle.
Jack Vernon pulled the green and white jersey over my head and Jimmy McAlinden pushed my first pair of shin-guards down my stockings. (Before this I had used magazines and newspapers).
For once in my life I was speechless! I'll never forget the year-I942. My first glimpse of the big time. I went out that night, nervous as a bride, confused, excited. It would be nice to record that my team won, but the Select beat Celtic 3-I.
After the game, my new boss said: 'I'll see you tomorrow night. And this time don't have your pals with you.'
No praise, no plaudits. And I thought I'd done well. But that was the way of Elisha Scott. The newspapers proclaimed next day that the boy Tully was the only find of the game. "He did more than any of the established stars. This schoolboy is an outstanding discovery of the future."
I signed for Belfast Celtic the morning after my first match with real men. And before my head got the chance to swell, Mr. Scott handed me a book of rules. They were as forthright as the man who gave them to me. The book said: You are a Belfast Celtic player now. No matter who you are, first or second team man, be at the ground at the times scheduled. If you can't read, I'll read it out to you. If you are ill, phone the club doctor or the trainer. If the club travels by train or bus, be at the meeting place thirty minutes beforehand. And remember, there's only one skipper on the park.
Until I was sixteen I worked with a fire sprinkler valve firm. Then Belfast Celtic chairman, Mr. Robert Barr, asked me to join the ground staff in order to build up my puny physique. And so I came under the direct guidance of Elisha Scott, a man I will always respect and admire and fear just a little bit.
Elisha laid down my daily programme. I had to paint crossbars and posts (twice if necessary) carry off cut grass, brush out the stands after dog meetings, wash the baths and clean boots. Mr. Scott used to say: 'I want to see those baths like mirrors. O.K. sonny? When you've done all that you can start training.' By that time, I may add, it was usually 4 p.m. and all my heroes and team-mates were off home.
I'm afraid Elisha suspected that I was undisciplined. For he told me every day in life: 'You can kid Kennedy (no relation to Doc) but you can't kid me.'
I sure got the treatment from Elisha. He'd had a hard upbringing himself and if he saw any potentials in a boy he wanted to bring it out. Don't think I'm ribbing Elisha Scott. You won't find an ex-Belfast Celt who will say a bad word about him. If he saw the slightest chance of your head swelling, you were in trouble. It meant a month in the reserves - or in no team at all.
I became inside-left or outside-left of the Belfast green and whites, and let's admit right now that I owe a lot to such as Jack Vernon, Bud Aherne, Paddy Bonnar, Harry Walker, Liam O'Neil, Joe Douglas and Jimmy McAlinden. Times were often tough playing alongside such craftsmen, and there were occasions when I didn't think I'd make it. But the coppers were hard to come by and so I stuck with it. For by this time, the Tully family had grown and I had to take home the corn.
From being an unknown I suddenly got the name of Cheeky Charlie. This wasn't because of my old buck off the field but for what I did on it.
I had the bad habit of questioning the referee's decision, "sneaking" corner kicks and throwing "shies" against the unsuspecting backs of opponents. In those days I was always desperate to win, for the way I looked at it the bonus was better in the purse of Ma Tully than in the pockets of my opponents.
Most of the time there seemed to be a private war waging between Elisha Scott and me. He'd tell me: 'Listen Tully, you play it my way or you can take the keys. You can open the ground up in the mornings and pick the team. We can't have two gaffers. If we shifted the goalposts across the park you'd be a world beater. Remember I'm the boss until you're elected. Otherwise you'll be back painting goal-posts and lighting boilers.'