I was walking down Broadway"
We would very much like to hear anyone
willing to contribute with stories or photographs and particularly the "old
guard" who were there and lived through that important part of Irish sports
history. But we also want to hear from all the "youngsters" out there
- sixty years after its demise Belfast Celtic still commands the loyalty and
admiration of people who never even got to see them play. We want to hear your
Drop us a line and we would
be glad to include your part of the Belfast Celtic story on our pages.
Please state clearly whether you would like your name published or prefer
to remain anonymous.
can reach us here . Please note that the opinions expressed are the opinions of the individual contributors.
Larry O'Connor from Jackson, Michigan, USA
I first heard about Belfast Celtic about 30 years ago as a teen from a cook (Irish of course) at a Detroit hotel restaurant where I used to work as a dishwasher. He gave me a synopsis of the club and its history when I happened to wear a Glasgow Celtic football T-shirt to work. (The T-shirt was a do-it-yourselfer --- a Celtic decal I ironed onto a shirt). On a trip to Belfast 20 years later, a dear friend took me to the shopping center where Celtic Park once stood and gave me a book about the storied club, which I consumed with great interest. The fact the club persevered against the backdrop of sectarian strife of that time is inspirational. I was particularly fascinated with Charlie Tully, who truly is the stuff of legend. The more I read about him, the more I had wish I had seen him and Belfast Celtic play.
|Graeme Lightbody, Belfast
For the so called both sides of the community - Belfast Celtic always maintained an awe plus a sense of loss - even with kids who were born 30/40 years after their demise. Great history great team - makes you wonder what if? Football would have been much the better if they were still in circulation - great mixed tradition - that was their real appeal - run by honest football men.
Martin Breen, Birmingham, England
I remember walking into a bar at the edge of Birmingham city centre and Ladywood. I think it was the White Swan about 20 years ago. There, on the main wall hung a great big framed picture of my father's beloved Belfast Celtic. I was buzzing and slightly stunned. I enquired how it came about but the barman was as bewildered as my mates. My late father Dan Breen came from the Pound Loney in the Lower Falls and was at the drastic game against Linfield, as I think my uncle Jimmy
Overend was. The story my father told me will live with me forever - scary, funny and horrific but still a cherished memory.
Roseville, California, USA
I came across an article on Belfast Celtic on the Wild Geese website the other day, and it sure stirred up a lot of ancient memories I have of Belfast Celtic in the 40's. I have lived in California for the past 50 years, but can turn the clock back in the twinkling of an eye to identify with Joe Cassidy who, in the website piece, recalls "his boyhood and Befast Celtic coming to the Brandywell."
Like Cassidy I was a Derry City supporter and have vivid memories of the strong smell of lineament as the teams came down the narrow steps from the rather primitive changing room. Brandywell had to be one of the worst grounds in the league with very poor drainage back then. On one particular afternoon -- 1947 I believe--Celtic came to visit when it poured all through the match and the field became a quagmire with the all the players' uniforms covered in mud. All that is, with the exception of the great center half, Jackie Vernon, whose uniform was practically unmarked. Such was his positional sense on the field that he never had to go to ground on a late tackle. That's my one indelible memory of the player.
So great was my interest in football those days that I can still remember many of the players names ---One of the regular Celtic lineups I recall was the following: Kelly; McMillan, Aherne; Walker, Vernon, Douglas; Campbell, Tully, McMorran, O'Neill, Bonner. That team would have been competitive in any league.
I really enjoyed the Belfast Celtic evening in Lurgan recently (November 2011), especially Bill McKavanagh’s excellent slide show. The content of the slide show made me realise how much a part of the Celtic Story I really was. My first memories of Jimmy Jones and Jackie Denvir and indeed his cousin Billy Cush, was when they played for Sunnyside FC in Lurgan when I must have been only 9 or 10 years old.
They were the first team from this area to win the Junior Cup, which was, at that time, a prestigious competition as the Irish League was restricted to a few clubs for the war years. I probably first saw Celtic when I was about 10 years old and best remember inter-league games against Shamrock Rovers, Drumcondra and Shelbourne. Lurgan’s contribution was immense - ‘Hack’ Leathem and Peter O’Connor were well known about town. In time, I came to know Jimmy Jones, Jackie Denvir and Hughie Kelly. Of course, my best and saddest memory was the match on St. Stephen’s Day 1948.
My father was very friendly with Tommy Armstrong, who was Chairman of Linfield, and he invited us to the game – we sat with the Directors in the stand. Being football (and Celtic) mad, I asked to see into the dressing room at half time. Naively, I expected it to be the Celtic room. Naturally, my wish was granted and I can still feel the disappointment when it turned out to be that of the Linfield team.
I still remember the announcement at just after the interval informing the crowd that Bob Bryson had broken his ankle in the tackle with Jimmy Jones. After the match we were entertained in the Linfield board room and it was only after arriving home that we heard of the riot. Years later, I got to know Sean McCann, another Lurgan man, who was also reserve keeper with Celtic but not involved with the team that day.
On a couple of occasions, he related to me how he bravely lay on top of Jimmy after the initial attack. This action probably saved Jimmy’s life. It is hard to know if Celtic’s reaction was the best choice. Perhaps if they had just decided to take a two or three year break we could still be enjoying the excitement of ‘The Grand Old Team’, or maybe the Troubles would have been their end. Anyhow, I can empathise with those other Celtic supporters who still feel such a deep sense of loss at their demise.
Brenda Curran, Portadown
My father, Walter Bruce, as a boy played for the 30th Boys' Brigade, he then was with the 30th Old Boys' - next Crusaders and Dundela in the Intermediate League, then Ards, his first Irish League club, next Bangor. He won two Ireland caps when at Bangor, playing and scoring in both matches against England and Scotland. He signed for Belfast Celtic in 1933 and was a member of the great Celtic side from 1933 to 1939, winning two Irish Cup medals with them in 1937 and 1939 against Linfield and Bangor.
Quote from the Irish News "He was one of the finest inside forwards of the decade and was renowned for his great passing ability and scoring of spectacular goals." He was transferred to Halifax Town but returned home when war was declared. He was the uncle of Jimmy Walker, Linfield and Doncaster Rovers, and Walter Bruce of Glentoran and Detroit Cougers."
John Boyle is married to Paddy Bonnar's daughter Heidi. He is Operations Manager of the Park Centre which was built on the site of the former Celtic Park.
Its ironic the way things turn out in life. We all went to the unveiling ceremony in St James along with Charlie Tully Jr and Jimmy Jones. What a fantastic day. It's funny seeing some of the old squad painted on the wall. As I look at Paddy, memories come flooding back. Paddy could always keep you amazed of his experiences playing for Belfast Celtic.
Paddy lived at 11 Rodney Parade a stones throw from the famous ground. I recall when Park Centre was being built, he told me he would never put his foot inside it, and true to his word he did not. Each time he came down to the corner of Rodney he would shake his head and turn up Donegal Road never ever walking on the other side of the road were Park Centre stood. To him this was a sacred place and he was right. I don’t think he ever got over it.
Jimmy Overend is 85 years old and has been a lifelong Celtic supporter. He lives in St James' in the shadow of the former Celtic Park site. He sent this letter to the Society whilst renewing his membership.
My date of birth is 1st July 1924. Back then I became the first boy after three girls in the family. My father was a Belfast Celtic fanatic. So my first ever game had to be Belfast Celtic vs Glasgow Celtic in a charity game here across the road at Celtic Park on May 28th 1928. You can read the rest of Jimmy's reminiscences here
Dave Crawford, Canada
I am a 75 year old Belfast native who moved to Canada in 1957. As a boy of 11 years I was a Linfield supporter but even at that early age it was obvious to me, that Celtic was in a league by itself. In those days there was almost no coaching yet Celtic played a very disciplined game. Charley Tully, Jackie Vernon, Paddy Bonnar, Billy McMillan and Hugh Kelly were the players I remember best.
Commenting on the 1948 game at Windsor Park It seems to me that in a prior game or maybe this one, Bob Bryson the Linfield centre half had his leg broken when he kicked into a ball at the same time as a Celtic player. If memory serves me right this may have stirred the "We'll get you" mentality of the idiots who inflicted the injuries on the Celtic players that day. Though a Linfield follower I have to say it was a very sad day for all of football when Celtic pulled out of competition. I have great memories of football in Belfast during and just after the war. I was also a great admirer of some of the Linfield players such as Davy Cochrane, Tommy Breen, Mickey McWilliams and Jimmy Feeney.
Richard Carabine, London, England
My Dad, Tom Carabine, is a great Belfast Celtic fan. He is fast approaching his 80th year but still enjoys remembering stories of this great club. He used to go along to every home game as a boy. He came from a poor family and could not afford to pay to get in so he used to ask any adults nearby to lift him over the turnstiles. When he was older he even managed to clamber over the gate sometimes.
He recalls Paddy Bonnar being slagged by Glentoran supporters during a match. They kept shouting at him "where are your rosary beads, Paddy?". Paddy replied by holding up his team shirt, clasping the club badge saying "these are my rosary beads!" You can read the rest of Tommy Carabine's contribution here
From John Feeney, Falkirk, Scotland
"There wasn't much room on the card to say why I wanted to join the Belfast Celtic Society. It's because my late father told me that the club was the greatest in Ireland, renowned for the excellence of their play and for the dignity with which the club conducted itself. I follow Glasgow Celtic and like to see our club do the same. Whilst there was pride in his expression when he spoke about Belfast Celtic there was also a look of sadness and hurt at the way they were treated. Amongst all the great achievements of those connected with Belfast Celtic, perhaps it is their honour, dignity and the way in which they are revered and remembered to this day that is the greatest achievement of all. I have made an application for membership of the Society and will spread the word of your activities amongst friends and colleagues in Scotland."
From Linda Mooney, Belfast, Ireland
What a great article by Jimmy Donnelly. I remember Jimmy McAlinden visiting our house many times, especially when my father(Tommy Breen) was ill. He was my father's best man and was a true gentleman, he was so good to my mother during my father's wake. I was lucky enough to see his FA cup medal. He was such a modest man it took a lot of persuasion from my father to get him to bring it over to show it to me.
I'll never forget the way he just took it out of his jacket pocket. No fuss. No ceremony. Just a quiet - "Well there it is." All those Celtic greats were and are just the same, no talk, no boasting. How unlike some of the players of today. Thanks for running such a great site, it brings back so many happy memories.
From Sharon Gilfillan, England
My grandfather Albert Edward Weir (Ned) played for Belfast Celtic from 1926-29. He Captained
West End FC prior to this and earned 6 Irish caps at Junior level. He
played in the squad that brought League Cup victories for Celtic in
27/28 and 28/29. I have attached a link to our website page which has
been updated with a page from Mark Tuohy's History of Belfast Celtic
confirming this. There is also a picture of him, an old program circa
1926 and some other bits that you may be interested in.
I would love for you to put him on the site somewhere if that's
possible. It would make me and my dad very proud. Look forward to hearing from you.
From Iain Stanton, England
Although I now live in England I am a proud Scot and fanatical Glasgow Celtic fan.Ii wasn`t even born when the famous Belfast Celtic were forced to call time thanks to sectarianism. I arrived six years later. Over the years I listened to my father and his tales of Belfast Celtic and of Tully in particular. Indeed in the late forties my parents emigrated to Canada for a few years living in Toronto. One of my Dad`s stories was when he went to the Triboro stadium to see Belfast Celtic defeat Scotland .Scotland had a fine team back then including Geordie Young and the great Bobby Evans. My Dad played for Toronto Irish back then himself. I myself am fascinated by the stories of the great team from the Falls. The spirit of Belfast Celtic must live on.
From Martin Donnelly, USA
I am, and have been for the past 26 years, and avid Glasgow Celtic fan. I have lived in the US for the past 20 years, but my love for the team grows stronger with each year! How did it all begin? Let me go back to my childhood…..
From as far back as I can remember I was regaled by stories of the Great Belfast Celtic! To this day, if their name comes up in conversation, my 80 year old father will lapse into “Son…let me tell you about football…the way it should be played!” And off he goes! At some point in the (one sided) conversation he will add, “Harry Walker was the greatest half back in the history of the game!” Names like Aherne, Bonnar, Jimmy McAlinden, Peter O’Connor, Jackie Vernon, Jimmy Jones (who he always adds…”put another 30 or so over the bar the season he scored 60+ goals for Celtic!”), roll off his tongue.
My dad had a store on the Falls Road, near Broadway, for 30 years. One of his closest pals in those latter years was the immense Tommy Breen.
Pat Jennings, Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton, even Elisha Scott…..none of them could hold a candle to Tommy Breen. Tommy was a gentleman, and would never walk past our ‘wee shop’ without coming in and talking with me. I was forever in awe of this soft spoken ‘Giant of a Man’ who had played for Manchester United before the War.
Tommy would pull up a stool with my dad and his cousin Jack (Uncle Jack), and the three of them would reminisce about past games. It was quite an education. “Do you remember the day Peter O’Connor scored 11 goals against Glenavon? Sure, he should have had two dozen the amount of chances that were presented to him!” And the like! As a child I envisioned Belfast Celtic as a team of Giants that never lost! My father’s eyes still light up at the thought of those games he witnessed as a boy and young adult.
One story that Tommy Breen told me personally, I will never forget, though I may have some of the exact details incorrect. I asked him what his greatest memory or proudest achievement was? His answer surprised me. I had heard the stories that he left Belfast Celtic over an argument for a few shillings a week in his pay pack.
He had done the unthinkable and signed for Linfield and was installed as Captain of the team. Celtic and Linfield were neck and neck for the title in the last game of the season. Here is where my details may be off a little. Linfield needed a draw or win to claim the League title outright. Celtic needed to win. The score was level going into the last few minutes of the game, and if it were to remain that way, Linfield would be Champions. Celtic were awarded a penalty. Up stepped Bertie Fulton to claim the spot kick. Were he to score, it was inevitable that Celtic would be Champions. Tommy had played alongside Bertie Fulton for many years and knew him well. He had a fair idea as to how Bertie would dispatch the penalty. He guessed correctly, dived to save the kick, and Linfield won the game and the League Title. His proudest achievement was Captaining Linfield to the title over the all conquering Celtic. Some people on the Falls Road never forgave him for that!
I guess that hearing these stories and passing Celtic Park on the way to the shop every day dug deep into my psyche. I did the usual Match of the Day, Football Focus, Sportsnight with Coleman, Big Match, English thing that all my pals did. Heck, I even followed Cliftonville for a couple of seasons and traveled to Old Trafford on many occasions with a local Falls Road supporters club to watch Manchester United games. But as soon as I was deemed old enough to travel across to Glasgow to see Celtic, I was hooked forever!
I know the passion that I feel for my team and how I would feel if they went away. People talk of ‘having difficulty getting over Celtic losing the league last season at the death’…I am still struggling with “Blowing” the title to Aberdeen in 1980 after being 10 points clear at Easter!
I have daughters, no sons, and being this far removed from the place where it all began, means that the vivid images described by my father, my uncles and even Tommy Breen will die with me. I hate for that to happen ‘all across the board’. It was a distinct pleasure stumbling across this web site by accident. I happen to be reading the Belfast Celtic book by John Kennedy again, for the umpteenth time, and each time I learn something new. I remember as a teenager being introduced to Peter O’Connor in a bar in Ballymoney. My peers were surprised that I knew who he was. I was awestruck and speechless!
Kudos to those of you who have undertaken this momentous task of “Keeping the memory of Belfast Celtic alive”. I wish you every success.
From Des Brennan, Member 39
I feel I was very fortunate to have lived through the final years of the great Belfast Celtic team 1942 - 1948 period. My father, may he rest in peace, was the main reason for getting the Celtic fever in my blood.
Just one annual event he always kept was the Celtic v Linfield Christmas match. We all had a lovely Christmas if Celtic won, but woe behold, if they got beat! My best memory of the players was Harry Walker. In my eyes he was the greatest! He led that team with great authority and ability. Harry lived near my family in the Castlereagh Road area and to get to Celtic Park he got the bus to the City Centre and then a tram up the Donegal Road to the Park. He always had his small case with him, boots etc in it. Just compare that with today's players.
I had two pals who were always with me on a Saturday afternoon - Patch Croy and Hawker Boyle. It never cost us a penny to get in to any of the Grounds - Celtic Park, Windsor Park, The Oval, Grovenor Park, Cliftonville - all that was needed was "Lift'us over Mr., please". It never failed.
I've just mentioned one player, but believe me, I can't recall one who I would say was rubbish. They all played their hearts out once they pulled that jersey on -The Stripes. Sadly, I was torn apart on that Boxing Day in 1948 at Windsor Park when I and three brothers witnessed the fiasco when the pitch was invaded and Jimmy Jones was literally kicked over the parapet in front of us. I was very pleased when the Directors took the decision to finish all their connections with N.I. Football.
So it is brought to us in a very true manner the words "When we had nothing, we had Belfast Celtic, then we had everything" Very ,very true. Yours sincerely. Des Brennan, Member 39
From Sean Fowler
, Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada
I was rummaging through an old record player my dad and mum bought in the early sixties. It’s the big console type with a space to hold your records in the middle. Imagine my surprise when I came across this old 45 - “Celts Are the Greatest Team” recorded by Charlie Tully (and autographed by him too).
The memories came flooding back … as a toddler back on Tappan Street in Kearney NJ my dad, a Glaswegian and lifelong Celtic supporter, would put on that record to get me to sleep. I would march around the coffee table, wearing nothing but my wellie-boots and a diaper. He would make the record repeat, so after about ten plays I’d be ready to fall in to his arms and be whisked to bed. I plan to try the same tactic with my two year old.
I knew very little of the history of Belfast Celtic (or Glasgow Celtic for that matter), but thanks to my discovery of that old record I was able to come in contact with many folks who have enlightened me to the rich history, trials and tribulations. Thanks.
From Anthony, Glasgow, Scotland
Hello all just a wee note to say how suprised I was to see a website dedicated to this once great team. Obviously the name will never die .
I only found out about The Belfast division of my beloved Celtic while reading Charlie Tullys book "Passed To You"and I was shocked at the reason for their demise (though not suprised). My dad met Charlie as he stayed at my grans the 1st week he came to Glasgow - ever wish you had been born earlier?
Anyway I will be popping in and out in the future . "Come on the Hoops"
From Paul, Glasgow, Scotland
Just thought I would write a wee note to say keep up the good work on The Belfast Celts who were cruelly treated due to mindless bigotry. Although I was born and live in Glasgow I first heard the story of the events leading to the attack on Jimmy Jones while I was reading. The legendary Charlie Tullys book "Passed To You" its good to know that the name hasn't died forever good luck to you I just hope we Celtic fans (Belfast and Glasgow) have something to celebrate soon. .
From Ray Morgan, Aberdeen, Scotland
Having been born on the Falls Road but moving to Manchester in 1950,I was always aware of Belfast Celtic as we made frequent visits "home" to my grandparents every summer holiday, one week there and one week all the way south to Bray.
I was taken on many an occassion to visit Celtic Park hand in hand with my late father when he would tell me all the tales about his beloved team.I was too young to appreciate the signifigance of what he was telling me but I do remember going to Jackie Vernons butcher shop and seeing the great Charlie Tully on a flickering black and white telly playing for Glasgow Celtic.
My fathers allegiance in Manchester was towards United and I have indeed supported them ever since but his memories were always based around Belfast Celtic and they were always the topic of his Belfast conversations until the next great thing came out of Belfast, George Best. Its only when you reach a later stage in your life you wish you had listened more to what your dad told you and at this stage I find myself avid for information on those times to give me a sense of what my father lived through.
It was a boost to me to discover the web site and read people sharing their own particular memories. My grandparents lived in Waterford street facing the Dunville park and my memories of that time are never less than happy ones.I was obviously too young to see what was really going on around me and Celtic's short history probably encapsulates all that was right and wrong at that period in time
From Mark Tuohy, Ireland
Hello and a hearty welcome to all of you from County Down. I am one of the "youngsters" not having had the good fortune to see Belfast Celtic in action but, like so many of you, I heard from those who watched and shouted from the stands. When I was a child and then a teenager I spent many a night in front of a fire in the hearth listening to my two uncles - Gus and Jack Hove - regale me with tales of Jimmy Jones, Mickey Hamill, Charlie Tully, Boy Martin and all. They had a way of telling stories, of transporting you back through time; a way that was second nature to old Irish people.
Little wonder then that I dedicated my book, Belfast Celtic, to them. It was mostly Jack who encouraged me to write the book. It was he who said, more than once to me, "There is a history that has to be written." He was instrumental in getting recorded conversations (they weren't interviews) with certain players and some supporters that he knew personally.
This was in 1977 when Belfast was the ultimate paradox
- a dangerous city and, yet, friendlier.
I remember when the manuscript was finished we were talking about what to call it. Jack liked the idea of the poetical "Paradise Regained" as Celtic Park was nicknamed Paradise. Gus said that Belfast Celtic was the team and Belfast Celtic should be the title. So we stuck with his wisdom.
I know that all the older generation would have had their particular heroes from the team. Gus, who is photographed as a boy with the 1913-14 team on page 19, worshipped Mickey Hamill while Jack adored the Mahoods and Bertie Fulton. It is evident that Belfast Celtic gave something invaluable to the Catholic population of West Belfast in a deeply troublesome era; something that no other sportsman or team or politician has ever done. The affection lives on and that is something of which we should be immensely proud. immensely proud.
From Hugo Straney,
Greetings from the
frozen north Canada where the temperature is a balmy -28c with the wind chill
it's nearly -40! Brrrrr. The net has finally done something worthwhile a site
devoted to the one and only Belfast Celtic, being only 46 years
old and born in 1956 the stories passed on to me by my Father the late Bill Jack
Straney and many other family members relations and friends this team was really
the stuff that legends are made of.
My father was so
dedicated to this team that as a boy growing up in Belfast in the late 50's and
60's he forbid us to go and watch an Irish league game in fact if we did go and
see a Whites [Distillery] game and he found out we got the business. Why ? Because
of the way in which they ran them out of the league after the infamous Jimmy
Jones attack: He told me and my older brother Frank that we should never watch
an Irish League game and that the only other team we could support and cherish
was Glasgow Celtic and the rest as they say is history.
think I owe it to the memory of my late father to keep the tradition alive in
any possible. As a boy growing up in Belfast in the late 50's and 60's life
was pretty good. As for being poor I wouldn't say we were, if
we were we didn't know it. Your parents lived from paycheck to paycheck or
more likely borrowed from Peter to pay Paul. I
never did get to see the Belfast Celtic play so only through my late father,
family, friends and relations was the legend told.
stories told to me at the time were maybe a bit of an older persons lost
childhood, but the message got across because as I grew up and went on this
journey through life you naturally look back and try to make some sense of
what it's all about. Today I can watch any sporting event from any where
in the world, NHL hockey, NBA basketball, NFL football, also I watch the
English PL soccer live on a Saturday
the little streets of the Pound Loney that was only a pipe dream. You played
in the street till it was dark. Every football game was a world cup final. We
also had a few wimbledon centre court matches. I was always the "Roehampton
Rocket" - Rod Laver to you. Even the Grand National was run every year on
our streeet - now that took some fertile imagination.
one vital thing was missing. A local team to support. Yet there was a stadium,
a ground that the incomparable Stanley Matthews said was the finest playing
surface he'd ever played on. A ground that I graced once in my life as a
member of a team. I walked the hallowed tunnel to this
magnificent field of dreams - even if it was only as a ballboy [or mascot] for
the Star of The Sea U-16 in a Down and Connor cup final. I was all
of 6 or 7 but some of it is as clear as if it were yesterday. The Star won of
course beating St. Paul's Swifts. The score I am not quite sure of, but as a
young lad I forever wondered why I wasn't going to this famed Celtic Park to
watch my own big league soccer action.
always told the story of the demise of Belfast Celtic. Back then, I believe,
people did not have the same resolve as this generation. Not that it was their
fault but it was the times they lived in - a case of keep the croppy down. Today
would be a different story. The world would be watching for a start, and the
IFA would be shown in it's true light - an old boys club to keep the other
sort out if you know what I mean.
get to the crux of my message: as a youngster I always felt left out,
never getting a chance to be a part of my father's generation. I watch the
Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team with my 12 year old and when we can we go, we
watch Glasgow Celtic play at the local supporters club.
I never got to go along with my Dad to cheer on his beloved Belfast Celtic. As
an emmigrant to Canada almost 30 years ago - you know what they say, "Nobody
loves their country more than the ex-patriot". They also say of the
emigrant that he or she can never go home. That remains up to the individual
and to be blunt all we have is our reputation and our memories.
will always feel betrayed and disappointed that I never got to see the
immortal Belfast Celtic take the field at Celtic Park. Hope springs
eternal that it may one day happen again............"for we only know
that there's gonna be a show and the Belfast Celtic will be there".........
Laverty, NJ, USA
My family has had
numerous Belfast Celtic connections, chiefly through my late brother, Bob
Laverty (from The Moy, Tyrone) who carried Celtic's tricolor at the game in New
York. Bob was a close friend of Mr Joe Devlin, the Celtic trainer in the 1940s
... A number of the tour team were guests at our home in the Bronx at the time,
including Mr Devlin, Charlie Tully and Jackie Vernon.
In my possession I
have a gold medal won by Bob for the 1936-37 season with Lurgan Rangers, which
is now extinct, I believe.] He played a season with Limerick City and also with
Sligo Rangers (with Dixie Dean, I believe). I believe Bob also tried out for
Glasgow Celtic but suddenly emigrated to the US in 1939, and became a partner in
US soccer with the great Glasgow Celtic player, Jimmy McGuire. My sister Mairead
and I were friends of the Devlin girls, and while I was on leave from US Army
service in Austria (1952) I stayed overnight at the Devlin's home on Broadway,
off the Falls Rd. I have a post-card photo "album" of the 1946-7
team, including all the staff and directors. It's signed on the back by Mr
Devlin -- a cherished memento.
was captain of most of the American teams (American Senior League All-Stars)
that played the international touring teams, including Liverpool, Djurgarten (Sweden),
the Mexican national team, Israel, Canada and others. The American Soccer Hall
of Fame have advised me that Bob appears eligible for membership, but to my
regret I have failed to complete assembling the documentation needed for such an
honor...Hopefully this will be accomplished by the end of this year. In
that regard, during a trip to San Diego in October to visit Bob's family (he
married Sally Niblock from Magherafelt) I expect to find photos there of the
Belfast Celtic tour.
from Austin Heron,
I first saw celtic
play in 1943 against Glentoran. It was at Grosvenor Park. The team was Kelly,
McMillen, Sterling, Walker, Vernon, Douglas, Kernaghan, McAlinden, Byrne,
O'Neill, Bonnar. Glens won 2-1. My eldest brother told me I was a scud. I saw
them many times after that and they lost very few of them. I was at the Boxing Day
match and the return at Celtic Park. I have great memories and theyre still my
from Paul O'Hare,
My Dad, a lifelong
Belfast Celtic supporter, died last month at the age of 79. His first
memories of the team were from the early 1930's and he could remember seeing the
goalkeeper Jack Diffin. In 1987 we went to Bill McKavanagh's first slide
show (which led to the TV program and video) and some of the old Celtic players
were there, names that I had heard many times. They all got a great
reception on the night, but I'll never forget the roar that went up from the
elderly audience when Jimmy Jones was introduced.
Of course, I now
regret not getting my father to record his Belfast Celtic memories in some way.
When he was a boy he knew Charlie Tully and met him one day in the crowd at
Celtic Park. Charlie's mother owned a sweet shop and she would send her
son to sell sweets at the game. On this day, he suggested that they go to
the far side of the ground, so my dad climbed up on to the track around the
pitch. Charlie handed him the tray of sweets then climbed up himself and
walked behind the goals to get to the far side. As they were passing the
goal, Charlie was scoring imaginary shots into the net - little knowing that he
would be doing it for real one day. It was at this point that my dad
realised that Charlie was letting him carry the tray of sweets the whole way for
him. Even at that age Charlie was cheeky. I just wish I could remember
more stories like this.
Spence Megahey in Belfast, Ireland
lifelong supporter of Distillery F.C. ( now Lisburn Distillery ), who attracted
some of the old Celtic supporters in the early 1960's, just before they left
Grosvenor Park. I am interested in the history of Irish soccer and have a copy
of "Belfast Celtic" by John Kennedy. I remember people talking about
the great Belfast Celtic team when I was a boy. It's good to see two Celtics
back in the Irish League, but it would be even better to see Belfast Celtic
itself in existence again. All the best with your endeavours.
Vincent O'Hara in Ireland.
through your website I was reminded of the book Passed to You written by
Charlie Tully and published by Stanley Paul in 1958. I still have a copy of this
book and I re-visited it to-day.
Most of it tells of Tully's time at Glasgow Celtic but the first two
chapters deal with his earlier days in Belfast. Chapter one, called Barefoot
Days , record his birth in McDonnell Street and his school days at St Kevin's
where football was frowned upon. In chapter two ( Elisha Scott ) Tully tells of
his early days at Belfast's Celtic Park and his relationship with the great
Elisha Scott. Charlie records his first outing for the club in 1942 against a
Glentoran Select when he was astounded, shaky and embarrassed to find himself in
the same dressing room as great players such as Tommy Breen , R. P. Fulton ,
Jack Vernon , Jimmy McAlinden and Syd McIlroy.
goes on to record his debt to players such as Jack Vernon , Bud Ahearne , Paddy
Bonnar , Harry Walker , Liam O’Neill , Joe Douglas and Jimmy McAlinden. But
perhaps the most entertaining part of this chapter deals with his relationship
Shortly after he signed Elisha presented Tully with a book of rules.
It 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
Charlie also felt the manager’s wrath on a few occasions when the great
Elisha would tell him: ‘ 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 goalpoat 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.’
In his last chapter which he entitled Return
of Belfast Celtic, Charlie makes some poignant comments, although some of
these comments have been made irrelevant by time and subsequent events. He says:
‘Since then, ( i e the withdrawal of Belfast Celtic from football ) the
best playing field ( outside of Wembley ) and the trimmest stadium ( bar none )
has seldom been used. When the dogs – or some exhibition game – aren’t in
progress, all is silent.’ His last paragraph says: ‘ Perhaps I will be
allowed to make a forecast. Belfast Celtic, which has the stadium, the equipment,
the organization, the players willing to sign for them and a big support longing
for the club’s return to Irish football will be back. Speed the day !
In retrospect perhaps it was a bad move on my
part to re-visit this autobiography. Considering
what has happened since it was written some of it makes for very sad reading
indeed. Now there is no stadium, no playing field, no equipment, no organization
and no characters like Elisha Scott or the one and only Charles Patrick Tully.
From John McAloon
in Texas, USA
As a boy I watched
the Celtic Greats play and I can honestly say that I don't ever remember Bertie
Peacock's religious affiliation coming up among my father and my uncles.
It truly was not an issue and the man was a big favourite with the Celtic
support. I remember years later hearing the story of and Old Firm game
where Bertie complained to Jimmy McGrory about the stick he was getting from the
calling me all the Fenian so and so's out there." "Don't let that
bother you lad" says the bold Jimmy, "Sure I used to get
that all the time." To which Bertie is alleged have said, "Aye
Boss, but you are one!!"
Charlie Tully was
simply beloved by the Celtic support. He had a smile as wide as Celtic
Park, football wise was the 1950's version of Lubo. There was nothing he
couldn't do with the ball. My cousin was at the Falkirk game, in the
corner of the park where he scored two goals direct from a corner kick.
The first one got chalked off by the referee who made him take it again.
The Tims were furious and ready to invade the pitch, (not unknown in those days.)
Charlie told them all to stay where they were and he's do it over again for them.
This he duly did.
His wit was legend.
When asked by a reporter what was the best Celtic Team he had ever played in he
answered:(In the old 2-3-5 line up) Tully, Tully and Tully, Tully, Tully and
Tully, Tully, Tully, McPhail, Tully and Tully. When asked what the best match
was he had ever played, he replied: "We were playing Partick Thistle at
Firhill. I was late so I caught my own taxi to the ground. The team
bus got held up in a massive traffic jam on Maryhill Rd, so I just went out and
played by myself At half time Celtic were winning 1-0, then the team bus
turned up and we got beat 2-1!
The Mhan was totally
outrageous, a great football talent and those who remember him will always keep
him close to our hearts and his memory is sure to bring a wee smile to our faces.
May he Rest in Peace.
McIlroy in Belfast
I was born in 1935 in Belfast
and was brought up by my Dad, Paddy, as a Belfast Celtic supporter
from the cradle. Sadly he died in 1948, not long before Celtic went out of
football. I was a Juvenile Season Ticket holder and remember as if
it were yesterday leaning over the balcony of the Donegall Road Stand above
the players tunnel waiting for them to come out. The first sign was the
strong smell of embrocating wafting up. And then they took the field.
It was unthinkable that they would not win.
My Dad had told me so many
wonderful stories about players I had not seen - the incomparable Mickey
Hamill; Bertie Fulton, who played in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin; Elisha
Scott, then the Manager but one of Ireland's finest goal keepers; Sammy Curran;
the McIlroy brothers Syd and, was it Charlie? And many, many more.
In my days, the line up was
sacrosanct as Goalkeeper; Right and Left Backs; Right Half, Centre Half and
Left Half; Outside Right, Inside Right, Centre Forward, Inside Left and
Outside Left. No substitutes, of course. If a player got injured,
the chances were that he would stay on the field on the wing.
And the players I saw week after
week? These are the some of the ones that are ingrained in my memory.
Goalkeepers - Kevin McAlinden, Hugh Kelly (my favourite) and Joshua Sloan;
Right Back - Billy McMillan, from Carrickfergus I think; Left Backs -
Mattie Cullen and the one and only Bud Aherne who later played Stanley
Matthews out of a match; Right Half - Harry Walker, the best player
never to have been to have played for Ireland; Centre Halves - Jack
Vernon, who went on to West Brom and was later Player Manager of Crusaders and
was regarded by some as the best Centre Half in the world at a time.
The other great Centre Half was Charlie Currie; Left Halves - Joe
Douglas and Robin Lawlor (on whom I modelled myself, long throw in and all);
Outside Rights - Norman Kernaghan, possibly the youngest player ever capped
for Ireland, and Johnny Campbell, originally from Derry, I think; Inside
Right - Jimmy McAlinden, who won an FA Cup Medal with Portsmouth in 1939;
Centre Forwards - Tommy Byrne, Jimmy Jones (of whom a foolish commentator is
reputed to have said "Jimmy Jones, not much of a footballer - all he
can do is score goals"), Eddie McMorran and Jimmy McAloon from Glasgow
Celtic; Inside Left - Liam O'Neill, Johnny Denvir from Lurgan and - yes
I saw him many many times - Charles Patrick Tully (and he is in a team photo
in Cliftonville Pavilion from 1943 when he played for the Reds); Outside
Left - Paddy Bonner, with the thunderbolt left foot and who lived on the
Donegall Road. So many of them were internationals, of course. And
many of them were in the Belfast Celtic team which beat the Scotland
International team in the
And other players who
immediately spring to mind - Tommy Breen from Dundalk who played goals
for Celtic and then went to Linfield; Wing Half Mickey McWilliams who did
the same - and who lives in Bangor where I now do; Peter O'Connor, who
scored eleven goals in a match against Glenavon; Artie Kelly, Alec Newberry and
And yes, I was at the infamous
match at Windsor Park which ended in disgrace for a section of the Linfield
crowd and tragedy for Celtic. But I also remember Celtic beating
Linfield eight goals to one at Windsor on another occasion and Glentoran
nine goals to two at Paradise, as Celtic Park was also known.
I could go on and on but I expect
that my memories would be even more flawed than some of those I have recorded
I will finish with these thoughts.
My Dad taught me that the Celtic ideal was good, wholesome and something to be
proud of. I passed that on to my four sons. All six of us, my
wife, four sons and myself are shareholders of Glasgow Celtic and we have
Season Tickets. I have said to my sons that their shares are theirs
to do with as they decide - but that I would like to think that in a hundred
years from now they will still be in the family and that they will still be
From Sean McC in
beside where Paridise used to stand, my great-grand father used to go to all the
matches and if Belfast Celtic were still a team, id be going to them too.
Paradise is now Been built over and is Park Centre on the Donegal Road
Stafford in Belfast
Best wishes with the new
web site. I like what I have read so far and I look forward to seeing
do not remember Belfast Celtic as I was just a wee kid when they quit football
but my Uncle Bob told me all about the legend, Charlie Tully. There were
many stories, most of which I do not remember, but I always remember that my
Uncle Bob could not mention Tully's name without smiling at the same time.
I don't think you could mention Belfast Celtic without making reference to
Charlie Tully. I guess that says it all.
Paddy in Belfast
Dad, God rest his soul, was a big Belfast Celtic fan. He was born in the Old
Pound Loney in 1923 so he was a young man when he used to watch Jimmy Mc Alinden,
Harry Walker, Jimmy Jones and Charlie Tully work their magic at Celtic Park.
I myself never got to see this great team but I often listened to the great
stories my late Father used to tell me about them. My Dad used to talk about the
late, great Charlie Tully. He said this guy had it all. I remember my Dad
telling me about the great goal he scored against Glentoran in the 1947 Irish
Cup Final. I don't think you will ever see the likes of this great team again.
Belfast Celtic were a team in a league of their own.
From Kieran in
My Dad, God rest him,
was born in east Belfast in 1910, so was a teenager when he used to watch
"Blind" Sammy Curran work his magic at Celtic Park. My Dad married and
moved to Bangor in the early '40s and when I was a teen in the late '60s, Sammy
and his wife bought a wee sweetie shop just around the corner from us. My Dad
and Sammy became good friends at the local and one day Sammy presented Pop with
a gold ceramic harp. The harps were a momento, presented to each player in
the Belfast/Glasgow Celtic friendly match on Easter Monday 1926. The Belfast
Bhoys won that match 4-2, with Blind Sammy scoring twice.
My late brother Bernie ended up with the harp which now sits on my nephew
Patrick's mantlepiece in his home in Mississauga, Ontario. It is a small but
very significant piece of Belfast/Glasgow Celtic history. I wonder if there any
more of these harps still around?.
From Max in
Dear friend, the
e-mail in which you told us about your new website fills us with joy! Just few
weeks ago I was surfing the web and I was a bit disappointed to find out that
there were no forums or websites about this grand team, that I have learned to
admire in particular reading "Paradise
Lost and Found".
When I pay a visit
to the friends of mine in Dublin I often watch Irish football games,but my
thought try to imagine how it should be when teams like Belfast Celtic were
performing in a league that could really claim larger attendances than today.
Obviously our side is Celtic FC and my dream is to see this team at highest
european levels, but a secret hope, I think shared by many bhoys, is to
redevelop the Irish Leagues restarting from the spirit of those times.
From Jim in
I’m sad to say that I have no direct connection with
Celts. I knew very little
about the club until about 1988. At
that time I moved to
and found myself treasurer of the Charlie Tully CSC there.
is a new town which was built in the sixties and a lot of Northern people
moved there when the troubles broke out.
The CSC was full of
people and the Glasgow and
Celts were huge topics of conversation.
So I began to learn a bit about the club.
The love these people had for
Celtic was infectious and it was inevitable that it would rub off on me.
I am always astonished that there are still so many people who have
a fondness for the club even though they have been out of football for so
When we traveled across to
on match days people were always keen to show me the supermarket that
stands on the site of the old
Park in Belfast
. It’s been a while since I lived in
but I have retained an interest in
I also have a keen interest in the history of football on this island
Celtic are a very important chapter in that history. There is the abiding
sense of injustice which forced
Celtic out of football. This
might have also happened to other clubs e.g.
and Cliftonville. And Donegal
Celtic’s progress has certainly not been helped by their “cultural
in the US
It was Boxing
Day, oh 'round about ' 69 or ' '70,when I went to see an oldtimers
match between the great Belfast Celtic and a Northern Ireland select at
very dilapidated Celtic Park in Belfast.
Old bhoys like
Jimmy Jones and a quite rotund Charlie Tully played that very cold and
frosty morn'. Celtic won by about 6-1,even with the extra pounds and less
hair. As my Daddy
was a big Belfast Celtic fan,I had no choice but to become a follower of
Glasgow Celtic and as much as I love following the Lhads (just got back
from Fla.) I still have a massive place in my heart for a team I never
Curran lived around the corner from me, Cheeky Charlie managed my hometown
Irish League team (Bangor) and I have Jimmy Donnelly's autograph. As I say,
I'm devoted to Glasgow Celtic,but that team from Belfast will
always be so special to me......Beal Feirste Go Deo!
Padraig in Ireland
Hello to all
Belfast Celtic fans! Just to let you know that a party of former players
crossed to Glasgow last weekend to visit the other Celtic. I was lucky
enough to be with them and we had a marvelous time.
Jimmy Jones, Jimmy Donnelly, Leo McGuigan and Ossie Bailie met up with
George Hazlett and all five were treated like kings ( which of course they
are !) inside Celtic Park.
Martin O'Neill met the party about 45 minutes before the game with St
Mirren which as luck would have it turned out to be the championship
He was brilliant with them and graciously accepted a couple of gifts - the
History of Belfast Celtic, a framed photo of Belfast Celtic v Glasgow
1914 and a crest from Ballymena Borough Council. The big treat was being
introduced to the crowd at half time in the game.
They all went home with smiles and stories and more stories.
This part of
the site is still under construction.
If you would
like to be kept updated please join the Belfast Celtic mailing