Belfast Celtic 1891 - 1949

The Goalkeeper and the Referee


In the late 1940's, as the dust settled from the second world war, communities across Europe, ravaged by the six year slaughter, began to pick up the pieces of their forgotten lives. Naturally, football communities were no different and as the pain and suffering of the conflict receded, the familiar sound of boot studs clacking on pavilion floors in countries across the world began again as national conflict made way for the resumption of friendly rivalries.

These islands were no different, with football resuming in earnest and the 'Home Internationals' between England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales re-established as a football fixture following a United Kingdom vs The Rest of the World reconciliation match held at Hampden in 1947.

England triumphed comfortably in the re-established '47 home tournament and the following year they headed to Hampden Park to defend their crown against a highly fancied Scotland side. A Belfast man wore football boots in the fixture between the two countries on April 10th 1948 - but he wasn't wearing the dark blue of Scotland, nor the white of England. Instead, David Maxwell of Coolbeg Street in the Village area of Belfast pulled on the black jersey to officiate as referee for the occasion.

  A great friend of Belfast Celtic manager Elisha Scott, who plied his trade at both Celtic and Liverpool as a goalkeeper, Maxwell was man at arms for one of the most highly charged rivalries in international football.

Preston great Sir Tom Finney and Blackpool star Stan Mortensen took a goal apiece to end Scotland's hope of claiming the title and England scooped their second Home Championship in a row.

Mortensen would later be the pivot in the 'Matthew's Final' of 1953 at Wembley, where legendary winger Stanley Matthews provided the spade work for Mortensen's hat trick of goals, the only FA Cup final hat-trick Wembley has seen.

Ireland had faired slightly better against the English, with goals from Peter Doherty and Davy Walsh earning them a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park in Liverpool, before they lost 2-0 to Wales at the Racehorse Ground in Wrexham four months later.

So proud was Elisha Scott of the role his friend David Maxwell had played in the proceedings, he was moved to send him a letter of congratulations - and that letter is now in the possession of the Belfast Celtic Society.

David's grandson, singer song-writer Gary Maxwell, presented the framed dispatch to the Society to help enter into posterity his family connection to Belfast Celtic.

And to cement that connection further, Gary has penned a song in memory of Elisha Scott, relating the story his granny passed to him of Scott and Maxwell sharing pints at Celtic Park and stumbling down Broadway to continue the merriment in the parlour of her Coolbeg Street home.

A year later, as Belfast Celtic prepared to leave for America on their final tour before exiting football forever, Scotland romped the Home Nations championship with a Triple Crown performance that saw three wins in three games - including the 3-1 defeat of England, where goals from Reilly Mason and Steel trumped a loan strike from England's Geordie hero Jackie Milburn (uncle of Ireland manager Jack Charlton) to stun the Wembley crowd to submission on April 9th 1949.

Little did those involved know that just seven weeks later, on May 29th 1949 at the Triborough Stadium in New York USA, Belfast Celtic would humiliate the champions by two goals to nil on that final tour - a win engineered by the masterful Elisha Scott.


Did David Maxwell play his part in that epic win for Belfast Celtic? Was Scott, Maxwell's close friend, given the inside track on the Scotland traveling party, whose players he had witnessed at close quarters just one year previous at Hampden Park?  Were names like Steel, Waddell, Woodburn Cox and Young whispered across pints of stout and nips of whisky in the bar at Celtic Park during the Spring of 1949?

It's hard to conceive that the intelligent and crafty Scott wouldn't have plumbed his confidant for everything he knew - after all, Scott rarely left anything to chance.

To hear Gary Maxwell's wonderful and atmospheric song 'Elisha', visit his myspace page