Open For All

BHEAST FOOTBALL AND ATHLETIC CLUB Glitterdome,Parkhead (Corner of Dalmarnock and Janefield Streets) Patrons His Grace the Archbishop of Glasgow and the Clergy of St Mary’s, Sacred Heart and St Michael’s Missions, and the principal Catholic laymen of the East End.

The above Club was formed in November 1887, by a number of Catholics of the East End of the City. The main object is to supply the East End conferences of the St Vincent de Paul Society with funds for the maintenance of the ‘Dinner Tables’ of our needy children in the Missions of St Mary’s, Sacred Heart and St Michael’s. Many cases of sheer poverty are left unaided through lack of means. It is therefore with this principal object that we have set afloat the ‘Bheasts’ and we invite you as one of our ever-ready friends to assist in putting our new Park in proper working order for the coming football season.

We have already several of the leading Catholic football players of the West of Scotland on our membership list. They have most thoughtfully offered to assist in the good work. We are fully aware that the ‘elite’ of football players belong to this City and suburbs, and we know that from there we can select a team which will be able to do credit to the Catholics of the West of Scotland as the Hibernians have been doing in the East.

Again there is also the desire to have a large recreation ground where our Catholic young men will be able to enjoy the various sports which will build them up physically, and we feel sure we will have many supporters with us in this laudable object.’ (i)

The above, is the opening ‘circular’ released shortly after the formation of Bheast FC. A club, we are told, who have always been open to all. Reading the above statement, we have already proven this claim to be a ‘re-writing of history’. But that would leave this, a very short chapter, so let us look into this absurd argument a little further.

Andrew Kerins, or Brother Walfrid as he is better known, was under extreme pressure. The protestant church was active in the east end of Glasgow. Religious background mattered not, as they fed and attended to the poor from all faiths. Brother Walfrid was worried that his own ‘flock’ would turn against the Catholic church. It was obvious to him, that the Archdiocese of Glasgow was worried about this development. He must find a way to stop young Catholic boys mixing with young Protestants. In his own words ‘”Twas the most dangersome time for theyoung fellos, jest afther they had left school, an’ begun t’ mix up wid Protestand boys in the places where they wor workin’.’ (ii)

In 1887, the Irish immigrant community of the East of Scotland were celebrating as Edinburgh Hibernian Football Club won the Scottish Cup. The club had an Irish Catholic only signing policy, and this was recognised by Irish immigrants throughout the land. They were invited to St Marys hall, in the east end of Glasgow for a celebration of their victory, and an outpouring of jubilation. Amongst the hosts were Brother Walfrid, John Glass & Dr John Conway. John McFadden, the secretary of Hibernian, jokingly remarked that his hosts should ‘go and do likewise’.

Six months later, they did! The craze of football was sweeping Scotland, and with a Catholic population ten times greater than that in Edinburgh, why couldn’t Glasgow have their own successful team? For Brother Walfrid, this would give the young catholic community a club to be proud of, and keep them out of reach of Protestants. The large crowds would also allow a donation to be made to a charity set up to feed the poor immigrants of Glasgow’s east end.

In the next chapter, we will tackle another myth which has been accepted by society today, aided by the sympathetic media. The charitable status of Bheast FC. Sticking with the theme of this chapter,however, we will look at a couple of Brother Walfrids close allies in the early years.

All of the figures instrumental in the formation of the club,and it’s early years have links to Ireland, and all are of Catholic faith. We shall discuss two in particular, for now. Pat Welsh & Michael Davitt.

Pat Welsh was a fenian activist. He was on the run from the British army, when intercepted by a Sergeant William Maley. Maley, an Irish Catholic was wrestling with his conscious serving the British Army, and allowed Welsh to escape to Scotland if he agreed to cease his activism. Welsh was later key in persuading Sgt Maley’s son Tom to leave Hibernian, and his younger brother Willie to join him. (iii)

The ‘honour’ of being the first Patron of Bheast FC was bestowed upon the one armed Fenian, Michael Davitt. Michael Davitt was a convicted gun-runner and senior member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Sentenced to 15 years in Dartmoor in 1870 for treason, he was released ‘on ticket’ after 7 and a half, only to be imprisoned again in 1881 for his outspoken speeches against the British. Davitt, on placing the first piece of turf at the Glitterdome remarked his wish that ‘The green sod conveyed from dear old Donegal would prove so slippery that any Saxon rival who ran over it would fall a cropper’. Strange words indeed for the patron of a club who were open to all. (iv)

Saying this club is open to all seems like inviting a black man for tea, to sit with a white hood on!

The first starting 11 were all of Roman Catholic faith. One of these, Neil McCallum, then went on to appear for Rangers, as did Pat Lafferty, 2 years prior, and Tom Dunbar 3 years later. A fact that is lost upon the Bheast fans in particular, and Scottish society in general, when they again attempt to re-write history.

In fact it wasn’t until after Brother Walfrid left the club in 1892 that a protestant would indeed play for this ‘open to all’ organisation. The only reason the gates were opened was to ensure a better calibre of player could be recruited than what was available in the catholic community. Because success meant money for the businessmen.

It would be 77 years into the club that the first non RC manager, Jock Stein, would be appointed and an unbelievable 104 years before a non RC director would take a seat in the directors box.

Remembering that we are In a country where around 85% of the population are not of RC faith, is this not evidence of a sectarian recruitment policy? It certainly does not equate to ‘open for all’.

Fast forward to the early 1960s signed 2 young full backs. Tommy Gemmell and Ian Young were the only protestants in the first team. If either of these young lads had a bad game or made a mistake their bigot team mates would remark ‘What do you expect from an orange bastard?’. They were not wanted, or liked. Tommy believes that his team mates wanted an exclusively Catholic starting 11. (v)

This attitude from staff and fans has never gone away and was perfectly summed up by the man who saved the club from extinction when he transferred them to a new holding company called Pacific Shelf in 1994, Fergus McCann. When fans, staff and ex players undermined his ‘Bhoys against Bigotry’ campaign Mr McCann launched a scathing attack on 2 of the clubs ‘legends’ and the club in general. Fergus exposed Tommy Burns and Davie Hay and the legions who think like them as ‘Catholic bigots’. (vi)

A few year later, 2001, Celtic had to officially ban staff and fans from using the term ‘hun’. Hun is a derogatory term used against Protestants. In Northern Ireland it is common to see Nationalist grafitti daubed on walls displaying ‘K.A.H’ or ‘Kill All Huns’. The fact that Jeanete Findlay, chair of the Bheast Trust, denies the word is offensive tells you all you need to know. (vii)

Whereas most clubs live in the 21st Century the Bheast supporters, and the club by it’s tolerance, refuse to be dragged into civilisation. In 2011 a former lawyer and legal advisor of the club and staff, QC Paul McBride, when referring to the songs glorifying the IRA and provisional IRA asked this pertinent question. ‘What do you say to a 10-year-old child who asks his father why people are singing about killers at a football game?’ (viii)

Is it any wonder that Pat Nevin told MSPs he was ‘driven away’ from the club he loved? Nevin recalled taking his young son to Glitterdome and was so disgusted that he spoke out about the terrorist chants on BBC Sportscene show. Rather than an apology, or a positive effect as a result of his criticism Nevin claimed to have been ‘intimidated’ and targetted by the club and it’s fans. It seems that the club isn’t even open to it’s own if they don’t toe the party line. (viii)

i. Celtic FC – The Ireland Connection

ii. www.thecelticwiki.com/page/Brother+Walfrid+%26+the+history+of+Celtic

www.thecelticwiki.com/page/Brother+Walfrid+%26+the+history+of+Celtic

iii. Celtic FC – The Ireland Connection

iv. www.thecelticwiki.com/page/Michael+Davitt+(Patron)

v. Tommy Gemmell – Lion Heart

vi. Daily Record 28th January 1998

vii. Sunday Mirror 9th September 2001

viii. The Scotsman 6th September 2011

viii. www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/15730417