Brother Walfrid is inspired by Hibernians and believes Glasgow should have their very own version. Glasgow Celtic is born, with inevitable consequences for Hibs.
Brother Walfrid was doing a great deal of good work in Glasgow's East End, through his Poor Children's Dinner Table charity.
He had called upon the good grace of his friends in Edinburgh many times, and did so again in 1887, asking Canon Hannan if Hibernians might play in a charity match against Renton in Glasgow. Canon Hannan of course immediately agreed, and the game took place on Clyde's Barrowland ground. An astonishing 12,000 people turned out to watch the Scottish Cup holders draw 1-1. The money raised from this one game was beyond the dreams of anything Brother Walfrid had managed to raise in the past, and it is believed that this was the moment when he made up his mind that Glasgow should have their very own version of Hibernian Football Club.
The Irish Catholic community in Glasgow at this time numbered around 250,000, and Brother Walfrid knew that if Canon Hannan could raise so much from the Little Ireland community of Edinburgh that was a mere tenth of that number, then surely a similar side in Glasgow could do much more.
It should not be thought that he in any way wished to harm Hibernians, far from it. He appreciated very much the help that he had received from Canon Hannan and the St Patrick's Catholic Young Men's Society. His reasoning was that he could not continue to expect Hibernians to help his community when they had so much work to do in their own. He endeavoured then to copy the lead of Canon Hannan, knowing that the Edinburgh priest would do all he could to aid him in his task.
Over the coming months several meetings were arranged in Glasgow to drum up support for the idea of a new 'Hibernians' in Glasgow. Some Irish Catholic leaders however could see some of the danger signs, as it was becoming apparent in these meetings that some of the men coming to the fore where business-minded with hints that personal gain rather than charitable aims were uppermost in their thoughts. Brother Walfrid however appeared oblivious to this as he pressed forward with his plans, taking everyone at face value.
By November 1887 Brother Walfrid was ready along with his supporters from St Mary's Parish, and they revealed that a new football club would be formed. While most wanted the new club to be named Glasgow Hibernian, Brother Walfrid opposed this on the grounds that it would cause confusion. He got his way, and Glasgow Celtic was born. The real men behind this move however proved to be the businessmen, a builder from Donegal named John Glass and Pat Welsh, a tailor who had left Ireland under furtive circumstances 20 years previously. These men had seen the earning potential of a professional football club, and their subsequent methods of achieving their aims was to prove catastrophic for Hibernian Football Club.
Hibernians were delighted on hearing the news of the formation of Celtic Football Club, and typical of Hibs they made an immediate donation towards the expenses of forming the new club, letting it be known at the same time that anything they could do to help would be done. Hibernians continued blissfully unaware that the founding of Celtic might cause them even the slightest problem, after all did every Irish Catholic not see football as they did, as a means of doing some good for their communities? More important at this time for Hibernians was their first ever tour of Ireland; at last the men of Little Ireland were to visit the homeland of the fathers.
Michael Whelahan was joined by a large party of officials and players for the trip, including John and Philip Farmer who would play a major part in the future of the Club. Hibernians first game came on Monday 2nd April 1888 against Belfast Distillery, with Hibernians running out winners by three goals to one before a very large crowd. Twenty four hours later and Hibs defeated a United Belfast side 4-1, with the Hibernian team earning a standing ovation from appreciative Irish fans.
One month later, Hibernians travelled to Glasgow to fulfil a promise Canon Hannan had made to Brother Walfrid. Hibernians formally opened Celtic Park with a game against Cowlairs. The match ended in a 0-0 draw but was a highly entertaining one. The new Glasgow club also benefited greatly from gate receipts, with Hibernians paying their own expenses.
On 28th May 1888, Celtic played their own first game against Rangers. However, as they still did not have a full team they leaned heavily on their friends from Edinburgh and seven of the players in their side that day had connections with Hibernians. Celtic won their inaugural match 5-2.
On Borrowed Time
In the following weeks, Celtic played several games and each time used players borrowed from Hibernians. There were rumours doing the rounds of course about the intentions of the new Glasgow club, but these were dismissed by the Hibernians committee who simply would not believe that their close friends would mean them any harm.
It could be argued that it was a great pity for the Hibernians men to be so trusting. Celtic businessman John Glass and his partners were already making their own plans, including financial inducements being offered to the best players in the Hibernians side that might join Glasgow Celtic for the following season.
By August 1888, the Hibernians committee men had learned that the rumours were in fact true, and the cream of the best football side in Scotland would not be turning out for Hibernians, but rather had defected to Celtic with the riches being promised. Just as shocked as the Hibernians men were most of the Celtic committee who had not been aware of what John Glass and his supporters were doing. Even if Hibernians had wished to take Celtic on like for like, they could not do so, the very being of Hibernians was that every penny earned went to charitable causes. Celtic had undertaking no such principles.
John Glass had recognised the massive financial rewards that would ensue from professional football. The game had gone professional in England sometime before and Scotland was about to follow. Using the loyalties of the Irish immigrant population left a sour taste in many a mouth. Celtic were seeking to have the best of both worlds, they would sign any players they wished while still retaining an appeal to the Irish community. Business had, not for the first time, trampled over idealism, money had spoken and it was not the first time in the history of Hibernian Football Club that they would suffer for their own ideals.
Brother Walfrid asks Hibernians to play in a charity match against Renton in Glasgow, which the greens accept. The money raised from the match makes Brother Walfrid proactive in forming a Glasgow version of Hibernians.
Hibernians make an immediate donation towards the expenses of forming the new Glasgow club.
The Club take their first ever tour of Ireland, with their inaugural game coming against Belfast Distillery.
Hibernians formally open Celtic Park with a game against Cowlairs, the match ending in a 0-0 draw.
The Committee of Hibernians discover the financial gain plans of Celtic businessmen John Glass and Pat Welsh, leaving a sour taste in the mouth of both the Club and the Irish community in Edinburgh.
Written as part of 'The Origins of Hibernian' series