Martin Donaldson with A Celtic State of Mind – A walk down memory lane, the Celtic Graves Society way

Glasgow Doors Open Day has become an annual event where business and buildings across the city let the public in for a behind-the-scenes look at some of the city’s most famous venues. You can tread the boards at the Tron, pop your head into the Panopticon or even see behind the neon lights of the Barrowlands, but for me the star attraction was a trip to St Peter’s Cemetery in the east of Glasgow where the Celtic Graves Society (CGS) had arranged a stroll around the resting place of many of the founding fathers and servants of Celtic Football Club.

If you are not familiar with the work of the CGS, they are a group of fans who aim to mark or repair the resting place of old Celtic heroes. Their dedication has taken them across Scotland, Ireland and further afield to help maintain these sites for future generations.

So, you maybe think a walk around a cemetery is not an ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon? But, for me and the 60+ others in attendance, the beautifully sunny day was a perfect backdrop for our guides to shine a light on the lives of former players and office bearers. Brendan Sweeney of the CGS led the procession around 20-30 graves, pausing to share stories of the first Celtic committee, famous victories on the field, as well as battles in the boardroom and in the press. The level of research carried out by the team to provide such wonderful insight to those fledgling years of the club is astonishing.

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One of the many stories recounted included that of James McGrory, Celtic’s greatest ever goalscorer, who’s incredible scoring record keeps him in the list of top 10 strikers in the world to have ever played the game. Amongst the people on the tour, 90-year-old Frank McGuire, who was fortunate enough see McGrory play at Celtic Park, added some colour to the tales of a Celtic great.

The group’s painstaking attention to detail is clear to see as we reach the oldest part of St Peter’s cemetery. This section is victim to the passing of time and decay, making the identification of plots almost impossible. Moving from one section of the cemetery to another and speaking to those in attendance, you begin to hear accents from across Scotland, Ireland and even Germany as fans of the club look to get a better insight into the stories left behind by those early trailblazers.

Those formative years in the rise of Celtic took its toll on many who played in the green and white or served on the committee. The stark reality of the high mortality rate amongst these men at such a young age gave an unclouded commentary on the social conditions which the club had originally hoped to help alleviate in the community; but make no mistake the tour is far from sombre. It is a fitting tribute to the people who made the commitment to help put food on the table of the poor children of the parish and allowed the displaced souls to find pride in a club and cause.

The Celtic Graves Society is served by a wonderfully gifted team of researchers who leave no stone unturned in sharing the stories of our founding fathers who played a significant role in the continuing success of a truly global football club. You can pick up a membership or booklets from previous events and look out for upcoming commemorations by the Society on their website.

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