Martin Donaldson with A Celtic State of Mind – Meet the CSC: Tyneside No1

In cities throughout England, the cultural and historical footprint of generations of Irish families are preserved in Irish centres. Many of these social clubs were set up as the Irish population grew after the mass migration of the late 1800s. With the Irish families still alienated in their new surroundings in the early 20th century, these clubs provided a venue for the stories and songs of the Emerald Isle to be proudly retold and celebrated.

Liverpool, Manchester and London all boast bustling Irish communities and in Newcastle – resting in the long shadow of St. James’ Park – lies the Tyneside Irish Centre (TIC), home to the Tyneside No1. Celtic Supporters Club for the last 30 years.

The club was set up by Bill Scott during the 1988/89 season and both the club and he are still regular visitors to Celtic Park on match day. The club runs a bus to every weekend home match and occasionally makes the visit for midweek fixtures too, with between 20–50 fans making the journey to Paradise. I spoke with Lynnette Mochan (Club Secretary) and Paul Rutherford (committee member and social media man).

The TIC screens all Celtic matches shown by Sky, BT or Premier Sports and is open to members and visitors to Newcastle. Although the CSC won’t charge visitors, a donation to the social club is welcome. Membership of the CSC is normally charged at £10, but, as the club is celebrating its 30th anniversary this season, the price has been reduced. Look out for t-shirts, hoodies and scarves which are normally available in the social club.

Lynnette has become a regular at the supporters club in the last three years. “One of the things I missed most after moving away from Scotland with my children was not getting to Celtic Park and not being able to watch the match with friends,” explained Lynnette. “After hearing about the supporters club at the TIC, I went along for a few matches and was welcomed in amongst the members, that led me to join for the trips to Celtic Park too. Through the club, I have been able to meet so many amazing people including my partner Paul.”

Paul’s love of the club goes all the way back through his family, from sitting on his dad’s shoulders proudly wearing the hoops, to listening to stories passed on from previous generations from Donegal. That family is extended now to include the huge numbers of Celtic fans all around the world who stop and chat when they see the famous green-and-white hooped jersey.

With a brisk three-hour journey from the Tyneside Supporters Club to Celtic Park, the regular pilgrimage to a match normally starts off between 7 – 9 a.m. leaving enough time for a couple of pit stops and a visit to the Glasgow Gallowgate for refreshments. This is all very different from Paul’s first match experience as a six-year-old back in 1989 at Easter Road, when he was mascot for Hibs in a 3-0 victory for Celtic, but made sure club officials and players knew he was a Celtic supporter before taking the field.

If the bus isn’t running for a match, members will make their way to the Tyneside Irish Centre, which includes three floors to accommodate club members, visitors and the large Irish and Scottish student population nearby. There is normally plenty of music post-match with playlists filled with Celtic songs and, on a Saturday night, you will normally be entertained with some live traditional Irish music.

As the supporters club base is in the shadow of St. James’ Park, the club has welcomed a number of current and ex-Newcastle players on match-day, but it’s not just footballers who visit. Glen McCrory entertained the club with his rendition of Danny Bhoy, Paul Ferris chose the club for a book signing, and Glasgow comedian Kevin Bridges popped in for a drink when the Celtic match was on.

In November last year, the club was devastated following the death of club regular Glenn Dixon. Now working with Glenn’s family, the club are actively raising funds and awareness for local mental health charity, ‘Tyneside & Northumberland Mind’, as well as the Celtic FC Foundation. The club plans to host a fundraising event at the TIC which will include a raffle and live music, playing some of Glenn’s favourite songs. Then, on the 24 August, Club Secretary, Lynnette will join Glenn’s family on a 150+ mile walk from the Tyneside Irish Centre to Celtic Park – To Paradise For Glenn – where they hope to arrive on Saturday 31 August, raising funds all the way.

If you happen to be in Newcastle, you will be able to find the Tyneside Celtic Supporters club at the Tyneside Irish Centre, 43 Gallowgate Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4SG.

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Facebook: Tyneside No1 CSC
Twitter: @TynesideNo1

Martin Donaldson

Listen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast

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