Speaking with Paul Docherty, I felt a huge sense of pride in the stories he shared which shone a light on a history deep-rooted in Celtic Football Club. Paul and all the members of the Montreal Joe Kennaway Celtic Supporters Club are proud of the significant connections old and new to the football club they adore almost 3,000 miles away.
Following the tragic death of the great John Thomson, Celtic were in need of a strong, safe pair of hands. The then Manager Willie Maley made Joe Kennaway his number one target after a heroic display in goal against Celtic on a summer tour of North America earlier in the year. The message from Glasgow to approach Joe was received by the grandfather of a current club member (who is now in his 80s). With negotiations complete, Joe sailed across the Atlantic to Liverpool, and travelled to Glasgow to make his debut on 31 October 1931.
Montreal was also home to the man who supplied the finance to keep the lights on at Celtic in those dark days of the early 1990s, before going on to develop the business plan that has allowed the club to flourish into the new millennium. When the Montreal Joe Kennaway Celtic Supporters Club started in 1993, the members reached out to Fergus McCann to join their club and to seek a solution to the crisis that was threatening the very existence of Celtic.
The supporters club still meet regularly to watch the matches via Celtic TV, even though the bar they had been using to show matches closed recently. Paul explained, “The committee are currently sorting a new location for weekend fixtures, although midweek games are shown in Le Vieux Dublin Pub – as it’s easier for fans working in the city.” The social media sites will keep visitors and the 20 club members posted on details of a new home soon, so they can welcome the likes of Billy Connolly, Fergus McCann, Dermot Desmond and actor/director Jay Baruchel back through their doors.
The club had some great success recently with the launch of what they hope will be a regular podcast. The official club t-shirt was a triumph too, with sales heading out globally to Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan, helping to cover the club’s running costs. Paul beamed, “It’s nice when we see the t-shirt tagged in pictures around the world, but none more so than at Celtic Park.”
Earlier this year, five of the club members travelled to meet up with the NYC Fenian Bhoys at their club to watch the Scottish Cup final and celebrate the historic Treble Treble. A few of the members also made their way to Leipzig last season to watch the Hoops in action, but with no option to buy tickets in the Celtic end they were left hatching a plan to somehow join other Celts in the away section. Let’s just say a few hurdles were overcome, albeit with some cuts and bruises to show for it!
Paul gave me a picturesque description of what it’s like catching weekend matches in Montreal: “7 a.m. kick-off times are hard when you live about a half hours’ drive from the club! Also the Montreal winters are crazy, so frequently I’d need to go dig my car out of seven feet of snow before getting on my way,” he continues, “Our club President, Pat Gillen, will frequently pick members up on the way to the club with Celtic songs and Irish tunes playing all the way to get everyone in the mood – post-match there are a few spots in downtown where you can hear more Celtic and Irish songs.”
All this is very different to his experience of growing up in Glasgow watching Celtic, losing 1-0 to Motherwell on his first trip to Celtic Park just at the start of the McCann era. Although Paul explains, “My fondest memories were watching the Martin O’Neill side. 15 years a season ticket holder and those days were the first I experienced real success as a fan.”
If you are in Montreal and looking to catch the Celtic match, look out for the hoop, skull, Buckfast bottle and ball emblem of the Montreal CSC and pay them a visit.
Twitter – @Montreal_Celtic
Facebook – Montréal Celtic Supporters Club
Martin DonaldsonListen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast