Martin Donaldson with A Celtic State of Mind – Review of The Shamrock’s Walking Walfrid Tour

For a three-month period over the Glasgow summertime, Celtic fans were taken on a journey of discovery around the east end of the city and, in particular, the parish community of St Mary’s in the Calton. The author and producer of The Shamrock magazine pieced together the momentous events, people and streets that contributed to the birth of Celtic Football Club and brought them to life.

The Walfrid Walking Tour transported Celtic supporters back to a time of hardship for the people living in and around Dalmarnock, Bridgeton and The Calton as these areas absorbed new settlers who fled famine and hunger in Ireland and the Scottish highlands.

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I was fortunate enough to take part in the final tour of the summer along with another handful of faithful fans. The tour kicked off from the feet of our most famous captain, beautifully cast in bronze and forever holding aloft the European Cup, representing the club’s greatest footballing achievement. What followed over the next 9000 steps and four hours of walking, talking and listening was a re-education of those pre-Celtic formation years and the eventual development of the club.

As a fan who has sung those famous words from The Celtic Sonv year after year, “And if you know the history,” I was delighted to uncover more details of the origins of a truly global footballing institution. Subscribers and readers of The Shamrock magazine will not be surprised at the level of detail the tour goes into, making it an enthralling and enlightening wander, retracing the steps of those early Celtic founders.

By the mid-1880s, the rapidly growing sport of football was already pulling in significant crowds and this detail was not lost on the local parish leaders. Charity football matches were being arranged no more than a mile from the current location of Celtic Park, with teams making the journey from around the central belt to play these games and the proceeds of the gate “devoted to the Poor Childrens Dinner Table”.

The social change and regeneration of parts of the east end of the city mean much of the historic focal points have sadly been lost to time, but, thanks to the passion of our guide, a unique vision is shared through the tales passed from previous generations and the archives from the Mitchell and National libraries.

The tour is a fascinating tribute for fans to enjoy, from St Mary’s in The Calton to the site of the original Celtic Park. It follows in the footsteps of the club’s founding Brothers and office bearers, takes in the business links and buildings, and acknowledges the political influences of all those involved, thus allowing the fledgling club to grow quickly from a very modest beginning.

Fittingly, the tour ends at the head of the newly developed Celtic Way at the foot of the statue of Brother Walfrid, who had the foresight 132 years ago to be a driving force in the formation of Celtic football club, a club which continues to follow the charitable vision shared by our founders.

Martin Donaldson

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