Tom Campbell with A Celtic State of Mind – A life punctuated by Celtic


In a conversation some years ago with David Potter I suggested that the pair of us had probably ‘punctuated our lives with Celtic games’. What I meant was that we both could remember important dates in our lives and remember how Celtic got on that day; some, of course, would be ‘JFK moments’, and simply unforgettable.

We both remember the days and dates we got married (just as well): David recalls that his date was 25th March 1972 and remembers that Celtic won at Falkirk that day but Danny McGrain, then a young full-back, fractured his skull in an accidental collision with Doug Somner. Incidentally, I remember that occasion as well because I was with a touring party of thirty Canadian students and was tied up in a social engagement in York, England. We had missed the sports news, no evening papers were available, and nobody there knew (or cared) how Celtic got on. It was a real shambles and uncomfortable for me until I got a Sunday paper the next day.

Like David, I remember my wedding day; it was in Toronto in December 1964 and I bought a newspaper just before starting the honeymoon to learn that Celtic had beaten Motherwell by 2-0. Later, I found out that it was bitterly cold in Glasgow that day, the pitch was bone-hard and John Hughes who scored both goals wore sandshoes for balance.

We have different memories of the 1984 Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen (when Roy Aitken was ordered off). David’s son, Andrew, was born a few days afterwards and should have been christened Andrew David James Valentine Potter, ‘Valentine’ being his mother’s maiden name, but a somewhat bitter David refused ‘Valentine’ after the referee’s performance in that cup final.

The day after the final I was driving from Glasgow to Cheltenham in an angry mood, and have little recollection of those hours, so angry I was: an offside goal, and an unfair ordering-off will do that, I suppose.

Listen to THE BLUEBELLS’ KEN MCCLUSKEY with A Celtic State of Mind here:

On 19th October 1957 Celtic beat Rangers 7-1 in the League Cup final. Where were we then? The game was not live on TV and David, a schoolboy in Forfar, spent the afternoon at the matinee in the local cinema watching Rob Roy. On his way home he passed a house with its door open and radio blaring. The lady of the house told him that Celtic had just won by 7-1, a result eventually confirmed by his semi-incoherent father when he got home.

I had emigrated to Canada the year before and on the Saturday night picked up a copy of the Toronto Telegram which gave the score (Remember the five-hour time difference between the UK and Canada). I thought it might have been a mis-print and, with trembling hands, eventually made a long-distance (and expensive) phone call from Ottawa to the Telegram’s sports-desk. The person manning it told me somewhat wearily: “Yes, that was the score. We’ve had hundreds of calls. I guess it was an important game, eh?”

When Celtic won the Scottish Cup in 1965, David spent the last few minutes (after Billy McNeill scored) at the top of the Celtic End clutching the post at Gangway 25 for support, and promising God he would definitely go to Church on the Sunday if Celtic could hold on.

I was in Nova Scotia on holiday but our dog had taken sick and we felt we had to drive back to Guelph, near Toronto, to have her treated. We drove day and night to get there, and it was late on the Sunday night before I found out the result of the cup final. A week later I got the Sunday Mail and the Sunday Post sent out from Glasgow by my mother, and they were well-read papers for weeks afterwards.

On 25th May 1967 it was the night before David’s Greek exam at St Andrews University but there was no way he could do any last-minute ‘cramming’. He watched Celtic crush Inter Milan by 2-1 along with other students, many of them England and Rangers’ supporters but that evening all cheering for Celtic.

I was teaching Business English to a class of twenty attractive young ladies, heart-set on becoming secretaries (and wondering why their teacher was so obviously distracted). The classroom phone rang and the vice-principal told me: “I have a football score for you. Inter Milan one…” I hung up, thinking he had said, “Inter Milan won.” The phone rang again about thirty seconds later, and he said, “I hadn’t finished. And Celtic two.” He told me later he had phoned back quickly, in case I had jumped out of the third-storey window.

When Celtic won the League Championship by beating Rangers 4-2, although playing with only ten men for most of the second half, David was at home in Kirkcaldy baby-sitting. The game was not on TV or even radio, and he went through agonies until the BBC Nine O’Clock News and Angela Rippon announced the tidings. Within seconds his phone was ringing and his father in Forfar, as jubilant as he had been in 1957, shared the occasion. David could not sleep that night for sheer happiness, woke early, and waited outside the newsagents for them to open at 6 a.m.; an avid reader, he bought six different papers.

I was in Stratford, Ontario with a group of students from Ottawa and watching a Shakespearian play. I could lie to embellish things and say it was ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ but I know it wasn’t; after the performance, I phoned the Toronto Star to get the result. The man at the other end gave me the score, and added, “It says here that Celtic were short-handed.”

Punctuation indeed… and most of them exclamation marks.

Tom Campbell

Watch A Celtic State of Mind at the Stevie Chalmers Auction here:

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