A family gathering.

I have detected a certain sneer among people who should know better when the term “Celtic family” is used.

This morning a last minute decision saw me head back to the town of Coatbridge where I spend a lot of my teenage years.

The road was closed off so the taxi driver claimed defeat and I walked the last mile or so to the Old Monklands cemetery.

I have a few of my mother’s side at rest in the same graveyard.

The gathering  today was more about pride and commemoration than grief. The man whose grave we gathered round had been at his rest eternal for many years.

Michael Dolan of Coatbridge was the first name ever on a Celtic team sheet.

The goalkeeper is always a special guy in any club.

They are a different breed.

Camus was a goalie.

I rest my case.

Michael Dolan was born to Irish parents, famine refugees.

He was down a coalmine aged 11.

This was the man we had come to honour.

As I type these words the Celtic fans to my right broke into applause for Fraser Forster as he bounded out to start his warm up before the league cup final.

In Michael Dolan’s day the “calf strain” had not been invented.

As we gathered at the entrance to the cemetery I was spotted by another goalie, this time from my hooped up childhood.

John Fallon greeted me with a big embrace and “nailed” me about coming to speak to his CSC.

As we dandered down to Michael’s newly discovered resting pace we joked about my grannie’s cousin “the Grib” and how he was part of the club like no other.

I was born and grew up around from Jimmy Gribben’s house and I was never out of it as a wee fella.

Then it was another Fallon, Sean.

The Sligo man and I swapped some craic about Connacht football-that is the Gaelic variety.

On the way to Hampden Frank Hannaway of the CGS and I were swapping Uddingston stories when it became  apparent that his ancestor, a bare knuckled fighter called Murphy might be same man that is my great grandfather.

We didn’t have much   time for more amateur genealogy as he had to get dropped off for his supporters’ bus a few yards from the Jimmy Johnstone statue.

I would be delighted if we were related.

At the graveside Jim Craig, the Celtic Grave Society’s patron, referred to Dolan as “a very brave man” as keepers had to be in those days.

I thought of the inner strength of the community that Michael came from.

On this fine morning in Coatbridge after St Patrick’s Day I thought how despite everything the Irish community of Coatbridge had survived.

The formal part of the honouring of Michael’s grave came with a flamboyant oration from Glen Daly’s son Terry Dick.

The CGS main man with the camera drove me to the national stadium.

We are a family, collected around a unique football club, but much much more than that.

I am looking out on 21st century Celtic stars going through their pre-cup final warm up.

However I am thinking of that first goalie and how his heroism was of a different order.

14 thoughts on “A family gathering.

  1. John

    Was at a friends funeral in Bothwell Park today so I took the opportunity to have word with Jinky. Alls sorted for Sunday Bhoys!!

    HaiL HaiL


    Hi Phil great wee story – didn’t know you were familiar with Coatbridge folk,A few years ago Jimmy Gribben’s son Sam was over from America and I took hin into Parkhead where he was warmly greeted and given the tour.
    I’m not far away from Old Monkland and regret not attending now when I read your tale.

  3. Shug Kelly

    Nice to read this today Phil I also have grandparents and family in old monkland cemetery and also happen to be married to one of the gribbs grand daughters in baillieston. Its nice to be married into one of the great Celtic families. Hail Hail

  4. Jim Mc

    Great story Phil, nice to hear of Terry Dick again, I grew up in the Oatlands on the south side of Glasgow and me and my pals walked to Parkhead, or got a hudgie on a lorry to the game. Terry’s family lived up the same close as mine. Remember he played in goal and left for the Priesthood, good to see our old school Holyrood on telly. Keep up the good work Phil.

  5. Dan Tinney

    Well done to Loughguile Shamrocks winners of the All Ireland Hurling FInal on Paddy’s Day.
    Only Ulster CLub to win the AI twice.Up THe SHamrocks! For Sinead!

  6. GreenStrawMan

    Excellent Phil. I remember going to Johnny Madden’s grave in Prague when we palyed therea number of years ago, John was also part of the first Celtic team sheet. He still is widely regarded in those parts as the father of Czech football.

  7. Andybhoy

    You should have Given Me a phone phil,I would have drove you were you needed to go,,the mother-in law was over for the day.

  8. m

    phil ive followed your blog for several years now,im an uddingston bhoy who has laughed,loved and drank with the wee man and his family,hail hail froom the jinky connely johnstone supporters bus from the windmill tavern,the door will always be open to you jcge

  9. peter john edwards

    Phil ,today you have made me feel ashamed as I did not travel to my mothers grave in Kilwinning , insted I journeyed the few miles through the city to Hampden ,got my just deserts, and it hurts ,

  10. Jackie Tochel

    What a lovely story Phil Old Monkland Cemetry is where ma grandparents are also buried. Also the place where you dropped Frank off is my home town. Keep up the good work Hail Hail

  11. jim craig

    I remember Terry Dick, he taught me English as St Gregory’s in Cranhill. Fine teacher, and not too heavy handed with the belt when it was needed, which it often was at that time… All round good guy.

  12. macaroni

    Phil , sometimes your writing could bring a tear to a mans eye. You have an uncanny knack of putting into words exactly what every Celtic supporter should feel inside. P.S Up Gaillimh for the Connacht championship.


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