Celtic and social justice

Tonight at Celtic Park, the Parkhead club will re-visit the original vision of the founder.

Brother Walfrid saw the core function of the Celtic Football and Athletic Club to be the alleviation of hunger.

He was born Andrew Kerins in Ballymore County Sligo in 1840 and today marks the centenary anniversary of the death in 1915.

To mark this occasion, there is a food bank collection at Celtic Park tonight.

I know that I can remember many things I experienced as a seven-year-old.

Subsequently it is difficult to imagine that, at the same age, Andrew Kerins would not have picked up the angst in his family and community as people realised that soon they would have precious little to eat.

I recall, as it were yesterday, dancing in front on a black and white television set in our front room in Baillieston as Stevie Chalmers slipped the ball past  Giuliano Sarti in Lisbon.

Although I was only nine years old, I still had a fair idea that Celtic winning the European Cup was a big deal.

When Andrews Kerins was the same age as I was in 1967, he had already lived through An Gorta Mór.

I had no idea what hungry meant as a child, and I still don’t.

His childhood and his life, was formed by the injustice of man-made starvation.

The club that now stands at the top of Scottish football was started as a hunger alleviation project in Victorian Glasgow.

I was reared by my maternal grandparents, and they had known the reality of the possibility of starvation at the door.

In an age when tyrannical mine owners could blacklist men from employment families would go hungry.

My maternal great grandfather was from County Carlow, and he was a union organiser in “the pits”.

The employers knew that hiring him was asking for trouble, so they didn’t.

Without the help of the local subterranean clans, his family would not have had a dinner to eat.

The bedrock of Celtic Football Club, from the earliest times, was the mining communities of Lanarkshire.

The women had created a sense of social solidarity with the same energy as their menfolk had hewn coal beneath the earth.

On the other side of the house my paternal grandmother had an uncle that she never knew; he died as a sickly poorly nourished child in West Mayo during those awful years that formed Brother Walfrid.

She only had an idea of him from what her father told her about his brother who died in the Famine years.

Brother Walfrid was determined that poor children in Glasgow would not experience what he had survived in Sligo.

It is a damning indictment of those in positions of authority today that poor families require such assistance in Scotland in 2015.

Many of those people now relying on food banks in the City of Glasgow are in work.

However,the modern equivalent of the Victorian mine owners have the game rigged to the extent that they can have them on zero hour malnourishment.

Perhaps if their employers paid the Living Wage, then that might help.

I’m sure Brother Walfrid would approve.

Do it Celtic!

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