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Books - Celtic Minded
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DetailsTitle: Celtic Minded: Essays on Celtic Football Culture and Identity
Author: Edited by Dr Joseph M Bradley
In this case, the editor's comments:
This book of essays assists in an understanding of Celtic Football Club and its historic community of supporters that in the main is constituted by the Irish diaspora in Scotland and elsewhere.
It reflects on the roots and nature of the Club as well as the culture and identities of its support. It considers both the club and its supporters in the context of Scottish society.
This book adds to current notions of modern Scotland and how it manages and reflects its multicultural society.
ReviewProbably one of the most controversial books about Celtic and Celtic supporters 'Celtic Minded' is essential reading for those of us who believe the Hoops are so much more than just a football team.
On another hand, it's quite a landmark in football writings. Academic yet accessible, it shifts away from the mundane simple middle of the road writings that fill up the shelves on football, and instead goes for a fresh cerebral approach.
With contributions from Dr Joseph M Bradley, composer James MacMillan, Lisbon Lion Tommy Gemmell and many others the book is essentially a collection of essays about what it means to be part of Celtic. Critics sniffed at the "overt Irishness" of the book and while its contents will not be everyone's cup of tea many of the points raised within its pages are valid.
At times it can be heavy going and some contributions are naturally superior to others. Its certainly not a book for those who don't like their football-related literature to stray too far from the pitch.
But for those with a keen interest in Celtic FC as a cultural institution this is at times a fascinating and thought provoking read and you can't help but wonder if the real reason many in the Scottish media criticised this work was because the truth can really hurt.
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Argyll Publishing (1 Jan 2004)
- Language English
- ISBN-10: 1902831691
- ISBN-13: 978-1902831695
- Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.4 x 2 cm
Other ReviewsJoe Bradley is Lecturer in Sports Studies at Stirling University, an academic and a keen Celtic follower, and he has produced this superb collection of essays from 'Celtic Minded' individuals which deals with the social and community experiences among the Irish diaspora in Scotland. One of the major themes of the work is the belief - firmly supported by anecdote and evidence - that a deliberate attempt has been made over the years to suppress 'the Irish fact' in Scotland, to misrepresent its contribution to Scottish life, to marginalize it almost to invisibility - a sobering reflection on the nature of a modern Scotland and its claims to be a multi-cultural society.
The book does much to counter this trend, but where does Celtic come into this? The work begins with a lengthy (about 67 pages) background unit on 'Celtic Football Club and the Irish in Scotland' by the editor himself. Bradley's prose style indicates that he is an academic but he intersperses his pages with frequent excerpts from sources more familiar to football followers such as from journalists and 'letters to the editor'. This is an excellent modus operandi as he is able to build up strong arguments, the more learned being complemented by the more familiar.
Bradley illustrates the uplifting effect the success of Celtic FC had on a community, persecuted and downtrodden - and the continuation of that association down the years, perhaps never more dramatically shown than at Seville in 2003.
Halfway through the introduction I began to be impressed with the appearance of the book: an excellent and tasteful cover with a Celtic collage, a clear and distinct font making for comfortable reading, wide margins complete with adequate footnotes, and an excellent variety of illustrations including two detailed reproductions of paintings of 'Irish famine ships'.
The essays come from various sources: historians, sociologists, novelists, Professors of English Literature, folk-singers, composers, journalists, expatriate Celtic supporters, and former players ... It is an impressive range of contributors, indicative of Celtic's universal appeal. At the end of the book a brief biographical note of all the contributors appears, including a mention of their first Celtic match attended - a homely touch for some august individuals.
I found it a fascinating mix; some were brilliantly written from the point of view of style and polish, but the two or three that fell below this rigorous academic standard made up for that by being sincere and from the heart - in fact, often incredibly moving.
I did make a tactical mistake in approaching this book, mainly because I was enjoying it so much. I read most of it at one sitting, and the variety of opinions, arguments, approaches, and styles made this a bit wearing. A few days later I picked it up again and this time read it more slowly in stages. 'Celtic Minded' is not a book to be devoured; it is to be savoured at leisure.
It is not a book for the bigots (of any persuasion); it comes across as an appeal for tolerance and understanding. Nor is it a book for readers of tabloids; it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Is it a book for football followers? Yes, if you are interested in football, Celtic and the nature of Scottish society. Most definitely, it is a welcome addition to the Celtic library.
However, a book review should concentrate on the book itself, and not the meandering opinions of the reviewer. Here are some excerpts, which give some idea of the breadth of content.
From 'The case for Brother Walfrid' in which Mark Burke suggests a statue of Brother Walfrid should be commissioned for the new Celtic Park: 'The gathering of the Celtic support today is an outpouring of pride and joy; a leitmotif of who we are and where we have come from; a tribute to the generations who came before us - and a tribute to the vision of the man who created Celtic';
From 'The Celtic Phenomenon' by Tom Grant [formerly a Celtic director]: 'When we opened the new Celtic Park, it was the sign that our Club was back, strong and proud once again. I could imagine the pride those first committee men and directors must have felt. All the fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, all the grannies and grandfathers that brought all of us to see 'the Celtic'';
From 'Across the Irish Sea' by Jim Greenan who travels to every Celtic home match: 'Celtic Park is a monument to our countrymen who made the journey we make with such regularity and that we now take for granted';
From 'Social consciousness, class and political identity' by Frank Devine: 'To this day the environs of Celtic Park on match day can be considered a no-go area for right-wing, racist, and fascist groups'; From 'Not a fan. I don't go. I don't like football. But...' by Des Dillon, prizewinning Scottish novelist, writing about growing up in Coatbridge: 'I felt alienated and incapable, and then read 'Juno and the Paycock' by Sean O'Casey. I had a literary awakening. There on the pages was the language we spoke in our Coatbridge living room. Words and phrases that tripped daily off our tongues had made it into the world of literature';
From 'The Scottish-born Irish and Celtic' by Joseph McAleer and Brendan Sweeney: 'Ironically, if Tony and John had travelled west instead of east [from Ireland] they would have become part of the massive Irish contingent in cities like New York and Boston. They would grow up to become proud Irish Americans and they would be able to celebrate their Irishness every year in the Saint Patrick's Day parades ... Few would dare to have a go at the Indian population in Glasgow for supporting their homeland's cricket team because that would be seen as racist';
From 'Living the dream' by Eddie Toner: '... the contrast in the reception we received when traveling abroad to that which greeted us in Scotland. In Europe our fans are universally well received, we mix well with the locals who in turn seem happy to party with us';
From 'Celtic and Catholicism' by Patrick Reilly, Professor of English Literature, noting the reaction of Kilmarnock supporters at Rugby Park at the end of last season: 'Were the home fans, as one might have expected, upset at the drubbing? Not a bit. Many were too busy deliriously cheering the news of every goal at Ibrox ... Never has a support been more ecstatic in humiliating defeat';
From 'See no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil' by Hugh MacDonald, a journalist, writing about other journalists who claim to support smaller clubs in Scotland: 'How could he retain his integrity [it was claimed] if he was revealed as a follower of either Rangers or Celtic? It was never asked how he could retain his integrity while indulging in the shameful and frankly embarrassing and dishonest pretence of supporting another team';
From 'An Identity worth having' by Aidan Donaldson, writing about newspaper coverage of religion in Scotland: 'One might expect that no reputable newspaper editor would send his cricket columnist to cover a flower show, nor would he ask an economist to write a report on a football game. Yet, when it comes to commentating on any issue concerning the Catholic Church, everyone - including those who have never entered a Chapel - is an expert and should not feel constrained by ignorance, lack of knowledge. or even humility';
From 'Shut Up' and 'Trouble': the nonsense over sectarianism' by Willy Maley, professor, and columnist for the Celtic View: 'Sectarianism might be no more than a flag of convenience for a form of discrimination so ingrained and institutionalised that it is easier not to address it, except in the hand-wringing manner of Uriah Heep or in the hand-washing manner of Pontius Pilate.'
From 'Celtic minded: a Protestant view' by Tommy Gemmell, brought up as a Motherwell supporter, but who scored for Celtic in two European Cup finals: 'It [Celtic's Catholic or Irish ambience] never made me feel excluded as it was part and parcel of that particular environment. I was living with difference for the first time in my life and I was learning from the experience';
From 'Playing for Celtic: family and community' by Andy Walker, ex Celt and now TV studio pundit: '... and will never forget the extra yard I could find when spurred on to greater achievements by the fans. They could literally lift you off your feet with their encouragement, and I'm convinced Celtic games have been won in dramatic fashion over the years because of the energy the fans can relay to the players'.
Not the View
The fact that football isn’t simply about kicking a ball is one major reason. Football in Scotland, as in many other countries, involves finance, politics, religion, community, humour, popular culture, identity, as well as kicking a ball from one end to the other. Every club has contributed to the meaningfulness of football in Scotland and each club also has its own uniqueness. Around each club revolves a story. This book tells one of them.
Football also reflects the issues, controversies, identities and experiences that help form the larger mosaic that makes up Scottish society. Scotland’s largest immigrant group is Irish Catholic in origin. Just over 100 years ago, from within this community emerged Celtic Football Club, one of the great success stories of Scottish football. A new book exploring the culture, identity and community that has traditionally formed the backbone of support for Celtic, has been written by an impressive list of contributors.
This attractive and illustrated book has come out of a series of wider ‘football and society studies’ by Dr Joseph Bradley, a lecturer in Sports Studies at the University of Stirling. Dr Bradley has also written an extensive thesis in the book while each of the twenty-two contributors provides an essay exploring aspects of the culture and identity that is Celtic fandom.
Following an appreciative forward by Professor of Scottish and Irish History at the University of Aberdeen, Tom Devine, Professor Patrick Reilly, Professor Willy Maley, Dr Aidan Donaldson, composer James MacMillan, singer and musician Patricia Ferns, novelist Des Dillon, Celtic supporters representatives Eddie Toner, Brendan Sweeney and Jim Greenan and ex-Celtic players Tommy Gemmell and Andy Walker, articulate a wonderful examination of what a football club can mean and represent to a community. Included also are contributions from Ireland, Canada as well as from Germany: from members of the worldwide Irish diaspora and from those attracted to the richness and meaningfulness of Celtic fan culture. In all, twenty-four contributors complemented with a series of outstanding photographs.
The context for the birth and growth of Celtic FC, the main founder of the club Brother Walfrid, Celtic’s charitable ethos, and the sense of community within the section of the Scottish population that derives from Ireland, social and cultural consciousness and religious identity in Scottish football are all absorbingly and spellbindingly reflected upon in an innovative and knowledgeable fashion. This is a first for Scottish football. It is a book that educates. It is a book that reflects upon the Irish and their descendants in Scotland who in turn contribute to Scotland being a multi-cultured society.
This book shows how football is embedded in people’s lives, how its symbolism can mean so much and how it can inform us about the place and significance of football in Scotland. This book is stimulating, thought provoking and a significant contribution towards Scotland holding up a mirror and understanding itself better. Keep the Faith
SECTARIANISM has been widely condemned as a cancer in Scottish society that has divided communities and cost lives for generations. The nation’s leading football clubs, Rangers and Celtic, often stand accused of being magnets for bigotry.
A new book written by leading Celtic supporters controversially hits back this week, claiming that sectarian tensions have been fuelled, rather than defused, by attempts to strip the club and its fans of their Irish roots. This series of hard-hitting essays argues that Celtic and its traditions, including flying the Irish tricolour at matches, are a legitimate focus for the large Irish immigrant community that settled in the Glasgow area in the 19th century.
A central theme of Celtic Minded is that attempts to crack down on the club’s alleged sectarian symbols have served only to polarise communities and stoke religiously motivated violence.
One of the contributors is Tommy Gemmell, a highly regarded former Celtic full-back who, despite his Protestant background, says the singing of traditional Irish songs by fans should be accepted as part of the club’s history.
Composer James MacMillan, who caused a storm five years ago when he claimed Scotland was rife with anti-Catholicism, now asks if there was a "sexual element" to the anti-Catholic bullying he endured during his 1960s childhood in the Ayrshire town of Cumnock.
"We were the ‘feminine’ and ‘weaker’ religion after all," MacMillan writes. "All that Virgin Mary worship and imagine allowing yourself to be belted by ‘Penguins’ (the Cumnock word for nuns). And we were the perennial losers from the Battle of the Boyne to the various battles of Ibrox (up to circa 1966)."
The prevailing mentality was that "these ‘rogerings’ were deserved, and the administration of them thoroughly deserved," MacMillan adds.
Celtic Minded has been compiled by Dr Joseph Bradley, a lecturer in sports studies at the University of Stirling and the author of several books on sport and religion in Scotland.
Bradley said what came across strongly was that anti-Irishness and a related anti-Catholicism, although declining, had been part of the Scottish scene for more than a century.
"There are people living in Scotland who consider their Irishness to be primary," he said. "They feel that their community has not been recognised and that is why Celtic has become so important.
"That community founded Celtic. They will always express themselves through that and will continue to do so. Celtic is an Irish club in Scotland but it and its fans have attracted a lot of opprobrium because of that."
The book charts the animosity towards the flying of the tricolour that persists to this day. In 1952, after spectator trouble involving Catholic and Rangers fans, the Scottish Football Association tried to ban flags that were construed to have nothing to do with Scotland.
But the SFA lacked the means to enforce its demand and the attempt petered out. The Irish flag remains flying at Celtic Park and among the club’s supporters, most prominently at last year’s UEFA cup final in Spain. Bradley believes trying to ban traditional symbols of Irishness only serves to fuel sectarian tensions.
"They see themselves as a community partly under siege and in continual conflict because of the dilution of their identity," he said. "The idea of trying to get these people to conform to a view of Scottishness that suits the majority is not the way forward. A degree of loyalty has to be given to the state that people live in but there are other cultural things that matter on a daily basis.
"You should be able to express your primary identity. When we see people flying the tricolour or the Union Jack we shouldn’t get it out of proportion. Rangers and its supporters also have every right to assert their British identity."
Bradley said he "loathed" sectarianism.
"This book is a statement against sectarianism and I hope it will make some headway against this phenomenon in Scotland."
Willy Maley, professor of English literature at Glasgow University and another contributor to the book agreed that past anti-Catholic and anti-Irish attitudes in Scotland had fuelled sectarianism.
"If you back people into a corner and take away their symbols of identity it polarises opinion and makes sectarian violence more probable," he said. "If you try to ban something then everyone wants it. It breeds monsters. Recognising those symbols as legitimate should reduce tensions."
One man who has been at the sharp end of the sectarian debate in Scotland is Donald Findlay, the Glasgow QC who stepped down as Rangers’ vice-chairman in 2000 after being caught on film singing ‘The Sash’, a song that commemorates a famous Protestant victory over Catholic forces in Ireland.
Findlay said in the past he had defended the right of Celtic fans to fly the tricolour as much as Rangers’ fans right to display the Union flag.
"If this book is advocating respect for everyone’s traditions then I would be in total agreement. There are both Catholic and Protestant songs that cause offence to the other side.
"So there is much to be said for saying to people have your traditions but update them and take out the most offensive aspects. The fact you stand up for something doesn’t mean you are hostile to another man’s traditions and viewpoint."
Stamping out sectarianism became a Scottish Executive goal after a series of murders and assaults involving Celtic and Rangers fans. Although the figures are disputed, one Glasgow University study recorded 11 deaths linked to sectarianism between 1984 and 2001.
Last year, a new law came into effect that for first time linked crimes with religious hatred. Between June and February this year, 260 people have been charged by police.
Scotland on Sunday – Jeremy Watson
Let’s start this off with something of a warning: this is not an easy book to read. Not because of the writing style or language adopted by the authors but rather because it tackles difficult subjects.
As the sub-title goes, Celtic Minded is a collection of “essays on religion, politics, society, identity … and football” which basically means that it is an examination of the Irish and Catholic roots of Celtic FC and how these are viewed in contemporary Scotland.
In order to achieve such an ambitious target, Joseph M. Bradley has turned to twenty contributors and asked them to put forward their opinions on various Celtic related topics.
It is a format that works well thanks to a varied choice of contributors from Heike Schlesselmann – a St. Pauli FC fan who talks of his fascination with Celtic - to Professor Patrick Reilly who tackles the issue of Celtic and Catholicism.
Particularly clever in the context of this book is the choice of Tommy Gemmell, the Edinburgh born former Celtic player who scored in their two European Cup finals. Gemmell might not be the greatest writer in this book but his experience as a Protestant within Celtic ranks makes for good reading.
Bradley’s own piece, which is also the first essay in the book, is also the longest and possibly the most difficult of all to digest. The academic nature with which he tackles the issue of lack of understanding of the strength of Irish feelings in Scotland is evidenced by the large number of footnotes that his piece contains.
True, he puts forward his arguments well but the feeling that it should have been kept under check increases the more you read. So to does the notion that it penalises the rest of the book in that one is less inclined to continue reading following such a heavy start.
Yet perhaps the biggest failing of the book isn’t in its writing that is often excellent (other than a couple of exceptions) but rather its target audience.
Sadly, it is difficult to envisage anyone other than Celtic fans reading this book meaning that Bradley and his fellow contributors are preaching to the converted when talking about antagonism towards Celtic fans and the exhibition of their Irish heritage.
Those who do read it will find an occasionally difficult but often enjoyable and enlightening read.
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