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Celtic Park - From The Graveyard to Paradise (from Jungle Bhoys Fanzine (2010)
From the Graveyard to Paradise
When Brother Walfrid set sail the Celtic at the meeting in St Mary’s Hall on November 6th 1887 those present representing the Irish Catholic community in Glasgow’s East End knew that in starting an Irish club in the most hostile of places to raise funds to feed the needy they were certainly up for a challenge if nothing else.
And it was that comradeship, that sense of belonging and that pride in who and what you are, an all embracing culture and heritage that was the secret of our success from the very beginning. The earliest and most convincing example of this was the building of our first ground in less than six months before we had a team to take to the field or a ball had been kicked.
It was only a week after that inaugral meeting that we paid £50 to rent 6 acres of land yearly just 200 yards from the present ground to the north east where a pitch already stood and less than six months later after hundreds of Irish volunteers had given of their time to build the new ground that would be opened on 8th May 1888 with Cowlairs and Hibs invited to play the first match.
The new focus for the Irish and their beacon of light in a dark grey place still retains the same significance for many of us over 120 years later and in the next 3 issues of Welcome To Paradise fanzine we recount the story of Celtic Park and thank god for the resilience and the tenacity of the Irishmen who gave us a club to identify with, to become one with and to live our lives with that club always on our minds and in our hearts and they gave us a home to be proud of.
On the pitch our story is of bravery, skill, flair and always striving to be the best, not only winning but doing it a certain way, the Celtic way. From our humble beginnings we also learned as a club that we are the underdog and we have to be prepared to fight for everything we earn. Off the pitch incredibly it was these self same attributes that worked tirelessly day and night to establish the club. The first major achievement to have the first ground, facing north & south ready in such a short time and as good as what was already there was incredible.
An open air stand with a capacity of up to 1000 on what’s now the Springfield Rd side with changing rooms, baths, ref and trainer’s room was built with a terrace moulded from the earth around a narrow track which Maley compared to a garden path. The best view it was said was on top of the cemetery wall at the west side to watch the lush pitch which measured 110 yards by 66 yards. 9 admission gates stood on the east side.
And so the first match took place on Tuesday 8th May 1888 between Hibs and Cowlairs, two teams who had very good relations with the Celtic committee. A crowd of 5000 turned up which would have proved to Walfrid his vision was correct.
Three weeks later on the evening of Monday the 28th May 1888 Celtic Football & Athletic Club took to the field for the first ever time and beat Rangers 5-2 in a friendly in front of a crowd of 2000. The Celtic committee of the day were never slow to realise the profits that could be made from the very popular sports of cycling and athletics and from 1890 until 1930 the Celtic Sports took place every August.
Crowds of 6,000 were regularly turning up to watch the new Celtic team and with the landlord trying to take advantage of the popular use of his land by
trying to put the rent up by £50 to £450 per annum the club decided to move rather than give in. Different sites were considered including Possilpark and Cowlairs but the deision to move across to the other side of Janefield St in 1892 was certainly a brave one as the proximity within the same parish was seen as the only advantage. A disused brickyard with a 40ft quarry half filled by water was the daunting sight that faced the same Irish volunteers who had built the first ground just 4 years earlier.
Incredibly 100,000 cartloads of earth were used to fill the massive crater once the water had been drained out. Without today’s modern machinery one can only imagine the back breaking work involved. A 10 year lease was secured and once again the ground was built in jig time and Irish Patriot Michael Davitt laid the centre sod of turf from Donegal at an emotional ceremony on the 20th March 1892. The first match was played on 20th August 1892 with the Celts beating Renton 4-3. With a capacity of 50,000 a covered stand with terracing in front stood on the Janefield St side of the ground 320 feet long with 15 rows of seating at the back and a total capacity of 3500.
15 feet to the west of the covered stand stood a two tier pavillion which rose to 30 feet and contained the changing rooms, toilets, baths and offices. It also had a verandah where the game could be watched from. “It’s like moving from the graveyard to Paradise” remarked one wag and the phrase stuck with Celtic Park nicknamed Paradise still to this day. On the London Road side the ground would take some years to settle so there was no stand on this side until James Grant, in a private venture with the agreement of the Board, built the Grant Stand in 1898 which was ahead of its time. So ahead of its time was it that the unique glass frontage caused the windows to steam up which blocked the view and the steep steps which the patrons had to treck to get to the best seats in the house meant that it was not a success.
The new Celtic Park held 50,000 and as always the Celtic Committee had looked ahead and installed both a running track and a cyclying track which banked up 8ft at the corners. We even experimented with a form of floodlighting as early as 1893 on Christmas Day no less when 5000 turned up for a friendly v Clyde with an evening kick off and sixteen arc lights suspended from wires across the pitch. The down side was of course when the ball hit the wires and the idea never took off although it wasn’t the only match played at Celtic Park in these circumstances in the early 1890s.
Between 1894 and 1904 Celtic Park staged 5 internationals between Scotland & England including the 1900 Rosebery International when Celtic Park was all seated as the picture shows including temporary seating behind both goals! Again showing tremendous foresight in how we were viewed we were the first club to install a Press Box in 1894. We also held the World Cycling Championship in 1895 and 1897, the latter cost the club more in track improvements (£900) than we were guaranteed for the fee of £500 and led to the club becoming a limited company in 1897 to be able to withstand the deficit for the long term benefit.
Again showing an ability to make a profit new state of the art turnstyles were installed in 1895 costing £445 and with the crowds flocking to Celtic Park, not just for the Celtic matches but international football, cycling and athletics the turnstyles soon paid for themselves ten fold. Next issue we look at the next phase of ground development from the turn of the 20th century including the day the Jungle was born.
13th November 1887 leased 6 acres of ground bound by Janefield cemetery in the west & Springfield Rd in the east for first ground.
8th May 1888 first match played between Hibs and Cowlairs finishing 0-0 in front of 5,000 fans.
28th May 1888 first ever Celtic match v Rangers in a friendly winning 5-2 in front of 2000 fans.
1890 first Celtic Sports event.
1892 Celtic move to disused brickyard with a 40ft hole half filled with water to play our football after landlord increases the rent 9 fold.
20th March 1892 Michael Davitt lays the first sod of Donegal turf.
20th August 1892 First game played v Renton in a 4-3 win.
1892 Covered Stand built on Janefield St side with terracing in front. 2 tier Pavillion west of Stand built.
1894 to 1904 we staged 5 internationals between Scotland & England.
1893 experiment with floodlighting.
1894 first press box installed.
1895 new turnstyles installed costing £445.
1895 World Cycling Championship held.
1897 World Cycling Championship held.
1898 Two tier Grant Stand built on London Rd side.
1898 Spiked railings were installed around the running track at a cost of £250 paid for by the SFA as Celtic Park was awarded the Scotland - England match with a capacity of 60,000.
1900 Celtic Park is temporarily seated to host the "Roseberry" international between Scotland and England.
1904 Janefield St Stand burned down and Pavillion damaged.
1905 Stand replaced by covered terrace with two arches, one on either side of the halfway line, on the roof complete with flagpoles.
1913 Spiked railing taken down.
1929 Grant Stand demolished.
1929 New Main Stand built in its place with terracing in front.
1929 North enclosure opposite the stand is reroofed and nicknamed "The Hayshed".
1929 Pavillion burned down.
1957 Half roof installed over Celtic End.
1959 Floodlights installed v Wolves in 2-0 defeat.
1966 Jungle concrete steps installed and new roof.
1967 Roof goes up in Rangers End.
1971 Main Stand transformed with new roof and made all seated.
1985 Undersoil heating installed.
1986 New full roof finally goes up in Celtic End.
1988 New facade built to mark Centenary.
1991 New electronic scoreboards at either end.
1993 Jungle seated.
1995 New North Stand opened.
1995 Temporary Stand built at Celtic End.
1996 New Rangers End opened.
1998 New Celtic End opened.
Celtic Park in the 1890s was already way ahead of its time. Built in 1892 we were already holding International matches with crowds of 60,000 before the days when Hampden was opened in 1903 at the present site, we were holding the biggest Athletics/Cycling meetings in the world, we had experimented in floodlighting, had the first Press Box and in 1898 we opened the first two tier stand on the Main Stand side which was a private enterprise by Director James Grant and bought by the club in 1904.
This stand was to remain until 1929 when it was condemned by the Board of Works before it was to be replaced by the new Main Stand which was designed by Archiebald Leitch who also designed the Main Stand at Ibrox amongst many others down south. The Janefield St side of the ground however where the famous Jungle was to be situated and which was without a shadow of doubt the soul of the club which held the most vociferous if not the most hard core element of the support, was still at the turn of the century a relatively small covered stand with terracing in front which held 3500.
This changed in 1904 when a fire destroyed the wooden stand and also damaged the top tier of the Pavillion on the morning of the 9th of May. Although the Pavillion was repairable the Board decided to rebuild the Janefield St stand with a covered terrace instead of a seated enclosure. The same stand had already been reroofed after the storms of February 1894 so its 12 years were certainly eventful. The fire had been deemed suspicious but if that was indeed the case the arsonist would never live long enough to see how much of a difference it would make to the ambience of the Celtic Park experience as that end would go on to house the Jungle in full flow.
“The Hayshed” was the nickname given to the covered enclosure built in 1905 and there’s no prizes for guessing why as the picture below taken in 1935 illustrates.
One mystery however still remains despite considerable research on the subject.
Pictures from as early as 1912 show the roof of the stand with at least one arch and indeed video footage shows two arches, one on each side of the half way line with massive advertising for the Daily Record and Evening Times all the way along the roof of the enclosure in large white writing!
Check out the early video footage of Celtic Park from these links below ;
This is from a Scotland/Ireland shinty match and although the date is given as 1924 its thought this game took place in June 1913.
There is also footage of a Scotland/Ireland football match in 1924 and to see this you have to register at the movietone.com website. It only takes minutes and is well worth the effort. Once you’ve done this follow these simple instructions ;
Go to New Search, Main Subject = Celtic Park,
Check box "By Year Pre 1929"& Click on "Search".
This should bring up one clip - 1924 Silent Newsreel - No Sound"
1 minute and 48 seconds in and hey presto!
Check the fantastic footage of the Pavillion with CEAD MILE FAILTHE across it in large writing to welcome the Ireland team. Looking at the pic below the exact location of the Pavillion still remains recognisable to us as the flat uncovered terrace just outside the Jungle pre 94. The earliest known pictures of the two arches above the Hayshed enclosure are taken in 1912 from a friendly with Aston Villa so it can be assumed when the enclosure was built in 1905 the arches were part of the structure.
This begs the question why were the arches taken down and when? The earliest known pictures of the Hayshed enclosure without the arches are in 1929. Were they taken down after the fire which destroyed the nearby Pavillion that same year? This is not confirmed in any history books or even the Celtic handbooks from the time. We’d be delighted to hear from anyone who has any information that could help us. Thanks to Viewpark Tims who has been of fantastic assistance.
Again in 1929 on the 28th March, a fire changed the face of Celtic Park with the Pavillion destroyed with most of the early records, pictures and
memorabilia going with it. The club had to play our last 5 home games of the season away from home as the Grant Stand opposite was being demolished at the time. On the 10th August 1929 the new Main Stand, constructed by Duncan & Kerr was opened in its place as we beat Hearts 2-1 on the first day of the season.
The area in front of Celtic Park as far down as London Road was also bought in 1929 with the main entrance to the ground now at the London Road side rather than being at the Pavillion side. Interestingly the Board tried to pay for the above by selling Jimmy McGrory to Arsenal! The story goes that McGrory accompanied Willie Maley to Lourdes and unknown to McGrory a meeting had been set up in London with Arsenal Manager Herbert Chapman.
McGrory was not for moving and quoted a ridiculous signing on fee designed to scupper the deal. Chapman didn’t give up and again met the player as his train arrived at London on the return trip. McGrory is quoted as saying “McGrory of Arsenal just didn’t sound as good as McGrory of Celtic”.
The all covered stand cost £35,000 and seated 5,000 at the rear with terracing at the front and was to remain until 1971 when the current Main Stand replaced it.
In the next issue we look at the next stage of the reconstruction of the ground which took place almost 40 years later!
Anyone reading Part 2 of From the Graveyard To Paradise will be happy to hear we’ve finally put the final piece of the jigsaw together relating to the reroofing of the “Jungle” which did take place at the same time as the new Main Stand was unveiled at the start of the 29/30 season. The only Celtic history book we could track down which had any information on this subject was Gerry McNee’s History Of Celtic.
The reason why the roof with the two arches on it was replaced with the “Hayshed” roof as it became known is not explained but the most informed guess would point at fire damage to the old roof during the blaze that destroyed the Pavillion in 1929. Therefore in the relatively short space of 37 years from 1892 when the present Celtic Park was built to the start of the 1929/30 season we have looked at a pretty steady list of improvements to the ground.
Although both ends behind the goal remained large expanses of uncovered terracing we had seen the building of the original Pavillion in 1892 in the north west corner of the ground, the repair work to the upper tier after the fire in the North enclosure in 1904 and finally the Pavillion’s demolition after the fire which destroyed it in 1929. On the north side of the pitch we had the original north enclosure with terracing at the front and seating at the back built in 1892 and burned down in 1904, which was replaced the following year by the north enclosure which was a simple covered terracing with the roof complete with two arches, one either side of the halfway line. As confirmed in this issue this roof was replaced in 1929.
Opposite at the London Road side on the original ground no stand was built until 1898 to give the land time to settle. Then the Grant Stand was built, a two tier stand which was ahead of its time but was finally replaced in 1929 by the building of the new Main Stand which housed the dressing rooms for the first time.
If the first 38 years were busy the next 28 saw no major work at Celtic Park whatsoever.
In fact the next redevelopments did not take place until 1957 when, at a cost of £77,000, the poor denizens of the Celtic End were finally treated to a roof of sorts, albeit one that only covered the back of the terracing and right up until the 80s when a proper roof was installed which covered the whole end, it was common place to see the front of the Celtic End almost completely empty when it rained with everyone huddled together under the roof at the back! The excuse given was that because of old mine shafts under the Celtic End which would have to be filled in the cost for a full cover would be too dear.
Two years later in 1959 major improvements came at a cost of £40,000 with the installation of the four huge floodlights 208 feet tall which were the highest such pylons on the planet to change the whole ambience of Celtic Park. The floodlights were opened with a friendly between Celtic and Wolves on the 12th October 1959 with the visitors winning 2-0. The only other improvements done in the 50s were the 3 passageways constructed in the Rangers End for safety reasons. In 1964 Chairman Robert Kelly announced the start of the Celtic Pools which would help finance future redevelopments of the ground with the ground looking tired and in real need of improvement. It was not however until the arrival of Jock Stein and the ensuing success that the finance was found to go ahead with the next phase of improvements albeit piecemeal.
In 1966 the Jungle was finally given a modern roof and concrete steps. The name “The Jungle” was thought to have originated due to the poor state of disrepair of the wooden terracing and currugated iron roof which was riddled with holes and rust which would often fall onto the poor Jungle Jims below. Those returning from the 2nd World War in far off places like Burma were oft heard to compare the state of the facilities under said roof with that of the jungles of the far east.
Just a year later and work began on roofing the Rangers End and concreting the terracing after we returned from Lisbon with the big cup. In 1971 with the refurbishment of the Main Stand three sides of the whole ground had been modernised within 5 years, easily the busiest spell since the ground was first built in 1892. At first glance it appeared that the whole stand had been demolished and rebuilt but on closer examination it’s clear that the roof was replaced with a suspended press box and the terracing at the front was seated to give a total capacity of 8686 at a cost of £250,000. The way in which the roof was replaced was ahead of its time with a giant girder measuring 97.5 metres by 5.3 metres hoisted up on a goalpost like frame on which the roof was rested. The capacity of the ground at its height in the 30s was 80,000 but this was cut back to 60,000 after the Ibrox disaster in 1971.
Although our largest ever home attendance is given as 92,000 this is unofficial as the highest capacity was never higher than 80,000. With Ibrox, Pittodrie and even Clydebank all seated the Celtic Board not unusually were slow to react and Desmond White in fact is famously quoted in 1984 as saying that the Celtic support don’t want to sit down.
In 1985 due to the costs involved in rescheduling matches postponed due to the weather undersoil heating was installed and then in 1986 a wrong was righted with the half roof in the Celtic End finally replaced with a full roof that covered all below. Until then Celtic Park for almost 20 years had been the only club to provide better facilities for the travelling support behind the goal than it did for its own support behind the opposite goal.
In 1988 to celebrate our centenary the facade at the front of the Main Stand was updated from what remained of the original facade built in 1929.
Three years later in more piecemeal work large electronic scoreboards were hung from the roof behind both goals and then in 93 with the old Board clinging onto what remained of their reputation they seated the Jungle in a pathetic attempt to stem the tide that was the Taylor Report that gave them two more seasons to find the money to either totally rebuild Celtic Park, move to a new stadium or put down bucket seats on top of the terracing. Seating the Jungle was the first inclination of option one though in spectacular style the old Board managed to surprise even their biggest critics when they announced plans for a new stadium in Cambuslang on contaminated land!
You couldn’t make it up!
In the final part of our history of Celtic Park we’ll look at how Fergus McCann’s arrival saw the most spectacular rebuilding of Celtic Park imaginable, how it was done, where we are today and what does the future hold?
When Fergus McCann sat down in the big chair in the Celtic Boardroom on the 4th of March 1994 he wouldn’t have taken long to realise the battle to gain control of the club may have been over but the hard work had only just began.
There was no time for a honeymoon period with a new ground to build and the severity of the Taylor Report's all seater stadium deadline only months away.
Fortunately McCann had already done his homework and the plans for an all seater 60,000 capacity stadium were in place. All he needed now was the funding to pay for it with the most successful share issue ever at any football ground as the Celtic fans rallied to the cause queuing up along London Road where they had only moths earlier demonstated and chanted against the Old Board. Now we were queuing up to become shareholders.
Not surprisingly the share issue was oversubscribed and the plans for a home to give us back our pride could start to take shape. If the first Celtic Park in 1888 and the second one in 1892 were built by the labour of the Irish volunteers so over a century later it was the Celtic support who dug deep to provide the finance.
Obviously we had to find a temporary home for a season and Hampden was the only real alternative to enable us to build almost from scratch. Jim Farry was never a friend of Celtic and he certainly wasn’t to be befriended by McCann who found himself with no choice but to pay a king’s ransom to play at the National Stadium for season 94/95 whilst the North Stand was built, a stand that would become at the time the biggest in Britain holding 27,000.
If some thought a 60,000 capacity was more than enough given average attendances of little more than a third of that McCann had the vision to build big and they will come. The “missing 10,000” turned into the missing 30,000 and more, as every part was built so it sold out culminating in the fantastic 60,000 seater that was to be completed in 1998, complete with 53,000 season ticket holders that once again were to provide the financial and moral backing to the club in the next stage of our rebuilding.
Typical of McCann, the stadium was built on schedule and within budget.
The playing field may now be 10 yards longer and the touchlines may have moved 2 metres closer to the Main Stand during the building of the North Stand but this is the same hallowed earth that the second Celtic Park was built on in 1892.
To complete the story of this 4 part History of Celtic Park the final piece in the jigsaw was complete when a piece of Donegal turf was laid in the centre circle before our first home game complete with shamrocks growing amongst the grass just like in 1892 when Irish patriot Michael Davitt laid the centre piece to begin a story that Brother Walfrid could only dream about.
The North Enclosure 1892 to 1904 with the Pavillion 1892 to 1929
Replaced by the North Enclosure 1905 to 1929
Replaced by the Hayshed 1929 to 1966
Replaced by the Jungle 1966 to 1994
The Grant Stand 1898 to 1929
Replaced by the Main Stand 1929 to 1971
Replaced by the Main Stand 1971 to present day (modified).
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