In years gone by ships would sail the world transporting both cargo and passengers to destinations near and far, the members of the ships crews would go months without seeing or hearing from loved ones. They would enter a port and look for the seamens mission a place that offered shelter, friendship and news and papers from home. Sometimes just a meal and a catch up with a fellow seaman or some help if in trouble but there was always a happy face and a bit of craic to help with. Where is this going I hear you ask, another Uncle Albertism coming up? Well not really, if you take the nautical theme out of the above lines and put it in a Celtic perspective you will find you have what our Celtic supporters clubs are all about.
Now as I say every week you’re all better Celtic fans than me. I have never been to a CSC supporters dance or function the closest I get is while walking home, watching the big coaches drive down the roads from Celtic Park with their club badges proudly pressed against the windows of the bus and a few tipsy folk slouched up against them. I have also been in a few clubs down in England which are well run and provide fans with the chance of cheap, safe and regular jaunts to our beloved stadia. What of the overseas ones? Well I’ve been very lucky to have been in a few clubs around this big planet of ours. Colleagues of mine were always baffled how a team from a league like ours could and does maintain such a good fanbase which borders on fanatical at times. One of my proudest moments was taking a few Liverpool fans into the Fergus McCann CSC in Rio de Janeiro for a beer and a bit of banter with the Bhoys down there. Unlike the guys in these isles, the Bhoys who do it overseas and primarily the North American continent maintain a vital lifeline for older people who dont have new generation technology and think tablet is something Glasgow grannies make and not a device to watch Celtic over your wifi…
I once worked with a Celtic fan who asked me about various Celtic bars round the world I had visited and I told him of a few favourites. He later bumped into me and told me a tale of how he and his partner were in NYC to celebrate their engagement. Alas as we never mean to plan his trip fell on the weekend of a Glasgow Derby and he remembered I had told him about the Parlour Bar. His GF was told they were heading to the pub on an early Sunday morning to catch the game, she was a fan of the now EPL champions and scoffed at the idea that a team from a pub league as she called it would have any fans let alone a supporters club in New York. As we all have in the past, the Bhoy got the doubts as he got out the cab, would he enter a bar to find 2 men and a dug? well we all know the outcome, the place was bouncing Celtic won and the wee man had a great time. The girl ate humble pie and my wee man enjoyed a magical day in the big city (they aren’t together anymore by the way).
The men/ladies who run these clubs do it for no more than the love of our club and much in the same way a christian minister will be at a seamans mission, a CSC chairman will ensure the game is streamed, the coffee is on and when the team make it over once in a green moon organise the pilgrimage to keep the fires burning with their love. I probably bore people with my drive for support for the overseas clubs, over the years I have seen the seamens missions fizzle out, unlike days of old seamen now go ashore with laptops sit in a coffee bar and use wifi to get communications with home. The friendship is gone now much like the old living up a close in Glasgow in the 20th century where the 8 families living up the building had a bond and friendship. Celtic fans can now worldwide just flick on a laptop wherever they are and watch the games, the only time the North American ones will get flustered is when the convention is on, an Irish band is visiting, or the Bhoys themselves are in town and tickets must be organised. The rest of the year the chairperson of the club is left plugging away in how to both maintain, enhance their respective clubs profile in their area.
Just to put it into perspective here is a wee tale of what happened to me when I went on vacation to the city with the Golden Gate Bridge and how the world isn’t a big place after all. My partner was turning 30, she had a dream she always wanted to go to San Francisco, so I booked it up as a surprise. We flew out just after Valentines Day and arrived into the old west coast mid morning. On entering passport control the huge guard asked us if we were on honeymoon? I said no the guard replied “Maam if he won’t marry you I will!” I kinda guessed then it was gonna be one of those holidays. We stayed in the Raddison in Japan Town, now being an old sea dog I hit the ground running and found the good cheap local places to eat and drink and emersed myself into the city itself. As all fans do I checked the fixtures and realised I was missing Celtic away at Partick Thistle. I had already checked on celticbars.com where the supporters club was and promised myself a quiet recce before the game to make sure I knew where everything was. San Fran was a good city to get about nice and chilled and I was enjoying the sights food and beers as you would. We decided to take a walk on the Saturday evening to the CSC the Abbey Tavern on Geary, as most Europeans do I totally got the scale of distance out of hand and it was more of a walk than I thought.
I’m always a bit of an oddball in a Celtic bar/club enviroment to my eternal shame I’m usually taken for being a fan of our recently deceased neighbours in Govan, or a cop when down the Gallowgate, both not very good for your health.
On having a wee walk round the area we discovered another Irish bar Named Irelands 32. We decided to pop in for a refreshment the first thing that greeted us was the pics of 2 famous Irish polticians who used to have their voice dubbed over on the BBC. They were appearing live in the pub later in the month! I kinda guessed it was gonna be one of those kinda boozers everyone looking at you and checking you out as you stood at the bar. The barman was Irish but that was it the rest of the punters where local Amercian folk. I was proved right with my cash and carry Spiderman senses we finished a quick pint of the black stuff and then proceeded to enter the Abbey Tavern.
We entered the bar and right away I heard a few West Coast of Scotland accents that put me at ease, we had a few beers got talking to a few guys at the bar and made some general chit chat. On the time of the bar being opened for the match the next day, after a few chilled pints we departed and grabbed a bit of Thai food in a local cafe and headed back to our hotel ready for a few hours kip before the game. The morning of the game was also my partners 30th birthday!!! Me getting up at Pearl Harbour o’clock wasn’t gonna go down well. I decided to sneak out and get back with flowers and stuff as the game was over which I reckoned to be about 9.30ish. Alas I awoke at 5.00am sneaked into the big shower and spent ten minutes planning my escape, as in all the greatest plans it fell on its arse. The GF with one eye opened enquired where I was planning on going, I said going to watch the game. I got stared at for 5 minutes then told, I’m coming with you. so 20 minutes later we are in the lift heading down to reception and I’m planning on trying to grab a cab at daft o’clock in the morning to the bar. The gods shone on me that morning as the Hotel Limo!!! driver asked me where I was going? I told him Geary he said jump in, so we were both sitting in a nice big white limo heading to watch the game. I of course said it was part of the birthday day!! Ahem. We arrived at the bar to find folk already in, a pot of coffee on the go and the game begun, I paid the fees to watch the game, the club secretary informed us our money helped pay for the tv feed. Also the fact any pensioners got in for free to enjoy the game.
It was at this stage I turned to see a wee old guy sitting at the bar with a wee Fergus Mcann bunnet on, as I stood slurping a coffee, he was sitting with a cold beer he heard my accent and asked where I was from? We got chatting he left Glasgow in the 1960s to come and work in the aero engineering industry in San Fran. He had been a few years then his Ma took no well, he flew home looked after her after an illness she passed away. He stayed in Glasgow for a while and realised that he was missing the flower power period!! He moved back to the states and that was him since. He still had a good strong accent and was a lovely guy, he lived in a wee set of apartments with 7 widows and had his dinner made for him each night, and had a wee bottle of wine with one every night. We talked about home and he told me how important the CSC was to him, it enabled him to watch Celtic and also to interact with fellow ex=pats from Scotland who he wouldn’t know otherwise. Celtic ran out 4-1 winners that day I stood talking to the wee man for a good half hour after the game. Other members of the club came from different backgrounds and career paths, but the one thing that gelled them all into their little community was Celtic, parties BBQ it kept their culture and beliefs alive in strange shores. They even were in contact with the local Oldco supporters club and if someone had a video of a derby game they missed copies where passed around. After a bit of banter and chat I finished my coffee and bought a few tshirts and departed the Abbey Tavern.
We headed off to Stephens Cafe for a superb breakfast and I enjoyed the rest of my time in San Fran, there is no madcaps or anything in this blog just the following advice I watched over a period of 20 years the Seamans missions become near as extinct due to them being taken for granted. So if you live overseas and have a local club make that effort to get down to the game and keep things going. If your a holiday maker make sure you get in and take a few Celtic Views over with you, you have no idea what a few gestures mean to the guys and girls over there, in a market where very little of our merchandise makes it over.
I never said who the wee man was. He was to appear 3 weeks after I got home in the Celtic View fans section. Now on the odd occasion I buy the view I always enjoy seeing where and who the people are from, it is usually young kids or pets done up in Celtic gear which always makes me smile. Mr Eddie Monaghan of San Fran appeared at the Abbey Tavern pub in the Celtic View, Eddie was originally from Castlemilk and grew up right across from my high school. It was one of the highlights of my holiday to meet such a lovely old man, and it was the best few dollars I spent to watch the team I loved, knowing that a wee old Glasgow man, sitting with a beer could enjoy watching the team we all love. He could sit amongst his own kind thousands of miles from home, as seamen used to do in the Missions. I know this is a bit serious for me, but as a traveler for years, you dont know how heart warming it is when you’ve been away from home for months, enter a CSC overseas and someone says have you seen the teams big man? You’re not a Celtic Park but you’re with your own and ready to experience another 90 minutes of twists and turns as only our club can. On a light note to finish, I spent my last night on the west coast slurping a coffee, being forced to watch the last ever episode of Sex in the City as it beamed out live in the states.
Hail Hail The Parrot (twitter @machrie72)
Dedicated to Wee Eddie Monaghan ( the west coast Scamp.)