CELTIC took their first steps onto the football pitch at their recently-completed ground for an intriguing fund-raising encounter on Monday, May 28 1888.

Neil McCallum scored the club’s first-ever goal after ten minutes in a 5-2 victory over Rangers. In a crowd of around 2,000 spectators, the males paid sixpence each to witness the spectacle. Women were allowed free admission.

On May 9 1893, Celtic collected their first championship, three years after the Scottish League had been founded. Celtic were late starters with Rangers coming to life 15 years ahead of them, Hibs were 13 years in advance and Queen’s Park, Scotland’s oldest club, had been playing since 1867.

But the team from the east end of Glasgow were destined to make up for lost time in their quest for silverware.

READ ALL ABOUT IT…Alex Gordon’s book ‘CELTIC: 50 Flags Plus One’, published by CQN.

The League was formed on April 30 1890 and Celtic were among the eleven founder members along with Abercorn, Cowlairs, Cambuslang, Dumbarton, Hearts, Rangers, St Mirren, Renton, Third Lanark and Vale of Leven.

It didn’t take long before they celebrated their first flag success when two goals from Jimmy Davidson and one from Johnny Madden overcame Leith Athletic 3-1 at Celtic Park. They were up and running in the title-collecting business.

Their 54th crown arrived on May 15 this year with a resounding 5-0 triumph over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

In Celtic’s landmark debut championship success, with ten teams competing in an 18-game league with two points for a win and one for a draw, they had been performing at the new Celtic Park, an arena that was the envy of many.

It was clear the players were comfortable at their spacious ground and the team reached the turn of the year without a defeat on home soil. The form had been consistently good and only a 3-1 reverse against Hearts in Edinburgh and a 2-2 draw against Rangers at Ibrox saw them stumble.

Image courtesy of ‘CELTIC: 50 Flags Plus One’, published by CQN in 2020.

They exacted revenge on the Tynecastle side when they walloped them 5-0 in Glasgow in front of a superb crowd of 10,000. Celtic were heading in the right direction on and off the field.

The team, as would become the traditions, was laced with characters. Dan Doyle was a free spirit at left-back and was Tommy Gemmell before Tommy Gemmell. The half-back line consisted of Willie Maley, James Kelly and Tom Dunbar and was the best in the division.

Sandy McMahon, known as ‘The Duke’, was a gifted goalscorer and a lover of literature when he took time off terrorising opposing goalkeepers and defenders.

On March 18, Celtic posted their intentions with a 5-1 win over Dumbarton at Parkhead and away victories followed over Renton and Third Lanark. McMahon was unstoppable at Cathkin Park and thumped in a hat-trick in a 6-0 success.

The title was now in focus and there was a decisive encounter with Rangers looming at home on April 29. Their Glasgow neighbours brought a huge following across the Clyde in a vociferous crowd of 14,000. Back then, the rivalry was confined to deeds on the football pitch.

Sectarianism had yet to raise its ugly head. In ancient times, the clubs were quite cordial and Celtic secretary John McLaughlin actually played piano with the Rangers Glee Club!

It was Celtic who were in fine tune, though, in the game as they raced to a two-goal half-time advantage with long-range efforts from James Kelly and Johnny Campbell eluding the Rangers keeper on a windy afternoon. The third goal came from the redoubtable McMahon.

CROWNING GLORIES…the stories behind Celtic’s first 51 untainted titles.

So, the first championship was on its way to its new home at Celtic Park. Interestingly, Celtic were actually trailing Rangers at the time with 25 points from 14 games, a point adrift of their Ibrox rivals.

However, their Glasgow neighbours had played three more games and, after their loss in the east end of the city, they were reported be “crestfallen”. They acknowledged the advantage had been passed to Celtic who had to play St Mirren, Leith Athletic and Third Lanark at their seemingly-impregnable fortress.

The other encounter was at Clyde. Only a monumental collapse would see Celtic failing to get their hands on the crown. Their grip tightened with a 4-1 victory over the Paisley Saints where McMahon and Campbell each grabbed a double.

Clyde scored first in the next match, but the prolific McMahon and newcomer James Blessington retaliated with strikes after the turnaround. The silverware was in sight.

On a wet Tuesday night on May 9, a double from Jimmy Davidson, playing against his old Leith Athletic team-mates, and another from Johnny Madden secured a 3-1 triumph and the crown by a solitary point.

One down. And counting.

Click Here for Comments >

About Author