“Whither is fled the visionary gleam?Where is it now, the glory and the dream?”
Decorated Celtic author and historian, Tom Campbell, turned 83 today. Govan-born and raised, his accent subtly discloses that he has spent most of his life in Canada, where he taught English to such protégés as Alanis Morissette.
He has since been reliably informed that a few lyrics from Alanis’ 30-odd million-selling breakthrough LP were written in homage to her former Scottish mentor.
“I haven’t heard her albums,” Tom confessed. “But I did allow her to leave school early to play some of her first gigs.”
The album in question – Jagged Little Pill – became a worldwide sensation in the 1990s, and it was during Tom’s own schooldays back in war-time Scotland, that he got an early indication that following Celtic could also be a bitter pill to swallow…
“My first match was on New Year’s Day in 1943,” recalled Tom. “And it resulted in an 8-1 defeat to Rangers!”
Despite this disastrous introduction, Tom’s passion for the club didn’t waver, and it was to grow even stronger some years later, after he moved to the other side of the world to embark on a teaching career.
Back in the 1950s, it could be difficult to keep up with goings-on at his beloved club all the way from Canada. He was once forced to make a frantic long-distance phone call to a Scottish sports desk after finding what he thought was a misprint in his local newspaper.
“No, it isn’t a mistake,” explained the weary Glaswegian journalist who finally picked up the receiver at the other end. “The score was Celtic 7 Rangers 1.”
Having then missed the European Cup final due to work commitments ten years later, Tom began working on one of the earliest Celtic history books ever written – Glasgow Celtic (1945-1970).
It was through the release of this book that he met a fellow Celtic scholar, who has remained a close friend and writing ally ever since.
“Pat Woods is like Sherlock Holmes when it comes to research,” enthused Tom. “He leaves no stone unturned. We became close friends after he read and enjoyed my first book, and we went on to enjoy a fruitful working relationship too.”
Pat began to send Celtic highlights over to Canada on Beetamax tapes, and Tom would meet a group of friends once-a-week in his cellar to catch up with the action over a few beers. It was from those early film schools that the Ottawa Celtic Supporters’ Club was born.
Pat later encouraged Tom to write a comprehensive history of Celtic to celebrate the club’s centenary year. The old board knocked the manuscript back, but The Glory & the Dream went on to become the best-selling Celtic book of all time.
Tom and Pat co-wrote the 1986 tome, and they have since released several best-sellers on the back of it. Tom’s list of collaborators reads like a who’s who of Celtic aficionados. As well as Pat Woods, he has also teamed up with such luminaries as David Potter and George Sheridan.
He draws his literary influences from Wordsworth, Kerouac, Wilde, Hemingway and the like; commissions original artwork from Cuba; and once took a sabbatical to Buenos Aires to write the criminally under-read Tears in Argentina. It’s safe to say that Tom Campbell is far from the stereotypical Scottish football fan.
But the legacy he has created in the Celtic canon of literature is unsurpassed.
There is no doubt that every modern-day Celtic writer owes Tom Campbell a huge debt of gratitude. I am no exception; The Glory & the Dream was the first book on the club that I ever read. It’s still the finest by some distance.
His 13th and latest offering, the excellent Bobby Evans – Celtic’s Forgotten Hero, is the biography of one of Tom’s own icons of the 1950s.
Join us at The Admiral Bar on Waterloo Street in Glasgow, where Tom is appearing for one night only on Thursday 6th April 2017 to celebrate his story of an unsung Celtic hero.
Tickets for this event are FREE but are in limited supply. To avoid disappointment, guarantee yours now at the following link: