The Sound of Football: Celtic Football Club (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here


Nickname: The Bhoys

Ground: Celtic Park

Stadium Capacity: 60,355

Song: The Fields Of Athenry

In 2012 Celtic celebrated its 125th anniversary.  Yet the Celtic club badge has 1888 on it. So if you do the maths, that would make the 125th anniversary… 2013, So why celebrate in 2012?

The club’s founder, Brother Walfrid, formally constituted the club at a meeting in St. Mary’s church hall in East Rose Street (now Forbes Street), Calton, Glasgow, on 6 November 1887. However, Celtic played its first match in 1888: a 5 – 2 victory against Old Firm rivals Rangers, so the badge honours this date – and the club’s 125th anniversary is 2012 and not 2013.

Brother Walfrid aimed to tackle poverty in the east end of Glasgow by using the club to raise money for his charity, the Poor Children’s Dinner Table  At that time, Glasgow had a large Irish immigrant population, and the club and charity were set up to provide a focus for help.

Today, the club still has solid Irish links, and one of the fan’s most popular songs commemorates the Irish immigration experience.

‘The Fields Of Athenry’ was written by Irish singer-songwriter Pete St John in the early 1970s. Pete St John was Irish born but had lived abroad for many years, emigrating first to Canada before moving on to Alaska, Central America, and the West Indies, where he worked as a professional athlete, truck driver, logging camp labourer, PR/Sales Official, and finally electrical contracting executive in the U.S.A.

‘The Fields of Athenry’ is a song about a fictional character called Michael, from Athenry in County Galway, Ireland  Michael is convicted and sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay, Australia because he stole food to feed his starving family. The song is set between 1845 and 1850, during the Great Irish Famine.

The song is a love song and mourns the separation between Michael and his wife Mary back in Ireland.

The Fields of Athenry is now more than just a popular Irish song. After its adoption by sports fans, it’s become an unofficial anthem for Ireland, sung by fans at rugby and football matches for teams such as Connaught and Munster alongside Celtic.

The song’s association with Celtic is partly down to the sizeable Irish-Scottish community in Glasgow, many of whom are descended from the thousands of people who went to Scotland in the 1840s to escape the famine. Among them were 15,000 famine victims who were suffering from fever.

Today, the song is regularly heard at matches along with ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ Still, just as Celtic has adopted ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from Liverpool, Liverpool has also adopted ‘The Fields of Athenry.’ With many residents of Liverpool claiming Irish heritage, it is now one of Liverpool’s most famous songs, too. And it seems fitting that a song about immigration should find a home across the Irish Sea in both Glasgow and Liverpool.

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