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The History of the Tricolour at Celtic Park
From the early days of the club’s formation, a traditional Irish flag was flown over Celtic’s ground.

From the early days of the club’s formation, a traditional Irish flag was flown over Celtic’s ground. The earliest incarnation was the green harp flag which used as the unofficial flag of Ireland for much of the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1922 during the Irish Civil War, the Free State government presented Celtic with the newly adopted tricolour flag. The same tricolour would come to fly over Celtic Park for the next thirty years.

In 1952 the tricolour presented by the Free State government had been reduced to tatters. Unable to find another Irish flag in Scotland, Manager Jimmy McGrory wrote to Taoiseach Eamon De Valera requesting a replacement. The Irish government in turn sent a new flag across to Glasgow.

The Irish Flag Controversy

On New Year’s Day 1952, fan disorder between Celtic and Rangers led to renewed attention on football violence. A plea was issued from Glasgow magistrates to the SFA to ban any flags which could be seen as provocative to supporters of other teams. SFA official George Graham led the charge that Celtic should take down the tricolour or face suspension. In spite of protests by Celtic Chairman Bob Kelly, and more surprisingly Rangers Chairman John F. Wilson, the SFA council voted 26-7 that the flag must be taken down.

Much of the hysteria whipped up in the SFA stemmed from bigotry against the minority Irish-Catholic population. However, outside of the SFA there was little appetite from Scottish teams to see Celtic suspended. Many clubs had become accustomed to the revenue from ticket sales from visiting Celtic fans.

Legal advice gathered by Kelly suggested that the SFA had no legal right to interfere in the matter. Kelly maintained his position that the tricolour would remain, and by the start of the next season the ‘right to fly’ was established.

Years later, Bob Kelly would commission James Handley to write a history of Celtic, in the book Handley wrote of the flag controversy that

It might have been the flag of Siam for all the attention that any spectator, supporting home or visiting team, gave to it, and if it had been the flag of Siam the SFA would have paid no attention to it, either. What ruffled the feelings of that body was the fact that it was the flag of Ireland. It would seem that an official of long-standing in the SFA was the prime agitator for its removal”

Controversy Rises Again

In 1972 the flying of the Irish flag at Celtic Park would once again come within the crosshairs of Glasgow magistrates. This came amidst a backdrop of increased football hooliganism on and off the terraces. Magistrates issued a ‘7 Point Plan’ aimed at curbing sectarianism and hooliganism at football matches, including the removal of the tricolour from the stadium.

Celtic Chairman Desmond White issued a harsh rebuke to the magistrates stating that “it is indeed a sad commentary on the bigotry which still appears to exist in the West of Scotland that this should be looked upon by some as an act of provocation”. The flag remained, as it does to this day.

The history of the Tricolour at Celtic Park is lionised by Derek Warfield in “The flag that flies on high”,

Posted by voc1967 on Friday 01 February 2019 - 08:35:49 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
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