Melbourne No1 Celtic Supporters Club
The Melbourne No1 Celtic supporters club has a proud history and legacy operating successfully for over 35 years. The Club was was formed in 1982 by Pat McElhinney. Pat now lives down in the Melbourne Peninsula but is still active in the Celtic community and is a life member of the club. Since our conception we have had many homes and meeting places, including The Bentleigh Club, The Blarney Stone; and The Middle Park Hotel, before finally settling for many years in the Celtic Club at Queen St in the City until its closure 2 years ago. We have now found our new with Chaz and Alex in the Turf Bar also in Queens St Melbourne. We will return to this subject later in the article.
Australia in those earlier days was very different from the Australia of today, no more so than in communication with family and friends in the Old Country. Phone calls back home cost a pretty penny, so you mostly relied on pen and paper for family news and the Monday newspaper for the Celtic result. In those early days, up until 5 or 6 years ago, the club met every second Wednesday. It was also the advent of the video player, so with someone in charge of trying to ensure regular delivery of Celtic highlights, the members would turn up every meeting hoping to get a glimpse of the bhoys in action. Pat tells the great story of when one night the telly the members were watching went on the bunk. Not to be beaten, Pat quickly drove home. He marched into the living room and unplugged the telly while his missus was watching Neighbours; Said telly was put in the back of the car and driven back to the meeting where the bhoys and ghirls could watch the end of Sportscene.
Through the 1990s the club continued to thrive. At that time Celtic were not travelling the best but our club was still travelling strongly, and who will forget that season when we stopped the Ten. Unknown to us the Bank of Scotland had been bankrolling the huns success for which the public purse had to repay. But that’s another story.
Over the years the club has hosted many great functions. St Patrick dances in the Celtic Club were always a great success and as people’s social life changed, we also changed to having Christmas lunches which were also very successful. And not to forget our weekend trips to Sydney every June catching up with our fellow CSC Supporters enjoying few ales and songs! These trips were subsidised by the club if you turned up at most meetings and had your name marked off in the wee Jotter. These weekends away culminated in our trip to Vegas for the North American CSCs convention. We were the first club from down under to be represented at the top table on the Gala Supper night. Twenty of us made that unforgettable Trip. You can throw in several golf days as well. During all this time friendships have grown between the members and the bhoys and ghirls we have all met and this stands out above everything.
Times move on and inevitably brings change, none more so than in Technology and Communication. This has had a great effect on all Ex Pats ability to watch live games and read the latest Hoops news as it happens. We used to be able to get together if Celtic were in the cup final and it was being shown on TV live in Australia. Now it is like Glasgow. Most of us have Celtic TV and every Sevco and away game is live on BEIN sports. Admittedly at some very awkward times. This has been terrific but unfortunately has had an adverse effect on attendance at our club meetings. The days of craving news or a video recording of the Hoops had long gone, for most of us it was all there at the tip of your finger and in the comfort of your home.
During the massive change that Pay TV and the internet has made, there has been one constant. That has been the gathering of fans old and new to watch any games against The Forces of Darkness. Stuff the comforts of home. These games must be watched with fellow Tims, the more the merrier. I can think of nothing more enjoyable than a few beers, followed by gubbing Sevco, then another few beers and a sing song. Since O’Neill, Strachan, Lenny, Ronnie, Brendan and Lenny again, we have had some fantastic nights with massive crowds celebrating some memorable victories. Speaking of great crowds brings me to the game in Seville. At that time the club had to plead with the Celtic Club through our then President (Mick Costello) to get an early licence and open at 4AM and maybe supply some snacks. They eventually agreed. On the morning of the game when we duly arrived at 3-30AM apprehensive on whether we would get a decent turnout due to the early time there were hundreds waiting outside for the club to open. They were forced to open down stairs as well as upstairs as more than 400 bhoys and ghirls turned up. History will show we didn’t get the result we were praying for, but it was none the less a magnificent day!
Over the years we have been visited by a few famous faces, none more so than 2010, we had met as usual for a curry before a huns game. While curry munching Hughie, Donnelly received a phone call from someone introducing himself as Rod Stewarts Manager. After a bit of time and some doubts we took him as being genuine. Sure enough 10 minutes before kick off in strolls Rod the Mod. He could not have been more accommodating regards photos and autographs and was the guy you would imagine him to be. BTW he drinks Bacardi and Coke. Believe it or not the huns beat us that night. We told Rod to Fck off as he was a jinx. Only joking, he left proudly wearing one of our polo shirts and admiring our terrific logo.
Another honorable mention must be our club’s involvement in Celtics down under tour in 2011. We were heavily involved in the events organised in Melbourne. None of them would have been possible without the huge efforts of our current President (Jamie Hanlan). Apart from a magnificent night at the club’s official dinner, hosted by none other than Eddie McGuire, he also organised a massively successful pre game function at the Collingwood club near the ground and a fantastic Q and A with Neil Lennon at the Celtic club. We as a club presented Neil with a vintage bottle of red wine. Along with travelling up to Sydney to watch the Bhoys, it was a marvelous week to be a Celtic Supporter in Melbourne.
I could go on and on about our history and past successes, donations to great Celtic causes, charity functions and participation with other clubs across Australia, but now it is time to talk of the present. With the closing of the Celtic club we were understandably concerned in finding a suitable central venue to watch games etc. They say behind every cloud there is a silver lining, ours came in the shape of Chaz Doris. Chaz is originally from Cambuslang and runs the Turf Club in Queen street Melbourne ably assisted by Alex Smith from West Meath. And as we found out when we approach the Turf Bar he is also Celtic daft and a gentleman into the bargain. Chaz made the Turf Club available to us for live games, mostly against Sevco. A great, great venue to watch football. He has the music blaring before the game and on big nights, even live music. Unbeatable venue and hopefully it can be our home for many years to come. Sometimes on a Sunday night with a late kick off the Turf Club does not have a late enough licence. On such nights Chaz has been able to get us the side bar at PJ O’Brien’s at Southbank. Another great venue to watch the game.
This year we want to revitalise the Club and get those glory days back! We have formed a small committee and have recently set our meeting gatherings for the first Friday of every month @ the Turf. This will help us to regenerate even more interest from the huge Celtic support in Melbourne.
We have some great ideas to bring Celtic minded people of Melbourne into the club. We will focus on social media and keeping our Facebook popularity growing and making Celtic fans in Melbourne more informed of Melbourne No 1s news from home and abroad. As well as keeping our website up to date on club events, news and merchandise. So, if you are in Melbourne drop into the Turf Club Bar and Bistro and say hello to Chaz and Alex. Great meals as well. Believe me the next Sevco game in December will massive.
This great club that we all love becomes a huge part of your life. We are here on the other side of the world, but we are more passionate than ever. From travelling to Parkhead we are sitting up at all hours in Australia watching the Tic. We support a team like no other. Loved all over the world.
Take care Bhoys and Ghirls everywhere. And remember. Keep The Faith and catch us on Facebook and at the Turf Bar first Friday of every Month and at games as advertised.