PhD

Brother Walfrid PhD

We’re sincerely interested in exploring and evaluating the life of Celtic’s founding father, Brother Walfrid.

But the thing is, for such an important cultural and historical figure, relatively little is known about his activities and the consequences arising from his life in Glasgow and beyond.

For example, he is often referred to as a priest, and monk. In actual fact, he was neither: he was a Marist Brother.

Yes, we know where he was born, when he came to Glasgow, and where he spent his old age.

But what of the man himself? Of Andrew Kerins? Of the man who founded Celtic F.C.?

The painting of Brother Walfrid, which hangs in St. Mary’s, Calton.

And what of his as-yet unexplored legacy for the Catholic communities of Irish descent in Scotland – and through Celtic’s huge global following – throughout the world.

We Want To Change All That

Here at Nine Muses, we want to change that.

At Nine Muses, we know a lot about Brother Walfrid. More than most.

We’ve made a good start: commissioned a painting and produced a one-hour documentary.

But we wouldn’t say so much we could write a book on it.

There are so many questions left unanswered. And they’ll remain unanswered unless there’s an in-depth study of this great man’s contribution to religious, social, economic and cultural life in late nineteenth century Glasgow and Scotland.

So we were brainstorming one day. How could we expand the knowledge of Brother Walfrid’s contribution to Scotland’s Irish Catholic diaspora?

And when someone (actually, Ronnie Convery at the Archdiocese of Glasgow) mentioned contacting a university to see if a brilliant student could scour the worldwide archives to build up a more complete picture of Brother Walfrid’s life and works, we were hooked.

Six Months Later

Six months later and we’re ready to announce the project to the world.

…a PhD on Brother Walfrid.

World’s First PhD on Brother Walfrid

Nine Muses is supporting a three-to-four year study leading to a PhD by research focusing on the life and significance of Brother Walfrid.

Undertaken by University of Glasgow economic and social history graduate Michael Connolly, 27 from Lanarkshire.

Michael will be supervised by Dr Joe Bradley, senior lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of Health Sciences & Sport, University of Stirling.

Dr Bradley has published in international-rated sociology, politics and history journals. He has self-authored, co-edited and edited several books, and has presented his research at conferences in Europe, North and South America and Australia.

Nine Muses approached Dr Bradley and he quickly appreciated and gave his support to the new project.

In the subsequent search for a student, several potential PhD candidates presented themselves.

The quest led to Nine Muses and Dr Bradley agreeing Michael Connolly as the candidate with the enthusiasm, dedication, capacity and potential to be the student that creates a deeper understanding of Brother Walfrid, his role at Celtic, his meaningfulness with respect to early Catholic education and disadvantage and poverty in Glasgow, and his legacy for all who look to him as special.

The PhD Explained

Dr Bradley said: “This research aims to explore and the figure of Brother Walfrid (Andrew Kerins), one of the most significant Irish immigrants to Scotland, an outstanding individual in relation to education and charity in Glasgow and a major contributor to the emergence of organised football in Scotland in the late 19th century.

“Despite his more obvious credentials and general knowledge around him, especially in relation to being a prime founder of Celtic F.C., Walfrid’s story remains largely obscure.

The ‘Real’ Walfrid

He added: “This PhD, by research, will closely examine and investigate the “real” Walfrid, and his meaning and legacy for the multi-generational Irish Catholic community in Scotland and beyond.

“This study seeks to reflect on the genealogy of Andrew Kerins in terms of his Sligo birth and his status as an immigrant in Scotland.

“Narratives relating to past and subsequent family members will be important in constructing this up-until-now insubstantial depiction.

Poor and Marginalised in Glasgow

“Reflection of the effects of the Great Irish Hunger on Kerins and his family will be examined. His central role in the creation and formation of Celtic Football Club is critical as also is his faith and his charity work among the economically, culturally and socially poor and marginalised in Glasgow.

“Published books, contemporary newspapers, religious documents and interviews will provide much of the initial materials to work with.

“This research will bring a fresh view and understanding of this epochal figure for the Irish Catholic diaspora in Scotland and beyond.”

A Unique Representation of the Irish Diaspora in World Sport

He concluded: “It aims to substantiate the partial image we currently have of Walfrid and, indeed, of the circumstances that provided the conditions for the emergence of Celtic Football Club: a unique representation of the Irish diaspora in world sport.

“Critically, it also seeks to explore and understand Walfrid and his importance to Catholic religious, social and cultural identities in Scotland.”

The Graduate

University of Glasgow alumnus Michael Connolly is the postgraduate student handpicked to undertake the academic research.

He said: “As someone who was brought up with a deep awareness regarding the significance of Celtic’s presence in Scotland, I felt inspired to write a dissertation for my history degree at university on the origins of the club. I called it Charity and Community: The Social and Economic Development of Celtic Football Club Between 1887 and 1900.

“It was then I began to understand the importance of Brother Walfrid – not just to Celtic, but to the wider Irish immigrant population he sought to support by creating the football club in Glasgow. The works of academic authorities such as Dr Joe Bradley and Professor Sir Tom Devine helped fuel my interest in the themes of immigration, Irish identity, poverty, charity and community, which of course motivated Walfrid to found Celtic.

“I feel excited to be given the opportunity to return to study a subject I am so passionate about!”

The Archbishop

Philip Tartaglia is the Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow. He said:

“I very much welcome the news that an in-depth study under the supervision of Dr Joseph Bradley of Stirling University into the life of the Marist Brother, Brother Walfrid, is now underway.

“Brother Walfrid is renowned for being the founder of Celtic F.C. as part of his mission to raise funds to alleviate the poverty of the 19th century immigrant Irish population in the east end of Glasgow.

“This new study will be a major contribution to the Brother Walfrid story.

“It will surely shine an academic light on the person and faith and motivations of Brother Walfrid, on the underlying facts of his life and activity, on the local and broader historical context, on the local circumstances and the personal interactions of Brother Walfrid with the Glasgow of his time, the City Council, the Catholic Church, his own religious congregation, and the local community leaders.

“We have all heard that Brother Walfrid and his associates wanted to make Celtic F.C. a club “open to all” . That purpose sounds visionary and progressive for its time. As such, it can only be good for the present and future of Glasgow.”

As Glasgow’s current Catholic Archbishop, as a very proud Glaswegian who was brought up in the city’s east end, and as a Celtic supporter and football man, I look forward to the eventual publication of this new study on Brother Walfrid, Marist Brother, founding father of Glasgow Celtic F.C., apostle of the poor, and a champion for all Glasgow’s people.

The Celtic Chief Executive

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell commented: “Brother Walfrid is a hugely important figure and someone whose contribution to Celtic Football Club and to wider Scottish society is most deserving of this kind of academic study.

“He was a man who gave people hope at a time of desperation, and in adversity someone who brought people together by creating a Club open to all – his dedication to helping others has left a phenomenal legacy.

“It is Brother Walfrid’s vision of charitable purpose and community through football, which Celtic will always hold dear and will always strive to honour in everything it does. Indeed, we are proud that Brother Walfrid’s spirit remains so strong at Celtic as we continue to make a positive difference to the lives of people in need.”

We congratulate all those involved in delivering this study, which we are sure will be very important, raising awareness and understanding of someone who did so much for so many.

Brother Walfrid PhD Fast Facts

  • Regular progress updates will be shared exclusively with newsletter subscribers. You can sign up here.
  • Final dissertation will be published and available to download from this website.
  • Working title: Faith, Community & Football: Searching for Brother Walfrid.

How Can You Help?

If you’ve read this far we assume you’re interested in Celtic’s founding father. If so, there are two ways you can help.

  1. Pledge your support for raising awareness of Celtic’s founding father Brother Walfrid. It’s free, we’ll sign you up to receive our newsletter, and you’ll never miss a step to a better understanding of Brother Walfrid.
  2. If you’ve got deeper pockets, check out our limited edition Brother Walfrid boxed set, and arrange a private viewing. Thirty per cent of the boxed set sales go towards the St. Mary’s Renovation Fund (it was in St. Mary’s Church hall in Calton, Glasgow, that Brother Walfrid founded Celtic in 1887). The remainder of money made from the boxed set sales is ploughed back into the awareness-raising campaign

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