News & Blog

How the Great Hunger Changed Glasgow

19th May, National Famine Commemoration 2019, Sligo City.

The Great Hunger, commonly known as the Irish Potato Famine, was a watershed moment in Irish history, changing the country forever. Mass starvation, widespread disease, and emigration in this period saw the population of Ireland drop by 20%, with the slow, ineffective response of the British government damaging relations between England and Ireland for generations, and even provoking suggestions of genocide against the Irish people.

The impact of The Great Hunger is well documented by researchers and historians, stories of this period are still a common theme in Irish culture 174 years later, and the legacy of this terrible period lives on across the world.

Every year the National Famine Commemoration Committee hold a National Famine Commemoration Day to pay tribute to all those who died or were displaced by the Great Hunger of 1845-1849. This year’s commemoration is to be held today in the city of Sligo – just 15 miles from the home of Brother Walfrid, whose actions arguably left one of the greatest impressions on Glasgow with the foundation of Celtic FC.

Referred to as the single biggest social disaster in 19th century Europe, The Great Hunger forever changed the demographic, cultural and political landscapes of Ireland, Scotland and beyond. The cheapest routes of escape were to the port cities of Glasgow and Liverpool, while many others took their chances aboard infamous coffin ships crossing the Atlantic for the likes of Boston and New York City.

Of the one million who emigrated during this time, approximately 100,000 settled in Glasgow, a huge influx for a city whose population in the 1840s was around a quarter of a million. 10,000 Irish migrants arrived on the Broomielaw in one week alone in 1847, and by the 1880s an estimated 300,000 had left Ireland for Glasgow.

Most ships from Ireland docked near Glasgow Green and, owing to disease and lack of money, most people stayed fairly close to this area. Many travelled up Saltmarket to High Street and the Gallowgate, settling in cheap housing in the Carlton district of the city. Conditions in Glasgow’s slums were often cited as the worst in Britain at that time. Up to ten people were squashed into each room in tenement buildings, which lacked clean water or sanitary provisions. Disease and ill health were rife throughout the city, all of which lead to Glasgow experiencing the worst rates of infant mortality and life expectancy in Europe.

As Glasgow was a predominantly Protestant city in the 19th century, at the beginning of the famine, there were only five Catholic churches in the city. However, the large majority of those seeking refuge from the Famine were Catholic, and by the mid 1880s there was more than ten times that number, serving the city’s new, mostly Catholic population.

As well as influencing the religious landscape of Glasgow, it has also been suggested that the large Irish community helped to give the city its unmistakable accent. Much like in the cities of Liverpool and Boston, which also saw high levels of immigration during the famine, the Glaswegian accent stands out distinctly compared to those of nearby areas. Some historians and linguists have attributed this to the high levels of immigration seen during the 19th century. Along with those fleeing the famine, Glasgow also saw large numbers of Italian and Eastern European migrants settle in the city, and this cultural melting pot all contributed to the Glaswegian accent we all know today.

In Victorian Britain, state funding for education only covered Protestant schools, and therefore families had to pay for their children to attend Catholic schools. Prices ranged from one to five pennies per child per week, depending on the child’s age, but such was the hardship faced by Irish Catholic immigrants at this time that even one penny a week was difficult to spare. To ensure children were able to attend school, Catholic teaching order the Marist Brothers set up Catholic schools throughout Glasgow’s East End, with the costs covered by the St Vincent De Paul Parish Conference – a charitable Catholic organisation focused on the sanctification of its members through service and education to the poor.

The first of these schools was St Mungo’s Academy in the Royston district of Glasgow in the 1850s, which also ran night classes for the community’s adults to help improve their job prospects. Members of the Marist Brothers order continued to set up Catholic schools throughout Glasgow’s East End, helping generations of Irish Catholics gain an education and employment, as well as diverting the community’s youth away from crime.

In the early 1880s, one of the most well known Marist Brothers, Brother Walfrid, set up the penny dinner scheme at one of the order’s schools – Sacred Heart in Bridgeton. The scheme served school children a hot meal for the price of one penny, or soup for a halfpenny, and was eventually extended to include the unemployed and elderly members of the community. Brother Walfrid worked with his fellow Marist Brothers to establish the penny dinner scheme in other Catholic schools throughout Glasgow’s East End.

No hungry child was turned away, and while the St Vincent De Paul Parish Conference helped cover the costs for those who could not afford to pay, soon the scheme was serving over 1000 meals every week, and more fundraising efforts were required to sustain the community dinner tables.

It was through this need for funding, that one of the biggest impacts of the Irish famine and subsequent emigration was felt in Glasgow – the creation of Celtic Football Club.

Brother Walfrid had seen the growing popularity of football throughout Glasgow, with local matches regularly drawing in crowds of 5,000 spectators, all paying an admission fee. With this in mind he began organising charity matches to raise money for the community dinner tables. In 1887 he saw the potential for a full time Catholic team in Glasgow, and in St Mary’s Church, Calton, Celtic was born.

Celtic was set afloat with the simple mission that profits would be reinvested in the community via the penny dinner scheme and free education, with the club making £400 in their first year, approximately £40,000 in today’s economy. Their first game was a 5-2 win over Rangers FC in front of a crowd of 5,000, within five years Celtic were attracting crowds of 40,000 to their cup winning matches.

From cultural events such as St Patrick Day’s celebrations in New York, to the distinctive accents of Glasgow and Liverpool, and sports teams like Celtic FC and the Boston Celtics, the Famine, and subsequent migration, has influenced millions in the cities where this displaced community forged new homes.

Despite Brother Walfrid’s life changing contributions to Glasgow’s Irish Catholic community, and his role in founding Celtic FC, little is actually known about him. The Nine Muses have commissioned a PhD in the study of his life, which is being undertaken by economic and social history graduate Michael Connelly at the University of Stirling, supervised by Dr Joe Bradley.

Are you a relative of Andrew Kerins?

Despite his legacy as founder of Celtic FC, little is known about Brother Walfrid’s life, and we want to change that, but we need your help.

... continue reading.

May is Local and Community History Month, and we’re always striving to find out more about Celtic FC founder Andrew Kerins, better known as Brother Walfrid, the Catholic missionary who used football to transform the lives of people in Glasgow’s East End. 

Despite Brother Walfrid being arguably one of the most influential figures on early Scottish football, relatively little is known about his life, especially the first years he spent in Glasgow in the 1850s. We want to change that and raise awareness of his life and work.

So if you’re a relative of Brother Walfrid, know someone who is, or have any information about his life, please get in touch with us now!

The Nine Muses have commissioned a PhD in the study of his life, which is being undertaken by economic and social history graduate Michael Connelly at the University of Stirling, supervised by Dr Joe Bradley.

Changing Lives Through Celtic

The motto of the Marist Brothers, the order to which Brother Walfrid belonged, is Ignoti et quasi occulti in hoc mundo or Hidden and unknown in the world. But nothing could be further from the truth in the case of Brother Walfrid, whose legacy includes transforming lives in Glasgow’s East End and creating one of the world’s most famous football clubs.

... continue reading.

Today marks 104 years since the death of Andrew Kerins, better known as Brother Walfrid, founder of Celtic Football Club.

The motto of the Marist Brothers, the order to which Brother Walfrid belonged, is Ignoti et quasi occulti in hoc mundo or Hidden and unknown in the world. But nothing could be further from the truth in the case of Brother Walfrid, whose legacy includes transforming lives in Glasgow’s East End and creating one of the world’s most famous football clubs.

So how did the son of Irish peasant farmers, who was forced to leave his home in famine ravaged County Sligo as a teenager, go on to become what the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Sir Tom Devine describes as “the sporting champion of the Irish Catholic immigrant class”?

Between 1845 and 1849 a potato blight struck Europe, destroying potato harvests across the continent. Due to the Irish reliance on potatoes for food and money, the country was hit worse than the rest of Europe and lead to The Irish Potato Famine, also known as The Great Hunger. The population of Ireland went from 8.4 million to 6.6 million in this period, followed by many more years of emigration, 1 million people died in Ireland as a result of starvation and disease, and 1 million more emigrated to Great Britain and the USA, 100,000 of them settling in Glasgow’s East End.

While life in Ireland during this time was dire, life in the predominantly Protestant Glasgow was not for the faint of heart either. Most of this displaced Irish community settled in the East End district of Calton, with the deprived conditions of Glasgow’s slums some of the worst across 19th century Europe, and basics such as clean water and enough food to feed the family almost impossible to come by.

This was the Glasgow that greeted 15 year old Andrew Kerins in 1855, as he looked for work on Scotland’s railways.

In 1864 Kerins left Glasgow for France to join the Marist Brothers and train as a teacher, returning to Glasgow two years later as Brother Walfrid to take up his first teaching post at the school attached to St Mary’s Church in Calton. He would later become headmaster of Sacred Heart School in the neighbouring district of Bridgeton.

In both schools he would set up youth football leagues to keep the districts’ young people out of trouble, a literary society to improve literacy and job prospects amongst Irish immigrants, and the penny dinner scheme. At this time Catholic schools were outwith the state education system, receiving no funding or support from the government; families had to pay. Prices ranged from one to four pennies per week, and such was the hardship faced by this community that even one penny a week was difficult to spare. Those who could not afford to pay the school fees often had the costs met by the local St Vincent De Paul Parish Conference, a charitable Catholic organisation focused on the sanctification of its members through service to the poor. Brother Walfrid also developed a network of contacts in the city’s East End to help identify work placements for when his pupils came of age.

The penny dinner scheme was set up to feed school children at St Mary’s for a contribution of one penny, and those who could not afford to pay were still fed, with funds being raised throughout the parish to pay for those who could not afford it. The scheme was extended to include the unemployed and those too old or infirm to work.

At the same time football was rapidly growing in popularity across Scotland, with games drawing regular crowds who all paid an entrance fee. Brother Walfrid saw this as an opportunity to raise funds for free education, the penny dinner scheme and other charitable causes throughout the East End of Glasgow, all with the aim of alleviating the terrible poverty of the area, and helping Irish Catholic immigrants to help themselves.

In 1886 Brother Walfrid invited Hibernian FC, the most popular Catholic team at the time, to play a charity match in Glasgow. A series of charity matches followed, and Brother Walfrid saw the potential for a Glasgow to have a full time Catholic team. In November 1887 in St Mary’s Church, Carlton, The Celtic was founded:
“The main objective of the club is to supply the East End conferences of the St. Vincent De Paul Society with funds for the maintenance of the “Dinner Tables” of our needy children in the Missions of St Mary’s, Sacred Heart, and St. Michael’s. Many cases of sheer poverty are left unaided through lack of means. It is therefore with this principle object that we have set afloat the Celtic.”

The name Celtic was Brother Walfrid’s suggestion as a tribute to the team’s Irish and Catholic roots, although he pronounced it ‘Keltic’ rather than ‘Seltic’ as we know it today.

Celtic FC played their first match, rather fittingly, against Rangers FC in May 1888, beating Rangers 5-2, in front of 5,000 spectators. The profits were reinvested in the local community, funding Catholic schools, community dinner tables, and night classes throughout Calton and other areas in the East End of Glasgow where the Marist Brothers taught.

Four years later Celtic won the Scottish Cup and were drawing in crowds of up to 40,000. The rest, as they say, is history.

Brother Walfrid left Glasgow in 1892 to teach in deprived areas of East London before eventually returning to Scotland in 1912 to see out his final years at the Marist Brothers home in Dumfries.

While many see Celtic as Brother Walfrid’s greatest achievement, it was not in itself an end, but rather a means of raising funds for the projects he created to help the Irish Catholic communities of Glasgow. In their first year, Celtic raised £400 – around £40,000 in today’s money. During his time in Glasgow, Brother Walfrid changed the lives of three generations of Irish Catholic immigrants through sport and education.

The charitable spirit with which Celtic was founded continues to this day, with the Celtic FC Foundation having raised more than £8 million since 1995 for local, national and international causes; the club continuing to use sport to change lives.

Little is known about what Brother Walfrid thought of Celtic and his worldwide legacy, but many years after leaving Glasgow he is said to have remarked:
Well well. Time has brought changes and outside ourselves there are few left of the old brigade. I know none of these present players, but they are under the old colours and quartered in dear old quarters – and that suffices.”

Despite Brother Walfrid’s life changing contributions to Glasgow’s Irish Catholic community, and his role in founding Celtic FC, little is actually known about him. The Nine Muses have commissioned a PhD in the study of his life, which is being undertaken by economic and social history graduate Michael Connelly at the University of Stirling, supervised by Dr Joe Bradley. 

The Celtic Foundation’s Sleepover at St Anne’s

The Celtic FC Foundation’s sleepout event is held annually at St Anne’s Parish in Whitechapel, London – a place of huge historical importance for the football club founded in the name of charity by Brother Walfrid. It was in this spirit of charity that I was privileged to have the opportunity to join fellow Celtic supporters from different walks of life to raise money for the Foundation’s Christmas Appeal 2018.

Brother Walfrid was transferred to London from Glasgow in 1892 after leading the foundation of Celtic FC in 1887. Sleeping outdoors, overnight in the grounds where Walfrid lived and worked as headmaster of St Anne’s Primary School was a unique and special experience. The fact that the Celtic support continues to commit its collective energy to support the Foundation in this manner really drove home the enduring nature of Brother Walfrid’s legacy of charity.

Father Paolo Bagini, current Parish Priest of St Anne’s, kindly welcomed us with hot drinks and sandwiches before wishing us well for the night ahead. In the shadow of the chapel building, with the City of London in the near distance, over 20 of us wrapped up to battle the cold in sleeping bags for the night. The experience offered a tangible insight into what the most vulnerable individuals in society are forced to endure when sleeping rough on the streets.

Celtic legend Peter Grant gave up his time to drive from his family home in Norwich to show his support for the work of the Foundation and give encouragement to the Celtic supporters sleeping out on Friday the 23rd of November. Peter’s stories of his memories of wearing the famous Hoops and what it meant to him to represent the club of Brother Walfrid lifted the spirits of everyone at St Anne’s that night. Cheers for the photo too!

I took this photo of Underwood Road, the street which was home to Brother Walfrid for most of his time spent in London all those years ago, on the morning following the sleepout. The Celtic Supporters Clubs of Maidenhead, Wimbledon and Hayes Bhoys, as well as other individual supporters, had all answered that call to charity put into action by Brother Walfrid over 130 years ago in Glasgow with the foundation of Celtic FC. From speaking with the supporters who took on the challenge of the sleepout in London I know we all felt an enormous sense of pride in getting the chance to walk in the footsteps of Walfrid and live out that idea of charity.

The focus of the Celtic FC Foundations’ Christmas Appeal for 2018 is ‘to help local families and pensioners who face poverty and hardship and a number of charities who care for those experiencing the torment of homelessness’. At the time of writing the London sleepout event alone was on course to raise over £10,000 to help individuals affected by these issues at Christmas time. Additionally, the pupils of Brother Walfrid’s old school St Anne’s will enjoy a Christmas pantomime and party, while local families of the wider St Anne’s Parish in need will also benefit from financial support. A big thank you to everyone who donated, especially the Nine Muses who made this inspiring trip possible!

Without Brother Walfrid and his vision of charity there would be no Celtic. The work of the Celtic FC Foundation continues this vision of helping the most vulnerable amongst us. This is how it feels to be Celtic.

Michael Connolly,
University of Stirling

Brother Walfrid’s 12 Days of Christmas: Day Nine!

FAITH: Football, Art & Anorexia.

There are a few meanings of Faith and these never ring truer than when it comes to Celtic Football Club.

It is really hard to pinpoint where my personal religious experiences with Celtic began but I can think all day long of encounters I have had with my Faith and Celtic.

Again it seems fitting to explore this on the 12 Days of Christmas Blog series as Faith and Religion really come to the forefront at this time of year, I know i feel so Thankful at this time of year for my blessings, friends & Family and many other things that have restored my “Faith” over the years.

I suppose my own experience with Faith and Religion really came to fruition when I was in my teenage years. I was diagnosed with Acute Anorexia Nervosa when I was age 15 and I had a rapid decline in the depths of an eating disorder that would take away my whole adolescence. My parents were distraught and I remember my mum really calling back to her “Faith”.

She invited religious messengers into the house to pray for me, share presentations, watch religious short stories and read from the Bible, she took me back to Church and prayed for me openly. When I was hospitalised for the eating disorder later that year I think I felt I was truly praying for myself. How was I going to get through this?

I have gifted a Peter Howson Pastel, it was to be the first in my collection, called ‘The Third Step’ and it depicted a naked man lying in the dirt, dragging himself to savior with a church in the distance. At that moment this piece of art illustrated everything I was and what I was trying to do and it hung, despite its worth on my hospital room wall to inspire me.

I had struck up a friendship with Peter Howson a few years after that and he used to come visit me in hospital, unfortunately, every relapse in my Anorexia I had was worse each time.Ultimately reaching under 3 stone I was a complete shell of my former self and controlled by an Anorexia mind. Peter would send me Christmas cards with religious figures and scriptures from the bible each one giving me more “Faith” to keep going. I would go on to commission works by him that were drawn and painted from paragraphs I’d written about my illness and my idea of religion. Dark, Dark paragraphs that only looking back on can I see how ill I was, completely in denial at the time.

I’ve always had a connection with Celtic but this just grew massively when I started exploring and researching its Religious and Faithful origins. It is worth noting at this stage that I am completely healthy and have been for around 8 years- I have two children and work hard at my business… I have massively been able to fight my eating disorder whilst exploring into the Faith of Celtic Football Club, by learning and learning from Brother Walfrid’s life and most importantly his character of strength, kindness, gumption, and tenacity.


Brother Walfrid full image Peter Howson artist.

The iconic image of Brother Walfrid painted by Peter Howson, and commissioned by Nine Muses.

Throughout this time of exploring Brother Walfrid in the context of the Irish famine and in the depiction by Peter Howson from his famous painting, I have been healthy and thankful….This is not a coincidence.

All the qualities of Brother Walfrid I have come to learn, this painting has inspired me to focus on… I have never felt closer to my faith than when I have been Celtic Minded.

Surely Art and Walfrid could inspire so many others – the spirit of Walfrid could change lives forever and by exploring it through art as we have here, we can show the despair, the torment, the isolation, the depression and starvation but also the saviour and beacon of light, We can tell his story through a single image.

When I was speaking to Phil Mac Giolla Bhan on the phone on Wednesday he made the although controversial but true statement “No famine….No Celtic.” This also seemed very true to me when I was starting the Peter Howson Brother, Walfrid Project.

You cant tell his story without taking into consideration the Irish immigrant community and their journeys, it is then we can draw inspiration and Faith from Walfrid.


Faith is huge and immense when it comes to Celtic Football Club that goes without saying but I see so many angles on the definition of that word these days.

Like the Faith that was restored to Fans when Brendan Rodgers became the manager and created that invincible team.

The Faith that echoes and vibrates through the veins of every single fan as they stand in the cold singing those epic songs.

The Faith the fans relived through the ’67’ celebrations, the passion that was reignited seeing the footage of the Lisbon Lions.

The club was formed when a downtrodden community on had Church as a place of refuge, the stadium was to be an extension of their faith and religion …”Like moving from the graveyard to Paradise” its nickname itself with such obvious religious overtones, such a perfect name for the stadium that captures the supreme love that people have for this football super-power AND everything its origins represent.

When I initially went to meet Fr. Tom White of St.Marys Carlton because we wanted to give back to the parish, we wanted to give to the original site where these very first acts of charity were displayed, where faith in the community was the driving force for offering shelter, support and of course The Penny Dinners.

The Church halls where the club was formed and where the community would gather for their meals no longer exists so we wanted to explore the possibility of helping rebuild that. If we could support the re-establishment of the foundation for Celtic’s original Ethos then that would be a great way of bringing the culture full circle, hence why we give 30% to St.Mary’s Calton along with 10% to the Celtic FC Foundation. The passion of Fr.Tom is inspiring, a true gentleman that speaks with such knowledge of the clubs history. Every time I meet him I feel thankful for people like him, such a perfect post at St.Mary’s


To see and hear the response we have had from the Campaign for Brother Walfrid has been wonderful- The Celtic Family? I completely understand that now.

Football for Good, Art for Good, Walfrid’s Way, Paradise, a Club for all…. as corny as it sounds I know with my Faith in Brother Walfrid I truly will Never Walk Alone.

Merry Christmas





Brother Walfrid’s 12 days of Christmas: Day Seven!

“The 9 Muses” name comes from Greek Mythology which is rich with gods and goddesses but none were as influential as the Nine Muses who were created to give inspiration, knowledge, artistry and music to the ancient world.

Hence it fitting that the 9 Muses choose this name as included in projects The 9 Muses have been responsible for and are proud to have in their portfolio are not only Art but also Music, Education and Film & Documentary.

One of these Documentaries is the The Founder.

This covers the full life and legacy of Brother Walfrid as we know it so far but the dvd documentary, which comes with the limited edition boxed set of Brother Walfrid, wasn’t always intended to be that.

When we were designing and developing ideas for the project and the stunning packaging for the Limited edition Prints of Peter Howson’s Brother Walfrid and we knew we wanted to do it do the highest possible degree of quality and not cut a single corner, after all we had to do the name of Brother Walfrid proud with this project. Therefor we would use the best inks, the most beautiful fine art paper, it would be colour matched and picked by the artist, Peter Howson and it would be packaged and authenticated in the most sophisticated way possible.

We had intended to ‘document’ these wonderful processes, techniques and hopfully discover more about Peter’s (Howson) inspiration behind his depiction of Walfrid along the way.

But, like anything we do here at The 9 Muses the process of documenting our efforts and expertise we had involved in Peter Howson project had incubated immense passion by this time – we had researched Brother Walfrid’s full life, i’d dedicated most of my free time to researching Walfrid with enlisted help from Professor Joe Bradley, Sir Tom Devine, had read countless articles, visited Archives in Glasgow and researched archives in Rome, the list was endless.

Our passion for Brother Walfrid, what he stood for and the social and biological factors that may have caused him to have become the man he became, they had not only truly inspired us to continue to make a difference in the name of Walfird, but it had captured out hearts enough to make it impossible not to make a short film about it. The Founder was Founded.

Our next step was to secure interviews with these iconic experts- Bradley and Devine, Howson was already so willing to spread the work he was over the moon to give his interviews on such a passionate subject- an image that representated Faith and helping those who needed it . Done.

We hired filmakers and heading their operations up was BAFTA award winner Paul Hineman, with him we toured Glasgow,Dumfries and Galloway, Sligo and Strokestown, Ireland filmaing all things Walfrid, Celtic and exploring The Great Hunger in even greater detail.

We explored subjects of “Paradise”, the “Real Walfrid”,  “Education” and  Sainthood with experts and curators. The interviews were spectacular and all about ‘the man that got the ball rolling.’

We next devised a script for the voiceover and had some clear views that we wanted someone who was educated on he subject matter, who could share our absolute passion for this man and raising spirits and legacies of these times passed…. given his previous interest of exploring the subject himself we were delighted to work with the perfect person – Peter Mullan



Emma O'Neil

Peter Mullan with Emma O’Neil-Recording voiceover .

The greatest impact was still to be achieved by captivating peoples emotion through all of the senses, we wanted to explore Original score music for this documentary, it had to be original like every other thing involved in this project- it had to belong to Walfrid.

This lead us to work on composing and engineering tracks with GRAMMY Award winner, David Donaldson .

David is awarded for this work on Academy Award winning movies like “Ray” with Jamie Foxx, The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge.

What a captivating watch we had. I remember going to view for the first ever time in Paul Hineman’s office at 8pm in Glasgow city centre and i was just overwhelmed by how well it represented our efforts for Walfrid.

i have worked with Peter Howson fopr many years but watching his exclusive interviews on his inspiration for how he painted Walfrid and the starving imigrants of the Irish Famine …..Epic!

“Brother Walfrid: The Founder, was a film that affected me deeply because it brought to light the values and integrity of the Brother Walfrid narrative. I’ve since spoken to others who have seen the film who were also impacted in a positive and life-giving way. It suggests to me the ability of this story to break down barriers and find the good in humanity.”

Richard Purden, journalist and author

The Documentary was screened in 3 private viewings to Bloggers, Journalists, investors and Massive celtic officials and executive directors.

We continue to research Brother Walfrid’s Life throught the PhD but also we have made major inward roads to do a seconf film on Walfrid’s Life.

We would love to hear from campaigners about their thoughts on the documentary and any future works.


Brother Walfrid’s 12 Days of Christmas: Day Five! Michael’s First Interview.

Melvin Creative

We love to catch up with Michael Connolly and find out all the latest on his Ph.D. on Brother Walfrid but this is the first time he’s sat with us to take us on the journey of where he has been and what he has been upto in his own words-

Hi Michael, 

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today,

We know you have just started on this journey but has there been an inspiring moment or person, who you are meeting?

“I attended the special mass celebrated by Father White to mark the 130th anniversary of Celtic at St Mary’s with my family which was a really inspiring occasion. The speech given by Tony Hamilton, head of the Celtic FC Foundation, was a great illustration of how Walfrid’s original message of community-based charity remains very relevant to this day and I am proud as a Celtic fan to know that our Club is still at the forefront of efforts to help those in need both in Glasgow but also further afield.  To know that 40% of all monies raised through the Walfrid commemorative boxed sets made by 9 Muses purchased from Celtic will go to charities affiliated to the Foundation is brilliant news for the Brother Walfrid project, which I’m proud to be a part of.”

You attend Stirling University for your studying, what classes you are sitting in?

“I recently joined the December Graduate Skills Week here at the University of Stirling which will be really helpful as I progress through the Ph.D. study. The week involved a busy mix of presentations, group work classes, and meetings designed to help students pick up the requisite skills for completing a postgraduate degree. The way classes were structured meant it was a great way to meet with other students and share ideas and stories – I especially enjoyed the ‘Writing Historical Biography’ class hosted by the History department. That will definitely come in handy as we further explore the life story of Walfrid!”

Sounds intense, so whats your study schedule?

“My study schedule is not really set in stone as I have to be flexible in terms of working from home or attending extra classes at Stirling, for example. They say you should commit forty working hours per week to your Ph.D. topic in order to complete it on time so it definitely is a full-time job! I think I do my best work at our office set aside for postgrad students at Stirling University – the atmosphere is nice and quiet and the other students who have more experience have been great in terms of making me feel welcome and giving me some sound advice.”

You have been in the press quite a bit because you are researching the obscure life of Walfrid, whats your parent’s thoughts on it all?

“My Mum and Dad were both over the moon when I told them I had been chosen to deliver the world’s first Ph.D. on Brother Walfrid. My Dad was chuffed to tell his pals on the Celtic supporters bus he goes on every week that I had been given the opportunity to study the man who started it all and who is so important to Celtic fans all over the world. My Dad’s pals said I must’ve got the brains from my Mum’s side of the family! (better leave that one in for my Mum or I’ll be in trouble haha)”

What a lovely picture you’ve painted of your Dad on the supporter’s bus, whats your pals saying to you – Dr.celtic 😛 ?

“Like myself, my mates are all Celtic-daft and they were really excited when I told them what I’d be dedicating the next four years of my life to. Having done my undergraduate dissertation on the origins of Celtic they know how passionate I am about the subject and they have been really supportive. They have come up with a few nicknames – “Dr. Celtic” being one – but it’s a bit early for that!”

This all sounds like a pretty surreal experience…..but given all of this, what are your dreams??!!!! 

“I’m lucky to have a brilliant network of friends and family around me and I know they will support me all the way to achieve the main aim – to complete the world’s first Ph.D. on Brother Walfrid and do the best job I possibly can researching a figure who means so much to so many. Although that can sound like a lot of pressure I feel so fortunate to be able to work on something that is so important to me personally – it is a real privilege and I would like to thank Emma O’Neil at Nine Muses for her support along with Dr. Joe Bradley.”

Michael, this study will introduce you to some of the most influential and respected people in the existing world of Celtic and Walfrid, who are some of the individuals you have come across so far? 

“The media event we hosted at St Mary’s church in the Calton – the birthplace of Celtic – was a really exciting day and was an opportunity for me to meet a lot of interesting people who share our passion for Celtic and Brother Walfrid. To get the chance to speak with Father Tom White, parish priest at St Mary’s, gave me a unique insight into the history of St Mary’s and its enduring connection with Celtic Football Club. I would also like to thank Archbishop Tartaglia for his kind words of support and also Peter Lawwell, chief executive of Celtic, for attending to give the Club’s backing to the Brother Walfrid research.”

Have you been ‘star struck’ by anyone? 

“I must say it was bizarre meeting Peter Lawwell after being used to seeing him interviewed on TV over the years, but he was really supportive of the project and gave us the full backing of Celtic. For a lifelong Celtic supporter, this was great to hear!”

You mentioned in your First update about the Ph.D. that one of your focuses of study will be An Gorta Mor – what are your thoughts on the memorial that will be in Glasgow? 

“I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a meeting of the An Gorta Mor memorial committee and I think the project to organise a lasting monument to the tragic events which caused so many to move to Scotland to start a new life – Walfrid included – is a brilliant idea and I’m excited to see the finished article at St Mary’s.”

Your Mentor and Supervisor- Joe Bradley, he is highly thought of and has a lifetime of expertise behind him, what is the best nugget of advice he has given you so far? 

“Joe has been a brilliant source of insight, knowledge, and support over the course of the project – to have the opportunity to learn with someone as well respected and experienced as Joe has been great for me. In the first few weeks of my studies at Stirling Joe was massively helpful as we set about deciding which areas and themes would be crucial for the first year of the Ph.D. Cheers for your help Joe!”

Glasgow is a great place to start the study given the club’s roots and origins but you will be researching more into Walfrid’s other lasting legacies and where his life took him- where else do you think the study will take you?

“Walfrid is perhaps most famous for his role in the creation of Celtic Football Club but it’s important to remember he lived a varied life which took him to several places of meaning in terms of his remarkable story. County Sligo, Ireland will of course be a location I will be visiting to get a sense of the place where Walfrid spent his formative years. Walfrid also went to the south of France at the age of 24 to be educated in the Marist tradition which was undoubtedly a crucial turning point in his life. After his success in Glasgow, Walfrid went to London to continue his work with the Marist Brotherhood and he retired to Dumfries in his later years. All of these different places are hugely significant to the life of Brother Walfrid.”

You are the only person on this journey in the world, as this is the World’s First Ph.D. in Brother Walfrid…what does your wider network family and friends think of all of this?

“It has been such a surreal and exciting first few months working on the project and it has been inspiring to know that I have so much support not only from family and friends but also from people I have never met who have taken time to wish me luck or even send some information that they think could be helpful to my research. For me that is a true example of what Walfrid was all about – his success was in helping to bring people together and it’s a real honour for me to get to contribute something which will hopefully do justice to the legacy of Brother Walfrid.”

Here at the 9 Muses, we are bursting with pride too when we talk about you Michael, so would like to give a special Thank you. 

Its been a few months so if you could describe the journey so far in ONE word what would that be? 

“Life-changing – from the day Joe Bradley got in contact to talk about the project to meeting the Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell in St Mary’s to announce the Ph.D. to the media, the whole experience so far has been a whirlwind! I think I would struggle to pick a better job in the world and I’m really happy that Nine Muses have put their faith in me and been so supportive.”

We would like to say a massive Thank You to all of the campaign Supporters and for taking an interest, if you think your friends and family would like all the inside gossip too then they can sign up here.

Everyone receives their very own certificate for pledging their support for The Campaign to raise awareness for Brother Walfrid.

Brother Walfrid pledge certificate.

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Day Four!: The 9 Muses announce Partnership with CelticFC

Today is a very special day for us at The 9 Muses as we have a big announcement that was just made public by CelticFC:

CELTIC FC and Celtic FC Foundation are delighted to announce a partnership with The 9 Muses. 

It certainly is fitting that we can announce this at Christmas time, with it being such an important time for giving during the festive season.

This announcement also sees us giving a FURTHER 10% proceeds to Celtic FC Foundation and in time to maximise for their Christmas Appeal. That is a whopping 40% The 9 Muses are giving to Charity from the sale of  The Peter Howson, Brother Walfrid Limited Edition Boxed Set.

This elevates our passion and pride for this project and campaign even more.

Here is the official announcement from Celtic’s official website.

“CELTIC FC and Celtic FC Foundation are delighted to announce a partnership with The 9 Muses, the arts group behind internationally-acclaimed Scottish artist Peter Howson’s famous painting ‘Brother Walfrid’.

In 2014, Peter Howson’s painting of Walfrid was unveiled, and is displayed in St Mary’s in the Calton, where Brother Walfrid founded Celtic, on November 6, 1887.

To raise further awareness of the life of the club’s founding father, The 9 Muses have produced 1,888 premium boxed sets, which include an A3 museum-quality Peter-Howson-signed print of his painting, and a one-hour documentary on the life of Walfrid, entitled ‘The Founder’.

A total of 30 per cent of the proceeds of each boxed set currently go towards the Renovation Fund of St Mary’s.

And, to make an even more impactful contribution to charity this Christmas, The 9 Muses have very generously opted to distribute an additional 10% of all proceeds to the club’s charitable arm, Celtic FC Foundation.

The prints, which offer a stunning reproduction of Howson’s painting, will be available for the first time in the Celtic Superstore and Argyle Street store, and will be available soon at


Emma O’Neil, who owns and manages The 9 Muses, said: “The Peter Howson Brother Walfrid project has been one of the most important things I’ve done in my lifetime and The 9 Muses have immense passion for Brother Walfrid and everything he achieved personally. He is my biggest inspiration.

“We have designed this product always with Walfrid’s ethos in mind which is why partnering with Celtic FC and Celtic FC Foundation plus having them endorse and now sell the boxed set brings a whole new level of pride to the project.

“Along with Celtic’s passion for bringing people together through amazing charitable work and through football, we hope this image will make Brother Walfrid’s spirit truly immortal and his legacy will live on with it forever.”

Tony Hamilton, Chief Executive of Celtic FC Foundation, said: “Sincere thanks to The 9 Muses for making a contribution to the work of Celtic FC Foundation.

“The significance of Brother Walfrid and the work he did in Glasgow and London is hugely important to us, and we are delighted to be associated with this project.”


We are truly overjoyed with this news and we hope the fans will be too.

See The Peter Howson, Brother Walfrid Limited Edition Boxed Set in all of its glory in the video below…….


Brother Walfrid’s 12 Days of Christmas: Day Two!

Melvin Creative

The Perfect Christmas Gift.

Welcome to Brother Walfrid’s 12 Days of Christmas: Day Two !


We have had so many truly amazing people from many types of organizations involved on and along the immense journey that has been The Brother Walfrid Campaign and Project but one of the most influential and longest-serving has been our Creative & Art Director, Michael Melvin.

Mike, has been involved in every step of designing and developing the Peter Howson, Brother Walfrid Limited Edition Boxed Set, he was Executive Producer on  “The Founder”,  the documentary produced by The 9 Muses and he has been at the core of building the Brother Walfrid brand for the purposes of the Campaign, along with our stunning website that has been visited by thousands of people who are as passionate as we are about Walfrid, Original art, Celtic and the vast amount of research that Mike has uncovered as part of the 9 Muses team.

Here is his account as describes this, sometimes overwhelming mission we have tasked ourselves with- To do Brother Walfrid justice!

“Full disclosure. I was aware of who Brother Walfrid was before starting as Art Director on the Peter Howson’ Brother Walfrid’ Boxed Set project. Having gone to a secondary school which traditionally had a large Marist involvement (St. Mungos’ Academy, ‘The Mungo’, east end of Glasgow 1983-89!) and also being an armchair Celtic fan I knew the growing importance of the unassuming Brother Walfrid to the green and white of my home city. No pressure!

Being asked my a client to be involved in such a prestigious task was both an honour (and very exciting) but also slightly worrying as there were so many different parts to the overall boxed set – would the art print of the iconic painting be reproduced with the care and attention it deserved, would those from my network of suppliers enhance the project or let me down, would the director of the documentary capture the spirit of Walfrid and keep to the budget or would be an expensive folly? Would the client ultimately be delighted with the final complete boxed set or would there just be a disappointed silence as expectations were dashed? Perhaps most importantly, would I do the memory of Brother Walfrid justice? 

The same thoughts and insecurities tend to bubble-up for me when faced with multi-faceted projects. Once I get a handle on the scope of the project all these self-doubts start to disappear and I pop those bubbles as I familiarise myself with the task at hand and throw myself head-first into it. And thus my involvement with the Walfrid project began.

However rarely have I immersed myself in anything like this nor have I dedicated so much time to a project like this one. Partly to do the subject matter and partly to do with a client who you can’t help but carried along with her constant positivity and unending enthusiasm. Her aim: to bring to life the story of a humble man who died in 1917 after a lifetime of helping others. 

Ok, so now double-pressure is on – I have to do justice to the memory of Walfrid AND deliver an outstanding product to a great client. Easy! Oh no, there’s the self-doubt starting again…

As with any road there are bumps – no need to detail the various issues which cropped up from time-to-time on this project – surprisingly few for a project which has seen my involvement for nearly five years. Yes, five years!  I had initialy thought 3 months would cover it. Where did the time go? 

Well, it took almost nine months to develop the physical box, described by the manufacturer as a “bespoke luxury covered presentation box with twin opening lids” which contains the A3 print, the A4 certificate of authenticity and the documentary DVD. 

This includes multiple box options, constructions and a myriad of tweaks with a fairly liberal dose of meetings with box and carton manufacturers, paper manufacturers, paper suppliers, litho-printers and print finishers … that’s not counting the meetings with interested-outside parties who would bring their services to the table …

… PR companies, web developers, SEO experts, journalists, newspapers … 

… and then we had the website. I believe, if memory serves, that that came in at 18 months of development from the initial conversation with the client until launch in October 2017. And all the time pushing to make a better product. All the time researching. All the time endeavouring to create something which would be a fitting tribute to Walfrid and all he stood for. 

And that’s just part of my five-year story as (ongoing) Art Director.  

And as we head in 2018 what does the future hold for Walfrid and me? Well, it should prove to be a very interesting (and busy) year as there are a quite a few related projects on the horizon. No time for self-doubt now, way too busy for that!” 


Michael Melvin, Melvin Creative 12th December 2017

Brother Walfrid’s 12 Days of Christmas: Day One!

Brother Walfrid T-Shirt Emblem

In true Chrismas Spirit, The 9 Muses, along with Michael Connolly is doing ’12 Days of Walfrid’, each day starting today we will be giving away exclusive interviews, facts, behind the scenes looks at the Brother Walfrid Campaign and how we have developed it.

We will also be giving away some amazing Brother Walfrid Merchandise and have a major announcement.

Day One is us celebrating Walfrid’s Life and Timeline with these 12 Facts.

Brother Walfrid – 12 Facts

  1. Brother Walfrid was born on 18th May 1840 in Carton Phibbs near Ballymote, County Sligo. He was Christened Andrew Kerins.
  2. Andrew Kerins left Ireland following An Gorta Mor – an event described the historian Christine Kinealy as ‘a truly terrible tragedy’ in which over 1.5 million people fled their homeland.
  3. It is understood that Walfrid left traveled across the Irish Sea with his friend Bart McGettrick on a coal boat at the age of 15 (in 1855 – soon after the Great Hunger).
  4. Michael Davitt – a leading figure in the formation of Celtic Football Club along with Brother Walfrid – referred to the Great Hunger as a ‘holocaust of humanity’ such was the scale of suffering.
  5. Brother Walfrid joined the Marist Brotherhood in 1864 at the age of 24 and traveled to Beauchamp in the south of France to take his oath and be educated in the Marist tradition.
  6. Walfrid was appointed the headmaster of St Mary’s school in the Calton area of Glasgow aged 34 in 1874.
  7. In Scotland, there were only 39 Catholics recorded in the city of Glasgow but there was 60 anti-Catholic societies – this hints at the anti-Catholic prejudice encountered by Walfrid and the thousands of other Irish Catholics who had immigrated during the nineteenth century.
  8. Celtic Football Club was founded in the parish hall of St Mary’s, Calton at a meeting chaired by John Glass with the stated aim of generating money for local charities.
  9. The Scottish Sport wrote in 1888 that Celtic FC was ‘the best combination of Irishmen that has ever been raised in Scotland, knitted together by an unquenchable desire to do honour to the Emerald Isle, from which they sprung’.
  10. Walfrid was transferred to London in 1892 by the Marist Brotherhood where he would work as headmaster of St Anne’s School in Whitechapel following his success in Glasgow.
  11. In 1911, Walfrid was quoted in the Scottish Observer at a celebration dinner hosted by Celtic as saying “Well, well, time has brought changes and outside ourselves, there are few left of the old brigade. I know none of these present players, but they are under the old colours and quartered in the dear old quarters and that suffices’.
  12. Brother Walfrid died on the 17th of April 1915 aged 74 – he lies in repose at Mount St Michael Cemetery in Dumfries where he spent his last years in retirement with the Marists.

Remember The 9 Muses brings you all the latest from The World’s First PhD on Brother Walfrid, if you think your friends and family would love to join the Campaign then we would love to share our news and our passion.

Kindest regards




The Brother Walfrid statue outside Celtic Park.