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