Celtic were founded in 1887 as a charitable venture and are now the biggest football club in Scotland

Brother Walfrid and Celtic

The Celtic Football Club was founded by Andrew Kerins. Or to give him his Marist Brothers title (and the name by which he is commonly known) Brother Walfrid.

In the mid-late 1800s, Glasgow’s Irish immigrant community – centring on the east end of the city – was extremely poor.

Even basics like food were hard to come by.

Close No. 118, High Street, Glasgow, 1868, photographed by Thomas Annan.

Free School Meals

Over a period of 24 years, Brother Walfrid helped the east end’s deprived communities help themselves.

He set up the first free school meals for children: so-called “penny dinners” where those who could afford to contribute paid a penny; the rest received food and sustenance for free.

He watched – and encouraged – the burgeoning popularity of football among kids and adults alike.

Youth Football Leagues

Youth leagues were established at St. Mary’s, Calton, and youth clubs were set up at Sacred Heart school in Bridgeton, where Brother Walfrid became headmaster.

In 1886, Walfrid invited the most popular adult Catholic team in Scotland at the time – Hibernian F.C. – to play a charity game against St. Peter’s parish from Partick.

More games followed and Walfrid soon saw the potential for a Glasgow Catholic football team. To raise the money for the “penny dinner” scheme he’d established for poor kids.

To alleviate the terrible poverty suffered by Irish immigrants in the East End of Glasgow at the time.

The Founder

And so it was in November 1887 that Celtic Football Club was founded, in St. Mary’s Church hall, Calton, in Glasgow.

The name Celtic was Brother Walfrid’s suggestion, to account for the team’s Catholic and Celtic roots.

A rare picture of an early Celtic football team.


Albeit Walfrid pronounced it “Keltic” rather than the present day “Seltic”.

The newly-formed Celtic played their first match on 28 May 1888, fittingly against Rangers. The score, 5-2 to Celtic, played in front of 5,000 fans.

Just four years later Celtic were drawing crowds of 40,000.

Walfrid moved on to teach in London in 1892 but his name is still spoken with reverence among Glasgow’s Catholic community; and Celtic supporters worldwide.

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