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World’s First PhD on “Apostle of the Poor” Brother Walfrid Announced
— Arts group sponsors four-year University of Stirling study to find out more about Celtic’s Founding Father —
— PhD part of wider awareness-raising campaign on the Marist Brother’s legacy and importance for Catholic religious, social and cultural identity in Scotland —
The world’s first PhD on Brother Walfrid starts today (Sunday 1 October) as part of a wider campaign to raise understanding and awareness of the Celtic founder’s life and works.
Walfrid – a Marist Brother – founded Celtic F.C. in 1887 to alleviate poverty among Irish immigrants in Glasgow’s east end.
It is hoped the PhD will increase knowledge regarding his significance to the lives of thousands of Irish immigrant Catholics in late 19th century Glasgow, while scrutinising his legacy for 21st-century Scotland.
Fully-funded with a £25,000 grant by Glasgow-based arts group Nine Muses, the three-to-four-year University of Stirling study “seeks to explore and understand Walfrid and his importance to Catholic religious, social and cultural identities in Scotland.”
The PhD’s working title is Faith, Community & Football: Searching for Brother Walfrid.
University of Glasgow alumnus Michael Connolly (age 27 from Lanarkshire) 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!”
Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia said: “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.”
“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.”
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.”
PhD student Michael Connolly will be supervised by Dr Joe Bradley, senior lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of Health Sciences & Sport, University of Stirling.
Dr Bradley explained: “This research aims to explore 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.
“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.”
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.”
Nine Muses is the arts group funding the research. It has already commissioned a giant Peter Howson painting of Brother Walfrid, which is displayed in St. Mary’s, Calton, where Brother Walfrid founded Celtic F.C.
Emma O’Neil owns and manages the company. She said: “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 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.”
The PhD forms part of a wider Brother Walfrid awareness-raising campaign, which Emma was inspired to set up after reading and learning about the Great Irish Hunger of the mid-19th century.
She added: “Over 25 years, Andrew Kerins was a pivotal figure in helping poverty-ridden, demoralised and desperate immigrants displaced from Ireland to Glasgow because of the Great Famine, a terrible period in European history. Walfrid helped give them food, hope, and, through Celtic, pride, and we want to raise awareness of his life and works.
“People can sign up and pledge their support for the campaign for free here and hear first-hand about all the latest discoveries. And if anyone has any new information about Brother Walfrid we’d love to hear from them.”
To support the campaign, Nine Muses is selling 1,888 (the year Celtic played their first game) premium Brother Walfrid boxed sets, which include an A3 museum-quality Peter-Howson-signed limited edition print of his Brother Walfrid painting, and a one-hour documentary.
Thirty per cent of the proceeds will go towards the St. Mary’s Renovation Fund (it was in St. Mary’s Church hall, Calton, that Brother Walfrid founded Celtic on November 6 1887). The remainder will be ploughed back into the Brother Walfrid awareness-raising campaign.
Find out more at https://brotherwalfridart.co.uk
DATE: SUNDAY 1 OCTOBER: FOR IMMEDIATE USE
NOTES FOR EDITORS
About The Story
Find out more about the PhD here.
Find out more about Walfrid’s connection to Celtic here.
Find out more about Walfrid’s links to the Great Famine here.
Find out more about key dates in Brother Walfrid’s life here.
Find out more about Brother Walfrid’s connection to St. Mary’s, Calton here.
Find out more about the Brother Walfrid boxed set, 30% sales of which go to the St. Mary’s Renovation Fund, here.
About Nine Muses
Nine Muses (UK) Ltd owns https://brotherwalfridart.co.uk Nine Muses (UK) Ltd sells original contemporary art online. You can find out more here.
About Dr Joe Bradley, 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.
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Interviews available with Nine Muses owner Emma O’Neil, PhD student Michael Connolly, University of Stirling’s Dr Joe Bradley. Call David Sawyer to arrange.