Every Celtic fan knows that our great club was founded in 1887/88 to help alleviate extreme poverty in Glasgow’s east end parishes, which were largely populated at the time by the forced emigrant victims of the Great Irish Famine (an Gorta Mór) of the mid-nineteenth century and their descendants. During and in the aftermath of that human catastrophe, millions either died of starvation and related disease, or were forced into exile, mainly in North America, England and Scotland, in a desperate attempt to survive and rebuild their shattered lives.
But I’m not here to teach my Granny to suck eggs.
My mind today drifted to thoughts of the plight of those ancestors of so many of today’s Celtic supporters, when listening to a radio report about how a new generation of Irish is being driven to emigration by the disastrous collapse of the so-called “Celtic Tiger” economy. What a bitter twist of fate that the present inhabitants of the land of Celtic’s principal founding fathers should be facing up to the same threat of having to flee their homeland – but in the wake of a burst bubble of opulence, rather than in the face of the crippling hunger and poverty of almost 170 years ago.
The “vox pop” included in the report offered a heart-warming glimmer of hope, however. A young lady from Galway, while lamenting the undoubted impact the crumbling economy was having on her own quality of life, had resolved to tough it out and help in the battle for national recovery, as she felt shared adversity was beginning to bring out the best in people. It seemed to her that there was a growing realization in the Emerald Isle that the pursuit of wealth and the pursuit of happiness are not the same thing; and that people were beginning to hark after what might be described as more traditional Irish values, such as community spirit and neighbourliness.
Now, that can’t be a bad thing – I hope she’s right!