As we near the greatest night in Celtic and Scottish footballs history, we are delighted to share some memories from supporters at the Ottawa CSC. This is part one. Part two is tomorrow. Enjoy.
It was typically warm in Ottawa, and I was sweating but not just from the heat. From 9:00 a.m. that morning I had been teaching my classes at Sir Wilfrid Laurier H.S. but my mind was not on English Literature. I had calculated that, while I was having lunch in the cafeteria about 12:30, Celtic would be taking the field in Lisbon to play Inter Milan in the European Cup final … and it was agony.
In 1967 no world-wide TV coverage of such an event existed; even the BBC World Service could not be relied on short-wave radio. I was stuck. The afternoon was worse: Celtic were playing in Lisbon, and I was in an Ottawa class-room, and the kids knew their teacher was distracted – especially, when I (with a reputation for strictness, if not brutality, as indicated by the nicknames of ‘Chopper’ and ‘TC’) told them to ‘Read your books on your own for a while.”
About 2:30 it would be 7:30 in Lisbon; the game had started at 5:30, and so it would be over. It was a junior class, an Academic class with bright kids; I decided to tell them about Celtic, and they were intrigued: ‘He doesn’t just care about nouns and verbs; he’s a fanatic about a soccer team, an absolute fanatic …’
The phone rang, it was the vice-principal: “Tom, you were talking about a football game today? Well, I have the result, if you are interested.” Interested?
“Yes, Mr Labrosse, you could say that.”
“Well, here goes. Inter Milan won …” That was enough; I hung up on him; I may have slammed the phone down. The students had guessed already that it was bad news. Not a word, not a sound. Nobody was going to risk defenestration from a second-storey window. The phone rang again…
“Tom, I hadn’t finished. Where was I? Oh, yes. Inter Milan 1, Celtics 2.”
Joy, sheer unadulterated joy. We celebrated, the students and I. Most of them were fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had won the Stanley Cup recently. They identified with my mood. No homework tonight, in fact, no more ‘Twelfth Night’ that day. (Tom Campbell)
My dad, who was the convener for the Dumfries CSC , simply told my mother: “Tommy’s off school today. Right.” He was serious; for him it was not a question but a statement. I’m sure it was a Thursday, definitely a school day. I remember the sun was shining in Dumfries. Honest.
What else do I remember? I was 12 years old. Our TV was black and white. I sat there with him in the living room, my Celtic scarf on, one of those old-style ones and he had bought it for me the previous Christmas.
Nervous as hell, he had fortified himself with his usual “wee half and a can of Tennents”; I was drinking lemonade and munching on a bag of crisps. Just the two of us, engrossed, (stressed out I can tell you); we went through agonies as Celtic piled on the pressure, fighting for an equaliser… and , after Gemmell scored, I just couldn’t watch anymore. It was all getting too much for me. I literally went outside, and paced the garden. I looked up to see my dad standing in the doorway. When he came out, I swear all he said was “ Tommy, we did it, son”. He was never a sentimental man but he hugged me right there in our wee garden like a long lost friend. I’ll never forget it till the day I die. I cried, I’m not ashamed to admit it, I bawled my eyes out.
By the way, as an aside, my father, ‘Tam’, as they called him, was the bus convener for the Dumfries CSC for many years. I’ve seen him throw people off if they were drunk, or being too rowdy. He took no nonsense from anyone. In fact, his nickname as a youth was “Punchy McLellan” and I kid you not. But I’m a Celtic man mainly because of him; he had no time for bigotry of any form, and he detested masons, and lodges… He loved the Celtic, and I was a proud son years later when I laid that same scarf across his coffin just before he was interred.
I went to a school where if you didn’t support Rangers you were considered a misfit. That win made my day, and the next day too; I wore my scarf to school proudly; nobody dared say a word..
That’s about it, but the memory of that day (even though I probably missed most of the second half) will stay with me forever. (Tom McLellan)
I still have the original copies of the Scottish newspapers from May 25/26/27th, as well as the ‘Celtic View’ of Wednesday, May 24th, and I treasure them to this day, now fifty years later. These were preserved at the time by my Uncle James and they eventually made their way to me. His days as a Celtic supporter would have gone back all the way to the late 1930s; so, he had seen the best, and the worst of Celtic! I’m glad he lived long enough to see the greatest night, and the best in Celtic’s history. As the oldest son, he would also have been the person who first took my dad, his brother, to the games after the war.
In due course, the love of Celtic was passed on to me.
I was only seven (and a half!) when we won the Big Cup; I can remember the game and the excitement in our house, but didn’t really ‘get’ the significance of it. I had never seen my dad get so worked up about a game before, and he did go crazy when we scored those goals. Next day at school, playtime consisted of us marching round the playground singing Celtic songs: “Champions of Europe! Champions of Europe!”
I’ve seen the game on film more than once. I think it was later that year that that European Cup final was shown in the chapel hall in our parish, and the cheers were just as great when we scored. I may have been eight years old then.
I saw the game again when I was in my early 20s; so, of course, I had a fuller appreciation of how good we were that night in Lisbon. Apart from the goals what stood out was our all-out attack and the total domination. We hammered them 2-1; we destroyed them.
My earliest memories of actually being taken to games coincided with Celtic’s ascendancy from 1965 onward. Maybe, as a seven year-old, I thought that winning the European Cup was just something Celtic did ! My uncles and my dad were quick to tell me it wasn’t always the case but from my young perspective, from 1967 on, I knew there was no team in Europe that we needed to fear. (Kevin Dale)