Sixty one years after Belfast Celtic left football, they have made a triumphant return to ‘Paradise’. The Belfast Celtic Society’s new museum space was officially opened at the Park Centre by former star striker and society president Jimmy Jones, Paddy Bonnar’s daughter Heidi and the city’s Lord Mayor Pat Convery.
IFA head of community relations Michael Boyd, who was a guest speaker at the official launch, was full of praise for the Belfast Celtic Society who helped make the museum a reality.
“It is important to keep the Belfast Celtic story alive so that we can all celebrate the amazing achievements of the club, learn from the past and work together to keep the spirit of this club alive in the community,” he said.
“The Belfast Celtic team had some amazing characters and the club was very progressive in ensuring that both Catholics and Protestants could play side by side with pride, friendship and respect. I would encourage all football lovers to visit the new Belfast Celtic museum space currently at the Park Centre.”
Situated in the Park Centre, the site of the old Celtic Park, hundreds of well-wishers and grand old fans attended the opening. Filled with memorabilia and items of nostalgia, the museum is the culmination of a major push by the society to raise awareness on the history of Belfast Celtic. Celtic’s great rivals Linfield, who were represented by chairman Jim Kerr and other board members, attended the museum launch bearing gifts.
The Celtic Supporters Club of Norway also made a £250 donation and were warmly thanked by society chairperson Padraig Coyle, while good wishes rolled in from Singapore, Kenya, Australia and Canada. Former players Stan Duncan and Gerry Burrell attended, as did Michael McGuigan – one of the backroom staff at Belfast Celtic and a major cog in the gears of the sporting machine created by manager Elisha Scott in the 1930’s and 40’s. The memorabilia is now on constant display in the windows of the unit, with a helpful key explaining each item and its significance. A well designed timeline also charts the history of the club from its inception in 1891 to its demise in 1949.
The IFA’s community relations department is currently supporting the Belfast Celtic Society with a number of new initiatives concerned with dealing with the past, storytelling and tackling |sectarianism.
Michael Boyd continued: “Football in this part of the world traditionally is not very good at celebrating its heritage. I would encourage other Irish League clubs who are interested in this type of innovative work to visit the Belfast Celtic museum to see how inspiring it is.”
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