The Celtic Graves Society are proud to announce a ceremony to commemorate the final resting place of the first Celtic Captain
St Patricks Cemetery, 29 King’s Drive, New Stevenston
Sunday 9th April 2017 at 2pm
Speakers and attendees at the event shall include:
Members of the Kelly family
Jim Craig, Lisbon Lion and Celtic Graves Society Patron
Representatives of Celtic Football Club
Terry Dick, Celtic Graves Society Member and Celtic Supporter
Former Captains of Celtic Football Club
The Son and Grandson of Duncan McKay
A blessing of the grave will be conducted by Father White of St Mary of the Assumption Church, Calton
James Kelly was born in 1865 into an Irish family in the Dunbartonshire town of Renton. Dunbartonshire is often regarded as being the cradle of Scottish football with fine teams like Vale of Leven, Renton and Dumbarton springing up in the 1860s and 1870s. It was with Renton in the early 1880s that James made his name, winning Scottish Cup medals in 1885 and 1888. In 1888 the Renton team, also including Neil McCallum our first goal scorer, beat West Bromwich Albion the English Cup Winners and it was cliamed that they were the World Champions.
In the same year, James Kelly was to become a Celtic player. The fledgling club’s capture of this renowned and accomplished centre half-back from Renton was a massive coup for the Bhoys as James Kelly was one of the best known and highly regarded players of his era.
The importance of his capture cannot be understated. It was probably the most significant move that the first Celtic Committee made. He was a star signing that the club could not miss out on. There was a lot of work done to entice him to leave Renton and choose Celtic above Hibernian, and it was the persuasive tongue of Celtic founding father John Glass that made the difference. The presence of James Kelly in the Celtic ranks was a catalyst in attracting other top players who would only be too happy to sign up to play in Glasgow’s east end alongside him.
James Kelly was to become our first club captain and scored in our first ever game as Celtic defeated Rangers by 5-2. He was very much a no frills player who was content to ensure that the basics were done well. His efficient approach to the game made him a most effective, dependable and consistent talent. His pace and ability allowed him to be able to switch between attacking and defending as and when need be, and his commanding presence meant he was a true icon for the Celtic support to look up to in those early days.
He retired from playing, having made 139 League and Scottish Cup appearances for Celtic and scoring 11 goals. He won 8 international caps for Scotland and also captained his country.
For Celtic, James Kelly’s greatest moment was winning the Scottish Cup as captain in 1892, the first time Celtic won the country’s premier tournament. He is the last of that Scottish Cup winning team to be commemorated by the Celtic Graves Society. He also won the Scottish League Championship in 1893, 1894 and 1896 with his inspiring leadership and gifted play. In addition he won four Glasgow Cups and four Glasgow Charity Cups, bringing the sort of success that the downtrodden and embattled Glasgow Irish population craved. He retired from playing the game in 1897 at the age of 32, but immediately became a Director of the Club and later Chairman from 1909 until 1914, then Director again from 1914 until his death in 1932.
James Kelly was Celtic’s first captain and leader on the pitch and much loved by Celtic supporters everywhere.
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