The Songs Debate Needs Nuance. But Some Chants Don’t Belong In The Celtic Support.

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There was a moment during the League Cup semi-final when I actually turned to my mate in utter disbelief at the atrocious song emanating from a section of our fan-base. It was the “soon there’ll be no Protestants at all” add-on to The One Road. From there, these morons launched into a hearty rendition of The Soldiers Song.

“Not bad,” I said to him. “A sectarian add-on to a Free Stater tune, followed by the anthem of the Republic. The intellectual incoherence is hard to credit.”

Which brought me back around to something I’ve known for a long time, and which Andrew Smith highlighted again today in his Scotsman column; that there are people amongst our support who are genuine wastes of space.

It’s not even that they are bigots, they are worse than that.

Because being a bigot is a coherent, individualist choice and as deeply horrific as it is, choosing to be a bigot requires basic decision making functionality. Being a sheep, parroting idiotic ideas and opinions and singing songs which get the stink of this stuff on our club doesn’t require any.

I marvel sometimes at the lives these guys must lead that this is what they think counts them as rebels and revolutionaries. It makes them neither. It makes them sad bastards who haven’t quite twigged yet that they are throwbacks to a bygone age.

Any Celtic fan singing about the ethnic cleansing of Protestants – which, let’s cut the bullshit that add-on does – doesn’t just not understand our history but they are woefully short on their knowledge of Irish struggle, which was filled to the rafters with them.

One of my favour Republican songs is The Wolfetones Protestant Men, a sterling anthem to some of those guys, which I would dearly love to hear being lustily sung at Celtic Park one day. “Be England’s fool; divide, they’ll rule …” is a crucial segment.

And of course, Wolfe Tone himself, mentioned in the song, was a Protestant. I bet if you told some of these cretins that their jaws would hit the floor.

To me and a lot of our fans, there are some great songs which some of our fans are dementedly hearts-set on ruining forever with puerile, needless, IRA add-ons as well.

Let’s get something out of the way before I go on, although regular readers won’t be in the least bit surprised; I have no problem with Celtic fans singing Republican songs. I don’t do it at games, because I personally don’t think that’s the forum for it.

Anyone who has met me in the pub, however, will know I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of them and consider some of them absolutely wonderful. I have long dared anyone who wants the debate to tell me the Republican song, sung regularly at Celtic games, which preaches the killing of fellow human beings and no-one has ever come back with an answer and no-one ever will because there’s nary a song in the Republican canon which does that.

About four years before The Fields Of Athenry got sung first at the football I sang it on stage at a trade union event in Germany for delegates from all over the continent, who all wanted to know what the song was. I’d been singing it, and hearing it, for years; it was a family party-piece at New Year. When I first heard it at a game my jaw dropped open.

It was the same with Grace, another old favourite whose first performance at the football left me beaming with joy and surprise because it, too, had been an old family favourite and it was good to hear it getting a stirring rendition from our fans.

But I wince every time I hear Willie Maley’s chorus polluted by that “… and the IRA” dirge, because of course neither Maley nor James McGrory nor Paul McStay nor the founders of our club had the least connection to the IRA which wouldn’t even surface as an organisation in its own right until years after we were founded.

Where does it come from, this sheep-like braying of utter nonsense like that?

There are a handful of songs which pop up randomly at Parkhead and just as quickly disappear and it’s an embarrassment and a disgrace when they do.

Roamin’ In The Gloamin is another notorious piece of anti-Protestant swill which doesn’t belong at Celtic games. I am less convinced by the argument about “Dirty Orange bastards” which some people say is a coded reference to Protestants; it must be very coded indeed as I’ve heard it sung at Catholic officials and even Catholic Ibrox players.

I’ve always viewed it as a catch-all kind of phrase, in the same way the word “hun” is, a word I only use in a very specific context. Hey, at the end of the day if there are those on the periphery of Ibrox who don’t like “orange” being tossed at them, maybe they should stop playing into the stereotype with the orange strips and other paraphernalia.

Those who equate the terms “hun” and “orange” with Protestant are at it, and this is a relatively new phenomenon and I am surprised that any intelligent person accepts the claim.

Those who equate those words with their use of the word “fenian” are overlooking a clear difference; they have a song over there which is a very clear reference to being “up to their knees in fenian blood” which makes the intent and the sentiment and the use in context quite explicit; it’s an ethnic cleansing anthem, and it is once again heard everywhere they go.

But Andrew Smith has a particular issue with one of the songs of yesterday and you know what?

So do I. The songs mocking dead ex-Ibrox staff and players are the stuff of the gutter and that’s where those who sing them belong. It’s sewer-dredging Ibrox style, and the irony is that I know the very people who sing them would be amongst the first to lose their shit over songs about dead Lisbon Lions and Tommy Burns.

Andrew Smith criticised fan groups and the club for not speaking out; maybe he’s missed all the times I’ve written about this subject. Maybe he’s missed the numerous entreaties the club itself has made for fans to consider the reputation of Celtic.

And maybe he missed the fact that when that song was sung yesterday that many thousands of our own fans booed it. But that doesn’t make for sexy headlines.

Still he deserves credit. He is consistent on this issue, and on writing the same about the fans across the city. This guy, like Graham Spiers, has been, if you’ll pardon the pun, singing this song a long time.

This has to be cut out of our support at some stage, and really, the sooner the better.

The song debate deserves more nuance than it gets but I think there are things on which we can all agree, and that these chants are disgusting and have no place in our support is one of them.

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  • Peter Rodgers says:

    Whilst I agree with some of your comments raised, I take exception with your name calling and general disrespectful terms you use when describing fellow Celtic fans who choose to sing songs which you wish weee not sang at Celtic games. I too find sectarianism disgusting and the fact some sing anti Protestant songs goes against the ethos of our club. However, you are grossly mistaken that the founders of Celtic (or certainly those involved at the early stages of the club) were not of an Irish republicanism persuasion. Whatever the guise/cloak which armed Irish republicanism has been called or referred as; fenians, pike men, young irelanders, Irish volunteers,IRB, IRA , INLA etc etc, one of the early contributors to the club was of course Michael Davitt. A proud and celebrated Irish republican, and someone who was so highly thought of by those founding fathers of Celtic that they asked him to lay the first sod at Celtic park.
    So, whilst you are right in lots of what you say, don’t airbrush the connection between Celtic and Irish republicanism out of history just to prove your argument.

  • John Lavery says:

    Brilliantly written HH!

  • Craig M says:

    Another great article on a matter that will constantly need to be addressed until these songs are gone from the games.

    It was heartening to read that it’s an issue that bothers so many fans but disheartening to know that the Club will do absolutely nothing about it.

    It’s now down to the other fans to drown these songs out or show their disapproval to the Club to take some form of action.

    I agree with so many replies to this article and like many can’t see how these songs would inspire the team or be appealing to sponsors etc.The board are a pathetic group, scared to address the subject and take action against the culprits. Fingers in Their Ears CSC.

    I now watch the games with the sound on mute which is a sad state of affairs.

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    Just a point in case it’s gone unnoticed. Tae read some of these comments ye would think we were an Irish club. Celtic as far as ahm aware, are a Scottish club with Irish- Scottish roots. It’s one thing being proud (and rightly so) of that particular aspect of our history and of the fact a massive percentage of our support are Irish, or of Irish decent, tho worth rememberin and its no disrespectful tae say it, we ARE a Scottish club first and foremost, with a multi-cultural support.

  • Jim Alexander says:

    Excellent article. As a lifelong Celtic supporter (from Ireland), I cringe every time.
    Watching a lot of the away games on tv, what seems to be a terrific atmosphere is ruined by not one or two, but regular “add ons”.
    These same people are the first to complain about the “Billy Boys”. No moral high ground here.
    How do we stop it?

  • Stesano says:

    I am in Australia just now Adelaide to be specific and stayed up to watch as started 2.30am here and for first 20minutrs all I heard was that nonsense songs straight all using the term which is not needed or wanted at our games!! Go to a rally it do whatever !! We have millions of great Songs and are easily the best at creating them and have always been copied!! But this has to stop!! Unlike that poison who live to hate and need their vile mindsets to operate we never have or did!! As the lad famously said we are Celtic and Celtic are us””!! Sadly it’s got way worse since the Green brigade ( who I love by the way I ) has got that corner it’s just a fact! The club needs to address this head on it has to end the add one in the Will Mallet song is really cringe worthy and straight out of the Hun mindset , sort this Celtic !! As it allowed the orcs enablers in the media , police force and authority to tag us with the utter poison of that helll hole breeding ground of hate, so to all those ‘ rebels” ha ha aye right!! Half jaked at games give it a rest think of our Great Club !! As this not who we are or ever were about!

    • Kevan McKeown says:

      @ Stesano. Well put mate.

      • Stesano says:

        Cheers Kevan it’s just gone on far too long wee Fergus had it well stopped we don’t need to do it anyway , we all love the team and club and have loads a great songs it’s not what we are about! It cringe worthy and Hun like let them be the vile filth they are just like the oldco! We are Celtic a club for everyone never exclusive always inclusive it’s in our DNA! Born out of community , solidarity , charity and love! Some these wee guys need to remember that no more please!

  • John Johnston says:

    Brilliantly put. I like the odd rebel song (like most of us probably) but it’s cringeworthy listening now to the constant IRA shit.
    I’d hazard a guess that the majority of our support probably give a nod to religion in our daily lives but that’s it.
    Celtic songs and a couple of ‘non add on’ rebs please and no anti anyone shit.

  • Anthony Scullion says:

    I totally concur, I was disappointed waiting to hear one song about the club under all the gumph they were singing at Dundee, it needs to stop ??

  • Alex McCabe says:

    While i agree with most if not all of your references regarding the moronic chants and songs ,i was bought up with all this around me on supporters buses,terraces & stands ,when i became a teenager i venture into find out more about this stuff that surrounded me and after a bit of research came to the conclusion that it had nothing to do with such a fabulous Club and started to follow my club with pride rather than prejudice, Over the years i found a lot of the fans would police themselves, but recently a group at matches who undoubtedly provide a fantastic atmosphere have a few who influence the many ,in short we need more people thinking before they go down a road which takes our club back to a time when this was and seemed part of being a football fan I also will always recognised the Irish roots and great work that our club has achieved and will undoubtedly continue into the future

  • John O'Connell says:

    Brilliant article, we need to hear more like these

  • Steven says:

    Really good article james, as a protestant celtic supporter myself it makes me sick to the back teeth when i hear those words .. just no need. We have a sing book that most other clubs would love. Good on you for once again highlighting this dirge. HH

  • Davy Knowles says:

    A well written and balanced piece. I have no issue with the vast majority of the songs, even those that do mention the IRA but detest the corrupting of some of them to include bigoted lines. Some in our ranks need educating-it wasn’t just Wolfe Tone that was a Protestant, just about every leader of every Irish rebellion up to 1916 was a Protestant including Robert Emmet. Martin McGuiness often mentioned the brave Protestants that fought for Irish freedom in the past. It is shameful to sing the lines they do and I’ll hear non of the ‘whataboutery’ nonsense. We need to be better.

  • Brian Carroll says:

    I agree with your article regarding the singing of some songs. I would say that the vast majority of “supporters” singing these songs should look at the players and officials of our club who may be hurt by these offensive chants. Also I’m sure that many of these people have many non-catholic friends and workmates whom they see and speak to everyday.
    Guys please think twice before singing these songs.

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