“One of my favourite jobs was I got sixty thousand tons of steel for Ibrox … and I used tae work in a Cel’ic top and Celtic tammy!”
Excerpt from a conversation between Charlie O’Hare, Celtic supporter, and artist Roddy Buchanan. Conducted as part of the From Scotland to Corby residency programme with Fermynwoods Contemporary Art during the summer of 2017. The subject of conversation – living in Corby and following Celtic. Charlie and Roddy meet in the back bar of the Hazel Tree pub in Greenhill Rise, Corby on the 6th September 2017
Charlie: I’m Charlie O’Hare, I’m 58, I’ll be 59 in October. I was born in Annathill but if anybody asks me where I’m from, it’s easier to say Coatbridge because Annathill, I think is defunct now; we were just in a wee mining village near Coatbridge
Roddy: … and when did you come down to Corby?
Charlie: I was 3 when I come down here in 1961. My mum and dad came down with the steelworks like thousands of other people.
Roddy: Did you have family down here already?
Charlie: No. My dad came down the year previous with the works, and bought the house, and we followed him down the following year. He worked in the steelworks up the road. They brought hundreds of workers down from all round Lanarkshire for jobs in the Corby steelworks. He worked in the electric furnace for British Steel for a good few years.
Roddy: Did he work the rest of his days in there?
Charlie: They closed the steelworks down in 81 I think, and him and my mother, they both ended up working in Weetabix over in Burton Latimer. He was on the maintenance team and my mother was a charge-hand in there.
Roddy: Did it feel like there was still work in the area even though the Steel plant shut down?
Charlie: Corby was always a very busy place because, when the steelworks closed down they turned Corby into what they called an ‘Enterprise Town’ – so, they built so many industrial areas, especially on the sites where the old steelworks were. They invited businesses into Corby at reduced rates to get them set-up. Corby has always been busy.
Roddy: When you go up to Glasgow, do people still ask, “Is there work down in Corby? Do you think we should come down?”
Charlie: We’ve had guys saying ‘Is there any room on your bus to get back with you’, so aye, we’re always getting asked.
Roddy: What do you tell them?
Charlie: We always say there’s plenty of work. There’s work available if you want to do it but Corby is like a lot of places – you’ve got people who don’t want to work. Obviously now, there are foreigners doing a lot of jobs – so from what I can see, there’s always been work in Corby.
Roddy: Did you go back up to Scotland for family for holidays when you were young?
Charlie: We used to go up every year for two weeks in the summer. My dad had his annual … I think, two-week leave in the summer and we used to traipse back up to Coatbridge. My Grandad and all them – they stayed in Coatbridge’. When Annathill closed down – it was a three street mining village – everybody moved away, so on my mum’s side, they all went tae Moodiesburn, my dad’s side they all went tae Coatbrig’.
Roddy: What’s your own work history?
Charlie: When I left school, I went straight into the tube works, and I spent twelve years in there.
Roddy: Doing what?
Charlie: I was in the warehouse – the CW warehouse as we called it. Basically, you had the mills where they made the tubes. Then you had the finishing department where they coated the tubes, whether it would be black paint, red-primer or they just left them self-coloured, then they come down to us in the warehouse, and we would package them and send them off all over the world. One of my favourite jobs was I got sixty thousand tons of steel for Ibrox … and I used tae work in a Cel’ic top and Celtic tammy!
Roddy: Did you write messages on the steel?
Charlie: They warned me not to, but the very last tube that we packed, I couldn’t help myself. I had tae put a wee bit on it. I remember walking into the office that day, and the charge-hand, John McDade was his name, he came from up round Motherwell area. He was Celtic daft, and he turn’t round and took one look at me, standing there with a Cel’ic tap and Cel’ic tammy, and he went … “Oh, naw!”
Roddy: So after that what did you do?
Charlie: Since I left British Steel I’ve basically done two other jobs – it’s been either driving or the pub trade. I started off as a courier driver, and then I worked for a double-glazing firm delivering doors and windows and stuff, and then I worked for RS Components delivering electrical components to RS trade counters, and at the minute I currently deliver tyres to Kwik-Fit centres and stuff like that.
Roddy: And the pub came at some point … ?
Charlie: When I was younger. I was a part-time barman in St Brendan’s, and then, when I first left British Steel, I became a full-time barman, helping out the landlord and that, and then, after he left, I got made up to steward. I spent six years as a steward, and that’s where we ran the Celtic Club from, at that time.
Roddy: Can you tell me a wee bit of the history of your relationship with the Supporters’ Club in Corby? When you were a wee boy were you brought up to have a love of Celtic?
Charlie: I lived next-door to two die-hard Celtic supporters – McNally’s their name was, and they used to travel up all the time on the train, and they would always bring me back a wee hat or scarf or something, and obviously, every holiday we spent up in Scotland, we’d maybe get two or three games in, depending on what was on. Pre-season, maybe the old Drybrough Cup or something, or the first round of the league-Cup. We’d maybe get two, possibly three games in on that fortnight – but, as I say, down here, it was … we never had Scottish football on the television. As I say, the two boys next door kept bringing me …
Roddy: Of course! I never thought – before Sky and all that, it would have been impossible to see Celtic on TV down here.
Charlie: Then when I got sixteen, seventeen and old enough to go with my cousins, my dad would go and watch Albion Rovers and me and my cousins would go to Celtic Park.
Roddy: So, that would be the mid-seventies?
Charlie: Aye. I left school in ’75, and then it was ’77, I think, I started drinking in St Brendan’s, they used to have a Bobby Lennox Celtic supporters Club. It was only a handful of guys. They used to run totes and stuff, but they never went to Saturday games. They would only go up for the odd European game, and the tote subsidised their trips and that carry on, and I think it was ’78 there was a few of us that approached them and said, “Can we join your club?” and they said, “No, it’s a closed shop” and we’re like “All right.” So we’ll start our own club. So, that’s basically what we did, we formed our own club. They used to run a bus up every Easter – a family bus. My first bus was a Celtic/Rangers game, and my bus was full and they had to cancel theirs. And that was basically how our club was formed. I used to run fifty-two seaters every couple of months after that.
Roddy: Did the Club ever have its own building?
Charlie: We used tae use St Brendan’s, the Catholic Club.
Roddy: But that’s gone, isn’t it?
Charlie: That’s gone now, yes. The diocese closed that down for, God knows why.
Roddy: So, did you then use somewhere else?
Charlie: When St Brendan’s closed down, that would be about, maybe, seven or eight years ago now – everybody just spread. The club now, as it is doesn’t officially have a base. I mean, I’ve just taken this pub on – but, as I say, this is a mixed pub. Basically, now everything is done over the Internet. I’ll put it on the club web page; names for next week; the boys will put their names down, so I just phone up and book the bus, sort the driver out and then the driver picks everybody up at their house on a Saturday morning, and off we go.
Roddy: Do people look after their own season ticket allocation?
Charlie: Yes, everyone’s got their own season tickets – aye. The funny thing was, I won the Celtic Pools, when the season tickets first came out, I won I think seventeen hundred pounds or something on the Celtic Pools. And the ex-wife said …
Roddy: … how much?
Charlie: Seventeen hundred quid or something like that. My ex-wife … I was with the wife at the time. And we’d just booked a holiday – but the holiday was all paid for. So, she says, “That’s great, spending money for the holiday.” But I bought six season tickets with the winnings and used to just rent them out to boys, boys who wanted to go up.
Roddy: That was very entrepreneurial.
Charlie: Now there’s lots of boys that have got season tickets in Corby. They don’t travel on our bus. Our buses run up and down, we go straight up watch the game, and come straight back – unless it’s like a Rangers game, we’ll stay over for the weekend. We’ll nominate a couple of games for the season and we’ll just stay for the weekend – but, predominantly, it’s up and down, but there’s a lot of guys who’ve got season tickets, they’ll drive up themselves or fly on a Friday, and come back on a Sunday.
Roddy: Do you sit together in the stadium?
Charlie: There’s a lot who’ve just recently reallocated … so, there’s a few that sit together. Some down, essentially next to the Green Brigade, but there’s quite a few in the Main Stand – myself and the boy are at the back of the Jock Stein…rear upper.
Roddy: I’m interested to hear the mechanics of how that journey works. You said you’d organise it on the Internet, and then where do you meet?
Charlie: We used to meet outside St Brendan’s. Everybody met outside St Brendan’s – so they’d all get taxi’s up in the morning. Everybody met the’gether and then, when we came back, the driver would drop everybody off, either this pub, or that pub, or whatever pub, and what happened then, I think the driver just says, “I’ll get you at the hoose”– so then when somebody else heard somebody was getting picked up at the house, they wanted to be picked up at their house – so, now the driver just drives round and picks everybody up. He just picks people up where they stay and then that’s it, then when the last ones on, we’re away.
Roddy: So what sort of time do you leave for a 3 O’clock kick off?
Charlie: Three o’clock … you see it depends, the thing is if it’s a nine-seater, we leave at seven because they’re not restricted, whereas the minibuses are restricted – so, if it’s a minibus, we start picking up at half past five and we’re on the road for six cause it’s a six-hour journey from the minute you leave until the minute you get there – and it’s the same coming back … At full-time whistle, it’s just straight back to the bus, we’re on the bus, and then head out the car-park as quick as we can. The quicker we’re back on the motorway, the quicker we go home like, you know?
Roddy: … and does the radio go on?
Charlie: Back in the day it used to be CDs or something, but now it’s all memory sticks. I think everybody’s got memory sticks. I know the driver brings his own; I’ve got one; and its Celtic songs and Irish songs and whatever else. And that’s it. Music all the way up, and music all the way back.
Roddy: Do you stop on the way?
Charlie: We only stop for the toilet, and to fuel up – so, as soon as we arrive at the ground there’s normally a few hours to spare, so we just go to the pubs, apart from the driver, like. But the rest of us just go to the pubs and that.
Roddy: Are folk drinking on the way up?
Charlie: Oh, aye. I know, you’re not supposed to be drinking on the way to a game in Scotland … but, aye. You need it. You couldn’t do that journey up and down without a drink.
Roddy: So has everybody got food and all that too?
Charlie: Likes of myself, I make a pack-up for me and my boy – but some of the other boys bring their own food, or they’ll just buy stuff at the services when we stop to get diesel and that. Normally, as I say, we’ll get food before the game or during the game.
Roddy: Do you have a Supporters Club banner?
Charlie: We’ve got three, they’re identical, but in three different sizes. It says ‘St Brendan’s Centenary CSC Corby’. It’s a white background, a green saltire with a green and white flag on one side, and an Irish flag on the other side and the centenary badge in the middle
Roddy: And you chose ‘Centenary’ because …
Charlie: What had happened was, the first club we formed was called ‘The Emerald’ then some of the club had a fall-out with the landlord at St Brendan’s, so they moved away – but …
Roddy: Who moved away?
Charlie: We all moved … The club moved away altogether and we ran the club from the Knights Lodge on Towerhill Road, a pub in an old sixteenth century coaching house, but I wasn’t comfortable up there – so, I went back to St Brendan’s and when I moved back I reformed the Celtic Club as St Brendan’s Centenary …
Roddy: You said the size of the second flag is …
Charlie: The second size is eight feet by six feet. That’s one you can manage tae games with. Then we’ve got a big massive one, its about sixteen feet by ten feet. We’ve took that abroad with us quite a lot but I was left carrying it. We had it in Manchester for Roy Keane’s testimonial when we had the three-tier stand. We lobbed it over at half-time. You just seen all the flashes going as everybody was taking photos of it.
Roddy: So do you try and get the flag out at half time at a home games?
Charlie: Sometimes we take up the medium-sized one up with us. I’ve not had the big one out for a while. The last time I had the big one out actually, was when Chris Sutton was down here last year, we had the big flag out for him.
Roddy: Up at Corby Football Club?
Roddy: So … what are the pubs in Corby that are associated with Celtic? Are there designated pubs? I’ve been to the Irish Centre, the Hazel Tree and the Grampian had Celtic supporters in there too.
Charlie: The Grampian gets a lot of Celtic supporters in it. It’s got a lot of Rangers supporters in it as well, the next best place to watch Celtic is Our Lady’s Catholic Club in Occupation Road. That’s a Celtic pub … Domino was always a Celtic pub …
Roddy: That’s one I’ve not heard of.
Charlie: The Domino is shut down now, the boy turned it into a Celtic/Irish pub. It went downhill, they ended up shutting it. There are quite a few pubs in Corby that have shut now, know what a mean?
Roddy: When you’re travelling up with the Celtic bus, do you see other buses that are coming from down here? Not from Corby but from other towns and cities?
Charlie: Not so much down here now, you used to get the Luton bus passing you. They’re another one that’s fell away. It’s probably … who do we see? We see the Coventry bus now and again then it’s around the Border areas – that’s when we see more buses.
Roddy: Have you noticed a difference in the numbers of Celtic Supporters in Corby with the rise of the English Premiership?
Charlie: No! If anything…when you walk round Corby, every other person you see is in a Celtic top or a Rangers top. A lot of the boys in Corby have a Scottish team because their parents are all Scottish, but a lot of them latch onto English teams as well. I think there’s a big Liverpool supporters’ club in Corby, and a Man United supporters’ club.
Roddy: Do they run buses?
Charlie: They run buses. I don’t know how often they run them. I know the Liverpool supporters’ club used St Brendan’s for a wee while. I think they use Lodge Park Sports Centre now. Manchester – they run buses as well, but other than that …
Roddy: Does anyone go to Leicester?
Charlie: The Cardigan runs buses to Leicester games, and a lot go by train because it’s only five minutes up the road anyway.
Roddy: Have you ever been to Leicester?
Charlie: I’ve been to Leicester a few times.
Roddy: I mean, to the football?
Charlie: Yeah, I’ve gone over for the football. When I had St Brendan’s, we used to get complimentary tickets off the brewery, but I’ve paid to go over as well a few times. I’ve been with friends to Nottingham and places like that. They’re handy. We went to Nottingham one time. It’s funny, because we got invited by the brewery and we were in the boxes in the big plush seats and everything. Nottingham Forest were playing Manchester City, and the big brewery rep – he was a Nottingham Forest fan, He brought us food and everything at half-time, drinks and all the rest, and in the second half, Manchester City scored and we all started cheering, he said ‘what you doing?’ … We had to set him straight – ‘Billy McNeill’s manager of Manchester City, so we’ve got to support him!’
Roddy: It would be interesting to hear what you think of the current Celtic team?
Charlie: It’s amazing to watch the team now. I mean, the feel-good factor … you can tell the difference going to Celtic Park now from maybe two years ago under Ronnie Deila. The feel-good factor is back – we’re playing good football. We don’t expect to be beat anymore – It’s going to happen. It’s probably going to come on a stupid Wednesday night away to Hamilton or Kilmarnock or Partick or somebody like that. We’ll probably end up … I mean, we can’t stay invincible for ever but I’ve got guys contacting me now, how do I join the club? Are you taking members on? Stuff like that.
Roddy: Do you get a sense that because Celtic are having a good spell – do you feel as if the Rangers supporters in the town are disappearing?
Charlie: Not disappearing – I mean, you only need to put the Rangers games on in here. Quite a few of them come in and watch it – but when you talk to them, and they’re sitting and watching the game, they’re like, God helps us when we play you. I mean, you can see the fear in them, and these are guys that are staunch Rangers supporters.
Roddy: … But you’ve lived through dark days too.
Charlie: Oh God aye, eh. Back in the days with the Sack-the-Board campaign and everything. We used to run our bus up. It was still a weekend away for us although you were getting beat every weekend. It was terrible.
Roddy: Who was the first player that you really connected with in the club when you were a boy?
Charlie: When I was a boy, my dad used to take me to watch the Lisbon Lions. I’m very friendly with Bertie Auld, I see Bertie quite a lot … and Bertie always shouts ‘How you doing Charlie?’ Bertie had a good friend in Corby as well. He used to come down and visit – but aye as I say I used to go and watch the Lisbon Lions – but then, going back … I liked Roy Atkin, I liked David Provan. I met him a couple of times … they say it’s not a football team, it’s a family – and that’s what it is, because you have that many supporters going up, taking up player of the year trophies and Celtic arrange for you to come in and meet your favourite player and all that. When you’re a young boy growing up and that happens, you’re overawed by it.
Roddy: So – what’s the future of your supporters club? Will Corby have a Celtic supporters’ club in thirty years’ time?
Charlie: We’ve been trying for years to get our own actual Celtic supporters’ club. There’s a guy came into some money and purchased a pub at the other end of town on an industrial estate, and he wanted to turn it into a Celtic pub, but it was going to be proper Supporters’ Club running buses and all that carry on. They wrote to the Rangers supporters’ club, “Would you object to have another Celtic supporters’ club in the town?”, and they were great, “No, not a problem”, but the police were only going to give them a licence to seven o’clock at night which defeated the object. It’s just a waste of time, they said it’s because of where they were situated in an industrial estate, they would have to put security up for the factories and stuff like that. But for us, as far as our Supporters’ Club goes, we’ll just carry on as normal. I mean, this is my 41st year of running buses. You’ll hear them on the bus, they’ll say, “God, you’ve seen a few generations on this bus now?” and it’s true. I remember the first buses – the faces of the guys going up, and then every so often they grow up and get married or whatever, and it’s like they were boys’ frae just a few years ago. A lot of them are in relationships now, bought houses and everything. They don’t come, so there’s a new batch comes through. You’ve still got your nucleus – myself and Fergie Farrell and that, we’re old school, but then it’s, my boy now and Fergie’s boy, plus fresh faces every couple of seasons.
Roddy: So, who is the youngest on the bus at the moment?
Charlie: My boys only fifteen. A lot of them is round about that age, but then, some of the boys will bring their Gran’weans now.
Roddy: It’s a long road to go for a wee kid …
Charlie: Aye. The thing with weans, the wee ones they’ll fall asleep anywhere. Roll your coat up and stick it up against the windae and they’re away.
If you would like to read the conversation with ‘Stevie Noble, Rangers Supporter, Corby’ please visit fermynwoods.org/from-corby-to-scotland