If You Know The History: 25th December 1937 A Bad Day for a Legend

25th December 1937 A Bad Day for a Legend

Christmas Day. Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved the events surrounding this particular day. Everyone seems to be in a good mood, I receive nice presents, I am wined and dined like no other day in the calendar year and I am even asked to sing, something else which seldom happens! It reminds me of all the good moments in my life, none better than the day in this photograph, taken in 1969.



To be honest, every time I look at it, I can see why she fell for me! Seriously, though, Elisabeth has always been everything you could ask for in a wife, she’s still my best paI, I am still nuts about her and very pleased that she is still by my side after all this time. So, firstly, on behalf of Elisabeth and myself, could I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and hope that you all have as nice a time as we normally have.

Now, after a build-up like that, you would expect that I would be relating some very pleasant story about something that occurred on this day either to Celtic or some employee of the club. Well, you are right in thinking that a Celtic personality was involved – in fact this man could very definitely be described as a legend – but it concerns a moment, on Christmas Day of all days, when he was quite badly treated by the club he loved.



On 18th December 1937, Jimmy McGrory became manager of Kilmarnock, on a weekly wage of £17 10s. Seven days later, on Christmas Day, he took his new side back to Celtic Park, of all places, for a league match. As he took his seat in the ‘away’ directors’ box, he received a tremendous cheer from the Celtic support in the crowd of around 8,000, a tribute he apparently felt a little uncomfortable about.

45 minutes later, Jimmy McGrory had even more reason to feel uncomfortable, as his new side were by that time 0-6 down. As he tried to raise the morale of players whom he had only known for a few days, his former manager Willie Maley, in his 50th year as Boss, was apparently telling the Celtic team to go out and give more of the same. This they did and the final score was a humiliating 8-0 defeat for Kilmarnock. It must have been truly hard for the manager, the players and the fans of the Ayrshire club to drum up any Christmas spirit that night.



Not all Celtic fans were happy with the result. More than a few were displeased that Celtic, or more particularly Willie Maley, should have been so merciless in their treatment of a former Celtic legend, although McGrory distanced himself from such thoughts. He concentrated on trying to improve the play of his new charges and brought in a couple of new players. Revenge, though, was just round the corner.

In the early rounds of the Scottish Cup, in the first months of 1938, Kilmarnock beat Third Lanark 2-1 (A) and Nithsdale Wanderers 5-0 (H) before being drawn against Celtic in the third round, again at Parkhead. This time Kilmarnock rose to the challenge and won 2-1 but once again, McGrory was badly treated by his former side.

After the match, Maley refused to shake hands with his former star and even when McGrory went along to his office to say farewell after the game, Maley did not look up from his desk, apparently dealing with paperwork. It was a shameful act of bad grace on the part of the Celtic manager and McGrory merely closed the door and took his side away.

Jim Craig


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