James Kelly , Celtic President

1890 James Kelly Celtic Player

1890 James Kelly Celtic Player

In November 2014, Nora Anderson contacted me, sharing some photos of her great, grandfather James Kelly.

James was somewhat of a character and as well as being Justice of the Peace, was more known for playing as an initial member of Celtic Football club, then going on to be the President of the entire Club. Residing at Thornhill, Blantyre James also had several local business interests in Blantyre amongst them owning Blantyre Engineering Company and owner of the pub, Kelly’s Corner.

1890 James Kelly and Celtic Team. (James sitting at front)

1890 James Kelly and Celtic Team. (James sitting at front)

Jimmy Kelly was an all round athelete in his early life noting prizes for his 100 yards sprint. Born in 1865, he had started out in a working career as a joiner in Renton, Glasgow. He joined Celtic from the famous Renton World Champions team and a glowing football career continued.

He was chosen to captain Celtic in its infancy and was even at his death had never been surpassed as a cente half in the Celtic club. He was capped for Scotland 16 times. He did much work for the community in Blantyre and was especially interested in education, serving on the old School Board. Eventually he worked his way to become a director of Celtic and also chairman.

His business interests included wine and spirits, which saw him move to Blantyre to his residence “Thornhill”. He was also owner of The Horseshoe Bar (Kelly’s Bar). He was an elected member of the County Council and Justice of the Peace. He was just as well known in Motherwell as he was in Blantyre. When he died at the age of 66 at Thornhill, Blantyre at 11pm on Saturday, 20th February 1932, the businessman of Blantyre, and of Motherwell, grocer wine and spirit merchant, a director of Blantyre Engineering Co., Ltd., and Prestwick Picture House, Ltd., director of the Celtic Football Club, and at one time a member of the Lanarkshire County Council, left an estate to the value of £35,786. (about £2.1million in 2016 money.)

His funeral took place on Tuesday 23rd February 1932 at St Patrick’s Cemetery, New Stevenston, but only after Requiem Mass was held at St Joseph’s Church on Blantyre’s Glasgow Road at 10.30am that morning. There was representation from many people from all over Scotland and as many as 30 cars took place in the funeral procession. His widow, Margaret later that year applied for the licenses of his pubs, by means of inheritance including that of the Black Bull pub in Motherwell. He also had several sons and daughters.

1920 James Kelly on left. Shared by Nora Anderson

1920 James Kelly on left. Shared by Nora Anderson

1920s James Kelly in back row whilst President of Celtic Football club

1920s James Kelly in back row whilst President of Celtic Football club

5 responses to “James Kelly , Celtic President

  1. James Kelly Esq gave my great grandfather James HOUSTON a beautiful Roman clock for his wedding in Blantyre in 1901. James then moved to Canada. I wonder if it is the same person.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pedant alert here, just to point out that Renton is in Alexandria (although I think it has a Dumbarton postcode) button is certainly not in Glasgow. As well as Renton which you attested to, the Dumbarton team and Vale of Leven (based in Alexandria itself) were among the top clubs in the early years before the Glasgow clubs with their superior support took over.

    Another fine article from a great site, I have no connection to Blantyre but recently moved to Newton in Cambuslang so local research often leads me here (and grew up in Rutherglen so already had a vague knowledge of the town).

    Went to the priory and the AA battery today! Nice wee walk. Bizarre that such history and nature is so close to home. Didn’t manage to find the carvings tho. Another time perhaps


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