TIME FOR CELTIC TO GIVE UP IT’S SECRETS?
Whilst updating my World of Sport Hall of Shame post I stumbled across a small mention of two men linked to Celtic FC youth football team and allegations of abuse, so I decided to look in to it. What I’ve read makes me very uncomfortable in so far as it comes across as Celtic attempted damage limitation and their PR screamed of an attempt to keep a lid on what seems to have been a hornet’s nest of abuse spanning decades.
I believe that behind these initial trials hides a massive web of depravity that needs further investigation. The lack of convictions and proper sentences stinks. Feel free to take this info and build on it. The victims involved were denied any real justice and it’s time to right a wrong. Either Celtic were extremely unlucky in regards to their staff’s sexual proclivities, or something more sinister was going on. The question is, who else was involved?
Celtic Boy’s Club
Founded in 1966, the Boy’s Club was a separate entity to Celtic FC but was allowed to affiliate via the name courtesy of Jock Stein. It went on to produce some good Scottish footballers. In 1998, Alan Brazil, James McGrory and David Gordon (three former members of Celtic’s Boy’s Club), gave evidence against Jim Torbett (the Boy’s Club founder) during a trial where he was accused of abusing them between 1968-1974. Torbett was eventually found guilty of child sexual abuse at Glasgow Sheriff’s Court and was given a two year prison sentence.
Torbett was a successful businessman who founded the Celtic Boy’s Club aged just 20. The court heard that he was a predatory paedophile who would prey on young boys that he coached and invited them to his flat in Sighthill, Glasgow. Torbett ran The Trophy Centre which supplied goods to Celtic’s shop, had his own seat in the Parkhead director’s box and at one point looked set to become a director but plans fell through. Following his dismissal in 1972 following allegations of sexual abuse, Frank Cairney was asked to replace him. Two years later (and after Stein’s departure) Cairney organised for Torbett’s return to the club to act as a fundraiser but not to have any contact with children. However, new allegations quickly surfaced.
Soon, more complaints were levelled against Torbett, including boys being taken to non-existent tournaments. One ex-boys’ club player said: “There was one in Spain when we never kicked a ball yet we were told to phone the sports desks of papers to say we won.
“I can remember lying that we played Real Madrid and Tommy Burns scored.”
- Centenary Scotch Whiskey Ltd
- The Trophy Centre
- Planrole Ltd
- Fairbridge in Scotland = this company is described as ‘social work activities without accommodation. Adventurous experiences to advance education and training of children, young persons, physical, mental and spiritual development and grow to full maturity as individuals and members of society, condition of need and hardship in United Kingdom. A registered charity, limited by guarantee‘. Included within the list of directors is Sir William McAlpine – brother of Alistair.
Cairney joined the club in 1970 as a general manager and part-time coach. He resigned in 1991 following allegations of abusing the Celtic’s youth goalkeeper during a trip to New Jersey. Openly known as a molester in youth circles.
The Trial – November 1998
The seven day trial was held at Glasgow Sheriff’s Court in front of Sheriff Margaret Gimblett in November 1998. As well as Brazil, Gordon and McGrory, a fourth former youth player, John McCluskey.
John McCluskey... disclosed being abused by Torbett. Unfortunately the court could not hear his evidence as the abuse happened during a trip to Norway. McCluskey later said during an interview:
“My guilt and shame now is not for what happened that night. My shame is that I waited 23 years to do anything about it. “Dunblane was the one thing that made me come forward. If some of the boys abused by Thomas Hamilton had spoken out, perhaps the massacre might not have happened.”
Alan Brazil… told the court that following an assault at Torbett’s flat he never returned there. He then questioned whether his rebuff may have been the reason why he was never offered a contract with Celtic FC despite scoring a record number of goals for them. (Brazil went on to play for Scotland).
David Gordon… recounted how he was assaulted during his first visit to Torbett’s flat. It was following a second visit when Torbett made an indecent suggestion to him that Gordon decided to quit football for good.
James McGrory… described how Torbett would abuse him while giving him lifts from training in his van. The abuse lasted for two years, during which time he was abused in cinemas, cafes and in Torbett’s flat. Torbett groomed McGrory, eventually persuading him to spend nights in bed with him. It was only after a newspaper expose on Torbett in 1996 that McGrory confided in his wife. He approached Celtic FC, who told him to report the matter to the police.
Gerry McAleer, a former youth player under Torbett, dismissed any allegations against Torbett. McAleer was accused by the prosection of being “paid off” as he was, by that point, appointed business partner of Torbett at The Trophy Club.
Torbett denied all the allegations, even calling the men “liars” in court. His counsel, William McVicar, described how Torbett had had a difficult childhood, blighted by alcoholism in the family, the breakdown of his parents’ marriage but that he was now “a changed man“.
John Taylor, a former youth player, alleged in court that Cairney abused him a number of times when he was 16 years old. Cairney was also facing a further charges in relation to three further former youth players. Cairney denied all allegations.
During the trial it was also alleged that Celtic’s Jock Stein had been accused of leading a cover up of the abuse following Torbett’s dismissal in 1972. This was vehemently denied by the club. Former Boy’s Club chairman, Hugh Birt, claimed that Torbett was literally kicked out of Parkstead by Stein when the photographs were found. Stein physically lifted him out of the chair and threw him out of the room. However, Birt claims that when allegations surfaced, Stein and directors at Celtic FC were anxious to keep the image of the club clean, and the reason for Torbett’s dismissal was kept quiet and nothing more was done. Instead they asked Cairney to replace Torbett. Birt also explained that when allegations surfaced he didn’t have enough evidence to approach the police himself but he did alert the board, Stein and vice-chairman, Kevin Kelly. Kelly then alerted manager David Hay. Kelly, Cairney and Torbett subsequently asked Birt to resign. When he refused, Celtic withdrew his ticket to the director’s box and he was forced out of the club. Torbett later asked Kelly to become a director of The Trophy Club.
Cairney walked away from court a free man after he was acquitted of all charges due to lack of evidence.
Following the trial…
Following the guilty verdict a number of comments lacking any compassion or empathy were made by the club.
Celtic Boy’s Club boss, Tony McGuiness, said:
I am very disappointed that the greatest Celt of all time, Jock Stein, had to be dragged into this case unnecessarily.
McGuinness quit his job at Celtic shortly before the trial.
Celtic’s CEO, Fergus McCann, said:
It is a good thing for all concerned that this matter has been brought to a conclusion.
Following sentencing, the club confirmed that it was reviewing its links with Torbett’s business, The Trophy Centre, which supplied goods and memorabilia for the Celtic FC shop. It also boasted two former Celtic directors on its board. (See below)
The Trophy Centre (TTC)
In March 1999 the Daily Record then reported that Celtic were continuing to pay Torbett by awarding his business – The Trophy Centre – lucrative contracts. (Torbett was still a director and principal shareholder at the time).
Staff at TTC provided supporting statements for Torbett during his trial and Sheriff Gimblett stated that it was only because of the testimonials that Torbett did not receive a longer sentence.
Two former Celtic board directors, Kevin Kelly and James Farrell, said they never heard of any rumours concerning the accused. Kelly also denied any conversation took place between himself and Birt regarding Torbett.
Two former Celtic directors were members on the TTC board. They were Jack McGinn and Kevin Kelly.
Kelly was an Honorary President of the Boy’s Club as well as a board member at Celtic when he became director of Torbett’s The Trophy Centre. A check of company records also show that Kelly was director of the following companies:
- Glasgow Celtic Promotions Ltd, 1988-
- Celtic Development Pools Ltd, 1988-1996
- Celtic PLC, 1988-1994
- The Scottish Football Association, 1989-1994
- *Centenary Scotch Whiskey Ltd, 1989-
- *The Trophy Centre, 1989-2005
- Celtic Centenary Ltd, 1990
- Celtic Improvement Trust Ltd, 1990
- Celtic Paradise Pools Ltd, 1990
- Celtic FC Development Fund, 1990-1996
- *Planrole Ltd, 1991
- JGP Ltd, 1992
- (* = Torbett company)
Jim McCafferty – 1980s-1990s
On 7 December 2016, a former Celtic kit man has admitted to decades of abuse after learning that a whistleblower has come forward.
Jim McCafferty said he had so many victims he doesn’t know an exact number. He wanted to “unburden himself” and “cleanse his soul”.
Now aged 71 and living in South Belfast, McCafferty coached youth clubs at East Lothian, and later Celtic. Clubs also associated with McCafferty include Fauldhouse Utd, Falkirk, Armadale Thistle and Hibernian. Link to Daily Mirror article & interview
John Cullen – March 2004
In March 2004, John Cullen, a photographer who worked for Celtic FC’s official magazine The Celtic View, was found guilty of ‘lewd and libidinous conduct’ following the discovery of a black bag full of 250 photographs by cleaners inside a storeroom where Cullen kept his camera equipment at Parkstead Stadium. The photographs featured boys in various stages of undress and Cullen had been taking the photos at his home in Pollockshaws, Glasgow, for over 20 years.
Cullen admitted in court that he had invited boys between the ages of 10-13 in to his home and then photographed them between 1982-2002, when the photographs were discovered by the cleaners. When bosses at Celtic were alerted to the find, Cullen was dismissed.
Cullen was subsequently sentenced to three years probation and walked free from court. Despite Scotland Yard’s best efforts, many of the boys in the photographs were never identified.
- 1966: Celtic Boys’ Club is founded by Jim Torbett, who had previously been involved in Glasgow youth football.
- 1968: Allegations of abuse begin.
- 1970: Frank Cairney joins club.
- 1976: Jock Stein ousts Jim Torbett as Boys’ Club general manager after allegations that boys were being sexually abused. Torbett is replaced by Frank Cairney. Hugh Birt (a photographer and Celtic associate) is made chairman.
- 1978: Jock Stein leaves the club.
- 1982: John Cullen joins the club as photographer.
- 1985: Jock Stein dies.
- 1989: Jim Torbett creates a new business – The Trophy Centre – alongside Honorary President of the Boy’s Club and Celtic board member, Kevin Kelly, plus Gerald McAleer, former youth player under Torbett, and Angus Yuile who was company secretary.
- 1991: A youth team member raises allegations of abuse against Cairney that happened during a trip to New Jersey. His father takes him to Celtic Park to meet with new manager, Liam Brady, and chief scout, John Kelman. Brady approaches the board and demands Cairney leave the club. He resigns as general manager and part-time coach and the club announce this is due to ‘business commitments’. The boy is assured that his allegations would not affect his future career at the club. It was also agreed between Celtic, Brady, the boy and his parents that the police would not be informed. Signed statements were taken from four adults who were also on the New Jersey trip. They were all sworn to secrecy.
- 1993: Torbett is asked back to the club to help them raise funds via memorabilia sales. He eventually also returns to the Boy’s Club.
- 1994: Fergus McCann joins Celtic and immediately receives an anonymous letter detailing years of abuse at the club. Adamant the persistent rumours should no longer be brushed under the carpet, he calls in Torbett and asks him to meet with the club’s lawyers to sign an affidavit either admitting or denying claims of abuse which could then be passed to police. Torbett refuses.
- 1994: Celtic fan, Gerry McSherry appears on a radio programme to question the transfer of a young player. Within days he received a number of calls making allegations of untoward behaviour at the Boy’s Club. McSherry began his own investigation.
- 1994: New Celtic boss Tommy Burns attempts to bring Frank Cairney back to Parkstead. Fergus McCann refuses following outrage from fans in New Jersey.
- Aug 1996: The Daily Record runs an expose on abuse at Celtic involving Torbett and Cairney. In the following days, former Scotland star Alan Brazil, David Gordon and John McClusky tell The Daily Record of abuse by Torbett when when they were members of the Celtic Boys’ Club. McSherry is contracted to The Daily Record. A further former player, Scott Sinclair, also comes forward claiming that Cairney would abuse boys in his van. Cairney refuted the allegations and denied knowing Sinclair. In response Sinclair handed a photograph to The Daily Record which was a picture of the whole team, including both Sinclair and Cairney.
- Aug 1996: After the story broke, Burns rushed to Cairney’s home (a man he considered a close friend). He told waiting reporters “He has the whole of my backing and that of Celtic Football Club to a man“. The following day, an angry McCann issued a statement to the press stating: “While I sympathise with Tommy Burns’ personal position as a friend of Mr Cairney, the club cannot condone or defend or take sides in a matter which involves a criminal complaint“. In response, Burns said he had been misquoted and actually said: “He has my backing and I’m sure he will have the backing of several members of the first team who played for Frank at under-16 level“. Torbett went in to hiding at the home of two former youth players – William and Andrew Gilbert.
- Aug 1996: A meeting between five men was held in Boston’s Airport where a secret deal was agreed allowing Cairney to resign immediately so as to avoid a police investigation. Celtic chairman, Jack McGinn, allowed Cairney’s written resignation to say it was for “business reasons”. The impromptu meeting consisted of Cairney, Jim McNally, Bill Gilfillan, John Gallacher and Willie Hampson.
- Aug 1996: The Trophy Centre sponsors the Scottish Amateur Youth leagues.
- Aug 1996: Brady agrees not to go to the police. He then went on to be head of the Arsenal youth team.
- Oct 1996: Torbett charged with sex offences.
- May 1997: Record team win Reporter of the Year award for investigations into sex abuse at Celtic Boys’ Club.
- Aug 1997: The Court of Appeal lifted a gagging order that had banned the press from reporting on the court trial of Torbett and Cairney.
- Nov 1998: Torbett stands trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court charged with molesting three youngsters in his care including Alan Brazil. He is found guilty and jailed for two years.
- 2000: Torbett resigns as director of The Trophy Centre.
- 2002: Cleaners find a bin bag full of obscene photographs of boys in a store room at Parkstead. John Cullen, club photographer, is immediately dismissed. He is subsequently found guilty of ‘lewd and libidinous’ behaviour. His lenient sentence causes outrage.
- 2005: Kevin Kelly resigns as director of The Trophy Centre.
A number of photographs are freely available on the internet of Jimmy Savile and/or the Father O’Connell with different board members.
Celtic was also linked to the notorious St Joseph’s College Roman Catholic boarding school which was rocked by appalling allegations of abuse. It was run by the Marist Brother Order. Interestingly, the team Athletico Bilbao was started by former pupils of the college.
- Daily Record, 12 Aug 1996 (Torbett)
- The Mirror, 7 Nov 1998 (Torbett)
- The Mirror, 7 Nov 1998 (Torbett)
- Daily Record, 13 Nov 1998 (Torbett & Cairney)
- Daily Record, 28 Nov 1998 (Torbett)
- Daily Record, 13 March 2004 (Cullen)
- The Mirror, 25 May 2004 (Cullen)
- ‘The One That Got Away’ Forum, Nov 2013 (Cairney)
- Company Check (Torbett)
- Penn State v Parkhead
- The Man the Bheasts Can’t Tame blog
- The UK Database – Torbett